The Deadly Sins of Bathroom Renovations

When it comes to home improvement projects, renovating your bathroom can add significant value to your home – but only if done correctly. While renovating any part of your house is no easy task, kitchen and bathroom renovations tend to be the most difficult - water and electricity, when combined, are forces to be reckoned with. The main causes of botched bathroom renovations are the unwillingness to spend the time and money necessary to construct a bathroom properly, and inexperienced individuals handling the work. Here’s a list of the deadly sins of bathroom renovations you should look out for.

Improper Installation

Even if everything is installed perfectly, the bathroom is still one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. When you combine water, electricity, slippery surfaces, and breakables together in one room, it’s no wonder that the majority of home accidents happen in the bathroom. Now add an improperly installed electrical outlet or a poorly mounted mirror to the mix and you can put your safety (and life!) at risk. From putting your family at risk for electrical shocks and exposing them to mold, improperly installed bathroom fixtures can cost you. If you aren’t an accomplished DIYer, get professional assistance from an experienced contractor who can help make your bathroom beautiful and safe.

Inadequate Waterproofing

When it comes to bathroom renovations, every aspect of the planning and construction of a bathroom should take water exposure into consideration – after all, bathrooms are functional spaces first and design showcases second. If the waterproofing aspect of your bathroom renovation doesn’t account for at least 5 to 10 percent of the total cost, then someone is cutting crucial corners. Inexpensive building materials and poorly constructed shower pans can lead to major water damage down the line. Additionally, carpeting in the bathroom should be avoided at all costs – while it may have once been trendy, it’s now an easy way to invite dirt and bacteria into your bathroom.

Avoid Open Storage

While open storage might seem trendy, do you really want to put your prescriptions, ointments, acne medication, and fungal cream on open display for your guests? In a day and age where 70 percent of house guests admit to snooping through other people’s bathroom cabinets and drawers, do you really need to make it easier for guests to look through your personal toiletries? If your heart is set on open storage, consider mixing it with closed storage solutions – put hand towels, tissues, and other innocuous bathroom essentials on display and hide anything that might embarrass you in closed storage.

Bad Math

Math is important in bathroom renovations, especially since space is usually at a premium. Errors in math and projections can lead to tile-layout problems, shower stalls and toilets that don’t meet code minimums, faucet handles that collide with backsplashes, and large gaps between the toilet tank and wall, to name a few issues. If you’re renovating the bathroom yourself, check and double check your measurements; if you’d like to be extra careful, ask your spouse, roommate, or a friend to look over your measurements before using them to order bathroom renovation materials.

The Top Five Remodeling Apps

Whether you’re in the beginning stages of planning a renovation project or are already midway through, DIY project guides, calculators, and color matching swatches, would all come in handy, right? Lucky for you, there’s an app for everything nowadays – including home improvement, design, and renovation. With these helpful mobile apps in your virtual tool-belt, you’ll be able to tackle virtually any project without having to get your contracting license.

WikiHow (Android, iOS)

This free app is like Wikipedia for the DIY community. Within the app you’ll find thousands of how-to-guides ranging from life hacks and quick repairs to DIY projects and food recipes. Users can browse by category, search by term, check out featured articles and bookmark how-tos for offline reading – all from the comfort of their own home. If you’re using the iOS version, there’s an additional perk: a collection of first aid and survival guides that come preloaded for offline use – because you never know if you’ll hurt yourself while at the hardware store.

Houzz (Android, iOS)

Often referred to as the “Wikipedia of Interior Design”, Houzz is a popular social network dedicated to interior design and home improvement. Their official app is the home of thousands of articles, discussions, and photographs intended to inspire and motivate DIYers to take the next step in renovating their homes. Whether you’re looking for ideas or inspiration, this is the app for you. When the time is right, the app includes a directory of local professionals including architects and contractors.

Home Improvement Calcs (iOS)

Perfect for homeowners interested in forecasting the costs of certain renovations, the Home Improvement Calcs app includes a variety of helpful DIY calculators and estimation tools. The database includes over 74,000 present functions that range from mulch coverage to attic insulation volumetrics. With the amount of explanatory illustrations found in Home Improvement Calcs, you’ll be able to make your way through the flooring section of Home Depot with ease.

iFixIt (Android, iOS)

This DIY-oriented app focuses on do it yourself repairs, and includes repair and teardown guides for a variety of categories and devices, ranging from vehicles and smartphones to common household appliances and furniture. Whether you’re fixing a leaky sink or replacing your cell phone’s battery, this site can help. Users can browse by category, check out featured guides, and even create their own guides straight from within the app. If you don’t have the necessary tools or parts, the app includes a handy link to iFixIt’s own online store.

