How to Get a Bathroom Remodel Which is Built Around You
Have you ever had a vision of a fabulous bathroom remodel inspired by binge-clicking through Pinterest and Houzz? Then you invited potential contractors into your home. You were so excited. Then they proceeded to throw cold water on your vision with statements like these:
- Statement #1 – Lady, we’re not working with that material.
- Statement #2 – This is the way WE do it (with the word ‘we’ emphasized and underlined). The contractor wanted no part of your ‘crazy’ ideas.
- Statement #3 – This is what we use in EVERYONE ELSE’S house (as if what everyone else is doing should be what you want your bathroom to look like). This might be OK if ‘everyone else’ was paying for your job, but that’s not realistic unless you’re crazy (and rich) Uncle dies and leaves you a big inheritance.
Here’s the problem with these statements…
You have the right to get the job you want (and need).
However, not all bathroom remodeling contractors are going to ‘play ball’ and work to give you what you want. Waaay too many are ‘stuck in the mud.’ They’ll preach to you about their process. They’ll tell you they’re only using their favorite products. Bottom line is they’re aren’t open to your needs, wants and style choices. As a matter of fact, some don’t even care if you buy from them or not because they’re ‘sooooo busy’ anyway. Can you relate?
But you’re determined. You want a project designed around you. You need a project designed around you. But you know (some) contractors only want a job which is designed to maximize their profits and get them ‘in and out’ ASAP (with the check…of course).
Given these conflicting goals, how do you get a bathroom remodel which IS built around your style and your needs (without killing your budget or wanting to kill your contractor by the end of the job)?
This is the challenge which confronted Stacy Patchel, a homeowner in North Carolina. Stacy wanted (and needed) a bathroom remodel which was not a ‘vanilla’ job. Fortunately, she connected with Senior Designer, Stephanie Lackford of The Bath Shop to make her unique vision a reality (as you can from the wide-angle shot of the inside of the shower below and the image at the beginning of this article).
Read on to learn 5 practical tips from Stacy’s project you can use to work with your contractor and get the finished bathroom you want and need.
Tip #1 – Be patient, until you get it just right
When you want custom features like a prefabricated, multi-patterned and colored glass block shower wall you’ll see below, you need to be patient in the design process so it comes out the way you envision it at the end.
After seeing the idea of a multi-patterned glass block wall on Houzz, Stacy reached out to our company and we began ‘kicking around’ several design concepts (you’ll see an early design below with a serpentine glass block wall which didn’t make the final cut, but it would be have been cool also).
Should she use a straight wall, a curved wall, a serpentine wall or maybe a step-down design? We needed to find the ‘intersection’ between the design Stacy desired and what could be done with the available block colors, shapes, and patterns on the market.
In addition, since Stephanie’s construction team had never installed a glass block shower wall before, a simple to install system was a must.
The result is this multi-patterned, straight (with a ‘step down design at the end of the wall) brown and blue colored glass block shower wall. It’s fun. It’s unique. It was pre-made in simple to install sections. And most importantly, it fits Stacy’s desire for a light-transmitting wall which doubles as a piece of art!
Tip #2 – Be flexible – Use some (slightly revised) Rolling Stones wisdom and know, “You can’t always get (exactly) what you want, but you need to get what you need.”
A key element in designing a shower is making sure it not only works for you and your family today, but also for all your ‘tomorrows’ as well.
Since Stacy has a medical condition which may impact her mobility, a one level shower with luxury safety features like a stylish grab bar were an absolute must. And while her ‘ultimate desire’ was a stylish grout less barrier free shower for her large 9’ x 3.5’ space, she and Stephanie were not able to find a system in the size she needed.
However, they did settle on a cool looking one level waterproof tile floor. It used a Schluter base and cool ‘practically disappearing’ linear drain. It’s also nice to know if Stacy’s shower was smaller she could have created a grout free one level shower like the one pictured below (note the largest size in this grout free single level shower is 71” x 35”).
Tip #3 – Be creative – Find a contractor who is industrious enough to ‘call an audible’ when needed
Not everything goes as planned in a bathroom remodel.
Ain’t that the truth, you’re probably saying!
As bathroom projects evolve (or ‘devolve’ as the case may be) your contractor may be called on to improvise (or ‘call an audible’ you might say if you’re a football fan like me. And yes, my team is the Cleveland Browns which proves I’m loyal, but not very bright!). They’ll be called to think on their feet, to problem solve and make something work.
Such was the case for Stephanie’s company (The Bath Shop). After Stacy made a change to an upgraded wall panel system (read more about these laminate shower wall panels in Tip #4), the floating shelves already picked out (which are usually used in tile showers, not with grout free wall panels) could not be mounted in the same way.
Instead of slotting the shelves into tile, Stacy’s team had to figure out how to mount their floating shower shelves onto the surface of these cracked cement laminate wall panels. But how?
Stacy’s team came up with the idea to buy matte black shower door framing and mount the shelves inside these pieces. The result…
The construction team’s smart thinking = Stacy’s cool finished project
The ‘devil,’ and the delight are in the details!
