Our newly framed basement

February 29, 2012

We've had some actual progress happening in the basement over the past couple of weeks. It is SO exciting!! The very first project was framing out the bathroom and storage room.

We did it that way because I was trying to figure out how big to make the laundry room. Initially I had planned to make it all one room – storage, exercise, craft stuff and laundry:

(It’s that room in the upper left corner.)

But as we looked at the space, we decided a smaller storage room would be a better idea. (I LOVE IT.)

I was still planning on fitting the exercise stuff into the laundry space, but I quickly realized it just wasn’t going to fit. And even if I did make it fit, did I really want to exercise in a teeny tiny room away from everyone else? It’s sad enough when I do it, who wants to make it worse? ;)

Sooooo…we ended up with a laundry room and only a laundry room:

basement love

(If you couldn’t tell, it’s the room with hearts in it.)

And I am SO EXCITED about it I could pass out. Seriously, Elaine Benes ugly dancing in the room excited.

It will be just for laundry and folding and hanging and dancing. Much dancing. I do believe I’m actually excited to do laundry. What the HECK?

We weren’t going to frame out the rest of the basement till next week, but a couple of weeks ago the guys who are doing most of the work called and said if we could do it last week they’d knock some of the labor cost off.

Heck to the yeah.

So now the lovely laundry room is ready for plumbing and electrical:

I’m still deciding where the washer and dryer will go. I’ve changed my mind three times now. Again, I’m thankful we’re doing this little bits at a time so I can figure this stuff out. ;)

The laundry room is slightly bigger than I had originally planned because at the last minute I decided that I wanted the door to be 36 inches wide:

framed basementWide enough for me to carry our big laundry baskets through without banging into the door frame. Hollaaaaa!!

The bathroom configuration changed a bit too, because of a support beam that was in a weird spot. Now it’s much longer than we had planned:

More than eleven feet long! I’ve already come up with a way to use some of that dead space though – the plastic shelves will be replaced with built ins and will hold our extra cleaning supplies, paper goods, all that good stuff.

We only paid our builder to rough in a partial bathroom down here – but they ended up putting in plumbing for a bathtub/shower too:

bathroom basement rough in

(The drain is covered because the only spiders I’ve ever seen down here were the week after we moved in and they were coming from there. That hole totally freaks me out. It’s been covered for eight years.)

I opted for a shower instead of a bathtub, mostly because I wanted as much room in the storage area as possible (and a shower is smaller). But also because, really, we don’t need a bathtub. Most likely the only people using it will be guests and I don’t see them taking a leisurely bubble bath down there. That would just be…weird.

A few of you have asked how we are dealing with the heat issue in the basement. When we moved in, they had vents open and we had them closed up (because we were never down there eight years ago and didn’t want any valuable heat wasted).

A couple weeks ago we got some vents from Lowe’s and cut new holes in the duct work to install them:

installing heat vent in ductwork

I used metal snips like these to cut it:


It’s not pretty under that vent but it got the job done. ;)

We would not have done this if we didn’t know the space would be finished soon. It’s already helped a ton, and we hear the drywall will help a bunch too. Someday we plan to add some kind of electric fireplace to the family room area as well.

So now I need your help! Next up is lighting – they’re coming by this week to find out how many lights and outlets we want. The outlets I’m pretty good on, but I’m struggling with the lights.

It’s a lot of pressure! I have a chance to do whatever I want and I’m kind of frozen. ;)

We’re doing mostly recessed lights of course, but from what I hear on HGTV lately (is it sad that’s my only resource??) the new thing is the smaller, four inch lights instead of six inch.

I don’t really care because we have the six inch in our kitchen and family room and we don’t mind them all. But I do like the look of the smaller ones when I look at pics. I also like the idea of having some wash the walls with light too…

Now we’re thinking of adding the larger (six inch) lights in the main areas, and the smaller ones along the bulkhead. (We have one that runs the entire length of the basement.)

I’m also trying to figure out how many – I’m leaning towards a LOT. Can you have too many lights in a basement? I’d rather err on having too many than not enough. (Of course, everything down there will be on dimmers.) I wish we would have added a bunch more recessed lights throughout the rest of the house, so I don’t want to make the mistake of not enough again. We have the ability to add pretty much as many lights as we want -- we had a dedicated electrical panel installed so we wouldn't have to worry about over doing it.

