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
Even though you’re not ‘sleeping with the enemy’ in your bathroom, you know who public enemy #1 is in your bathroom. It’s your nasty tile grout joints.
These joints may be ugly and stained. They may be cracked and half-falling out. They may have caused your ceramic tiles to crack. They may be moldy and the cause of health problems. They may be the driving reason water leaked through your shower pan, through the ceiling and onto your new mahogany dining room table. They may be the reason you’re on your hands and knees ‘enjoying’ (sarcasm intended) working your scrub brush and basking in the fresh aroma of your favorite ‘chemical brew’ to clean up these joints again.
But, you continue to ‘put up with’ grout joints? If you haven’t thought about why you put yourself through this torture here’s 5 reasons I’ve seen to explain why you may stick with tile:
Bathroom and shower windows are a blessing and a curse.
They’re a blessing because they make your bathroom safer, light-filled and when opened give fresh air to keep moisture and mold away.
They’re a curse because they ‘open you up’ (ready or not) to the world (or your neighbors in this case). If you don’t find a way to make your bath windows private, you’ll give neighbors an unwanted ‘show’ in your ‘birthday suit.’ As someone who won’t be mistaken for Matthew McConoughey without a shirt – I’m not sure my neighbors would be looking forward to my ‘show’ anyway!
Because of the desire for privacy I’ve seen homeowners completely cover up windows in the middle of their shower with shower panels. This not only eliminates natural light – creating a closed in feeling, it looks ‘butt-ugly’ from the outside. You’ll see a wall behind a window. How dumb is that? Doing this should be a bathroom remodeling crime punishable by 1 years in solitary bathroom confinement in a dark, moldy shower with a rusty shower head.
The challenge is this. How do you find a high privacy shower or bathroom window which adds style?
In this article I’m going to give you 7 practical and creative ideas, so you can maintain your dignity (and privacy) without sacrificing light (and to get fresh air as well). At the end let me know which idea(s) makes the most sense to you, or others you’ve used with success.
The good news is – you got here. You’ve raised Michael, Jessica and Ashley. Now they are only ‘partially’ draining your wallet. Although you’re not sure exactly when Michael will finish college. They are ‘mostly’ out of the home. You’re officially an empty nester.
The bad news is – you got here. You’re not as nimble as when they were cute little ones running around the backyard. You’ve got a few dollars to spend on yourself and your husband John (and you’d even have more if you weren’t continuing to fund Michael – but let’s not dwell on that sore subject now).
Your home (and especially bathroom) is looking worn around the edges. OK – if we’re being real, it’s one step above a disaster! Your focus had been getting the kids to high school band practice, cheerleading, football games and into a college which wouldn’t force you to take second job.
Now you’ve got the time, money and desire to do something about your ugly, high maintenance and so behind-the-times master bathroom. You’d swear your existing fiberglass shower and mosaic tiled floor could be used as a set for a rerun of The Brady Bunch.
The problem is you don’t know where to start designing and remodeling this space. You’re asking yourself:
How can I give this bathroom some ‘cool’ factor?’
How can I make it safe? I need it to work for Mom, if she comes to live with us, but not butt-ugly like Grandma’s bathroom used to look. I need it to be safe for John. He isn’t moving around well after his knee replacement.
How can I create a shower which won’t eat up my time scrubbing tile joints until I want to pass out?
The goal of this article is to give you answers to these questions. It’s to give you 7 bathroom design tricks to make your ‘empty nester bathroom’ awe-inspiring for someone of any age. Let’s check out the tricks.
Does your bathroom only feel a tiny bit more spacious than the last time you had the ‘pleasure’ (sarcasm intended) of ‘taking care of business’ in an airplane bathroom? Instead of enjoying your shower you’re used to banging your elbows against the shower doors. Bumping into the sides of the vanity cabinet is also something you’re all too familiar with. And we’re not even talking about the lack of storage and the risky proposition of climbing over the tub rail to take a shower. This small bathroom and tub/shower combo unit is an accident waiting to happen.
