High Impact Meets Small Spaces
With the slowdown in today’s housing market, it’s an ideal time to remodel that tiny, outdated bathroom that has been bugging you since you bought the place. (It probably has some cracked tiles, leaky fixtures or rotting drywall that may need repair anyway.) As you think through the options for your new space, you may want to consider the following.
Bathrooms are unique compared with any other room in the house. Your bathroom has the highest degree of detail and requires more integration than any other room in your home. Why? Because the confluence of style, function and infrastructure required for a successful bath all typically happens inside 15 to 90 square feet!
Consider that the average kitchen runs 180 to 220 square feet and up. It has adjacent openings and spaces. Baths usually have a single entry point, and are used more times a day, by more family members, in more detail. While we work in feet and inches when designing a kitchen, a well planned bathroom can require us to think in increments of an inch to utilize every bit of available surface as efficiently as possible.
Add to this the fact that our expectations for today’s bathrooms are changing. Shifting away from utility alone, bathroom spaces are now expected to:
•Have a high degree of emotional appeal -from romantic retreat to personal oasis
•Be more spacious and provide more amenities
•Anticipate our personal needs from lighted magnifying mirrors to sound systems
•Provide efficient and detailed storage systems that organize clutter
•Interact more with the out-of-doors
•Be well lighted for each discrete function
•Contain “aging in place” options from “curbless” showers to walk-in tubs
•Operate differently than in the past for our fast paced lifestyles, including easy clean up, no steamy mirrors, improved water containment, and little or no maintenance
Whether you are cosmetically updating your existing bath or gutting, expanding and reworking it into a new configuration, you should expect that the time to design and construct your new bath can be as extensive as larger projects. Depending on the type of bath, your wishlist, budget and personal tolerance level, a new bath can take as long to build --and even cost close to as much as a new kitchen!
Sound daunting? It’s not as long as you follow a few simple tips:
1. ALLOW ENOUGH TIME
Be honest about the time you’ll need to get the result you want. Take your time in the planning phase. “It’s just a bathroom,” will not serve you well. A higher impact, small space means more planning, not less.
2. CONSIDER HIRING A DESIGN PROFESSIONAL
Unless you have the time and inclination to educate yourself on the latest technology and products or to learn what type of infrastructure is required, consider enlisting the help of designer. Be sure they have experience in bathroom work. Even professional builders and designers are not necessarily familiar with the ins-and-outs of the unique features and construction issues required for a bathroom that is meant to last. Small spaces require more design expertise not less -and an ardent attention to detail.
3. CONSIDER HIRING A CONSTRUCTION PROFESSIONAL
Now is not the time to find out how handy you are, especially if your home has only one bathroom! Going without a functioning shower, tub or toilet for longer than needed because you’re learning on the job can add big stress to even the most congenial of families. (and cost you more in the long run). DIY is not for the faint of heart when it comes to bathrooms so be sure you have a real passion for this and that other family members are on board before you decide to go it alone!
4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you start, get a general overview of what is out there. Ask friends, visit showrooms, use the internet, look at your neighbor’s new bath and locate professionals that fit your needs. Be realistic, plan on making compromises to get your wishlist and budget to meet. With regard to details, don’t be afraid to get specific -if you want a new tub, sit in the one you like before buying it. If you desire strong water pressure from your shower head be sure to clarify the gallons per minute that your ideal fixture provides BEFORE it’s installed. For overall styling, look to trends, not fads to increase the value of your investment.
5. START WITH FUNCTION
Great beauty is built upon the solid foundation of great function! If something does not work, you won’t use it no matter how pretty it is. Decide what is and is not working in your current bath to help plan your new space. Need more room? Look for borrowed space from adjacent closets or eaves. Want more daylight? Consider adding a skylight or using a frosted glass door to grab light from the window across the hall. Is wheelchair access a must? Make sure the size of the doorway opening you need is adequate.
6. ERR ON THE SIDE OF DURABILITY
If you plan to stay in your home, consider the quality of fixtures and craftsmanship you select, especially for this hardworking room. Higher quality will add dollars up front, but if you factor in the time, cost and emotional energy spent on maintenance and repairs down the road, quality will actually save you money and headaches. Consider what it takes to cut open the ceiling in your dining room under the shower to fix a leaky drain pipe two years after you’ve remodeled, or the cost to replace a faucet that was attractive but poorly made. If your infrastructure and fixtures are not built to last, your bathroom won’t either.
7. PREPARE THE SPACE
It’s no accident that bathrooms are the most frequently repainted rooms in the house. The high frequency of use and the constant presence of moisture create a unique environment that you will want to carefully manage with good preparation. Be sure to include a good fit and finish to avoid nooks and crannies that need to be caulked and maintained. Be sure all undersurfaces are flashed and treated for proper drainage to avoid water infiltration behind drywall, flooring and tile. Make sure the structure of the room is adequate to support your goals -whether it is a large whirlpool tub or an expansive custom tiled shower. This will help avoid deflection and cracked tile later. Consider using vapor barrier paints to help keep the moisture inside the bath AND under your control.
8. GOOD VENTILATION
The average bath fan moves anywhere from 40-80 CFM’s (cubic feet per minute) of air. Using a higher end exhaust fan (150-300CFM) with a good timer control is a key component to protect not only your bathroom investment from the long term damage caused by moisture, but other areas as well, like the attic above it or adjoining walls.
9. BE PATIENT & ENJOY THE PROCESS!
Consider the journey to your new bath a process that will reward you each time you walk into it! Your careful planning will pay off whether you want low volume fixtures to conserve water, better lighting, a steam shower for your allergies or just a faucet that doesn’t leak. A bathroom sets the tone for our days and sends us off to bed at night. It’s the small things in life that reap the greatest rewards and allow you to personalize your home for the way you live!