Our Family of Companies

Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block

Author Archive

Mike Foti

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

A Brutally Honest Guide to Choose the Right Shower Wall Panels

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Brutally Honest Guide to choose the right shower wall panel | Innovate Building Solutions | #BathroomRemodeling #ShowerWallPanels #BathroomWallPanels

You’ve told your spouse either this old nasty shower goes, or they’re sleeping in the garage. You’re burning up your keyboard searching the Internet for the perfect shower wall panel system for your master bathroom. You’re SOOOO done with tile grout joints!

Every manufacturer, supplier and installer claim their system is the greatest thing since the invention of the Blackberry (oops – maybe a bad example there). Yes, their pictures are pretty. However, there’s so much sales hype on their web pages it’s hard to know what to believe.

You need to cut through the B.S. You need the straight scoop. You don’t want to buy a system only to find out later you paid too much, or it was a pain in the rear to install. You want to get going but not make a choice you’ll regret. This is (hopefully) the last time you’re remodeling this bathroom.

If this describes your situation, you’re exactly who this article is for.

Below, I’ll dish out 7 brutally honest shower wall panel tips to help you figure out the best decision for your job. You may ask why I’m writing this?

Well – you see I’ve been around the shower wall panel block before (not that there is such an actual block – otherwise, it would look kind of funny). My business has bought, used and sold 6 shower wall panel systems over the years. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the (mostly) ugly of systems we’ve pulled off to install better wall surrounds.

To tell you the truth, there’s even some wall panel systems my company has sold and installed my wife of 34 years (Rose) would never have allowed me to put in our house (yes – you can see who would be the driver of the remodeling bus in our house!). Not that these systems were bad or non-functional. It’s that systems like acrylic (which we used to sell back in our early wall panel days) look cheap and plasticky. You see, Rose ain’t goin’ for that!

So, my goal in this article is to, as Randy Jackson used to say, ‘Keep it real dog.’ I’ll give you 7 brutally honest tips (from my POV) to help you choose the right shower wall panels for your project. I want to save you time, money and aggravation with time-sucking Internet research.

Scars Come with Livin’ – 5 Reflections from an Ever So Slightly Graying 59-Year-Old Guy

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Personal Reflections from Mike

Scars come with living - reflections of life | Innovate Building Solutions | #Reflections #LifeReflections #ScarsComeWithLivin #TobyMac

Warning – Although this is a remodeling blog – I sometimes choose to ‘go reflective’ on lessons life is teaching me. This post falls in this category.

I’m in the most dynamic place of my business career (at the ripe young – yes that is underlined for importance – age of 59). It’s amazing how a new product launch with a laminate shower wall panel system with unlimited potential can light a fire under this young (OK – I’m stretching young a bit here) dude.

I see many of my similar-aged business buddies winding down. They’re retiring, selling their businesses, or hanging on to work a few more years.

Me, on the other hand, I’m doubling down. I’m taking bigger risks. Ideas are exploding in my brain. I’m experiencing opportunities larger than at any other point in my career. I’m a man on a mission. I’m moving at a pace like I’m 29 or 39 years old.

All of this sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Well, while it is darn good (and I’m blessed indeed for these opportunities), but perfect it’s not. As my father Joe told me when I was a green-behind-the-ears 25-year-old, “Son, you will be tested.”

While Dad was right, what he didn’t tell me I was going to be tested again and again and again. Life would not, can not and will not be a straight line up (and that sucks). I’m still dealing with (whether I like it or not) my (un)fair share of battle scars.

7 Essential Things Most People Don’t Think about When Buying Shower Wall Panels

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Essential things people don't thikn about when buying shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #ShowerWallPanels #BuyingShowerPanels #BathroomProducts #HotBathroomIdeas

‘So, you’ve had it up to here’ (as Mom used to say) with dirty, ugly, moldy grout joints in your shower.

You’ve told your spouse, either this tile shower goes, or I do.

You’ve started ‘kicking the digital tires’ for a solution. You’re comparing different shower wall panels systems from acrylic to cultured granite to PVC composite to laminated wall panels. You’re almost ready to pull the trigger and plunk your money down.

However, there’s still something gnawing at you. You still feel you’re missing some details you need to make the right choice.

This uncertainly when buying shower and bathroom wall panels is common. Many homeowners (and even professional contractors) don’t have experience with the products out there. You’re a rookie and don’t want to screw up!

The question becomes how can you make sure you’ve thought of (almost) everything before you make the best choice for your project?