House Maintenance Schedule (Android)

So, you’ve installed a new vanity sink – but will you remember when to deep clean the oak? Now, thanks to the House Maintenance Schedule app, you’ll be reminded when it’s time to give your vanity a little TLC. Anything from flushing the water heater and inspecting fire extinguishers to changing HVAC filters and cleaning the rain gutters can conveniently be scheduled using this app. Over time you’ll find that remembering miniscule maintenance tasks can prevent them from becoming large and expensive issues.

How to Choose the Right Bathroom Vanity

While it’s not necessarily the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel, choosing the right bathroom vanity can make or break your bathroom design. If your vanity is placed in an awkward position, uses mismatched materials, or doesn’t have enough storage space, the rest of your bathroom will suffer. While a beautiful bathroom ensures you’re happy with your surroundings, functionality is just as important as aesthetics. Here’s some professional tips for choosing your bathroom cornerstone:

Size

When it comes to any type of remodel, working within your home’s established architecture is part of the equation. By evaluating your lifestyle, size of the bathroom, and the demands that will be placed on the vanity, the preferred size will become evident rather quickly. While your storage needs do impact the size of your vanity, taking the size of your bathroom into consideration is more important. While 32 inches is the go-to height for bathroom vanities, many modern designers recommend purchasing a vanity that’s between 34 and 35 inches. Ultimately, you should choose a vanity that will offer comfort and convenience to those who will use it, regardless of the size recommended by designers.

Placement

As far as placement goes, access and plumbing are the two areas of primary concern: your vanity shouldn’t disrupt the flow of traffic, and it should be placed near current plumbing. Additionally, homeowners should think about cleaning and vanity door swing space – if the surrounding areas aren’t accessible for cleaning and the cabinet doors would get in the way of foot traffic, another vanity design should be considered. While changing your bathroom’s plumbing in order to install a new vanity is a possibility, it’s going to account for a large chunk of your budget and, in most cases, is not ideal.

Materials

Since vanities are placed in hot and humid environments, it’s important that your vanity can withstand environmental stress. With that in mind, wood veneers, laminates and thermofoil tend to work well in bathrooms. Although hardwood is an attractive choice, hardwood vanities should be properly sealed and lacquered to prevent damage from wear and tear over time. Although lacquer can protect wood, it doesn’t make it indestructible. If a clear finish or lacquer is used, water will still affect the wood if it’s left standing on it. These types of vanities are recommended for use in guest bathrooms or bathrooms that aren’t used on a consistent basis.

Do Your Research

Although this applies to any form of decorating and remodeling, it’s worth noting once again: be sure to explore your options before finalizing a purchase. Keep an eye out for seasonal sales, such as Modern Bathroom’s Labor Day Sale, and remember that price doesn’t always translate to taste. If you can’t afford a designer edition of a bathroom vanity, look for an imitation in a local warehouse. Choosing the perfect bathroom vanity can make or break the look and feel of your bathroom, so take your time, be creative, do your research, and work with the space you have.

How to Find the Perfect Contractor

Whether you’re thinking about renovating the guest bath or want to give the master bathroom the whirlpool tub you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll want to find the right contractor – because a home remodel is only as good as who you hire. As a result of the sluggish housing market, many Americans are staying in their homes for a longer amount of time, and many are choosing to remodel and renovate along the way. With these tips, you can be sure you choose the perfect contractor for the job.

Personal Referrals

Chances are, you have a few friends and family members who have recently remodeled or renovated their home. By asking those whose homes have recently gone through remodels their opinion on their contractor, you’ll be able to get personal testimonials from a trusted source. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for neighbors’ projects that seem to be going well. The advantages of personal referrals include opinions you can truly trust, the option to gauge the quality of work firsthand, and, in all likelihood, the referring friend or family member has already shopped around to find the best offer in the area.

