The Best Vintage Bathroom Decor

Whether it’s antique pieces from the early 1900s or brand new products inspired by days gone by, decorating your bathroom with vintage décor is a chic and stylish way to fuse the past with the present. When many of us think of vintage bathrooms we think of claw foot tubs, pedestal sinks, and white subway tile – but you can add a vintage flair to your bathroom with more than just the fixtures. From shower curtains to color schemes, here’s some tips for incorporating vintage décor in your bathroom.

Shower Curtains

If you’re going for a hippie look, consider purchasing a set of shower curtains in a bright and vibrant pattern. If they look like they were taken straight from last seasons’ Mad Men set, you made the right choice. If you have wallpaper in your bathroom and are worried about the curtains clashing with the walls, consider purchasing curtains in colors that are reminiscent of the time period, including avocado greens, daisy yellows, and tangerine oranges. This funky shower curtain is a fun way to bring pops of orange, green, and yellow into your bathroom. As long as the shower curtains match the color scheme of the rest of the room, you’ll be one step closer to creating the vintage bathroom of your dreams.

Small Accessories

Instead of spending tons of cash on an antique toilet or sink, consider focusing on the details. Soap dishes, antique perfume spritzers, or vintage-inspired makeup bags are an easy and cost-effective way to add vintage charm to your bathroom. If you’ve never been to an antique or thrift store, you’d be surprised at what you can find. Make a list and head to your local antique mall, browse Saturday morning yard sales, or head to an estate sale – you may find just what you’re looking for at a fraction of the cost. If you’re looking for a “free” way to liven up your bathroom, purchase a simple vase and head to your backyard or local park – daisies are a beautiful way to breathe some life into your bathroom.

Vintage Ad Artwork

While in the antique store, ask the sales clerk or owner if they have any old magazines or newspapers for sale. Depending on the decade, these will be full of fun and unique vintage advertisements which can be turned into wall art or, in some cases, even wallpaper. Since the art will be featured in the bathroom, find vintage ads for makeup, brassieres and pantyhose, suntan lotion, or toiletries, and create a collage. Purchase an old frame while you’re there, paint it in a funky color that matches your bathroom color scheme, and feature the DIY artwork near the vanity or on a bare wall.

Mix & Match

When it comes to DIY vintage bathroom décor, it is okay to have some fun with mixing and matching. Instead of purchasing a brand new mirror to hang above the sink, consider using two or three vintage mirrors from the thrift store – if they don’t have frames, put then up anyways! If you have a drawer full of antique door knobs, use them as towel hooks or use them to replace the knobs on your vanity. For a unique “retrodate” on your medicine cabinet, consider using old shutters – paint them different colors and repurpose them as a fun alternative to a mirror.

How to Refinish Wood Vanities

Wood vanities are a great way to add warmth and charm to any style bathroom, but changes in humidity, age, and normal wear and tear can take a toll on even the most maintained wood vanity. Fortunately, you don’t have to rip out your old wood vanities and replace them with new ones – refinishing a bathroom vanity is a relatively simple DIY project. Giving your vanity a new coat of stain or a fresh coat of paint can transform its look, add years to its life, and save you money.

Preparation

Before you get started, make sure you have all the items you’ll need to refinish your wood vanity. Since the project is relatively simple, you probably have most of these items available in your toolshed. If you don’t already own them, they can be purchased or rented from a local home improvement store.

  • Cleaning product
  • Sponge/soft cloths
  • Screwdriver
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Hand sander
  • Shop vacuum
  • Stain or primer and paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Polyurethane finish

Once you have all the items, go over the bathroom vanity with a cleaning product to remove all signs of hairspray, makeup, soap scum, deodorant, and other products that may have accumulated over time. Next, remove the drawers, handles, and knobs from your vanity. Place the handles and knobs in a plastic bag so you can easily put them back on once you’re finished.

Strip the Paint

Place the doors and drawers on drop cloths on a flat surface. Make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated, as some strippers, stains, and paints have strong fumes. Apply a chemical stripper to the doors and drawers with a paintbrush; once the stripper has been left standing for the recommended amount of time, scrape away the old finish. Wipe down the wood with a clean cloth. Use the hand sander and 180-grit sandpaper to remove any traces of the old finish. Be sure to work with the grain of the wood, and avoid applying too much pressure.

Before stripping and sanding the rest of the vanity, place painter’s tape on the wall around the vanity – this will prevent any paint from getting on the surrounding walls.