There will be a couple rough ins for drop down lighting – over the craft table and maybe in the laundry room. The ceilings are less than eight feet down there so that will probably be it.

And switches – I want lots of them! ;) I love the idea of main light and then separate ambient lighting as well. The guys are going to love me when I tell them my plans. ;)

So that’s where we’re at right now. We need to give them a fairly concrete plan on how many and locations by the end of this week, but I can adjust details as we go.

I cannot WAIT to get more light down there! I think it will make just as much of a difference as the actual walls will. For years we’ve used random lamps everywhere to keep it bright, but this will absolutely transform the space.

If you have any advice on lighting (sizes, how many, task lighting, etc.) I’d really appreciate your thoughts! Like I said, this is one area I’m not quite as familiar with, so I want to make sure we’re making good decisions. (Thanks in advance!!)

Hopefully I’ll be able to show you a new bright basement in the next couple of weeks!

P.S. A few of you have asked what floorplan program I’m using and it’s this one. It was $5 but I’ve found it to be WELL worth the money.

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  1. We finished our basement in 2005-2007 (we did everything ourselves) and had a similar dilemma on recessed lights. Here is my advice. Go with the 5" cans everywhere- something that takes a regular bulb. We've had the WORST time with light bulbs. The incandescents burn out like CRAZY! I think that our kids running around upstairs vibrates them a little bit and kills the bulb, or that they don't make incandescents very long lasting anymore or something. The halogens are EVEN WORSE. Like I think that they burned out a week after I put them in. We have the dimmers too like you want, and I totally LOVE them, especially for watching a movie or something, but you can only use certain fluorescents on the dimmers and they don't work very well- they don't dim like a regular bulb at all. We've finally found that we like the LED PAR 20 bulbs from Home Depot but they are TWENTY BUCKS A BULB! So, I can only replace them a few at a time. We never considered any of this when we bought the lights for the basement. I liked the look of the smaller cans so much but this has been a huge hassle. The other advice on lighting is that more is better. We still have couple of places (especially in the laundry area) where I wish we had more lights. good luck, it's going to be gorgeous!

  2. I don't have any lighting advice unfortunately..but I will say I love the way your basement is coming along. I know its going to look great!

  3. I agree with Amanda, we have problems finding out light bulbs, it's a pain! I think having several light switches is a great plan, turn on what you need! Exciting, and I assume all of this because you paid off your debt! How fun!

  4. You seriously can never have too many lights in the cave. As for the cost of the bulbs, umm, good luck with that. But lights won't hurt any.

    Now I'm trying to be grown up and not jealous of an entire room devoted to laundry WITH extra wide doors... So fun.

    Good for you. See Dave was right, "when you live like no one else you can..."

  5. I agree with the first comment about halogens in recessed lighting--they just do not have a great life span at all (+ they cost more than other bulbs).

    We had 4" recessed lighting in our (upstairs) living room, and they were nowhere near enough light for the space (and this is a room with south&west facing banks of windows..). We eventually upgraded to 6" and they are wonderful, so I would definitely go with 5" or 6" cans, maybe with a few 4" here and there (like on the bulk head you mentioned).

    Looks like everything is just plugging along, I bet it'll look fabulous when the space is finished. :)

  6. I agree---more lights is better. And if you like the way that the 6 inchers look, go for them. The smaller ones might look better in photos, but you won't live in the photos. This is so cool to see the area evolving!

  7. I say to more like you said! more light is better then less!

  8. I agree with Amanda, go for lighting with regular-sized light bulbs! We have a ton of switches in our house, all to the same lights -- for example, 4 switches in our tiny little entry way. It is good and bad. Good because, well duh, I can turn the lights on easily but bad because I feel it is overkill. I have had to be really careful about furniture and accessories because there are SO MANY stinkin' switches. I have big plans to redo our entry and will have to have my hub move a switch or two. Just something to think about. It's a big deal to me but probably not to other people, lol. I am so excited about your basement, I can't wait to see more of it. If I am this excited, I can't imagine how you're feeling!!!

