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 Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger

Unless you live in a custom-built home with a luxurious bath and walk-in closet, chances are you wish your bathroom was a little bit larger. While a small bathroom can feel cozy and intimate, it can also feel claustrophobic and cramped. Did you know it’s possible to create the feeling of more space without being forced to add more square footage? With these changes in color, lighting enhancements and decorating tricks, you can transform your small bath into something that appears a bit more spacious.

Pedestal Sink > Vanity

When you’re tight on space, replace your bulky vanity with a pedestal sink – or two! While a traditional vanity provides plenty of storage space under the sink, it can also obscure shower entrances and take up valuable floor space. Replacing a vanity with a pedestal or wall-mounted sink is a fairly inexpensive way to provide functionality while opening up floor space. Additionally, don’t install tall shelving units or cabinets that reach from floor to ceiling – these will only make your bathroom seem shorter and smaller.

Paint the Ceiling

Painting your bathroom ceiling the same color as the walls is a great way to open up a room, especially if your ceiling is angled or oddly shaped. By painting everything a unified color, unusual shapes will disappear and the space will visually expand. But how? Painting the ceiling to match the walls will cut down on the number of transitions and intersecting planes, creating a cleaner, more expansive upper space in the room. If your ceiling is flat, consider painting it a shade lighter since ceilings tend to read a bit darker than the rest of a room.

Color Selection

Pale, soft color schemes tend to great the illusion of more space. “Cool” colors, like light pinks, pale blues and sea foam greens, give the feeling serenity while strong, exciting colors can actually make your bathroom appear smaller. If you’re set on hot pinks or dark reds, consider using these colors for accessories, towels, and accent pieces. For the walls and ceilings, stick to pastel tones, neutrals, and whites. Additionally, keep everything the same tone/value as much as possible – avoid the contrast of dark walls and light tiles in favor of a more uniform color scheme.

Use BIG Mirrors

When it comes to mirrors in small bathrooms, the bigger the better. Nothing can make a bathroom feel larger than a mirror that reaches to the ceiling. When trimmed out in wood or tile and with lighting installed on top of it or in front of it, an oversized mirror will double the impact of the light and make the space grow. Note: don’t use double mirrors over side by side sinks, as this will chop up the space and have the opposite effect. Additionally, be sure to use clear glass in your shower – although textured glass promotes privacy, it can make the already small space feel like it has an extra wall.

Take Advantage of Natural Light

If you’re fortunate enough to have windows in your bathroom, take advantage of them. In many cases, windows are covered with shutters, shades, blinds or curtains in an effort to create privacy. Instead, cover a window with a translucent window shade or a light-toned stained glass window – this way you can have natural light while still enjoying your privacy. If you don’t have a window, consider installing a skylight, as natural light is one of the easiest ways to make a small bathroom appear larger.

Pedestal Sink or Vanity: The Great Debate

Although bathroom sinks come in a variety of styles, colors and materials, deciding between a pedestal sink and vanity is a classic debate. While many homeowners can easily decide on a sink color and style, choosing between a pedestal sink and vanity tends to be one of the hardest decisions. Some interior designers claim you can’t go wrong with either, but there are things you should take into consideration before deciding which style is right for your home. While pedestal sinks and vanities do the same job at the end of the day, they have several major differences that might make one a better fit for your home.

Space

A design rule of thumb states that the more floor space that’s visible, the more open a room will feel. If your bathroom feels cramped and small, a pedestal sink is the best choice for you since the open base of a pedestal sink can help even the smallest areas feel more spacious. Vanities, especially vanities with two sinks, tend to be significantly larger than pedestal sinks. While they can be the perfect addition to any bathroom, some bathrooms are simply too small for bathroom vanities. Note: if you’re replacing an existing vanity with a pedestal sink, the floor might need to be worked on, depending on what’s underneath the existing vanity.

Storage

Since vanities are larger than pedestal sinks, they also offer significantly more storage space - especially if your vanity comes with a long storage cabinet under the sinks. These cabinets tend to span the length and width of the vanity, and are a great place to store cleaning supplies, toiletries, and extra bath linens. If your bathroom is low on space but you need extra storage, you can offset the lack of storage under the sink elsewhere in the bath, including over-the-toilet shelves, open shelving with baskets, medicine cabinets, or a set of drawers. If storage and floor space are equally important, consider a wall-mounted vanity or console sink - something that can offer more storage while freeing up valuable floor space.