Prime, Paint, Stain

Once the paint has been stripped, it’s time to prime, paint, or stain the wood. Before getting started, use the shop vacuum to remove any excess dust from the vanity. If primer isn’t included in your paint, you’ll have to prime the wood before painting – it’ll help the top coat adhere to the wood and will help the paint last longer. Let the primer dry completely, which can take anywhere from one to ten hours. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended drying times. Once the primer is dry, apply either the stain or paint. Once the paint is dry, apply a polyurethane finish designed for the bathroom. Let the polyurethane dry completely before reattaching the cabinets, drawers, and hardware.

How to Prevent Bathroom Pipes from Freezing

Winter is here and, depending on where you live, you’re probably wearing extra layers to keep warm. But did you know your pipes need protection from the cold, too? If you live in an area where the temperatures drop into the 20s, even for only a few days, you’ll need to do several things to protect your plumbing. Each year, thousands of households deal with the messy and expensive inconvenience of frozen pipes. So, if you’re warm and cozy in front of the fireplace, don’t forget about your pipes!

At-Risk Pipes

Although all pipes are at-risk in extreme temperatures, some pipes are more prone to freezing because of their location in the home. Pipes most at risk for freezing include exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home, pipes located in exterior walls, and any plumbing that’s located outside the home. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls are especially vulnerable to freezing, particularly if there are cracks or openings that allow the cold air from the outside to come in contact with the pipes.

Preventative Measures: Exterior

If you incorporate the following tasks into your regular seasonal maintenance, you can prevent frozen garden hoses, costly pool repairs, and post-winter faucet replacements:

  • Drain water from the swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines;
  • Remove, drain, and store any hoses used outdoors;
  • Check around the home for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas;
  • Wrap insulation around any exposed pipes; and
  • Turn off the water supply to exterior faucets and drain them.

Preventative Measures: Interior

Although exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they’re in a heated portion of the home, there are plenty of pipes in unheated areas that require attention. Here are some preventative measures you can take to keep the pipes in the interior of your home from freezing:

  • Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen so the air in the room can keep the pipes warm;
  • Place a lamp with a 60-watt bulb in potential problem areas;
  • In moderately cold climates, cover exposed pipe in inexpensive foam pipe insulation or newspaper. In severe climates, wrap pipes in thermostatically controlled heat tape, which will automatically turn on at certain minimum temperatures;
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage;
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night; and
  • When the weather is very cold, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you forgot to prepare your pipes for winter and are suffering the consequences, you can still thaw out your pipes in a few steps. First, locate the water main cut-off valve and cut-off the water before attempting to thaw out frozen pipes. Once the water is shut off, open the faucet the pipe runs to so the thawed out water in the pipe has somewhere to go. By using a hair dryer, heat lamp, or portable space heater you can manually thaw the frozen water in the pipe, just be sure to avoid using blowtorches, kerosene, charcoal stoves, or other open flame devices. If you cannot locate the pipe or cannot thaw the pipe yourself, call a licensed plumber.

Five Budgeting Tips for Your Bathroom Remodel

So, you want to remodel your bathroom but don’t want to break the bank? Join the club. Although the cost of a bathroom remodel varies depending on location, materials, age of the house, and what kind of renovations have already been done, a typical bathroom remodel can set homeowners back by an average of $15,000+. With that type of investment, it’s important to stick to a budget the best you can. Here are some budgeting tips to help you minimize the costs associated with a bathroom renovation.

Purchase Items Yourself

When it comes to bathroom fixtures, like bathtubs and vanities, you can save some cash by purchasing these items on your own. While it might be easier to hire someone to purchase these items for you, you can save thousands of dollars on your bathroom renovation by finding your own deals. Online retailers are a great place to start – in many cases, purchasing directly from the factory can save you up to 70 percent and includes free shipping. If you’re going for a vintage look, try estate sales, auctions, and Craigslist – you never know what treasure you’ll be able to find until you take the time to look.

Ditch the Professional Painter

Whether you’re a DIYer or not, performing some of the work yourself is a great way to save on labor. When it comes to painting, it’s a time-consuming (and expensive!) act that most people can do themselves. Once you’re in DIY mode, think about what other parts of the renovation you can do on your own: demolition, removal of popcorn ceiling, and installation of smaller fixtures often top the list of bathroom renovation projects that are suitable for even the least-experienced individuals.