Tip #4 – Be smart – Don’t repeat past mistakes. Keep researching until you find what you like
Who likes cleaning grout joints (other than grout cleaning franchises who make $$$ helping you deal with this constant maintenance process)? ‘Er, that would be NOBODY! And you can certainly include Stacy in that list.
Stacy wanted grout OUT of her remodeled bathroom. There would be NO returning to the dated look she had with her former ‘phone-booth-esque’ stand up shower (see the ‘before’ picture below) next to the (large and unused) Jacuzzi tub. Yes, this combo was oh-so-popular in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s homes, but back then even mullets were in!
However, when Stacy started researching shower wall panel kits the products she (initially) found (choices like swirly cultured marble panels) were no more updated than her old tiny tile shower and Jacuzzi tub duet.
Then Stacy stumbled upon (no social media platform pun intended) Euro-inspired laminate shower wall panels. These 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick panels click, lock and seal together for a straightforward (and seamless) installation (Stephanie’s installation team liked that). And it was nice to know these panels are a 40-year-old time tested product, not some ‘new-fangled’ wall concept invented yesterday.
Stacy got her contemporary shower wall look AND eliminated the hassle of tile grout joints…FOREVER!
Tip #5 – Be curious – ask the right questions to find YOUR right contractor
While I wasn’t hanging out with Stacy when she started searching for a contractor for her bathroom project, I would have told her (and can tell you now) one very obvious fact….
Not all bathroom remodeling contractors are created equal.
Some focus on ‘standard projects.’ They limit material selections. Their key is build ‘em simple and get jobs done fast. And there’s nothing wrong with this business approach IF (and only if) it works with your needs, wants and budget.
However, if you want to put your unique stamp on your job a ‘blow-them-out-quick, run-of-the-mill,’ contractor won’t be your answer.
Perhaps you want a furniture grade vanity – like the one below…
Perhaps you want a stylish Toto toilet and a stone wall …
Perhaps you want a functional (yet space efficient) recessed medicine cabinet …
Or perhaps you want a fun glass block wall or unique shower wall panels, we profiled in the tips above. These likely WON’T be supplied and installed by a ‘crank-it-out’ contractor.
You need someone who will work with you and your unique needs.
But how do you find a more customized bathroom remodeling contractor, so you’ll not only get what you want, but you’ll also get what you need (OK – I know I threw in a bit more Rolling Stones advice for you there)? Here’s 3 pointers to get you started:
- Pointer #1 – Do they ask good questions, and actually listen to your answers? A contractor who is only focused on selling their products and jamming their process down your throat WILL NOT be your answer. Do they take time to ask YOU thoughtful questions? Do they listen to your answers?
- Pointer #2 – Do they offer smart ideas you never thought of? Smart contractors who deliver well designed and constructed projects are ‘students of their game’ (‘er the remodeling game). They research new installation approaches on YouTube until their eyeballs practically pop out. They go to industry events to see the latest products from all over the world (note: get some fun ideas from one of these events by reading 5 Smart Bathroom Design Trends from the 2020 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show). If your potential contractor is adding to your knowledge and coming up with great ideas – this is a good sign you’re on the right track.
- Pointer #3 – Notice how quick they are to say ‘no!’ If you immediately here, “No, we can’t do that” after your requests a potential contractor hasn’t heard of before, it’s time to move on.
What are your ‘next steps’ to find contractors (or suppliers) to help you realize your unique bathroom remodeling vision?
I wish I could tell you finding the right bathroom remodeling contractor (or suppliers) for your unique project was going to be simple. However, by it’s very nature ‘uniqueness’ is the ‘road less taken.’
You (and your contractors/suppliers) will need to be patient, flexible, creative, smart, and curious to make it to the end (without killing one another in the process!).
If you’re in Raleigh North Carolina and are looking for such a contractor I’m sure Stacy would recommend Stephanie Lackford of The Bath Shop (919-980-4532) as an excellent source.
If you’re looking for nationwide supply of grout free bathroom wall panels or glass block wall systems, I’d hope you’d consider my business – Innovate Building Solutions (sorry for the shameless plug, but I still need to fund my daughter’s college). You can reach us at 877-668-5888. We had fun designing and supplying the unique shower wall panels and patterned and colored glass block shower sections for Stacy’s job and would be honored to do the same for you.
If you’re looking for a Cleveland bathroom remodeling contractor call The Bath Doctor at 216-531-6085.
If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments below or give us a call.
Thanks for reading,
Clara – there is a company we’re talking to about being a dealer (although they haven’t started with us yet) in Fairfield Iowa called JC Huffman Cabinetry. Let me know if they’re close enough to you and we’ll get you a phone number – Mike (if you need to reach our company you can call 877-668-5888).
Do you have someone you could recommend on doing bathroom remodeling in Iowa? We live in Grinnell, IA which is located 1/2 way between Des Moines, IA and Iowa City, IA.