By Joseph Truini
There are few rooms as welcoming and comforting as a freshly remodeled, beautifully updated bathroom, which explains why a bath remodeling project is on nearly every homeowner’s to-do wish list. However, for every to-do on the list, there’s an equally important to-don’t.
Presented below are 12 common bath remodeling dos and don’ts. Heeding this advice can prevent your dream bath remodeling project from becoming a nightmare.
1. DO Stick to the Budget
To help control costs and keep the project progressing on schedule, it’s important to create an accurate budget and then stick to it. If you hire a professional designer, he or she will design the remodel within your budget and guide you through each step of the process. However, you’ll have to factor the cost of the designer in your budget.
If you decide to handle the budget yourself, be sure to carefully keep track of all expenditures. Get price quotes in writing from contractors and suppliers. Add on an extra 10 to 20 percent to your total budget to cover any unforeseen changes or repairs.
2. DO Plan for Unexpected Surprises
It’s not unusual for an unexpected—and often expensive—problem to pop up. Until you open up the walls, remove vanity cabinets, and tear out the old flooring, it’s difficult to predict what you’re going to find. Ask your contractor to check for any hidden signs of trouble or hire a home inspector or building engineer to check for damage and code violations. Identifying problems early allows you to budget for them successfully.
3. DO Select Bath-Appropriate Surfaces
Porcelain tile is arguably the best material for any bath floor. It’s much harder than ceramic tile and comes in many sizes, shapes, colors and patterns, including planks that resemble wood flooring. However, when selecting tile for a bath floor, the most important characteristic is slip resistance. The same goes for tiles used in the shower area or toilet alcove.
While you can install floor tile to bath walls, there’s a wide variety of tiles designed specifically for walls, including those made of ceramic, glass and natural stone.
When choosing a vanity countertop, popular options include granite, marble, quartz composite and solid-surfacing materials like Corian or Staron. All are extremely durable and hold up well in wet conditions.
4. DO Upgrade the Ventilation System
Proper bath ventilation is the most effective way to exhaust steam, hot air and unpleasant odors from a bathroom. Upgrading the ventilation system is relatively easy and affordable if it’s done during the remodeling process. An open window can provide adequate ventilation in tiny baths, but a ceiling-mounted vent fan or a combination vent fan/light fixture is much more reliable. Keep in mind that bath vent fans must always exhaust to the outdoors; never allow a fan to exhaust into an attic, basement or other enclosed area.
5. DO Add More Storage
There never seems to be enough storage in bathrooms, especially in shared bathrooms where each person has their own collection of toiletries. If you’re enlarging the footprint of your bathroom, include space for an in-bath linen closet. Just be sure the swing of the closet door doesn’t interfere with the swing of the bathroom’s entry or shower door.
Also, consider replacing a one-sink vanity with a double-sink vanity. You’ll not only gain a second sink but a much larger vanity cabinet. Freestanding bath cabinets can provide lots of extra storage in larger baths, while wall-mounted shelves and mirrored cabinets save floor space without comprising storage in smaller baths.
6. DO Reduce Water Consumption
Shopping for water-efficient bath products has gotten easier thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, which identifies products that are 20 percent more efficient than federal standards. By using water-saving fixtures and fittings, you not only conserve water, but you also save money on your water and electric bill each month.
If your bath remodeling project includes a large shower with multiple spray heads and you don’t install water-saving products, your existing water heater might not be able to supply enough hot water—leaving you in the cold or paying for a larger and much more expensive water heater.
7. DON’T Fret Over Short Delays
Determining exactly how long it’ll take to complete a bath remodel is often more difficult than knowing exactly how much it’ll cost. Remodeling a bath requires the hiring and careful coordination of several trades, and quality work must be done in a logical sequence and can’t be rushed. One tradesperson can’t begin working until the previous contractor has finished. There will likely be times when there’s a lag in the schedule, and a four-week project might suddenly turn into a six-week project.
The best way to stay on schedule is to communicate with each tradesperson on a regular basis. Give them progress updates and ask about their availability in the near future. Most busy contractors need at least three or four days’ notice to fit a new job into their schedule.
8. DON’T Overestimate Your DIY Skills
The expertise and skill required to design and remodel a bathroom is simply beyond the capability of most do-it-yourselfers and is best left to the professionals. However, competent DIYers can tackle demolition work—removing the old vanity, disconnecting the toilet, taking up the floor, busting down tiled walls—and finishing touches like paint and decor. Just be sure to wear proper safety equipment and steer clear of any plumbing pipes or electrical cables.
9. DON’T Move the Plumbing
Altering a bathroom’s plumbing system is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive proposition. That’s why it’s best not to rearrange the plumbing fixtures unless it’s absolutely necessary. Every time you move a toilet, reroute water pipes, relocate a drain, or change a vent pipe, you’re adding an incalculable amount of time and expense to the overall project.
10. DON’T Make Unnecessary Changes
Nothing blows up a remodeling budget and delays completion more than change orders. This involves any change that’s made once the budget is set and after work has commenced. There are times when changes are inevitable, such as when you discover that the wiring isn’t code-compliant and must be replaced, but it’s important to resist the temptation to make gratuitous changes.
11. DON’T Forget Lighting
Lighting is a vital part of every well-designed, smartly remodeled bathroom. Add ambient lighting with ceiling fixtures and provide task lighting with sconce lights, recessed fixtures or wall-mounted shaded lights over the mirror or bath cabinet.
Proper lighting makes bathrooms attractive, welcoming and safer to use. Dimly lit, shadowy baths increase the chance of someone tripping and falling, especially the elderly, young children and those with limited vision or mobility.
12. DON’T Forget Safety
Slips and falls are far too common in bathrooms. After installing slip-resistant flooring, you should place slip-resistant floor mats outside the tub or shower and use non-slip mats or adhesive strips inside the tub.
The most important bath safety device is the grab bar. Once found only in health-care facilities and bathrooms of elderly homeowners, grab bars are now commonly installed in all bathrooms, regardless of the age of the inhabitants. Consider putting grab bars both inside and outside the shower stall and bathtub, and mount one beside the toilet.
Today, you can buy stylish designer grab bars that are an asset, not an eyesore. Some grab bars that serve double duty as a towel rack or toilet paper holder, which permits them to blend into the bathroom. Be sure to precisely follow the grab bar installation instructions, and only use the recommended mounting hardware.
Keep all of these factors in mind as you’re remodeling to help minimize stress as you work towards the bathroom of your dreams.
Joe Truini is a nationally recognized home improvement expert and the author of DIY books, including the best-selling Building a Shed. Joe provides “how-to” advice on bathroom remodel projects and other renovation plans for Home Depot. If you are considering a bath remodel, you can visit The Home Depot to view a variety of options.