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So, What’s the Best Bathroom Remodeling Strategy for My Money?

Bathroom Remodeling Strategies: High-level Budgets

If you can afford to spend $40,000 to remodel your bathroom, you may be able to spend $200,000 on it as well. But because it is so easy to spend money when it’s readily available, it’s important to pay attention to getting your money’s worth. At lower budget levels, the budgetary limits tend to force remodelers to get the most for their money. With a large budget, you have to be your own budget cop and closely monitor your spending.

That’s why, in considering high-budget bath remodeling, we’ve chosen to set a limit of $40,000 or under. We don’t want to reduce the fun of remodeling your bath so much as we want to let you know how you can get the most fun for your money. Here are some suggestions from experts who know their way around the fun house:

BE BOLD: YOU CAN AFFORD TO REMODEL YOUR BATHROOM 

Having cautioned you to watch your spending, we should also remind you that you have plenty of money to spend wisely for what you want. Whereas at lower budget levels, for example, it makes sense to decorate conservatively with an eye on resale, at the high end you are at liberty to decorate to please yourself rather than future buyers of your home.

“I think that matchy-match look is kind of going out anyway,” says Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News. “People have gotten away from coordinating the tub faucet with the faucet in the sink. They are not afraid of contrast, especially at the high end. I don’t think people are as afraid of going with some splash of color.”

USE QUALITY MATERIALS TO CREATE BEAUTY

At the high-budget level, it is no longer necessary to use cheaper, lower quality products, such as solid-surface materials with an artificial tile look.

“People will use solid surface materials to avoid having to clean grout,” says Sabrina Foulke, architectural designer at Point One Architects + Planners in Old Lyme, Conn., “but I see it as a lost opportunity, because tile is beautiful and artistic. I’ve also done marble shower walls, with the entire wall a slab of marble, and that’s pretty amazing. Marble is beautiful, and easy to maintain, too.”

Janice Costa recommends use of decorative glass and porcelain Italian tile: “Imported Italian tile can be very high-end. Some of it’s glass, some of it’s porcelain, it’s decorative, and it makes a statement. There are more custom sizes in Italian tile — it’s one-of-a-kind.”

In addition to marble and decorative tile, high-end remodelers can afford to invest in fine ornamental faucets. “There are lines of faucets inlaid with fine crystal,” says Costa, “and faucets in precious metals. That’s probably for budgets at the really high end.”

BUY THE NEWEST AND BEST

A large budget makes it possible to add the most interesting, highest quality products and services on the market to your bathroom remodeling plans. These can include:

– Combination bathroom mirror/TV. These innovative products (see the model by Seura) transform at the push of a button from a mirror to an LCD TV. “It’s so cool,” says Janice Costa. “If it’s off, it looks like a mirror, but when you turn it on it becomes a television. It costs a couple thousand dollars.”

– Whirlpools with chromatherapy. Models such as Jacuzzi’s Duetta combine the comforts of a whirlpool with soothing underwater light therapy, called chromatherapy.

– Leather-framed bathroom mirror and furniture piece vanity. Distinctive leather-framed mirrors (such as the Stone Top Bath Vanity from Weaver Wayside Furniture.

– Customized faucets. California Faucets is one of only a few companies that allows customers to design their own faucets by picking and combining different spigots, handles and finishes. Costa says she believes “you’re going to see more of that, because people like the idea of one-of-a-kind products, just for them.”

– Quality craftsmanship. With a high-end budget, you can afford to pay for top-of-the-line designers and craftspeople. Artists can do tile work that makes your bath a showcase for custom mosaics. Lighting specialists can create spectacular effects. And designers can manipulate your bath space, adding windows or skylights to make your bath a beautiful environment.

Hot Tip: Relax in your soaking tub. “More people are moving away from tubs because they’ve found that they don’t use them,” reports Sabrina Foulke. She says, however, that a product her firm is installing might slow down people’s rushed bathing habits considerably, particularly if they have the resources to afford a relaxed lifestyle.

“We’ve been putting in Japanese soaking tubs,” she says. “They’re three feet deep, so people can climb in and sit up to their neck in water, relaxing, but not lying down. It’s quite nice, particularly if you have a good view out the window.”