That question is what this article is looking to answer. My goal here is simple. I want to point out 7 essential things (along with a few pointers) most people don’t think about (but should) when buying shower wall panels.

I want you to get it right…. the first time.

So, without further delay let’s dig into these 7 essential things.

The 7 Biggest Blunders with Glass Block Bathroom Windows (and 7 Tricks to Fix Them)

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling, Glass Block

Glass block window in bathroom or shower installation | Innovate Building Solutions | #GlassBlockWindow #BathroomWindows #GlassBlockDesign

I’ve been around the (glass) block (OK, I know that’s a bad play on words) a long time. I started in this business in 1989 (I like to tell people I was only 11 years old at the time, but nobodies buying it). In these 30 years I’ve seen a lot of glass block bathroom window jobs. Some supplied and installed by my business, others not.

Glass block is thought of as a ‘masonry’ product (mortared together block by block with an old, grizzly mason). Homeowners and contractors struggle with masonry-built glass block windows. They’re not sure how to design their window. They don’t know how it should be installed into a framed opening (since most bathroom windows aren’t installed into concrete blocks or poured walls, like basement windows).

This lack of knowledge (and the bad information they get along the way) results in some UGLY-looking jobs which don’t last. My business has seen (and fixed) many of these ugly jobs (or you can call them blunders).

The fact is these blunders (AKA crappy jobs) didn’t have to happen. In fact, glass blocks can be simple to design and install…if you know a few tricks.

In this article my goal is simple.

First, I want to identify the top 7 blunders I’ve seen in my waaaay too many years in the biz.

Second (and most importantly), I want to give you practical ideas (or tricks), so you don’t fall in the ‘bad project’ trap. I want you to have a bathroom window which looks sharp and is designed, fabricated and installed to last (I was going to say to Infinity and Beyond, but that sounded too corny).

So, let’s dig into the 7 biggest blunders (and practical ideas to fix them) of glass block bathroom windows.

How to Compare Cultured Marble vs. Laminated Shower Wall Panels

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Laminate vs Cultured Marble Shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #LaminateShowerPanels #CulturedMarble #BathroomRemodeling

In the United States (especially in the late 1980’s and 1990’s) cultured marble shower wall panels were hot. Builders and homeowners loved their 3/8” thick construction. They loved their durability. They loved the fact they look like marble slabs – at a far lower cost. You can even get a cultured marble vanity top or shower pan to match your walls.

In Europe (and especially in Norway) in the 1990’s a new wall panel product was born. This system would take the Euro bathroom wall surround market by storm. These units, called laminated shower panels, are also 3/8” thick. However, unlike its ‘molded’ brother cultured stone, which is made in big sheets, the laminate panels are 2’ x 8’ sections. They weigh 26 lbs.

Laminated wall panels have grown like wildfire. They’re now as popular as ceramic tile in Norway. They make up 1/3 of the bathroom wall surround market in this country.

It wasn’t until last year (when laminate panels were introduced in the U.S.) that these two wall systems would ‘face off.’ OK, it’s not exactly a ‘championship wrestling Battle Royale’ yet, but homeowners in the United States are now comparing and contrasting these two options.

The question I (and my team) get all the time now (since we design with both) is what are the advantages and disadvantages of each system? Which do you like better? Which would be best for my project? Which product is cheaper? (Note, actually they cost about the same, so this isn’t a big factor in choosing one over another).

While it would be simple to declare one the ‘winner,’ like in life, it’s not that simple. As I tell customers,

“Wall panels are like people. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.”

In this article my goal is to deliver this comparison in true Joe Friday from Dragnet fashion.  I’m going to offer up “Just the facts ma’am, as Joe used to say (or sir, if we’re going to be P.C. about it).”

How to Design an Industrial Chic Bathroom (Even if You Don’t Live in an Old Building)

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Industrial Chic Bathroom design for any home | Innovate Building Solutions | #IndustrialBathroom #BathroomDesign #RemodelingBathroomIdeas #InspiredBathroom

Whether you’re a first-time home, loft or condo buyer or are a ‘slightly graying’ 50+, empty nester (although you don’t admit being a day over 39) looking to enjoy the kid-free chapter of your life, there’s something cool about Industrial Chic design.

Maybe it’s the mix of old and new.

Maybe it’s the utility of an efficient design with the warmth of comfortable elements.

Maybe it’s the connection to organic materials like wood, steel, concrete, glass and exposed bricks proudly displayed on the inside.