  9. Agree-lots of lights, lots of outlets, lots of switches. More is better.


  10. Sarah--

    we just finished our basement, and the hubs does all things electrical-- well, he decked out our basement with lights, and we joke that it's "the airport runway" of lights, but it's dark down here, man! It's nice to turn them on and go, "sha-zing! Let there be light!" ;) Ours are 6'' cans-- whatever the standard size is, and we like 'em, too.

  11. A couple of thoughts...

    If a significant number of your overnight guests would have children, I'd consider putting in a basic tub/shower combo. It make their time in your home much simpler.

    I love your idea of lots of lights. However, we recently stayed with someone who had lots of lights installed, and the only problem was their switch system made it an all or nothing deal. If you have the option of turning on every other light with one switch, I'd do it.

    Last, you might consider LED bulbs. They don't require a special fixture, they are a little pricier up front but last for years and are cheap to run.

    Have fun!

  12. My only suggestion with the recessed lights would be to use some of the swivel ones, so you can aim the light where you want it. We just had a butt ugly concrete block chimney that runs up thru the center of our log house, covered in natural stone that turned out beautifully. But to elevate it even further, my hubby installed 4" recessed lights that swivel so the rock is illuminated. Gorgeous!

  13. Get motion sensor light switches for your basement /laundry room. When you are going downstairs with you full hampers, it makes it so much easier to just walk in and the lights turn on. You can adjust the time they stay on too. Best thing I ever did in my laundry room!

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. I would go with a larger can light every three to four feet. I did this in my kitchen and love it. I also have it with separate switches so I can turn on one row at a time.

    I highly recommend some sort of lighting for the stairway. I have a closed in stairwell and ONLY one light on the whole wall and it is really tall and dark. I wished I had some tread lights or something. I was really led in the wrong direction by the electrician. The stairwell needs MORE light.

    Also, when I had the house built, I had the electrician install me a "wicked" switch! He thought I was crazy. Seriously these contract guys should stop asking why we ladies want something and just go with it. I have a ranch with a finished attic. This switch allows me to flip a switch at the bottom of the stairwell that flicks a light on and off upstairs so the kids know to pause everything and ask what I NEED. Saves me lots of running up and down to tell them it is time for dinner...etc...etc. I have a bad knee. It is totally "wicked" cool and cheap to do.

    I love how your basement is progressing and the process you are taking with each step. About your laundry.....what is directly above it? Any chance of cutting a hole and making a laundry shoot or dumbwaiter? Since you are spending the big bucks, thought I would add another dollar. LOL!

    P.S. I deleted my message above because I spelled a word wrong.

  16. I worked in the lighting business for over 7 years. I have been out of the business for 6 years but the basics have not changed. Amanda is correct about the lifespan of halogen bulbs. They generate very intense heat and that shortens their life span. My advice is to go with a can light that uses an incandescent bulb. I use 130 volt bulbs. These can be found at Lowes/Home Depot. They are usually sold in the contractor packs (look for 130 volt on the outside of the box). For problems with vibrations, look for a vibration resistant bulb. They are more expensive but when you factor in the replacement costs of regular bulbs, it evens out.
    I am not that familiar with the LED bulbs. I do not know if you can dim them. They are more efficient and long-lasting.
    Motion detectors are awesome. And not that expensive. If you have an issue with someone "forgeting" to turn off the bathroom light, I would suggest installing one there too. As long as there is motion in the range of the sensor, the light will remain on.
    I would also suggest using your label maker to mark your switches until you get used to them. Just for your own sanity! :)
    Let me know if you have more questions. The basement is truly looking awesome.

  17. Lots of lights, then lots of switches in case you don't want to use them all!

  18. So exciting to see the transformation!

    I made the crockpot chicken and dumplings recipe that you posted and it was sooooo good! The only disappointment is that we didn't have many leftovers. :)

  19. Add some wall sconces! We added them as supplemental lighting to our billions of canned lights. They are pretty and give us another option since they are on their own switch.

  20. I love it, and I'm excited for you!

    Might I suggest...Your laundry room is small, with two doors opening into it. You might want to look into pocket doors to cut down on door clutter! That might also allow you more options for locating the washer/dryer.

  21. Go with the bigger can lights. Replaced our cute little lights because they just didn't give out enough light. You want as much light as you can get in a basement! Very exciting-you'll love your basement!

