So you want a new bathroom
As a kitchen and bath designer, I often get newbies walking into the showroom. They usually have a slightly stunned, vacant look on their faces as they slowly take in all the colors and choices that lay before them. Chrome versus brushed nickel, size of the vanity, coordinating the countertop and floor tile, regular toilet or comfort height, shower doors, and tubs. Yikes! You really need to think about a lot of stuff when you’re remodeling a bathroom because there are just so many components that are needed.
Many people come to a showroom and to a designer, like me, not only to get help to make sure their bathroom looks good and functions well, but to have someone else coordinate the whole messy process.
By the way, if you’re thinking you need a complete redesign and you want to move walls or drains, well that’s probably another blog. But for those of you who don’t want to change the footprint of your bathroom, here are some tips:
1. Measure your bathroom carefully. Measure the vanity, the tub, the shower, the shower door opening. Measure the door and how much space is needed for it to open without bumping into anything, such as the toilet.
2. A good place to start is vanity. If you have a 30″ vanity, you will probably be replacing it with the same size. Once you know the size, all you have to choose is the style and the finish. Start with the color, or finish. Do you want a white vanity, a natural cherry, or a darker stain? Then look at the styles. Is your taste more traditional or contemporary? Do you like raised panel doors, like a kitchen cabinet, flat panel, shaker, or a cottage look? Think about storage, some 30″ vanities come with a bank of drawers, which offers great storage, some just have doors.
3. Do you want a mirror or a medicine cabinet? Choose a med cab if you want the extra storage. Many vanities have matching medicine cabinets available. Choose a mirror with a beautiful frame if you want to bring more personality into the bathroom.
4. Coordinate your countertop with your vanity. Good choices for countertops are granite, marble, or silestone. Avoid cultured stone products as they scream “builder grade” and they tend to scratch easily.
5. Decide if you want brushed nickel, chrome, or oil-rubbed bronze for your faucets, towel bars, etc., Brushed nickel is very popular followed by chrome. Oil rubbed bronze has a beautiful look but is a little more trendy. Over time the finish can also patina and spot giving it an aged look, some people don’t like this.
6. Choose your faucet and then order everything else (tub spout/shower trim, towel ring, towel bar, robe hook, toilet paper holder) from the same collection. Buy the best you can afford, cheap faucets will give you problems for years….not worth it. AND make sure you get a licensed plumber to install, not a handyman.
6. Choose your floor and tub/shower tile to coordinate with your vanity and top. If you go light on your vanity go with a darker tile and vice versa. Put the same tile on your floor and shower wall but in different sizes. For example, put 12″x12″ tile on the floor and maybe a 8″x10″ on your tub/shower wall. Ask for a coordinating border and put a 3″-4″ horizontal strip (listello) at eye level around the tub/shower wall. Add a grab bar if you have concerns about slipping. Note: Make sure your installer puts a good underlayment over your subfloor and under your tile (cement board or a product like Schluter Ditra), this is an important step, don’t skip it. Seal all grout with a high-quality sealer. Ditto caulk, this is not a place to go cheap.
7. Choose your toilet and tub. Make sure the toilet is a good flusher (flushes 800+ grams) and that the tub, toilet, and sink are the same color, usually bone or white. Another thing to pay attention to is that a Kohler’s bone is not going to be the same as an American Standard bone. Compare finishes if you are purchasing from different companies. Note: toilets are now available in “comfort height,” meaning they are higher and therefore easier to get up and down from, it saves those aching knees.
8. If you have a separate shower, decide on whether you want a tiled shower floor or a pan. A pan is easy to maintain but a 2″x2″ tiled shower floor has a more “custom” look, Make sure you have a good quality shower door, I like to upgrade my doors to 3/8″ glass. If you choose a frameless shower door you will probably be adding $2,000+ to your bathroom. Add niches for soap and shampoo or have a triangular shower basket screwed into the corner.
9. Assess your lighting and ventilation. Can you see well enough or do you need to add a canned light above the shower, or some recessed lighting in the ceiling? Do you have room to put sconces on either side of your mirror or will you use an overhead light bar? Do you have a fan that vents well or do you need to replace/install one?
10. This is also the time to think about adding or moving electrical outlets, installing heated floors, and a towel warmer.
11. Lastly, whether you’re going to hire a full-service remodeling company or use a local contractor, make sure whoever you hire comes with references (and do call), and is fully licensed and insured. There are many fine companies and contractors out there, but the reality is that a lot of contractors are hurting right now and are “reinventing” themselves as bathroom remodelers – make sure they actually have the experience behind their sales pitch.