Don’t Relocate Fixtures

One of the major costs in a remodel is moving fixtures. Not only does repositioning fixtures require a lot of extra materials and plumbing expertise, but it’s a time-consuming act and you’ll be shelling out extra on labor costs as a result. If you keep the same floor plan, you’ll save up to $2,000 on plumbing costs alone. Then, there’s the cost of the fixtures themselves: if that exquisite glass vessel sink is a must-have, then pick a standard no-frills toilet or tub to make up the difference. While it’s certainly acceptable to splurge, don’t splurge on everything- especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Donate Your Trash

While this won’t save you money right off the bat, donating your “trash” will give you a little bit extra come tax season. Before you begin a remodeling job, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fixtures for later resale. About 85 percent of a home is reusable, so you’ll save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause. The average cost of trashing bathroom fixtures is about $100, and the cost to donate is nothing and includes a tax deduction – so why wouldn’t you donate?

Make Decisions Early

Start walking the aisles at the hardware store or home improvement center months before you call a contractor for an estimate. This way, you’ll get a good feeling for what you want in terms of fixtures, design, and appliances. Additionally, you’ll know their cost and have an idea of what number the contractor will throw your way. If the number seems too high or low, let the contractor know. If you’re absolutely clear about what you want from the get-go, your contractor will be able to give you a better estimate and, once the demolition and remodel gets started, you’ll be able to better stay within budget.

Creative (and Inexpensive!) Backsplash Ideas

When you hear the words “backsplash”, the first thing that probably comes to mind is traditional tile in neutral colors. Although tile is the most popular backsplash design in America, it isn’t the end-all-be-all of backsplashes. While tile is a fine choice, why not express your individuality with a creative backsplash that’s guaranteed to be a conversation-starter among family and friends? If you’re interested in bringing some style to your bathroom, try one of these creative backsplash ideas that won’t break your budget.

Pegboard

While pegboard is definitely an out-of-the-box backsplash choice, it’s as stylish as it is functional. The pegboard can easily be painted to match the color scheme of the rest of your bathroom and provides extra storage and display space. The inexpensive pegboard panels can be purchased from any home improvement store and are easy to fasten to the walls – even a novice DIYer won’t have a problem with the task. Purchase some hooks, and you can free up valuable storage space by hanging hair dryers, curling irons, toothbrushes, or other bathroom accessories from the pegboard.

Pennies

We’ve all seen penny floors and kitchen countertops, so it was only a matter of time until they invaded bathroom backsplashes. Perfect for bathrooms with a rustic or traditional ambiance, penny backsplashes can be purchased from manufacturers and installed by professionals or can be built from the ground-up with a bit of grout, a massive penny collection, and some TLC. Although some question the legality of using federal currency for decoration, we highly doubt the U.S Department of Treasury will show up at your door over a chic and stylish penny backsplash.

Maps

Whether you’re a world-traveler or just a dreamer, express your personality by using a world map as your bathroom backsplash – I bet you can already imagine yourself daydreaming of your next vacation while you brush your teeth. The best thing about this idea is that it isn’t limited to maps: you could use wrapping paper, your favorite comic strip, magazine covers, newsprint, or whatever you prefer! For the DIYers at heart, simply cut a thin piece of plywood to the exact size of the wall, glue the paper on top, apply shellac and, when dry, attach the plywood directly to the wall.

Salvaged Wood

Vintage, reclaimed, salvaged, antique, rustic – they all mean relatively the same thing, and they’re all trending in home decor right now. Although you can easily ‘fake’ the worn wood look by purchasing distressed wood or weathering it yourself, there’s nothing quite like the real thing. To make this backsplash on your own, cut a thin piece of plywood to the exact wall size, attach the strips or pieces of salvaged wood, and screw the whole thing directly onto the wall. Using salvaged wood for your backsplash is great for cottage-style homes or a bathroom in need of a bit of texture.

Chalkboard

Whether you use a genuine chalkboard or a coat of chalkboard paint, a chalkboard backsplash is great for the walls near a vanity – write yourself notes, leave a reminder for your husband, or invite friends and family to draw a picture that’s representative of themselves. If you intend to use this idea in a child’s bathroom, why not extend the idea to the walls surround the bathtub? Your child can express their creativity (and stay occupied) during their evening baths, and you won’t have to worry about having to scrub crayon residue or permanent marker from the walls!

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.