  22. Looking good. Doesnt it feel great to see the walls going up?

    And how is that your builders are charging less to work on a faster schedule?!?!

    You're totally leaving me in the dust now. My mother-in-law's basement progress is slow going.

    I talk about the progress here: http://www.thebookofjimmy.com/?p=858

    I also talk about the program I used for my floorplan mock-ups. The one I found was free, and I think pretty solid. It even does a 3D rendering after you've laid the plans. Pretty cool. I've got a few examples up at the above link.

  23. I would say the more lighting the better, especially if you're installing them on different switches. This will not make it feel like a basement, especially without the natural light. LIGHT IT UP, GIRL! GO CRAZY!

  24. I think a lot of lights but have them on several different switches. We bought a place that had 10 six inch can lights in the kitchen. They are all on the same switch which drives me batty. They do have a dimmer so that's good. I was wishing they had used the smaller recessed lights as that what I always see on HGTV but from what others are saying maybe its best they're the bigger ones.

  25. One piece of advice....put one main switch at the top of the stairs that will turn EVERY light off...speaking from experience of having a ton of kids in and out and ALWAYS forgetting to turn a light off ;) And I would go with more than you think you need. Lamps are always good too :) Love it so far!!!

  26. I came here to say exactly what Robyn did--now is the time to start thinking pocket doors! I just changed our 36" laundry room door to a pocket and I could not be more thrilled! You get a TON of floor space back when you go pocket!

    With 2 doors on that laundry room, I think you will really be happy with the space you save by going pocket on both of them.


  27. We just had to refinish our basement due to flooding (ugh) and ended up going with the smaller recessed lights and I love them. Our space is less than 400 sq ft and we have 10 of them and that's perfect for our needs.

  28. I agree lots of lights and outlets. We have a basement and finished as a gym.

  29. Sarah, I think you should not use recessed lights. You should use boob lights. Everybody is talking about them! They must be all the rage.


    your buddy and favorite commentor- Angie @ SeriouslyAHomemaker

  30. i was just thinking when you were talking about drop down lighting, what about your bathroom? i LOVE a chandelier or beautiful light fixture in a bathroom. it adds so much character, especially if it's a guest bath. my parents are making changes to the master bath in their house and my mom chose a beautiful fixture to replace the ugly builder lights. it completely changed the space. i just like the idea of mixing those in with the recessed lights.. just my thoughts!

  31. I worked in homebuilding for years so let me give you a pointer or two... the directional recessed lights are called eyeballs. you can point these at the walls (a lot of people use them for art niches and the like). the recessed part of the light (the part that's actually inserted into your ceiling) gets super-duper hot and CAN CATCH ON FIRE unless fire retardent insulation is sprayed on top of it. MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTORS DO THIS!!!! this is super important (and required by code here in Texas). last but not least... dimmers are super easy to install yourself so check the cost of buying them at your local home depot or similar store vs. what your contractor is going to charge you for them. hope this helps!

  32. Someone else may have mentioned this, I didn't read them all, but if you do go with lots of lights, you could put them on separate switches for more control.
    You are the only blog I subscribe to, thank you :)

  33. So exciting!

    When we updated our kitchen, we put in 6 can big can lights in addition to the one that was over the kitchen sink. My FIL joked that we could perform surgery with all the light we had. But, our kitchen only has one small window that faces north and there's nothing I hate more than a dark kitchen!

    Good luck!

  34. Love your bsmt progess. As everyone said, you will love it for all of the extra finished space. We are Midwesterners also & have always finished the bsmt in every house we've lived in. This house is my favorite bsmt finish. We have recessed lites galore, a ceiling lite/fan, lamps, etc. in the main room. We also have an entire wall of windows across the back of the house - love all of the light. You can never have too much. We have several smaller rooms - office, craft room, bathroom,etc - all have multiple light sources & lots of outlets. All overhead lights are on dimmers. In 6 yrs, we haven't had to replace 1 recessed light bulb. Lites & bulbs from Lowes.

  35. You can stagger your lights as to which are connected to which switch, giving you the option to turn on half the lights or all the lights, but still ensuring that the whole room gets lit from each switch. Make sense? And yes-- 6", not 4"! LED bulbs are great. A nice, warm, yellow light and literally last 25 years without replacement, and they only cost pennies per year to run. We are slowing converting our bulbs to LED. It's expensive, but far superior to the cold-looking, mercury containing CFLs, and cost-saving and long-lasting compared to incandescents. The gov't pushes CFLs so hard, but LED is really where the future of light is.

