The 10 Commandments of Bathroom Remodeling Success
Updated May 4, 2020
You’ve decided to venture out into the harsh-cruel world of bathroom remodeling for your own home or one of your rentals. You’re no longer willing to be a slave to an outdated, unsafe and flat-out ugly shower, tub, vanity, toilet – you name it. You desire the promised land of a Pinterest and Houzz-inspired bathroom. A space which is relaxing, well-light, safe for your family, with plenty of storage. This bathroom won’t have you on your hands and knees praying for a savior to liberate your hand from your scrub brush.
Making the decision to remodel is easy. Planning and doing the job -whether you hire a ‘professional contractor’ (you may debate if there is such a thing) or rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself – is another thing.
You need guidance and support.
At times you need a savior to bail your butt out. Ouch!
How can you move from the vision of a beautiful spa-inspired bathroom, minimize the trials and tribulations of the construction process and be ‘saved’ from the nastiness which is your current space?
You could go into the Mojave Desert looking for a stone tablet with words of bathroom remodeling wisdom. I doubt you’ll find anything useful. You will locate funky lizards, cougars and tasty prickly pears (if you haven’t tried this fruit, you should – but I digress). Bathroom remodeling inspiration will be in short supply.
A better strategy – crank up your electronic tablet and put into practice the 10 Commandments of bathroom remodeling success below. Will they save you from all trials and tribulations along the way? I doubt it. They will get you a more inspired bathroom with less hassle along the way. Your friends and family may exalt you and your bathroom transformation – and even want to check out your ‘throne’ (I’m getting too flowery here). Let’s check out the 10 Commandments.
Commandment #1 – Thou shall not start without a plan
A big reason people waste time and money in a bathroom remodel is they start tearing things out and buying showers, tubs, vanities and tops without a plan. Then they suck up more time returning things or trying to make something ‘work’ because they already dumped money buying it. This ‘no-strategy-strategy’ is a bad idea for your pocketbook and finished project.
Do not start without a plan.
Think through the following:
- What features are useless or dangerous in your current bathroom?
- What do you hate about the space?
- Who(m) does this space need to be designed for to function flawlessly as you, and your home ages (gracefully, of course)?
- Is the space large enough to do what you want to do?
Put together a rough sketch. It doesn’t have to be on a fancy 3D computer program. A simple sheet of notebook paper will do. Measure all the walls and locate your drain and plumbing lines. Figure out (at least conceptually) where you’d like the toilet, vanity (single or double bowl), shower and tub. Put basic measurements to everything. Talk to contractors and/or suppliers about your design to gain wisdom. If you have an architect for a boyfriend it can make this process go even smoother. The diagram below shows a curved glass block shower wall which was designed and built by Jonathan Nelson (an architect) for his girlfriend Kerry Danielson). If you don’t have an architect as a boyfriend (I’m guessing most don’t), a hand-drawn sketch will do perfectly fine. Now, you’re ready to proceed to commandment 2.
Commandment #2 – Thou shall get wisdom (not from rookies)
You will not reach the ‘promised land’ of bathroom success with input from construction rookies – who may be cheap – but are clueless.
If you’re like most homeowners, you will remodel your bathroom every 15 to 20 years. This will not make you an expert on the latest and greatest products and installation techniques.
In addition, just because the contractor you’re looking to hire – “Billy Ray Bob’s Remodeling’ is thought to be ‘pretty-good’ – doesn’t mean they are on top of the latest trends to make a cost-effective, inspirational bathroom. Don’t be led astray by your contractor’s false testimony if they don’t have a clue. The question is how do you get the best wisdom without spending anything to get it?
Simply – start researching, start calling.
Pull out your tablet and search for articles and videos on the product(s) which interest you. Bloggers and video creators are often the most up-to-date resources in today’s marketplace (it’s their job for them to write and teach you about what’s hot).