Maintenance

Pedestal sinks are easier to clean, due to their size and simple design. Since vanities have more features, including drawers and cabinets, dust and grime are more likely to accumulate. Additionally, the countertop of a vanity adds time to your regular cleaning schedule. Depending on the type of material chosen for the vanity, staining could be an issue as well. For example, marble and granite must be sealed to prevent staining and water absorption. While pedestal sinks are easier to clean than vanities, both are typically easy to clean and only require mild soap and water.

Installation

While most homeowners can install a vanity without too much difficulty, pedestal sinks tend to be a bit harder to install. Since pedestal sinks have no cabinet area to hide plumbing lines, unsightly holes, and water supply lines, everything must be installed so the connections are obscured. In order to do this, the drain must be centered perfectly and the supply lines must be installed at the correct height and close to the center of the faucet valves. For those on the inexperienced side, this can prove to be difficult. For these reasons, it’s usually recommended that plumbers install pedestal sinks.

Bathroom Demolition: How to Remove Old Vanities

Before you can remodel your bathroom, you’ll have to demolish it – this includes removing existing vanities and fixtures so your bathroom is prepared for the facelift you’ve always dreamed of. Whether you’re a total novice or somewhat of an expert, it’s important to take the time to demolition the right way – after all, a successful demolition isn’t about who can swing the hammer the hardest. There is a process to the demolition phase and it requires a plan and lots and lots of patience. Here are some tips for demolishing your existing bathroom without creating extra dust.

Have a Plan

Before beginning a demolition, you should either rent an industrial-sized dumpster or a truck to haul the debris to the landfill. Be prepared for tons of dust and grit, as removing plaster and tile will cause quite a mess. If your vanities and other bathroom fixtures are still in good condition and you feel guilty tossing them in a landfill, you may wish to consider donating them to organizations like Habitat for Humanity – they’ll get a second life in someone else’s home. If you’re working with a hired team, let them know about your donation plans ahead of time so they won’t damage or trash them upon removal.

Collect Tools & Supplies

Whether you plan on performing the demolition yourself or with a hired crew, you’ll need the following tools and equipment in order to perform the demolition properly: sledge hammer, utility knife, wheel barrel, large shovel, shop vacuum, heavy duty gloves, face gargles, face aspirators, duct tape or construction tape, screw drivers and wrenches, old towels, a large bucket, and high intensity light.

Although you’ll have to buy most of the above items, some of the larger tools, like wheel barrows and sledge hammers, are available for rent. Before renting, compare the purchase price and the rental price. In some cases, it may be cheaper to buy the tools and either sell them in a yard sale or save them for later use.

Turn Off the Water Supply

Before beginning any demolition job, think about what household elements you’ll be dealing with. Water? Gas? Electricity? All of the above? In the case of bathroom demolition, it’s important to turn off the water supply. Before removing a bathroom vanity, turn off the water supply below the sink by twisting the hot and cold nozzles. Turn the handles the opposite of their current position, and test both faucets to ensure the water is turned completely off before you move forward with removing the vanity.

Next, you’ll want to unscrew the supply lines that flow from the piping in your wall to the faucets. You can do so by wrapping a wrench around the nut that connects the line to the faucet and turn it until it becomes loose enough to unscrew by hand. If your home has copper pipes that have corroded over time, spray a plumbing liquid lubricant into the joint before beginning the process.

Remove Drain Pipes

Disconnecting the plastic piping that connects your drain to the hole in the wall is one of the easiest parts of a bathroom demolition and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. If you’re having trouble with turning the pipe connectors, try using a dry rag to get a better grip. If you’re dealing with a double vanity, the job is still simple but you’ll have to disconnect both before trying to pull apart the sink. Once the drain pipes have been removed, you’re ready to remove the vanity and cabinets.

Vanity Countertops & Cabinets

If the countertop is attached with silicone caulk, you’ll have to use a utility knife to loosen the countertop where it attaches to the cabinets. In some cases there are clamps securing the bathroom countertop, which can be removed with the appropriate tool. Once the bathroom countertop has been lifted, discard of it in an appropriate area. Now that the countertop is off, it’s time to remove the cabinet. Using a screwdriver or screw gun, remove the screws. Once the screws are removed, you should be able to remove the bathroom vanity.