    Publishing anon because my phone is being difficult! Sorry!

  36. I also have my laundry room in the basement. But I would suggest (if you can) to add a laundry chute! I love mine. I can just throw the laundry down and then when it is time to do the laundry it is already down there waiting for me! It's looking good! Can't wait to see the finished product!

  37. We are also doing a basement reno, woop woop! Unfortunately we won't be using ours any time soon as we are making an income suite. I've been using the free tool called floorplanner, and have great success. It has lighting symbols (regualar, 3 way, dimmers, etc, plugs, TV outlets, etc.) so I have been able to not only make the floor plan, but lighting plans etc. Our contractor has been really impressed and it's saved a ton of explaining to they guys about what we want down there as it's all in the drawings.

  38. Wow! It's really coming along! How exciting for you!! I agree with the other comments. The more lights the better, but on multiple switches, and I would also consider wall sconces on separate switch for ambient lighting.
    Love the idea of a pocket door in the laundry room. It looks like this will be one FABULOUS space!

  39. Kay, I'm gonna play devil's advocate....I was just wondering why you're moving your laundry room from main level to the basement? I had mine in the basement in my previous home and now have it on the main level and love it much more on the main rather than running up and down the stairs multiple times. Just wondered why you are moving it and what you're going to do with your current laundry room?

  40. I'm so excited for your Basement! Everyone has such great ideas! I blogged about lighting a while back (I'll give a link below) which provides some ideas to think about, but one thing is I think that yes, you can have too much light if it's not laid out properly and if you don't determine what will have floods versus spot lighting. For example, if you look at the photo in your post, the lights are close to the wall to accent a photo or area. If you are not wanting accent those walls though, you might want to move the fixtures a bit further away. Ideally, do both :). Recessed lighting depends on three things... the height of the room, the distance between fixtures and the spread of the light from the bulb. If they are too close, the light will be too much, if they are too far, the light will not flow. Ideally, you want a flood light to gently overlap as it nears the ground or wall and the distance/placement determines that. I like to have lights like in your photo for accent, floods for general lighting and then lamps and even back-lit plants for ambiance. It's all about the mix, dimming (LOVE dimmers) and being able to control groups of lighting separately! I think you are on the right track!

    Here's the article! http://theassistant.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/courtesy-of-ike-im-inspired-to-talk-about-lighting-its-as-easy-as-123/

  41. Lots of light and switches work great. I'm doing my basement right now and divided up the space into 3 zones of lighting. Main area, hall way area and kids play space. Everything is on dimmers. I wrote a little more about it here.


    Good luck!

  42. Hi!
    I also have worked in the lighting industry for YEARS! My family actually owns a lighting store so hopefully some of my advice will help. The one thing about recessed lighting is that QUALITY matters!! DO NOT buy any brand that is sold at a box store. If you compare the trim (the part that you see when the light bulb is out) the cheaper brand is almost tin foil-like and this is where heat becomes such a huge problem. A lot of contractors will skimp in this area because most customers will see only the outside and not the guts of the fixture. Normally this would not matter very much but with recessed lighting it does. I agree with the other person who mentioned making sure that there is good insulation above the drywall. You also must make sure that the can is rated to touch insulation (some of them aren't).

    As far as light bulbs go... you really don't even need to consider halogen light bulbs because your ceilings are low enough to not need the beam spread that a halogen provides. Also, because of the heat they put off, you really really really want to make sure that the quality of the product is good. The cheaper products will burn out faster because they don't have the heat absorption that some of the better quality sockets have. For example some of the cheap versions just have a metal socket, something you would find in a table lamp, but because the lamp is inverted in a recessed light the heat all goes to the socket. If it doesn't have a ceramic socket, DON"T BUY IT!

    As for size... the 5" is a lovely compromise. The 4" don't work, ever, unless you are putting them in front of built in bookcases or something. The 6" are the workhorses of the industry but the 5" is like Goldilocks says "just right." :)

    There's my very long two cents. Email me if you have any other questions. I'd love to help!

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  44. Yeah, found this to be very helpful as well. Big ups to this!

