Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block
President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels
If your bathroom vanity top is like most – it can be downright scary. Creams, makeup, hairspray and sticky purple medicines all fighting for space. Your countertop has to take a “lickin’ and keep on tickin’.” Since there are a lot of choices in vanity tops choosing one can be tough. One popular countertop material – whether you need a standard or custom size – is solid surface. You know when you are remodeling there are often too many choices. Selecting a bath countertop, flooring, shower enclosure or shower fixtures can blow your mind.
In this article, I’m not dumb enough to attempt to try to give input on all the components you may want in your remodel. I will look to give you feedback on one option, which is stone solid surface tops. I’ll dig in to give you concrete answers to your slippery questions about solid surface countertops. At the end of the article if you have more questions shoot them at me (if you have more input for others chime in with what you’ve learned).
It’s fun to look at the glass-like appearance of high gloss acrylic wall panels in a shower, kitchen backsplash or feature wall in an office and say, “Wow – that material is cool.” Yes –gloss wall panels are striking in appearance – but just like you and I – there is a lot more to know about them than is evident on the surface. While these panels fly off the shelves in countries like Australia and Japan – they are still new to homeowners and business owners in the United States (and a bit of a mystery).
In this article, I’d like to dig “under the hood” to give you some little-known facts (at least in the United States) about these fun and functional high gloss wall panels. At the end of the article let me know if you have any questions which weren’t covered in these 5 facts.
When you take a shower is it an elbow banging, sardine-stuffed-in-can, clown-jammed-into-a-Volkswagen type of experience? Maybe your shower is “functional,” but it’s not a place you enjoy. Since the bathtub is hardly ever used, showers now rule the bathroom landscape. Day in and day out they are the workhorses of our morning or evening routine. So why settle for a tiny shower which is uncomfortably small, outdated and/or a dark depressing?
This is the question Kerry Danielsen asked about the cramped 48″ x 32″ shower in her West Winsor, New Jersey home. The challenge for Kerry (or for any of us who are adventuresome enough to embark on a bathroom remodeling project) is how can I make my limited square footage work? How can I create a bathroom which is luxurious, comfortable and durable (after all who wants to spend good money remodeling a bathroom only to see it fall apart in a short time)?
Fortunately for Kerry she had a “trick” (‘er, or should I say a friend) up her sleeve to guide her through this process. This friend is also an award-winning architect (now that’s the perfect kind of friend to have during a building project), furniture designer and graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University (that’s also my alma-mater so that can’t make him too bad!). He is Jonathan Nelson.
When I talked to Jonathan and Kerry recently about the project Jonathan joked and said, “Mike – we basically created a shower with a bathroom attached!” The challenge becomes how can you create a spacious, luxurious larger shower in a smaller bathroom while providing enough space for a vanity, and toilet? You don’t want to end up looking like an episode from “Honey, I Shrunk the Rest of our Bathroom just to put in a Larger Shower!”
Let’s go on a journey to see how this bathroom remodeling project evolved from a good plan on a sheet of paper to a space which is not only built to last, but is built to be enjoyed …. each day.
Has your basement ever flooded? Maybe your home sits low in relation to the street level and you’ve got nasty old basement windows which aren’t prepared to stop a fly let alone a bunch of rain crashing down at one time. If you’ve been the unlucky recipient of a flash flood and were the “winner” of rain or storm water in your lower level– you know what a pain it is to dig out. Drenched carpets, furniture ruined, paneling and finished wall destroyed. Floods are a mess to clean up.
Your basement problems today
Your basement walls, windows and land around your home needs to protect against floods. However, in many cases your windows, walls and land are not prepared to do the job. The first problem is most basement windows are the red-haired step-child of your home. They are cheap single pane metal or wood framed windows the original builder put in years ago. They “offer” virtually zero insulation value. They are rotten, rusted but perfect for Halloween with their dirty spider infested spookiness. Do you want to deal with these windows or would you rather they just go away peacefully?
Another problem is the land and window wells may not be equipped to handle a lot of rain at one time. The earth around your home has moved. Your lawn and landscape beds have settled and not in a good way (as a 50 something year old guy it kind of reminds me of my gut). The window wells are filled with leaves, gunk and junk. The walls, windows and ground around your basement leave a lot to be desired.
The opportunity your basement can provide
If you have a home though, you know it’s nice to have a light filled basement. Basement windows can bring light into your lower level rec rooms, man-caves and hobby and crafting rooms. They can make finished rooms look bright and airy (if the windows aren’t rusted shut or in such bad shape you don’t dare to open them). In addition, the basement is a low-cost opportunity to add space for you, your family and your hobbies (note: it’s much cheaper to remodel a basement than to do a room addition).
