11 Shower Remodeling Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
You’ve probably heard of FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out), but I’ll bet you haven’t heard of FOFO. FOFO is the Fear of Figuring it Out …on the fly…. while blowing your hard-earned money in the process. I would tell you about FOFO’s cousin (FOFU – the Fear of F***ing Up), but I stopped swearing 15 years ago.
When it comes to remodeling (and shower remodeling mistakes in particular) FOFO and FOFU (for those of you who swear) are waaaay too common. You know the following facts are true from past projects:
- Fact #1) Mistakes can be costly.
- Fact #2) Remodeling mistakes can make the project drag on longer than a painting project done by ‘Eldon The Painter’ (he was the painter who never left on the old TV show, Murphy Brown).
Nobody (whether you’re DIY’ing the job or using a contractor) wants to shell out extra dough when better planning could have helped you get your job done for less.
In this article it’s my goal (as a guy whose team has worked with thousands of homeowners and contractors) to give you practical shower remodeling tips to reduce your mistakes. I want to save you time, money and aggravation.
So, let’s look at 11 shower remodeling mistakes you don’t need to make.
Shower remodeling mistake #1 – Let’s tear this ‘puppy’ out (‘er your bathroom) and figure everything else out ‘on the fly.’
While it might be tempting in a moment of shower frustration to demo without a plan, this is a bad idea.
This ‘demo-now, figure it out later’ strategy makes the project take longer, and causes the costs to be higher.
Here’s what you should do first. Get a handle on the scope and cost of the job. Ask these questions:
- Is the size of the shower going to be the same? In most bath remodels people want to make the shower bigger (especially if you’ve only got a phone-booth-size – if you know what a phone booth is – shower). A larger shower is a good thing, but it often causes you to move the drain (which may require a custom shower pan.)
- Should I reuse any old materials? Obviously, if you want to reuse existing cabinetry or fixtures extra care will be required in the demo process. However, will reusing old materials look dumb next to the new things you’re doing?
- Do I want a grout free shower, or is tile the way to go? While you may be able to grab tiles off the shelves of your big-box store, many lines of waterproof wall panels need to be ordered in advance. You’ll want to get your order placed before demo to make sure your shower and bathroom aren’t ‘out of commission’ too long.
- Will my shower be standard or custom sized? While custom shower pans and wall systems are available, with many lines they’re made to order. So, it’s to your benefit to order ahead of the remodel (if you can).
Shower remodel mistake #2 – You forget how much your spouse or partner HATES grout, and it’s evil-stepsister mold and mildew.
Tile (and the grout joints which come with it) looks great when the job is done.
Grout doesn’t look great after your family (or tenants if you are leasing an apartment shower) uses it and isn’t diligent about getting moisture out of the bathroom. Then those evil M & M’s show up. No, not the chocolate kind. I’m talking about mildew and mold which attacks your grout joints and the material behind them.
And as you might remember from your last tile shower, harsh chemicals and maintenance with a scrub brush is ZERO fun.
If you like the thought of a no-grout walls but behind-the-times fiberglass, acrylic and cultured stone wall panels ‘aren’t happenin’ in your home, there’s 3 stylish alternatives you need to look at.
- Alternative #1 – Laminate wall panels – These 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick panels are simple to install since they click together and are ultra-realistic.
- Alternative #2 – Decorative PVC composite panels – They have the look of stone, are ¼” thick and can even be cut with a carpenter’s knife!
- Alternative #3 – High gloss wall panels – Sleek and stylish. If modern’s your vibe, this is a must-see option. I have to warn you, they’re pricey.
Shower remodeling mistake #3 – You don’t think through your shower curb design
You don’t remodel your shower as often as you change your underwear…hopefully.
When you do remodel – it pays (to keep long-run costs down) to think long-term. For example, if you think Mom and Dad may end up living with you, would a low threshold shower pan or a barrier free bathroom make sense?
The problem with shower pans is they are often the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of the project. They’re walked on and get no respect. But when you think about it, the pan is the foundation of your shower. It is your shower’s support system.
Here’s a problem you don’t want to experience, but may happen if you ignore the importance of the shower pan and its curb design. Let’s say you choose a standard height (usually 4 to 5” tall) curb. Then a family member’s mobility gets worse and they can’t step over the 4” to 5” curb. Now you need to rip EVERYTHING OUT. This is a#HugeProblemYouCouldHaveAvoided!
Think through your curb design before making a bad call. If you’re debating the curb height go with a mid-height curb (about 2 ¾” high) vs. a standard height (4” to 5” tall).
Shower remodeling mistake #4 – You ‘assume’ going over old materials is OK to do (after all some national franchises do it).
If you’ve heard the TV ads from ‘bath-in-a-day’ acrylic wall panel companies which boast about going over tile and enjoying your new shower tomorrow it sounds very enticing. It’s always nice getting the project done quickly and NOT having contractors in your home very long!
While, this sounds tempting in the short run, it’s a bad idea in the long run.
Here’s the problem.
If you have mold behind the walls, putting a grout-free wall panel system in front of old tile traps the mold. Trapped mold will grow and grow, until you and your family figure out what’s causing your health problems and need to rip everything out.
If it sounds too good to be true…it is. Don’t go over old bathtub and shower wall tiles with grout free wall panels. Enough said.
Shower remodeling mistake #5 – Assuming you can’t have seating in your small shower.