Bath Remodel Strategies: Medium-level Budgets

In the world of bathroom remodeling, expert designers say $25,000 or less is considered a mid-level budget. It opens up possibilities beyond the decent shower, vanity and toilet with quality labor and limited frills available at lower budgets. While you’re not in the sky’s-the-limit range of, say, the $40,000 level, $25,000 still gives you the opportunity to indulge some pet fantasies or invest in top-notch materials.

Whether you put the extra money toward nuts-and-bolts quality or toward that trendy feature you’ve been dying to add to your bathing experience, the money you spend now can increase the value of your home in the years to come. Here are some different ways you can make that happen:

SET YOUR PRIORITIES

This basic rule of thumb is especially true at the mid-level budget. That’s because more possibilities are available than at a lower budget, and you will find you have more spending decisions to make. At the lower level, budget limitations often dictate what you can afford, but now you will have to set your own priorities.

It pays to sit down, consider your options and determine what’s most important to you before you start writing the checks. Sabrina Foulke, architectural designer at Point One Architects + Planners in Old Lyme, Conn., says, “The one thing we really stress with our clients is that we want to hear what they want. If they tell us what their biggest problems are, then we can try to be creative with our solutions.”

BUY BETTER-QUALITY PRODUCTS

The answers to those problems lie in choosing the right products. That’s where the extra money over $10,000 goes, says Thompson Price, president of Callier and Thompson Kitchens, Baths, and Appliances in St. Louis.

“You spend more on the products,” Price says. “The labor is going to be what it is. With a pretty nice bath, ceramic tile floor, a nice vanity, medicine cabinet, fan and light, painted, decorated, you’re looking at $14,000 to $16,000. If you want to add wainscoting 45 inches up the walls with the same ceramic tile as the floor, and you want a decorative insert in the shower or tub area, you’re going to need upwards of $18,000 to $22,000.”

INVEST IN TILE

Sabrina Foulke believes the beauty and durability of tile walls make them a wise investment.

“You can walk into a nice bathroom with a tile floor and painted walls,” she says, “or you can walk into an incredible bathroom that has tiled walls all the way to the ceiling. If you have the money, this is an area where you can make just a huge difference, and, maintenance-wise, it’s a lot easier to wipe down dirty tile walls than to have to paint.”

USE CULTURED STONE

Cultured marble, granite and onyx are alternate materials that are a step up from the fiberglass and acrylics often used in showers and tubs. A natural marble or granite crush held together with a polyester resin, cultured stone offers the look and feel of luxury panels and countertops at an affordable price.

“When you look at the overall investment,” says Thompson Price, “you can probably put cultured marble panels on the back wall and two side panels of a shower and have a 100-percent better look for not too much more money than the fiberglass and acrylic panels.”

BUY THE BELLS AND WHISTLES

Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News, believes that, within reason, following trends in bath design and decorating can pay off for homeowners. For example, she says, “people take a shower every day, and it has now become kind of the hot thing to invest in.”

“People are demanding the supershowers that have all the bells and whistles,” she says, “the multiple jets, the rain bars that simulate a summer shower, the hand-held jets, the programmable temperatures that let different family members get the temperature they want at the touch of button—everything you need for a more extensive shower experience.”

CREATE MORE STORAGE SPACE

The more room for storage you can find in a 5′ x 9′ bath, the better off you’ll be. Sometimes, our experts say, you can make room where none existed before.

“You can gain storage by going in between the existing two by fours in the wall and putting some shelves in,” says Sabrina Foulke. “You can do it fairly inexpensively. The shelves will be about the depth of a medicine cabinet.”

Thompson Price adds that you can gain space vertically with between-the-studs cabinetry: “They can be floor to ceiling if you want.”

REPLACE BRASS WITH CHROME

“Some people have old fixtures in the bathroom,” says Sabrina Foulke, “and a lot of times you’ll find that the faucets are chrome and the light fixtures are brass. We recommend that you get rid of the brass and go with the chrome. Chrome is generally less expensive, it looks so much better and it holds up better. To get good quality brass you have to pay much more.”

Hot Tip:

Install a Towel Warmer
Janice agrees there’s a special pleasure in getting a luxury feel at a mid-range price.

“People want the towel warmers,” she says, “It’s a nice touch. It’s a warming drawer like they use in kitchens near the oven. People see this when they stay in hotels and they really like it. If you’re going to upgrade one thing, this kind of gives you a sense of luxury.”