The lower level can also be the perfect place to create a cool room for your teenagers to hang out (versus being God-only-knows where with their friends) or a fun man cave or hobby room. It is an important place to store valuable furniture, books, family pictures and equipment. Whether you have a beautifully remodeled finished basement or just want to make sure your things don’t get waterlogged you’ve got to develop a game plan to protect again the elements messing up your things.
The question becomes what can you do fix leaky basement windows, deal with a messed-up landscape and protect your finished lower level from being damaged by Mother Nature? Check out these 4 practical tips to button up your home so you won’t be digging out from a rainwater problem you could have avoided.
If you’ve got a custom sized shower or tub and HATE tile you know what a pain it can be finding a long-lasting, good looking alternative \. You may struggle locating any decent looking panels which don’t know look like a cheap Home Depot special. Even if you do find a nice bathroom wall panel, then you get “the pleasure” (sarcasm intended) dealing with your stuck-in-the-mud general contractor who refuses to install anything but tile (another remodeling hurdle for you). If you decide to DIY this job you may not have the right tools or experience to cut the panels or end up breaking one and costing yourself more money (ouch!). The question is who you gonna call (Ghostbusters doesn’t do construction work) to figure this doggone project out?
Here’s a quick and painless solution for you. Read below about the 5 pains of custom bathroom walls panels. You’ll learn not only about the hassle of bathroom wall panels, but most importantly get ideas to fix these problems without pulling out your hair (or yanking out your husband’s few remaining hairs either).
For some a home can be viewed as a pile of sticks, bricks and shingles – a dwelling, a simple roof over your head. For others (like Sandy and Jeff Alexander of Stonington Connecticut) a home is much more. It is the hub of family life, an extension of who they are and of what they value. You may be wondering how can people view their homes so differently? I believe is tied into connection with your surroundings, the importance of family life and how you want to interact with the world around you.
When I talked to Sandy about the beautiful modern, bright and airy farmhouse (she worked with builder Nick Lehto of Lehto Design Build on the project) she said to me, “Mike – this home (and architecture in general) has been a love for Jeff and me. We didn’t want to build any old house. We were building our forever home. A place for Jeff and me and our 6-year-old son Brody to enjoy and do things together. We wanted to spend as little time as possible maintaining and fixing this home. We were determined to build a home which was sustainable, cost-effective and respected our planet.”
Are you looking for more than just sticks and bricks slapped up by “ABC Crank-It-Out Production Builders Incorporated?” Do you want a home which connects with who you are, with what you value? If so, read on to see how Sandy and Jeff incorporated personal values and a desired lifestyle into their modern forever home.
This week I’m veering off the remodeling path in this reflective post about personal inspiration – back next week with more remodeling thoughts.
Taking time to reflect
I don’t mean to be “Mr. Downer” but if God wanted me out of here I’d be 6’ under by now. That’s what 2 significant heart events in less than a year will make you – or me in this case – think. However – I’m still ticking. Running an hour a day. Working more hours than I should, writing two blog posts per week, trying my best to be a good Dad and husband. Life’s challenging health events haven’t slowed me down but they have kicked up my desire to reflect on life’s journey and to keep plugging –keep moving –keep learning – and keep growing.
Who the heck I am?
In case you’ve arrived at this blog for the first time I’ll give you the 2–minute low-down on me. I’m a 56-year-old “slightly graying” (being generous to myself here) married guy from C-town (Cleveland) with 3 somewhat grown kids (their maturity and mine depends on the day) who is a fanatical entrepreneurial business owner, Christian, over the top runner and just dumb enough guy to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
Back to the story
I’m on a plane now headed on the cross-country trip to Portland Oregon to my nephew Nate’s high school graduation. While others are sleeping, watching YouTube videos or talking to their seat mates, I’m alternating my time between writing (on a “vacation day”) and reading an excellent book by John Maxwell titled 3 Things Successful People Do and the moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Why am I wired to keep doing when others are relaxing? Am I nuts (OK I might resemble this remark)? What makes me inspired to do what I do – and more importantly, what can inspire any of us (even if life has you or I down right now) to dust ourselves off and gain inspiration to keep going, striving and progressing?
Where I’m going with this post (striving for more evolution)
My goals in this post are two-fold.
First, I’ll share with you my personal reflections and what’s keeping me moving these days despite a crazy-busy life shared between faith, family, friends, business and more than a bit of writing.
