Bathroom Remodeling: Practical Tips and Considerations

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As a remodeling contractor, I have worked for clients with budgets from twenty five hundred to over seventy five thousand dollars for a single bathroom.  While a coat of paint and some new accessories will certainly spruce up most bathrooms, getting maximum impact and resale value will often involve quite a bit more work.  The final bathroom design will be determined by your motive for remodeling, the size of the bathroom and your budget.  If you plan to do any of the work yourself, your skill level should also be taken into consideration. 

There are two reasons to remodel a bathroom.  Reason one: The room is extremely dated and/or you are trying to sell the home.  Reason two: A leak is causing damage to other parts of the house.  Face it, if you are going to the trouble to rip out everything to repair a leaky shower, you might as well take the opportunity to remodel the whole thing.  Sometimes, it’s even cheaper.

What’s more important; the budget or the design?  If it’s the budget, then your wish list will have to be trimmed to fit.  Whirlpool tubs, designer toilets and high end showers will likely get the axe.  Refinishing your tub is a great way to save money.  Painting existing cabinets and changing light fixtures are relatively low cost and easily accomplished by do-it-yourselfers.  New floor tile should be considered even on a budget.  Most bathrooms have small floors, so you won’t be putting down much tile.  Even if you pay a contractor to do the work, the cost is within most budgets.  Wainscoting on the walls, a new pedestal sink and a modestly priced toilet, along with paint and maybe even some faux finishing, can have a remarkable effect on the looks of your bathroom.

If the design is most important, then look at magazines to get ideas.  You need to keep a few things in mind when designing a bathroom remodel.  First is the size of the bathroom.  If you have a typical five foot by seven foot tract home bathroom, that claw foot tub probably won’t fit.  Also realize that your one piece tub/shower unit was installed when the house was build, before the walls were erected.   Tile surrounds (the walls between the tub and the ceiling) above existing tubs are a good idea, provided that the tub and the floor it is sitting on are in good shape.  Spa tubs are an excellent upgrade to almost any bathroom.  A piece of advice; if you are going to put in one of these tubs, make sure to get one with a heater.  You will have to have two electrical circuits installed instead of one, but the cost is well worth the added enjoyment of keeping the water hot.  Replacing the tub with a stand up shower is a very popular option today.  Natural stone tiles, oil rubbed bronze valves with body sprays, steam units and frameless glass doors can turn that boring 1970’s bathroom into a showcase out of a Vegas hotel.  You can easily spend ten to fifteen thousand dollars just on the shower and related fixtures, so make sure you have a realistic view of the budget before getting estimates for this type of upgrade.  Tile board and green board are not waterproof and are not acceptable ways to install tile in these areas in my opinion.  The walls need to have tar paper and lath wire installed, the walls floated with several layers of mortar and either a hotmopped or urethane pan installed.  The cost is considerably higher, but there is no comparison in the quality of the job.  Also, this in not a project for the average homeowner to undertake.  Pay a contractor to do the job right.

Choosing a bathroom remodeling contractor is as important a step as the budget or the design.  Make sure you are working with someone who has the necessary experience and knowledge to do the job right.  As with any contractor, check their license, referrals and insurance.  They should be able to show you pictures of projects similar to yours.  If the budget is fixed, get several bids and see who can give you the most ‘bang for your buck’.  If the design is your biggest concern, find a contractor who can give you ideas that you might not have thought of, or one who includes the services of a designer in the cost of the job.  Take plenty of time to plan your remodel, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring someone else.  Again, spending more time and money in the right areas can mean the difference between the bathroom of your dreams and a project that turns into a home improvement nightmare.

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