Over the years, I’ve remodeled dozens of bathrooms. And the more I remodel, the more I see some important guidelines repeated over and over: the general rules for keeping costs down and getting the most bang for your buck. Now if money is no object, simply hire the best bathroom designer you can find and write them a blank check. For the rest of us, I offer the following tips.
Whenever possible, leave fixtures in their existing locations. Moving the plumbing lines for a bathtub, shower, toilet or sink can be expensive and messy. A better solution is to upgrade these fixtures for a new look or a new feature.
When selecting new fixtures for your bathroom, stick with white, off-white, bone or biscuit. Lighter-colored fixtures do a couple of things for you. First, white means clean. So white fixtures appear cleaner than colored fixtures. Second, white fixtures have less impact on the overall look of the room. As a general rule of thumb, they tend to make a small bathroom look bigger. Colored fixtures – especially black – tend to make a bathroom look smaller.
Light colors are also best for walls and floors – especially in small bathrooms – as these tend to make the room look larger. Dark colors give the appearance of a smaller bathroom. Leave the ceiling white. Period.
If you want to add a splash of color to a bathroom, do it modestly with a wallpaper border, decorative tiles, etc. Better yet, color your bathroom with accessories like throw rugs, towels, soap dispensers, and pictures. This way if you get tired of the accent color, it’s just a matter of changing out your accessories.
Planning on replacing your sink? Like the look of a pedestal sink? If you do, there are a couple of important things you should know about these popular sink upgrades. For starters, you’ll lose any storage space that you had with a vanity sink. And in a small bathroom, this can be a big deal. Second, most homeowners don’t realize that the pedestal portion of the sink is primarily decorative; the sink itself is actually mounted to wall. For a secure mounting, this means removing your existing wall covering, installing a support cleat and repairing the wall. A pedestal sink also frequently requires modifying/moving the supply and waste lines to the sink – typically with very tight tolerances.
If a new toilet is in your future, consider upgrading to a toilet that features an elongated bowl or raised height. Both of these can add comfort to your daily routine. It’s important to note, however, that in small bathrooms, an elongated toilet can cause clearance problems. Check with the toilet manufacturer for recommended clearance before purchasing one of these. It’s surprising how much difference a couple of inches can make in the height of toilet. That’s all the difference in height there is between a standard and a raised height toilet. Those few inches make a significant difference in the ease of sitting on or rising from a toilet. Raised height toilets have become so popular that many fixture manufacturers offer most of their styles at this height.
When you’ve had enough of that old tub or shower you’ll be surprised at all the choices available. Lightweight materials (like fiberglass) make installing a new unit easier. You should know that there are two broad categories of new tubs and shower units: remodel and new construction. Single-piece shower/tub units are designed for new construction only – they are designed for installation before drywall is installed. If you buy one of these for a remodel project, two things are likely: you won’t be able to get it into your home, or if you can, the unit won’t fit in your bathroom without removing the drywall and all the fixtures. Stick with multiple-piece remodel units. They’re made to go into tight spaces and are a snap to install.
Bathrooms are constantly exposed to water, so when you select flooring, go with a material that can stand up to moisture. My top picks are sheet vinyl and ceramic tile. Avoid materials that swell and buckle when exposed to water, like laminate flooring and wood planks or strips.
Finally, invest in quality products – especially sink and tub/shower faucets – as they get used every day. Buy from a quality manufacturer and consider picking up a faucet repair kit when you buy your faucet. Even the best-made faucets will require maintenance in the future.
By following these time-tested guidelines, you’ll save money and have a beautiful new bathroom in no time.