Bottom-line – your small cramped bathroom is dangerous, not stylish and a place you’d rather not have to use.
Moaning about small bathroom frustrations is simple. Figuring out what you can do about it is tough.
The question becomes, how can you fix/reinvent a small bathroom to not only be functional, but fashionable? As crazy as this may sound I believe this is not only possible, but easier than you think.
In this article I’m going to dish up 11 proven ideas to fix what today you may think is un-fixable – your tiny bath and shower. Some of these changes will involve more extensive bathroom remodeling. Others are cosmetic and lower cost. Pick and choose the ideas which make sense for you, but whatever you do, don’t ‘settle’ for your current space which is only a tiny bit better than an airport bathroom (at least in the airplane you still get one free drink and a small bag of pretzels!).
Educators are creative. They’re industrious. They pursue knowledge with reckless abandon. They’ll encourage you. They’ll give you feedback (whether you like it or not). They’ll throw in a dash of their personality to make sure you’re awake (and learning).
Right now, you’re probably asking, “Mike – what does this description of an educator (or teacher) have to do with a glass block walk in shower in a bath remodeling project?” Good question.
When it comes to fun, creative and successful DIY bathroom remodeling projects, I’ll tell you they all begin with education and learning. You’re digging into products, installation methods and resources to get your arms around the unknown (especially if you’re doing a job for the first time).
These ‘resources’ could be your next-door neighbor. They could be a local contractor or supplier. They could be a company 2,006 miles away (in this project the distance from Las Vegas Nevada to Columbus Ohio – where the glass block shower system was built).
Here’s where our ‘research queen’ comes into the story. The queen in this ‘construction story’ is Geri David of Las Vegas, Nevada.
While Geri would describe herself as a ‘retired educator,’ I will tell you she is (and will always be) an educator. You see Geri ‘met’ me, long before I met her. Here’s how.
Geri had a vision.
Geri’s vision was an open walk in glass block shower. It wouldn’t look ugly like her current builders-grade obscure glass, framed sliding door with a dingy fiberglass base.
Geri’s shower would be doorless. She wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ cleaning hair and dirt out of a metal shower door frame. She wouldn’t be scouring the Net looking a shower curtain which wasn’t butt-ugly.
Geri would put in the time, energy and relentless keyboard-burning research to make her vision a reality, at a price she could afford. This is where I showed up in this story.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for Geri) her research on Houzz, Pinterest and Google kept leading her back to me. You see I’m a ‘construction educator’ (AKA a blogger on all-things bathroom remodeling- and in this case a glass block shower). I guess to Geri I ended up being the bad rash she just couldn’t get away from (my wife of 34 years – Rose – knows this feeling all too well – ha! Ha!).
If you’re like Geri and hate your framed shower doors, fiberglass shower walls and or shower curtains but are unsure if you have the space and ability to make a walk-in shower (or glass block doorless shower) work, you’ll want to read further.
In this article I’ll give you a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look showing how Geri took her creative vision, put in the ‘finger-grease’ (i.e. Internet research) and assembled a team to make a walk-in glass block shower work in her small bathroom. Along the way Geri (like an excellent educator) gave out praise – and wasn’t afraid to let others know where they need to improve their ‘grades’.
Let’s stroll through 5 steps of Geri’s journey to a successful glass block walk in shower.
You know you’ve been ‘around the block’ a time or two when you’re on an appointment and the potential customer asks if the younger person with you on the call is your son. Yes – this really happened to me earlier this week. Of course, I joked and said I was going out to buy my hair coloring and get rid of that pesky gray color later that day!
You may ask, what does my embarrassing moment have to do with 7 deadly sins you shouldn’t commit when building a glass block shower? Here’s what.
In reality I’ve got a ‘few notches around my personal tree trunk’ (and maybe a few extra pounds as well) designing and working with glass block showers. To be exact I’ve been working with glass block walls and windows since 1985 (my standard line is I started working with this stuff since the age of 10. I’m lying, but I’m going with that line anyway!).