Avoid These Mistakes During Your Bathroom Renovation

When it comes to home improvement projects, transforming an old bathroom from an eyesore into the bathroom of your dreams can add significant value to your home – but only if done correctly. From the tub and shower to the sink and vanity, there’s a lot to think about during a bathroom renovation. Save yourself time, money, and headaches by avoiding these easily preventable renovation mistakes.

Budget Wisely

According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost of a bathroom remodel is $16,634. Although this is the average, you’d be wise to budget more, especially if you’re remodeling in an older home. The bathroom is unique in that there’s hidden problem areas which you won’t find out about until you start ripping the room apart. Dealing with mold, water damage, dry rot, and plumbing issues can take a serious chunk out of your remolding budget. If you’re not prepared with emergency funds to address these issues, you may have to temporarily put your bathroom remodeling project on hold.

Get Help, If Needed

While it’s fun to take on a new DIY project, perhaps taking on a bathroom renovation isn’t the best idea. Although the bathroom is relatively small, all the skills needed to build a house come together in the bathroom – electrical, plumbing, construction, flooring, and wall covering or painting. If you don’t have the experience, tools, and skills required to take on a bathroom renovation project, hire a contractor or handyman to help you through the process. Before beginning a bathroom remodel, make sure you understand all the different elements you’ll need to know and decide who you need to hire from there.

Avoid Being Too Trendy

If you’ve ever shopped for a new home, we’re sure you’ve come across once-trendy bathrooms that now seem outdated: whether it was the bathroom with pink tile from the 50s, avocado green tile from the 70s, or massive Jacuzzi tubs that were popular in the 80s, these bathrooms may have looked great at one time, but now they’re nothing but an outdated mess. Instead of going with the latest design fad in your bathroom, consider sticking with something classic. Neutral colors, simple tiles, and a clean, fresh look will never go out of style.

Don’t Cheap Out

If you’re purchasing bathroom fixtures that seem “too good to be true”, be advised – they probably are. By surrendering quality for cost, you’ll likely have to do another renovation in less than a decade. It’s especially important not to skimp on paying for a quality contractor; the person who gives you a quote that’s far cheaper than their competitors probably isn’t the right person for the job. Although initially you might be hesitant about spending more money on better quality fixtures, you’ll save in the long run as these items are built to last.

Be Smart with Contractors

One of the biggest complaints against contractors during a bathroom remodel is that the final bill is far larger than what was estimated. Obtaining a properly written bid at the beginning of the project is one of the biggest protections you have. Even if your contractor seems like the most trustworthy person in the world, never hire them without a written proposal. Make sure basic terms are laid out in the bid. At the very least the bid should include the total price, specific description of the work to be performed, estimated completion date, and warranties. If the contractor refuses to leave you with a written bid, then choose another contractor.

The Basics of an Eco-Friendly Bathroom

As a homeowner, you’ve probably put some thought into how your bathrooms fixtures (and your daily routine!) impact the environment. The bathroom tends to use more water, chemicals, and paper products than any other room in the house and, as a result, is often the first stop on the path towards creating an eco-friendly home. “Going green” in the bathroom is a great way to save money, conserve water, and avoid the health risks of using cleaners loaded with harmful chemicals. Whether you’re in the market for a complete bathroom overhaul or are looking for a few easy fixes, here are the basics of an eco-friendly bathroom.

Water-Efficient Toilets & Showerheads

Did you know most toilets account for approximately 30 percent of household water consumption? Although low-flow toilets often come standard in newer homes, older toilets can consume up to eight gallons of water with every flush. According to the EPA, a high-efficiency toilet can save a family of four nearly $100 a year, in addition to working wonders for the environment. If you don’t want to invest in a brand new low-flow toilet, you can retrofit your existing toilet by installing an efficient flushing handle.

Many homeowners falsely believe that by installing a high-efficiency showerhead they’ll be singlehandedly decreasing the water pressure, which is not the case. Most models won’t affect water pressure, and some even filter or eliminate traces of chlorine in the water. On average, traditional showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute, while water-efficient showerheads use 1.5 gallons of water per minute, or less!

Consider Ceramic Tiles

For those considering a complete remodel, ceramic tiling is the way to go. Ceramic tile isn’t easily damaged by moisture, and some can even be made in a low-impact manufacturing process. You can find environmentally friendly tile by looking for words like “post-industrial” and “post-consumer.” Tiles that fall under these categories are often manufactured from recycled bottles and car windshields. Additionally, keep an eye out for paints with a low volatile organic compound (VOC) label; these are less toxic and are verified to have no negative effects on your indoor air quality.