Start calling based on searches on Houzz, Angie’s List and Yelp for reputable contractors and read their reviews. Call the best out to your home (note – only do this if you’re looking to hire a professional remodeler – otherwise you’re using someone – which will give you bad Karma). Get their input. A more refined design plan will evolve.
Commandment #3 – Thou shall design it to work for generations (or least for a good number of years)
Since you don’t want to ‘re-remodel you remodel’ (not sure re-remodel is a word – but I’ve seen it happen) you need to think about your needs down the road. Will this bathroom work if Mom or Dad need to move in? Is this space safe and easy to get in for all family members (the ones who are bigger than they wish and the little ones)?
Learn about universal design remodeling (designing bathroom spaces which work for everyone). Find out about wet room systems, barrier free shower pans or low profile shower bases (see the picture below). Use products like shower wall panels so there will be less maintenance involved. More thought today saves you big bucks tomorrow.
Commandment #4 – Thou shall not design it alone
Decisions made in vacuums (without input) lead to costly mistakes or simple features missed which cost more to do after the fact (if they can be added at all). To get this input ask members of your family what they HATE about your current bathroom. What features do they need and what features would they ‘love to have’ – but could live without.
As a guy that’s been married for 35 years I’m getting better ‘trained’ on the concept of getting my wife Rose’s input -even though my wife Rose says I’m 100% correct. Yes – you heard that – I’m the first guy in the history of 35-year marriages whose wife says he is 100% correct. The problem is Rose says I’m 100% correct from my perspective (which is not always one she agrees with). What’s the moral of this short story?
If you’re married, have a partner or significant ‘utter,’ get their input. If you’re designing a shower for a vacation home rental or Air BNB you own with others make sure to include them. Keep yourself out of hot water AND make better remodeling decisions. Happy wife (husband, partner or significant ‘utter’) = happy life.
Commandment #5 – Thou shall not be a slave to resale remodeling myths perpetuated by others
You must have a bathtub, says Sally ISellALotofRealEstate (she has a funny last name, doesn’t she?) when you tell her you’re remodeling your bathroom and want to convert your tub into a shower. While it’s nice to have a tub – most people don’t use them. A tub increases the risk of falling and doesn’t get you as clean as a shower (note: if you want more reasons why a shower is better than a tub read 4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Listen to Your Realtor (why a shower is better than a tub).
While I have a lot of respect for realtors – just because they (or friend of family member) tells you something doesn’t mean it’s the best decision for you. Don’t be fooled by someone else’s truths for your life. Get wisdom – but have the courage of your convictions to make the best decision for you. Don’t be a pawn to someone else’s POV (Point of View).
Commandment #6 – Thou shall not forget the pain of maintaining your current bathroom when choosing products for the new one
I hear prospective customers hate of tile (and the it’s evil-stepsister the grout joint) daily. They want to blow up tile in no uncertain terms. They are tired of using nasty cleaning chemicals and a scrub brush to clean joints. Then, because of poor time planning – or bad information about selection options of grout free tub and shower panels – they put tile back in. They begin the ‘cycle of woe’ …. again.
If you hate tile, there is no reason you can’t do something about it this time. Wall panels are no longer relegated to ugly, white and fiberglass. Check out durable and colorful solid surface shower walls. Contemporary high gloss panels are another nice idea. New laminated wall panels give you the look of tile (that’s why there also known as ‘The No Tile Tile Shower) and will help you hold a retirement party for your scrub brush. Since these panels install simply with a click, seal and lock together system, they’re perfect for either your own home or a vacation home rental shower or Air BNB bathroom.
Commandment #7 – Thou shall understand the need for the light(ing)
While your bathroom will not elevate you to the light of a higher power – it can illuminate (OK – that’s a bad pun right there!) you to a better bathroom. As you and I age, improved lighting is critical (we don’t see anywhere nearly as well as our teenage kids or grandkids). Where can/should you improve your lighting? Consider these ideas:
- Improve task lighting above your vanity countertop. Task lighting above the sink reduces the chance of cutting yourself shaving. I must, however, admit there is a downside. You will see more wrinkles also (bummer).