Make Plans & Get Bids

Once you have a list of contractors whose track record is clean and work ethic seems responsible, you’ll want to stop looking back at their past work and start looking forward to your own project. A reliable contractor will not only want a complete set of blueprints, but a general idea of what homeowners want out of the project and what they’d like to spend. In order to best compare bids, ask each contractor to break down the total cost into the following categories: materials, labor, profit margins, and other expenses. Generally, materials should account for 40% of the total cost, with the rest covering overhead. A typical profit margin for home renovation work is 15-20%, depending on the size and depth of the job.

Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide

If an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. In fact, many contractors and home design professionals urge homeowners to throw out the lowest bid, as it could be a sign of desperation or low-quality work. Beyond technical competence, homeowners should look for someone they’re comfortable with. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor should be how well the two parties are able to communicate. At the end of the day, it’s better to spend more and work with someone you’re comfortable with, then spend less and end up with a contractor who is difficult to work with.

Confirm Licensing and Insurance

If your state licenses contractors, you can typically do an online license check. As far as insurance goes, the Better Business Bureau’s website indicates what the insurance requirements are for each state – so that’s a good place to find pertinent information. At the minimum, all contractors should have worker’s compensation insurance, so you’re not financially liable if one of their employees injures themselves while on the job. To verify, ask to see a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance. Any reliable contractor should have these items on hand and will gladly provide them upon request.

Don’t Ignore Red Flags

With a large number of scam artists posing as professional contractors, homeowners should be aware of who they’re dealing with. If a contractor pressures you for a quick hiring decision, accepts only cash, wants to skip the building permit, tries to cut you a deal using materials leftover from a previous project, or quotes a final price without seeing the job, consider cutting all ties and moving onto your next option. Although some reliable contractors solicit door to door, be wary if they’re not local to the area.

Put Everything in Writing

Once you’ve chosen a contractor, be sure to draw up a contract that details every step of the project, including payment schedules, proof of liability insurance, a start date, a projected completion date, specific materials and/or products to be used, and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. Lien releases will protect you if he or she doesn’t pay their bills. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t a sign of mistrust, it’s a sign of insuring a successful renovation from start to finish. Happy home renovating!

Four Bathroom Vanity Installation Tips

Although bathrooms begin to look dated very quickly, it’s not cost-effective or practical to renovate them completely every few years. Instead, you can improve the look of your bathroom with a few simple changes – like incorporating a brand new bathroom vanity, or updating your cabinetry. In an effort to save cash, many homeowners are opting to take the DIY route, and choose to install vanities and other bathroom fixtures themselves. Here’s four tips for installing a new vanity in your bathroom:

1) Consider Your Needs
Before purchasing a new bathroom vanity, take some time to plan out your installation. Why did you get rid of your old vanity? Was it lacking counter space? Did you want an extra drawer? Once you have an idea about what type of vanity you need, measure the space you have to work with. Take your time and be sure to carefully measure the area; measure two or three times to ensure your measurements were correct the first time. Although bathroom vanities can be purchased online, many homeowners enjoy visiting showrooms where they can touch the items and truly get a feel for how it will look in their bathroom.

2) Don’t Forget About Plumbing
Although you can go from a pedestal sink to a vanity, it’s important to remember that you’ll probably have to re-do the plumbing within the wall to make it work. If you have to make any adjustments at all to the plumbing, you’ll probably have to rely on the services of a professional, which can blow your budget out of the water. You’ll need to install faucets and water lines to the sink before you can install most countertops. Once your water lines, faucets and drains are installed, put a line of silicone caulk around the edge of the countertop and set the top in place.

3) Make It Easy on Yourself
When you’re ready to install your vanity, start by making it easier on yourself. Remove all drawers and mirrors, take off the doors, and don’t try to set the vanity in place with the sink top attached. (Note: Always check manufacturer installation instructions first before removing doors or sinks.) Line up the new vanity with the wall, and measure where the pipe holes and drill holes need to match. Cut the holes at least 1/2" bigger than the pipes to ensure easy installation. Mark where a stud is on the wall, and mark the same location on the inside of your cabinet. Now you’re ready to slide the vanity into place, fit the pipes through the holes, and attach your vanity.

4) Keep Things Leveled & Secure
Now that your vanity is ready to be attached and has been pushed against the wall, you can begin to level the cabinet. Use a level to measure from wall to wall, to ensure the vanity sits evenly. If you need help balancing the vanity permanently, use a few wooden shims under the base. Once your vanity is level, you can secure it to the wall with a few screws. Many experts recommend using at least three 1-1 1/2" screws per wall stud.