Second, and most importantly, I’d like to talk about “evolution” – but not in the scientific sense (definitely not bright enough to talk about that!). I believe as people we are all in one of 3 states. We’re either evolving (learning, growing, trying new stuff), revolving (stuck in the cog of life’s grind) or we’ve dissolving (bitter, hurt and headed down the abyss of negativity). From day to day and even moment to moment life’s circumstances can move us back and forth like a human yo-yo between these 3 states. The goal in life (in my humble opinion) is quite simple. It’s to evolve, to live out our purpose, to be used up at the end. Towards that end, in the last part of this article I’m going to pose 5 reflective questions I use to guide me to get back into the state of “evolution” when life’s twists and turns want to pull me down. My hope is these questions will help you too. So, as Larry the Cable guy would say, “Let’s get ‘er done!”
Freddie sent me the pictures – and even a drawing – of his odd shaped shower and he was absolutely on the money when he said, “Mike – this thing is one of the funkiest bathrooms you’ll ever see. What were the last owners thinking when they created the weird angles in this space? Even though I’ve done a bathroom remodeling project or two in my past I’ve never encountered a beast like this shower. Can you help me figure this puzzle out?”
Unfortunately, Freddie is not the only one in this country with an odd shower which is funky with a capital “F!” It’s simple to identify and say – Man, that is an odd space – it’s much more challenging to get a game-plan to conquer this crazy shower and transform your bathroom into a functional, stylish and maintenance free place. Even after Freddie sent me pictures and a drawing it took 45 minutes on the phone to BEGIN to get a plan together to get this weirdness under control.
This brings up the question, “What do you need to know to tame a lion-sized bathroom remodeling challenge? What assistance is required to not only conquer this beast, but to create a space which is much better than the fungus-infested, dirty-grout, odd shaped shower you’re stuck with today?”
My goal in this article is to give you practical tips to get your arms around this project – whether your man (or woman) enough to tackle it as a DIY’er – or plan to bring a contractor in (note – if you look for a professional contractor you’ll need to find one who likes a challenge, knows what they’re doing, won’t demand your first- born child or force you to take on a second job to pay for this remodel to ‘get ‘er done). Let’s look at these 5 ½ tips (the ½ tip is the cherry on the top) and stop putting up with the nastiness that is your strange shower today!
At midnight, I received the all too familiar email. It said,
“Mike, my general contractor is extremely hesitant to work with the (you fill in the blank) product (in my business I could fill in this blank with unique products like wet room systems, grout free shower wall panels or glass block showers or windows). I desperately want this product in my remodeling project. I’m crushed. How do I convince him to use this new product….to innovate on my project? I’m completely frustrated. I don’t want to have to beg get what I want – but I will if that’s what it takes!”
Have you ever resembled this remark in the middle of a kitchen, basement or bathroom remodeling project? Contractors are not known to be the most progressive ‘tools in the shed’ – and in the busy market of today it’s much easier for them to tell you, “hey lady we don’t know anything about that product.” Asking them to innovate can be as hard as asking the shyest person you know to give a speech about physics to a group of egghead scientists. Neither request is likely to be fulfilled – unless you know how to influence them in a way they want to help you get what you want.
This is not an easy mission, but you’ve got no choice but to accept it if you want to get the home renovation project of your dreams (money alone will not convince your contractor to do a project they are uncomfortable installing). A quality contractor doesn’t want to stick their neck, pocketbook and reputation out if they don’t know what the heck they’re doing. They will be responsible to come back to fix what’s wrong if something goes sideways for you – and they aren’t eager to take the risk.
How do you get your competent (in this article I’m assuming they are competent – if not, you have other bigger problems!) – yet conservative general contractor to go out on a limb and install a cool or important new product you’ve just got to have? To get something new it’s time to turn back to some good old fashioned advice. This timeless advice was adapted (with a twist) from a book originally published in 1936 (and has sold over 30 million copies) from Andrew Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People. In this article let’s look at 4 common sense tips (with a little psychology thrown in) inspired by the work of Andrew Carnegie to influence your contractor (or anyone for that matter) to get what you want.
Do you have the June Cleaver throwback bathroom from the 1950’s, or maybe a “modern” 1970’s bathroom straight out of the Brady Bunch which are practically begging you for an update? You know you NEED a bathroom makeover so bad. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the partially rusted tub, pealed wood on the window sills, tired old particle board vanity with a dated laminate top and nasty looking grout in the shower. The challenge is what are you going to do about it? How can you update for a fresh, clean look? How can you create an updated design which takes advantage of the latest trends and keeps maintenance to a minimum? The question is – where do you start?
One excellent place to begin is to take a sneak peek at the products which are hot today and include these elements in your remodeled “bathroom of tomorrow.” In this article, we’ll look at what’s hot now. At the end, I’d love to hear your “Siskel and Ebert” – two thumbs up or thumbs down on these products.