- Motion detected LED in drawer lighting. Can’t figure out what’s in the back of your bathroom storage cabinet? Install a motion detected, rechargeable LED in drawer lighting system. They are cool and practical.
- Lighting in the shower. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 235,000 injuries happen per year because of slips and falls in the bathroom. These incidents will be more frequent for parents and those with poor mobility. A proven way to lessen falls is to and improve lighting is to add a transom window. Another idea is a shower head with a light built in. More lighting in the shower = less falls.
Commandment #8 – Thou shall not abandon your uniqueness
Bathroom do not have to be boring. You use them every day. Why shouldn’t this room fit your personality? As New Yorkers like to say – ‘fuggaboutit’ – when it comes to doing your remodel based on resale. Enjoy your bathroom. Enjoy your life. The bathroom below is one example of this (check out the quirkiness of the pennies in the floor!).
Remember you only live once – unless you’re Shirley MacClain and believe in reincarnation, and think your dog was once an Egyptian God!
Commandment #9 – Thou shall not forget you need multiples places to store your stuff
Is your bathroom cramped beyond belief? Just like the bully at the neighborhood playground might have said to you back in the day, “What are you going to do about it?” My advice – look for storage everywhere you can find (or manufacture) it. Here’s 3 ideas to consider:
- Manufacture storage in a shower wall cavity. Recessed shower niches save space and allow elbow room in small showers – and eliminate ugly, white plastic shower hangers over your shower head. Make sure you don’t put these niches on an exterior wall – especially if you live in a cold-weather city. Otherwise, you’ll have a cold shower and cold shampoo which look like a frozen daquiri – but doesn’t taste nearly as good. This first picture shows a fun tile niche, however – if you really want to blow up the need for maintenance look at the second pic with a contemporary brushed stainless niche which was used inside a low maintenance shower wall panel system.
- Look above the ‘throne’ for storage opportunities. A little used storage space is above the ‘john.’ A few simple shelves provide a convenient place for towel or supply storage.
- Vanity storage which comes to you. My master bathroom vanity cabinet is a mess but I’m not going to blame it completely on Rose and me. You see our insider the drawers of our cabinet is just one big open box. Rose and I go digging and digging for things and ‘attempt’ – mostly in vain – to keep it organized. A way around this dilemma is to install pull out shelves. They keep things more organized and your storage comes to you.
Commandment #10 – Thou shall not wait until the 7th day for rest and relaxation
Don’t wait for the “Sabbath” to enjoy a relaxing bathroom. Your life is stressful. Why not make your bathroom a ‘stress-free-zone?’ Here’s 3 thoughts:
- If you love the modern farmhouse look add recycled 3-dimensional textured wood wall panels for ambiance.
- If your body feels like one big ache and pain put body sprays in your shower.
- If your workday was particularly stressful light candles and enjoy a bath in your freestanding tub.
You work hard – shouldn’t you enjoy a relaxing spa-type bathroom more than once a week?
Bathroom remodeling is not simple – especially when you only do it every 15 to 20 years. Even if it takes you longer to get the ‘promised land’ of bathroom success don’t short-change the process without a sound plan and advice. Don’t forget to put the ‘you’ in your bathroom. Think beyond today in your design so your bathroom will ‘live’ well for you tomorrow (and you won’t have to redo this project)
I’d love to hear your words of wisdom. Please add an 11th, 12th and 13th commandments in the comments below.
How can I (or my team) help you?
If you’re overwhelmed by decisions and products in a bathroom remodel you’re not alone. However, we’d love to help. On a nationwide basis call us for input and shower wall panels, enclosures and aging in place products at 877-668-5888. For a local bathroom remodel call Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270 or The Bath Doctor in Columbus at 614-252-7294.
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.If you’re interested in growing your remodeling business – click here to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call 888-467-7488 and ask for Mike.