A modest sized (let’s say 48” x 36”) or a stand-up shower (generally 32” x 32” and 36” x 36”) often aren’t relaxing or safe (especially if you think about your elderly Mom or Dad using them).
Although showers of this size don’t have room for a spacious bench seat, they can be made more luxurious (and safer) with a fold-down bench seat.
You can reduce your worries and be able to shower in a more relaxing way, with a fold down seat in your small shower.
Shower remodeling mistake #6 – You lack the guts to inject personality into your design.
You start (and begin) your day in the shower or your bathroom (hopefully). So why not be in a space which feels and looks good to you?
I see too many people live their lives in ‘generic-designed’ builders grade bathrooms so it can ‘look good for resale.’
Well, if you think about it, who really wants to live in a generic home? Who really wants an off-white (or maybe yellowed now) one-piece plastic shower surround?
Call it one of my pet-peeves, but I’d say life is meant to be lived out loud. Don’t be as concerned about your ‘heirs’ getting the highest value for your home (if you’re like most people you aren’t leaving a Bill-Gates-ish estate anyway). Don’t be concerned about your realtor’s final commission and resale. You’re using your bathroom (a lot). Why not enjoy it?
Here’s a couple of fun ideas to add personality.
How about using a tile pattern which ‘spills’ into the bathroom?
Or, add color and pop with bright blue high gloss wall panels?
You deserve to enjoy your life…and your shower.
Shower remodeling mistake #7 – Don’t go out and buy a standard shower pan because you ‘assume’ it’s most cost-effective.
The $295 standard-sized 60” x 32” shower pan you got at the big box felt like a good buy when it was scanned at checkout.
Then you learned your drain isn’t in a standard location.
Then you learned your plumbing had to be moved.
Then you learned how much your contractor was going to charge you for these changes.
Suddenly, the cheap base cost you a lotta money (as the cheesy commercials might shout out).
So, here’s a Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not shower remodeling fact for you.
Custom shower pans can be cheaper than standard bases because you can get them with the drain located exactly where you need it (saving plumbing materials and labor costs to move the drain). Compare the total cost (all materials needed + labor) to put in the shower pan before buying the wrong thing.
Shower remodeling mistake #8 – Not thinking big (format) when you’re livin’ small (‘er bathroom that is).
Many old bathrooms were designed with one thing in mind, function. And while function should be the #1 driving force, it doesn’t mean fashion has to take a back seat.
Sure, you need to design efficiently if you have a small standard 5’ x 8’ bathroom. However, you can make it look better and bigger at the same time. In old showers you’ll often see dated 4” x 4” wall tiles and teeny-tiny mosaic floor tiles. While these products have been functional for years, their small sizes make the bathroom feel smaller (and make maintenance a bigger pain).
You can add a contemporary flair (and even retire your scrub brush – or let it ‘rest’ a little) using large format ceramic tiles or large faux tile wall panels. Your bathroom and shower will not only live bigger, it will look better.
Shower remodeling mistake #9 – Don’t forget about shower product storage
If I see one more cheap, plastic ‘shower tree’ hanging unceremoniously over a shower head, I might have to scream. These dollar-store ‘finds’ are the pinnacle of ugly.
Shower niches and corner shelves don’t have to be the afterthought or ugly duckling of your bathroom. Plan for them up front. This is especially important with recessed niches where you need to think through stud spacing and framing based on the size niche you’d like to install.
With new lines of contemporary shower accessories cleaning the corners of a niche doesn’t need to be a chore, and the finished shower will look stylish.
Shower remodeling mistake #10 – Don’t force yourself to get the ‘cold-shoulder’ when turning the water on
If turning on the water is a harsh, cruel experience because you get blasted with cold water, this is usually because the shower valve is directly under the shower head (and there is a wall or glass system which makes it impossible to turn on without getting wet).
This problem can be resolved.
Move the valve close to the shower opening is (assuming it’s not on an outside wall). You’ll be able to let the water heat up before getting in. Now, that’s much more humane!
Shower remodeling mistake #11 – Not thinking through the best glass enclosure
Do you have a pivoting glass door which gives you a ‘shower gift’ (probably a bad pun) of pools of water on your bathroom floor?
Or, do you have a framed sliding glass door with a bottom-track so full of hair and grime you wouldn’t even volunteer your least-favorite-politician to clean it out (OK – maybe you would volunteer that politician).
Let’s face it – glass shower enclosures can be a pain.
Fortunately, there are more options than you think.
Consider replacing framed sliding glass doors with a frameless unit.
If you want the ultimate in cool-factor, standard-sized curved glass doors can kick up your space WITHOUT draining your wallet.
My hope with this article is for you to see you don’t have to be the victim of FOFO (the Fear of Figuring it Out on the fly while making mistakes YOU pay for along the way).
Shower remodeling isn’t difficult…but you do need to do the following:
– Plan ahead.
– Figure out what materials you need before demoing the space.
– Get rid of grout – where possible.
– Determine the right shower pan, wall surrounds and glass enclosure before you start.
As a company who helps customers with shower design every day (and also supplies products like grout free shower wall panels and contemporary acrylic bases and custom cultured stone shower pans), me and my team (which includes Terry, Diane, Georgia, Dylan, Jeff, Ryan, Chelsea, Michelle and Stacy) would love to help you.
Call us. Text us. Email us. We’re here to help.
How can I (or a member of my team) help you?
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If you’re in the building business, click here if you’d like to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call and ask for Mike at 877-668-5888.