Thinking About a Bathroom Remodel?

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Home Improvement

Are you considering taking on the project of a bathroom update or full blown remodel? It seems to be in the air right now, at least in my office. At my house the projects involved updating counter tops and vanities in a guest bath to taking out a tub; and adding a large walk-in shower, new tile and granite counter tops to the master bath  I didn’t take on the project, but hired the work done and my wife and I still found it exhausting. Someone here went the DIY route and did the majority of the work on their total remodel, with the exception of removing and replacing a cast iron tub and moving some plumbing. Whichever way you go, here are some thoughts on what we learned along the way.

1.       First and foremost consider your budget. It can easily happen that you fall in love with high end finishes that you can’t afford or don’t make sense for your home and neighborhood. You don’t want to upgrade your home to a level that you won’t recoup if you decide to sell your house.

2.       Be patient. Whether the work is done by someone else or you DIY, it’s a process and it’ll be messy, there’s no way around it.

3.       Especially if you are laying tile that requires thin-set, grout, etc. Tile work isn’t something you want to hurry, you want to do the necessary prep work so your tile lasts. Even if you decide to hire someone to do the work, I think it’s a good idea for you to know the process so you can make sure it’s being done correctly. And don’t go to popular online video sites and assume that just because someone has posted a “how to” video that they know the proper way to do things. Talk to experts and ask questions, lots of questions. You can also go to the tile manufacturer’s website for information on how to lay the tile and the best thin-set, grout, backer board to use with your tile. And something to remember, if you’re using thin-set, you have to let it set for 24-48 hrs. before moving on to the grout. The directions are on the products you use and it’s a good idea to follow them. Laying tile flooring probably won’t be an afternoon project if you choose one needing thin-set, etc.

4.       There are different types of tile: porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, glass, and beyond. Some require thin-set, others adhesive or they snap-and-click. The DIY-ers had planned on using marble, but after asking questions at a couple of different tile stores and doing some online research, they decided that it probably wasn’t the best option for them and they looked instead for something that offered the same look in porcelain tile.  Some tile experts, usually those in the tile and flooring stores, will tell you to invest in higher quality (more expensive) tile. Look at your budget and decide what’s best for your situation. The DIYers fell in love with a tile from a tile and flooring store until they found out their selection would run close to $1200 for the floor alone. They weren’t interested in spending that kind of money even though the porcelain tile was “exactly” what they had been looking for; it didn’t make sense to them to spend that amount of money just on the floor when they could find a porcelain tile they liked for less than half that amount. (And I should note that they tiled the floor AND shower for less than that by making different choices.)

5.       There are many options for vanities, from updating the existing vanity by painting it, freshening the look with new doors and drawer fronts or replacing the vanity completely. It really depends on your budget and the condition of the vanity. The DIY team gutted their bathroom and were lucky that Mr. DIYer is a talented furniture builder so he built the vanity from a design idea that Mrs. DIYer had.

6.       Then you need to decide on vanity tops and the choices are really endless. You can go with laminate tops and a drop in sink(s), the pre-formed countertop with seamless sink and backsplash, solid surface, granite, on and on… This is a personal choice and what your budget allows. Both the DIYers and my wife and I went with granite. We used a company who has their granite “leftovers” from previous jobs in the backlot for clients who need a smaller size. If you’re lucky to find what you want in the leftovers, the cost is usually less than ordering a new slab.

7.       If you decide to replace the existing mirror and maybe medicine cabinet, be prepared for what you’ll have to do to the wall where they were hanging. In the case of the DIYers, the wall behind the enormous 4’X5’ mirror and attached medicine cabinet was in rough shape, plus they weren’t replacing the built-in medicine cabinet, so drywall work was required.

8.       There are endless decisions when redoing a room, especially a bathroom. Sink choices, fixture choices, faucets, new mirrors, on and on it goes. It’s always a good idea to look around and consider the cost so you can set a realistic budget and decide on what you want to do vs what you can afford to do.  If you have champagne taste and a beer budget, look around and see where you can save money.

9.       Inspiration ideas can be found easily by searching online for photos of rooms you like. is a great site that offers the option to create idea books and save photos, even allowing you to add comments about the photo about what you like about the room. It offers all styles, rooms and even exterior photos which is a great option for inspiration. Pinterest also has photos and you can “pin” ideas you like to boards to save them.