It’s obvious reading architectural and design magazines this style is getting HOT, HOT, HOT! It’s being used by major developers doing ‘adaptive re-use’ projects (in layman’s/laywoman’s terms this is converting old commercial and industrial spaces into contemporary residential units). It’s being used by homeowner’s remodeling trendy urban lofts. Even those in the ‘burbs are looking to infuse this urban-downtown vibe into their family-friendly bedroom communities.

The question is if you love this look, is it possible to bring it alive in your bathroom remodel or new home even if you’re not moving into a downtown loft with 12’ ceilings, exposed concrete walls, or turn-of-the-century wood floors?

This article will show you 7 practical ideas to infuse your new or remodeled bathroom with industrial chic design – no matter if you’re a Millennial buyer decorating your first home in the suburbs or are a multi-family developer building new apartments or condos, or an empty nester moving into the heart of the city.

Let’s check out these 7 ideas.

The Pros and Cons of Shower Wall Panels vs. Ceramic Tile

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

The Pros and Cons of Shower wall panels vs ceramic tile | Innovate Building Solutions | #CeramicTile #ShowerwallPanels #WallPanels #BathroomRemodelingonabudget

You’re tired of debating the subject with your husband Steve. You’ve argued whether it’s better to use a waterproof, grout-free shower wall panel system or opt for a completely customizable ceramic tile shower. You want the wall panels (after all Steve’s never picked up your way-too-used scrub brush) and he thinks the ceramic tile shower is far more stylish.

The question is, how can you end this debate? Do you and Steve really know all the points (and counterpoints), the positives and negatives of both choices? How can you wrap your arms around this debate and FINALLY get something done? You want to make a purchase and get on with your bathroom remodel.

In this article my goal is simple. It’s to give you the pros and cons of shower wall panels vs. ceramic tile. Sure, I’ll fess up and tell you I do have my favorite (and will reveal it at the end). However, there are things to like (and dislike) about each choice. Now, without further delay, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of shower wall panels vs. tile.

7 Acrylic Shower Pan Problems You Can Avoid – Here’s the Secrets You Need

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Reinforced contemporary acrylic shower pan shower pan problems to avoid | Innovate Building Solutions | #Contemporarybathrooms #Bathroomshowerideas #bathroomdesigns

The popularity of acrylic shower pans cannot be denied (irrespective of whether you love them or hate them). If you’re building a new single-family home in the ‘burbs or renovating hundreds of hotel tub/shower units, acrylic bases are often the product of choice. And why shouldn’t they be? Here’s a few reasons this type of shower tray can be a smart solution:

  • You won’t have to deal with grout maintenance hassles.
  • These pans are lightweight and simple to install.
  • Acrylic is warm under your feet. You won’t need to invest in heated floors.
  • They don’t require resealing – EVER!
  • While acrylic isn’t the cheapest base (that ‘honor’ is with fiberglass pans), it’s still cost-effective.
  • Acrylic bases are flexible enough to be used with tile surrounds or waterproof wall panels.

While acrylic bases have a lot going for them, like you and I, they also have their weaknesses (sorry if I’m talking about these bases like they’re people – but bear with me – I’m not really going nuts).

These product weaknesses can create serious problems if you’re not knowledgeable and careful. That’s why I’m writing this article.

Acrylic shower pan problems are avoidable…if you know the 7 practical ideas I’ll present in this article. So, let’s learn about the 7 avoidable acrylic shower pan problems with ideas to make sure you get the right pan for your project.

5 Reasons Bigger Isn’t Always Better When It Comes to Shower Wall Panels

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Uncategorized

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #WallPanels #EasyInstallPanels #ShowerWallPanels #LaminateWallPanels

When it comes to a bowl of Graeters Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, in my book bigger is always better. My wife Rose (who is also a Doctor), has a slightly different opinion. She thinks my obsession with the big bowls of ice cream I eat at the end of the night is a bad idea. She brings up the fat content. She mentions my cholesterol. She mentions grams of sugar.

I say to my ‘delusional self,’ where’s is Rose coming up with all this crap anyway?

When it comes to shower wall panels (much like my desire for big bowls of chocolate chip), it’s assumed by professional contractors and DIY homeowners that bigger is always better. However, this simply is not the case.

In this article I’m going to dish out (no – you’re not getting my ice cream), 5 reasons you should pause before assuming bigger one-piece shower wall panels are best for your next bathroom remodel.

At the end of the article, let me know if you agree that smaller can be better (in shower wall panels, not in my ice cream consumption).

Join Our Newsletter to Receive a Free Remodeling eGuide

Get the Free Remodeling eGuide
© Innovate Building Solutions | All Rights Reserved | Log In