Bathroom Remodeling

By Eric Christensen

June 20, 2012 5 min read

After a few years of putting expensive home improvement projects on hold, homeowners are once again undertaking jobs such as remodeling their bathrooms. But homeowners can be overwhelmed by the almost infinite options, depending on their square footage, personal tastes and budget. Thankfully, designers and contractors are standing by, eager to help.

Katherine MacNeil, a designer at NVS Kitchen and Bath, advises homeowners to first consider questions such as: "Do multiple people need to use the bathroom at the same time? Do you need two sinks? Do you need to be able to close off the bathroom because one of you wakes up early and one sleeps late? Does your bathroom need to include accessories for older users?"

David Doughton, a designer with Kitchen and Bath Factory, says: "It helps, as a consumer, to do a little research on your own. ... There are a lot of great websites out there that are focused on picture galleries of renovation projects." In particular, Doughton recommends houzz.com. Homeowners can then present their favorite pictures to their designers.

MacNeil, however, warns homeowners not to be dismayed when they learn that "the tub in the picture is $12,000." She advises them to go to tub and plumbing showrooms to get a better sense of what their dream bathroom may cost and to look for alternatives if price is an issue. Doughton tells homeowners not to be afraid of mentioning their budget upfront.

Both MacNeil and Doughton say a designer should be able to help you cut costs by either changing the design plan or using alternative materials. MacNeil cautions homeowners, though, that not only is there a risk of an initial sticker shock but also a later one, if mold, mildew, water damage or electrical issues are discovered after renovations have begun.

Both MacNeil and Doughton say most homeowners are looking for a bathroom that feels like a "retreat" and has a "relaxing, Zen or spa-like feel." However, different homeowners have different opinions on what is relaxing. MacNeil says: "To one person, that could be airy, with white or pale colors. Another person's idea of relaxing is river rock shower floors and dark cabinets."

MacNeil also says, "If they have the room, people like a shower big enough for two people, better storage space and two vanities with personalized space."

Doughton has noticed a trend toward "furniture-style cabinets. ... People want it to look a bit jazzier and dressed up, not a traditional cabinet. ... Something that is really popular is an open-shelf vanity."

Doughton also works in many colonial-style homes, so homeowners often ask for black-and-white bathrooms. "Clients want to modernize the classic look of the original homes," he says. "They'll put a modern twist on it with contemporary fixtures."

For the homeowner who has a longer time frame or who is looking to save money, consider DIY bathroom remodeling. Allen Lyle, co-host of the nationally syndicated television show "Today's Homeowner" and the radio program "Homefront," says homeowners need to start with a plan. "Talk to other people who have had work done; talk to your local homebuilders association; talk to the guy behind the counter at a specialty store."

Once you have a plan, Lyle says to make a list of everything you will need and buy it before you begin remodeling. That way, you won't go three weeks without a working bathroom while you wait for a backordered part.

Lyle cautions homeowners to "know your limitations," however. He continues, "I never recommend people tackle plumbing or electrical work themselves, because that's where you really get in trouble."

Lyle suggests splitting the work with a contractor. "You can still save a great deal of money by sitting down with a contractor and going over what they do versus what you are willing to do." Lastly, Lyle warns homeowners to increase their budget by an extra 15 percent to account for the cost of surprises.

Remodeling your bathroom can be a complex and costly project, but it doesn't have to be. Do your research, plan ahead, and work with professionals who can save you time and money. Then sit back and relax, and enjoy a nice soak or shower in your new bathroom.

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