After removing the vanity, cap off the drain pipe to prevent sewage gases from escaping into your home. Either push a large rag into the drain pipe or use plastic and tape to cover the opening. Now that your old bathroom vanity is removed, you’re ready to install your brand new bathroom vanity.

The Best Plants for Your Bathroom

Whether you’re looking for an innovative way to add color to your bathroom or are seeking clean-air solutions, bathroom plants are a natural way to bring life and clean air into your home. Although the minimal natural light and high humidity in bathrooms aren’t ideal for some plants, there are a lot of houseplants that thrive in your bathroom’s tropical conditions. In order to choose the best houseplant for your bathroom, you should consider the environment your bathroom offers: some plants thrive in low light, while others may require lots of space. Here’s a list of popular plants you may wish to incorporate into your bathroom décor, along with the ideal conditions and basic care of each.

Aloe Vera

Widely grown as an ornamental plant, Aloe Vera is a succulent plant species suitable for a bathroom environment. If you buy a plant that’s already established and add water only after its soil has completely dried, Aloe Vera should be extremely easy to grow. Although Aloe Vera prefers bright, sunny conditions, the plant can burn under too much sunlight, making it an ideal candidate for the bathroom. An added bonus: Aloe Vera can be used to treat minor abrasions and burns. Simply snap a leaf, and squeeze the juice directly onto minor wounds. The extract will moisturize and speed up healing time.

Snake Plant

Tolerant of low light levels and irregular watering, the snake plant is a popular plant for the bathroom. Although the plant is considered by some authorities as a weed, it’s widely used as an ornamental plant both outdoors in warmer climates and indoors in cooler climates. A study performed by NASA ranked the snake plant as one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality – the plant passively absorbs toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde from the air. Ideal for those lacking a green thumb, a snake plant is one of the hardest plants to kill, and prefers to be watered every 7-10 days.

Orchids

This beautiful, tropical plant will produce brightly colored flowers that are sure to liven up even the dullest of bathrooms. Although this plant can be difficult to cultivate and may die in other areas of the home due to dry air, the humidity of the bathroom creates an ideal environment for this plant to thrive. With over 20,000 species, orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants. Since all orchids are perennial herbs, you’ll only get to enjoy them for part of the year, so keep that in mind before purchasing an orchid for your bathroom.

Spider Plants

Characterized by long shoots of thin foliage with off shoots at the ends of many leaves, the Spider Plant is one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Spider Plants only require light watering, and will only need to be watered once every two weeks. Although Spider Plants prefer natural light, they should not be placed in direct sunlight and should be removed from sunlight if their leaves turn brown. If the plant is kept within five to eight feet of a window, it should thrive in a bathroom environment.

Hanging Plants

Although hanging plants aren’t a specific type of plant, hanging plants are very popular and appreciated among those who grow plants in their bathroom. Hanging plants above the bathtub or from a hook on the ceiling is a great way to add greenery to your bathroom without taking up too much space. Ideal for bathrooms low on space, you can experiment with hanging plants and find interesting ways to display them in your bathroom. If possible, find a way to hang the plants in front of a window where they’ll be exposed to the most natural light.

Note: Many houseplants are poisonous to children and pets. Please research any houseplant before incorporating them into your bathroom.

Black is the New Black: How to Incorporate Black into Your Bathroom

Although black is not a favorite for use in home interiors, it can be an amazing idea if executed properly. When applied wisely, the color black can transform your bathroom into an elegant, dramatic, and trendy room. By incorporating black into your bathroom you’ll have the unique opportunity to create a room that’s the perfect mix between drama and elegance. Keep in mind the following basic rules and you can creatively use the color black when decorating your bathroom.

Use Black to Add Depth

One of the biggest misconceptions about using black is that it can make a room look cramped and small. While including black into a person’s outfit can make them look slimmer, black in the bathroom can actually add depth and make the room appear larger. One way to ensure your bathroom doesn’t look cramped as a result of using black Is to be mindful of how you’re incorporating the color – if you don’t have a large bathroom, consider only painting one or two of the walls black. If you’re still worried about using black on walls, consider opting for a black tiled floor or accent pieces instead.