  45. Hmmm wish I could give you some insight on the recessed lighting... I think we have 6 inch throughout our house. But I think your plan to mix the 4 and 6 should work! Everything else is looking great down there! Oh and by the way, when I come to visit, I would totally hang out and take a bubble bath in your basement... duh.

  46. My husband and I have done a lot of remodeling over the past 25 years (both DIY - so over that - and hired out) and lighting is the one thing I could never find any information on. Candice Olsen's shows are the only ones that give specific information about recessed lights, but it isn't specific enough. If you find any good sources please, please write a post about it. I would love that and I'm sure others would too!

  47. Sarah,
    My husband has an electrical business. Yes, the smaller cans are used more now in new construction. I think the biggest mistake people make is not considering how it will look after everything is in the ceiling. It can easily end up looking like chicken pox. My husband errs on the side of too many, but places them as nicely as possible. If you have low ceilings, I love the flush mounts that are on the optional stick things. (Sorry, he's not home for me to get the technical terms.) And in the laundry, you want the best, brightest light possible to catch those stains before they hit the dryer. I like to find the least ugly fluorescent I can. We are building a house right now, too. We've moved too many times the last 13 years. This is the first time we've built one without thinking about resale. It's a lot of pressure to create something that you will love long term! Have fun though!

  48. When you look for task lighting, check out Ikea. We got some track lighting for our kitchen, the type you can configure to the shape you want, for around $49. It has five lights on it and was half the price of Lowe's or Home Depot. We have the automatic sensor on our kitchen lights, since the switch for them is on the opposite side of the room from where we enter it. It works great, and the light never gets left on!
    I love watching your basement being redone. Can't wait to see your ideas come to life.

  49. i just read the comments. Two houses ago we had the switch that would turn all the lights off at the top of the stairs. We opted not to use it, because if you forgot to turn it back on and you went downstairs, you would have to go back up and flip it on. And I'm lazy. The next house, we didn't have that switch, but we had a much bigger bsmt with lots of extra, small rooms that were a pain to go through and make sure the lights were off. I think I will be talking to the hubs about the motion lights. And that wicked switch. That's a new one.
    Oh, we love wall sconces! And think about where you want plugs. They have to put them every so many feet, but all too often they end up in the least usable spots. If you know will want to put a piece of furniture on a wall, make sure a plug is behind it. Otherwise you will have a lamp cord hanging that is hideous. I know this from experience.

  50. I love following along on this project, & learning from you AND your readers! So helpful.

    I am picturing you doing Elaine's dance in your laundry. Hilarious.

    Tidbit on the vents..you could close them totally or partway if you aren't down there so much, or during construction. Might be a good idea during construction even to keep the sawdust out of them. ?

    Amazing isn't it, with home design what we learn over the years regarding good ideas, what we like, & common sense! Like a wider laundry door! Well lit laundry rooms! I know things have even evolved for you since you designed the upstairs. Seems so often stuff is designed by those who may never even have used say a laundry, or builders & construction workers do things the cheapest way, or how it has always been done, but they don't seem to really ponder things or know the ins & outs quite like we do. [not dissing builders, hubby is one..] So it is really nice for you to have opportunities to customize.


  51. Avid reader from Canada here..love your blog...dont comment much, but will....I promise.

    My question, i have all these amazing ideas in my head but dont know how to put them down on paper.

    Any ideas for design/CAD/whatever they are called that are very user friendly.

    Looking for something to try and visualize my room and stuff like that.

    Love your talent,
    Kimberly Canada

  52. we have a bathtub in our basement guest bath and the reason i love it is because lots of times we have guests who have small kids and it's much more convenient for them to have a tub to bathe their kids in. just something to think about in case you hadn't! :) basements are the best!

  53. These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post

  54. Awesome decoration and ideas. Love your work..

  55. Have you considered under-floor heating in the bathroom? It's a really nice feature in the winter, especially if it's a cooler area of the house. If everyone remembers to turn if off when they are done (maybe you can put it on a timer?) it doesn't use that much electricity.
    If that's too complicated or expensive, my parents have a heated towel rack that's really nice.
    Also, in terms of lighting, I like a fixture that's inside the shower or tub enclosure. I hate dark showers. You just need a waterproof fixture.


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