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If you’ve ever shopped for a new home, we’re sure you’ve come across once-trendy bathrooms that now seem outdated: whether it was the bathroom with pink tile from the 50s, avocado green tile from the 70s, or massive Jacuzzi tubs that were popular in the 80s, these bathrooms may have looked great at one time, but now they’re nothing but an outdated mess.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!

Create a Chic Bathroom on the Cheap

Although the cost of a bathroom makeover can be daunting, there are plenty of ways to save. One smart way to save money during a renovation or bathroom upgrade is to focus your efforts on smaller, more commonly used areas of your bathroom instead of replacing large, expensive, fixtures. Make your project even more affordable by selecting lower-priced fixtures over their higher-priced alternatives. The less need there is to relocate plumbing and electrical, the lower the renovation bill will be. Here are some inexpensive ways you can improve your bathroom while staying on track with your budget.

Coordinate Accents

An easy way to give your bath a designer touch is with matching accessories. If your medicine cabinet has a silver frame, find a faucet with a similar finish. Similarly, if you have an accent wall painted a particular color, make sure any rugs, carpets or towels in the bathroom are of a corresponding color. By using colors that clash with each other, you’ll be detracting from the visual aesthetic of your bathroom. Certain colors can be used for different purposes – blue-green hues and yellows create a peaceful sense of tranquility, while deep reds and blues can create an almost majestic atmosphere.

Add a Natural Touch

Although a bouquet of flowers in the bathroom may seem unexpected or out of place, incorporating a small vase of yard-cut greens is a unique way to add freshness to a bathroom. If you plan on purchasing flowers for your bathroom, be sure to take into consideration the location and amount of light your bathroom receives before making a trip to the nursery. Those looking for a natural way to deodorize can slip a perfumed tablet of preserved cranberries and orange slices into the drawer of a vanity.

Brighten Up

In many cases, homeowners decide to replace bathroom tiles on a whim – without ever actually taking the time to find out if they can be salvaged. Just because the tile in your bathroom looks old and worn, doesn’t mean it can’t be brightened up with a bit of elbow grease. By purchasing an eco-friendly acid etcher, you’ll be able to remove ground-in dirt from the surface in addition to grout lines. Spend some time with the etcher, and you may be surprised by the difference it can make – old, worn out tile can be transformed to something lighter and brighter before your very eyes.

Make Investments in Your Future

Installing a shower door is a very popular renovation and can typically be done for as little as $150. Although the price may seem high for a simple shower door, think of it as an investment: you won’t have to continually replace your shower curtains, and you won’t have to worry about children or guests making a mess on your bathroom floor. Additionally, many shower doors come with built-in towel storage, so you can create room on your walls for a mirror, photograph, or other type of accent piece.