Don’t Forget About the Lighting

There’s no denying that black works best in bathrooms with a large window and lots of natural light. If your bathroom doesn’t have large windows or is completely lacking natural light, you can still incorporate black by paying attention to the lighting. By adding contemporary light fixtures or a large mirror into your bathroom, the reflective surfaces will help light bounce through the room. If you’d really like to take it to the next level, consider installing a mirror with surrounding spotlights.

Don’t Feel Restricted

When incorporating black into the bathroom, many homeowners may feel restricted to painting the walls completely black. While this can work well when executed properly, it’s not the only solution. For those a bit less adventurous, there are a lot of fantastic wallpapers incorporating black and white patterns. Additionally, chevron stripes using two different shades of black can be a great way to add black to the bathroom without going overboard. Finally, don’t be afraid of experimenting with different textures. The use of materials like stone, granite, and slate can work brilliantly.

Consider the Ceiling or Trim

One more substitute for black walls or black floor tile is to paint your ceiling black. While ceilings are typically painted white, there is no great cause or reason for this. A black ceiling is a great way to draw attention upwards, and can make a bathroom look very chic and cohesive, especially when combined with black accent pieces, like rugs on the floor or knobs on the bathroom vanity. For those a bit wary about black ceilings and walls, coloring the trim and other accents of the bathroom in black is also a unique and interesting style statement that carries far less risk.

Classic Color Schemes

Black, when incorporated with white, is a classic color scheme perfect for virtually any size or style bathroom. One of the best things about this color scheme is that you can hardly ever go wrong with it – the color combination has survived centuries and has never seemed to go out of style. Whether you opt for the classic black and white checkered tiles or black and white striped wallpaper, you’re sure to enjoy the classic black and white color scheme we’ve all grown to love throughout the years.

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 Transform Your Bathroom into a Relaxing, Spa-Like Retreat

If you’re as busy and stressed out as the rest of America, you probably don’t take time out for yourself very often. Although personal pampering has known stress relieving benefits, we don’t all have the time or financial freedom to book a spa day at a high end resort. Instead, you can transform your bathroom into the relaxing, spa-like retreat of your dreams. By following these tips, you’ll be one step closer to feeling just as pampered and relaxed as you would after a day at the spa – except without the costly bill.

Ensure Privacy

One of the most important parts of any home spa experience is ensuring you have uninterrupted time just for you. If you have to jump out of the tub to answer the ringing doorbell or soothe your crying toddler, you may end up feeling even tenser than you did before entering the bath. By making arrangements for uninterrupted solitude you’ll be fully prepared to indulge in the luxury of a bath. Keep your cell phone out of the room, let the phone go to voicemail, and consider taking a bath while the kids are in school or are otherwise occupied – you’ll thank yourself later!

Don’t Forget the Tunes

If you can arrange to have music in your bathroom, you’ll be glad you did. Whether it’s a soothing, classical record or an acoustic performance by your favorite band, music can work wonders to melt away stress and remove you from reality. Additionally, if you share a space with others, music can help drown out the sounds of everything that’s going on elsewhere in the house. Some use their phones to stream music, while others opt for waterproof, Bluetooth enabled speakers. Whatever the method, music shouldn’t be overlooked when transforming your bathroom into your own personal retreat.

Pay Attention to Details

Did you know eliminating labels can help you relax? By transferring cotton balls and Q-tips to clear, glass jars you can reduce the stress caused by clutter in your bathroom. If shower space is an issue, consider using a curved shower curtain – it’ll create space and ensure your showers are relaxing. Another easy way to create a relaxing atmosphere in your bathroom is to trade colorful towels for white, fluffy ones – they’re clean, simple, and won’t act as a distraction. When’s the last time you went to a spa and were given a striped or brightly colored towel? Spas use white towels for a reason, and so should you.

Take Advantage of Your Senses

If the lights are on, your eyes will wander and your brain will follow suit. Lighting the room with candles is ideal, since the flickering of the flame when combined with the soothing scent of a candle will do wonders to relax your body and mind. By using lavender-scented bubble bath or aromatherapy bath salts you can take advantage of the soothing effects scent can have on your body. Many spas incorporate fresh flowers, so why not include a vase of fresh cut flowers in your bathroom?

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!