How do I Remodel my Bathroom on a Low Budget?

Despite a lackluster economy, a lot of people are thinking of remodeling their baths and are willing to pay to do so. However, experts say, you don’t have to have Bill Gates’ income to create an attractive, comfortable bath for your family.

“I would tell you,” says Thompson Price, president of Callier and Thompson Kitchens, Baths, and Appliances in St. Louis, “that for a standard 5′ x 9′ bath redone from floor to ceiling, the minimum price is not going to be much under $10,000. That’s not top-of-the-line products, but it’s not the most inexpensive products, either. It’s good quality, decent products done properly by licensed tradespeople.”

To redo your bath for $10,000 or less, the watchword has to be quality. You can get results you’ll be proud of for $10,000 or less, but of necessity you will find yourself focused on return on investment. Here are some of the strategies for keeping your eye on the prize:

DON’T MOVE THE PLUMBING
With $10,000 to spend, it’s important that you tackle the project with simplicity in mind.

“You can actually do it for less than $10,000,” says Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News, “if you keep it within the same footprints. Usually, you start talking about a lot of money when you start moving plumbing around.”

Shower or tub, toilet and sink should all stay in the same locations.

FOLLOW THE CODES
Thompson Price of Callier and Thompson stresses that while the temptation to cut corners may be great at this budget level, the resale value of your home rides on following the building codes.

“We have customers who say, `I’ve got a bid from a guy, he’s going to do all the work himself, he doesn’t do permits, and he’ll do it the way it’s supposed to be done,’ but, frankly, that doesn’t meet code requirements,” Price says. “You can’t have a carpenter doing all the plumbing, electrical work and tile work. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but people who do it are at risk when they go to sell the home.”

DECORATE WISELY
“A fresh coat of paint does a world of good,” says Sabrina Foulke, architectural designer at Point One Architects + Planners in Old Lyme, Conn. “What we try to do is make the bathroom walls fairly neutral and then accessorize with towels and other elements. Neutral doesn’t mean white, either; the basic color could be blue, pale pink or yellow, as long as things are unified, and then you add items to pop as decorative elements — paintings, pictures on the walls, soap holders — and just have fun with it.”

Janice Costa says that fun can pay off when you put your house on the market. “People who are thinking in terms of resale use a neutral base with a nice accent color,” she says. “Watercolor blues are still projected to be hot in 2012. A lot of people are looking for something that will have long-term appeal.”

USE FIBERGLASS AND ACRYLICS IN THE TUB OR SHOWER
Savings can be realized by using prefabricated showers or bathtubs, or shower-tub combinations, made of fiberglass or acrylics. Tile can be expensive, and the labor involved in laying tile that doesn’t leak is complicated, as well. “It’s much more labor-intensive and, therefore, more expensive,” says Sabrina Foulke, “than if you just went out and bought a 76-inch square shower form.”

Acrylic liners can also be installed over an existing tub or shower wall to provide a handsome new finish. “They don’t last forever,” Janice Costa says, “but if you’re talking about staying in a house just three to five years, that’s a very popular option.”

SPRUCE THINGS UP
At $10,000, seemingly small improvements can yield handsome results, and, therefore, increase a home’s value. For example, Sabrina Foulke says replacing an old shower door with an accessorized shower curtain “can make a huge difference. Old shower door frames can get pretty nasty, so curtains are a way to redecorate easily.”

“One thing we’ve started doing,” says Foulke, “is using pendant lights in the bathroom. Sometimes people have these old Hollywood-style lights built into their bathrooms from the ’70s. Just replacing them with a really beautiful light fixture that hangs by the sink works well and looks good.”

“If you really want to spruce up the bathroom quickly,” says Foulke, “the biggest change would be the vanity — replacing the vanity cabinet, the top and the bowl, or even just the top and bowl and then painting the cabinet.”

Hot Tip: Build-in the hair dryer. “Hair dryers for women, built into vanity cabinets, is a cool little thing,” Foulke says. “You can put a plug in the cabinet and then hang the dryer inside the cabinet on a hook, plugged in and ready to go. All you have to do is open the door and dry your hair. It’s a little thing, but it can make somebody happy if they don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

 
 

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