Switch to LEDs

If you haven’t already made the switch to LEDs, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Now, thanks to enormous strides in technology, consumer can now find “warm” LED light bulbs, which will create the same cozy color produced by old-fashioned light bulbs. Switching to LEDs is one of the easiest ways to save: not only will your energy bill be noticeably lower, but you’ll be replacing bulbs far less often. On average, LED lights consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

Clean with Homemade (and Eco-Friendly) Products

Multiple studies have shown that conventional cleaning products can be detrimental to both the planet and your health. If you’re looking for ways to clean your bathroom safely and ecologically, a bit of baking soda mixed with vinegar is all you need – sprinkle baking soda on problem areas, add a little white vinegar, let it foam, and scrub the area down with a sponge or brush. Those interested in masking the vinegary scent can add lemon, their favorite essential oil, or rosemary.

From bath towels to toilet paper, chances are everything in your bathroom can be purchased more “green.” By purchasing certified organic products, you can rest assured knowing your bathroom routine will have a lower environmental footprint and the items used will be safe and healthy for your body. These products also have a larger global implication – they often use natural ingredients sourced from fair-trade organizations; so you’ll be supporting ethical business practices as well.

Execute Water Saving Practices

Saving water and helping the environment doesn’t have to be as complicated as replacing toilets or installing ceramic tile – it can be as simple as limiting showers and monitoring water usage. By taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving, employing the “yellow-mellow-brown-down” toilet flushing method, or saving water in buckets while waiting for it to heat up, becoming eco-friendly can start with mending the habits and daily routines of you and your family.

Common Plumbing Questions: Answered

As a homeowner, it’s only natural to have plumbing questions. While some plumbing problems are quite complicated and may require the expertise of a professional, many issues are minor and can be fixed with a bit of time and elbow grease. Not only will homeowners who understand the complexities of plumbing be better prepared to make the best decisions when a plumbing problem arises, but they may be able to take care of the problem themselves.

Q: What are the most important plumbing tools to keep at home?

A: The most well-known tool is the plunger – an essential tool that should be found in every household due to its usability and effectiveness. It can be used for unclogging toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs. Next on the list is a hand auger, which should be used for difficult clogs. With over 25-feet of steel cable, the hand auger is capable of handling clogs a plunger can’t. Finally, a wet-dry shop vacuum, though not strictly a plumbing tool, can be a lifesaver in the case of a flood. If a broken pipe or appliance has flooded a room, getting the water up as quickly as possible with the vacuum can mean the difference between saving a floor and having to completely replace one.

Q: How can I increase my water pressure?

A: Typically, issues with water pressure can be attributed to a volume or flow issue. A restriction in a line, or having a line that’s too long or under sized, could be the problem. If a pressure gauge is installed, you can check the pressure yourself. Water pressure in most households should be around 50 PSI. Look at the gauge with all the water off, and then once again when the water is on full. If the pressure is okay until you turn the water on, then it’s a flow problem. If the pressure problem only happens to a particular faucet, it might be possible to improve the pressure by cleaning the faucet or installing a new aerator on the end of the spout. Over time, faucets can clog and reduce the flow.

Q: How can I avoid frozen pipes?

A: If the pipes in question are exposed to an unheated area (garage, basement) or are outside, the pipes should be wrapped with foam or some type of insulation material and bound with electrical tape. If you can get your hands on electrical wire heating wrap, this will keep the pipes above freezing even in very cold weather. If you’re concerned about pipes within a wall, you can poke small holes through the wall and cover the pipes with insulating foam. If the pipes are totally inaccessible, leave a trickle of water running– this will warm the pipe slightly and slow down the freezing process.

Q: Is there a difference between hard and soft water?

A: Yes, and the difference can be damaging to both your home and your body. Hard water is water that contains a noticeable amount of dissolved materials, like calcium and magnesium. Soft water is treated in such a way that the only ion present is sodium. If you’re experiencing damaged clothing after laundry, excessive soap consumption, pipe scaling, deterioration of faucets and fixtures, or undesirable odors or tastes in your water, you may have a water problem. In addition to improving soap lather and removing soap scum, using a water softener can have financial benefits as well. In homes with water softeners, energy bills are noticeably lower and, since appliances don’t have to work so hard, the lives of washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters can be prolonged.

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!