What this means is I’ve seen a LOT OF mistakes along the way. I’ve had homeowners and contractors waive their imaginary white flag trying to figure out a glass block shower and call saying, “Mike, can you help get our arms around this doggone mess?”
The problem with glass block showers is they aren’t the kind of thing you do every day, every week, every year or even every decade for that matter. Bathroom remodeling is something you hopefully (for your pocketbook’s sake) do every 10 to 30 years (as your needs, styles and home you live in changes).
My goal in this article is simple. I want to save you from taking an unnecessary beating (with expenses and frustration you don’t need to endure) while doing a glass block shower for the first time.
If I’m successful you won’t commit these 7 glass block shower sins and get burdened with the costs associated with them. I can’t promise you won’t commit other sins. Those you’ll have to take up with the ‘person upstairs!
Perhaps you find yourself in one of these situations and are kicking around a barrier free shower system:
Mom is not moving around so well. You’re considering having her live with you. You’re not sure how to make your home and bathroom safe.
Your spouse got hurt at work. Climbing over the tub to take a shower is an accident waiting to happen.
Your son was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. He’s now in a wheelchair. Life won’t be the same. You need to design a shower which works for him and won’t add to his (already) frustrated state of mind.
In my years helping people with one level, walk in and barrier free showers, I’ve experienced all 3 situations above.
Life happens. Reduced mobility gets in the way of living the way you’d like. Showers and bathrooms by their nature (as wet spaces) can be dangerous to people with (and without) problems getting around.
When you’re faced with mobility challenges – whether it’s a natural part of the aging process, an accident, or a temporary health bump in the road – figuring out the perfect shower system can be a hassle. You may be asking questions like these:
What do I need to know about safe shower systems? More importantly, how can I get up to speed QUICKLY?
Should I trust my contractor? They ‘seem’ like they know what they’re doing, but they’re also in a big rush to get to the next appointment. They only offered me one option. Is it the right one?
Do I have to cut into the structure of the home (i.e. the joists below the floor) to make a barrier free shower?
My goal with this article is simple. I want to get you up to speed quickly, not only on barrier free shower pans, but more importantly I’d like you to view one level showers as a system of products (not just a single component that slapped into the bottom of your bathroom floor) which makes showering for someone with limited mobility simpler. I’d like to give you a deeper level of insight beyond the the ‘old-school-methods’ (used by too many contractors IMHO) of dropping the floor and pouring concrete.
Simply, I want to make sure you don’t make the 9 mistakes I’ve seen people end up ‘living with’ after it’s too late when a barrier free shower is done wrong. Let’s check out the 9 mistakes so you don’t fall into them. I’ll start with the shower pan and work my way up.
(Example #1) You’ve got a growing family and your ‘cute home’ is bursting at the seams.
(Example #2) You’re an empty nester looking to add ‘fun spaces’ for hobbies and entertainment as you near retirement (you never thought you’d say the ‘r’ word). You could buy a home in one of those ‘active adult, 55+, retirement villages.’ However, who wants to ‘live life’ around a bunch of old people who complain about knee replacements and are bragging about the latest feature in their walkers?
In both examples the need for more space, better space – (and since you’re still waiting for Bill Gates to add to his Trust Fund list) cost-effective space is critical.
Here’s the challenge. Where are you going to find it? Let’s look behind the popular ‘door #1 and door #2’ options most people think of to gain more square footage:
Space option behind door #1 – Buy an existing home
The existing home market is crazy-nuts. According to the S & P CoreLogic Case Shiller Home Price Indices last year alone, nationwide homes prices increased by 6.3%. Add to that cost, fixing up your existing home to sell it and paying a realtor and you’ll see trading up to a larger home is gonna cost you – BIG TIME!
Space option behind door #2 – Buy a brand-spanking new home from a builder
A new construction home is no bargain either. Lumber prices are going through the roof. Land development costs are increasing. Builders are forced to pass these costs on to you. Lastly, don’t even ask builders about the challenge of finding qualified labor to build new homes!
Is there a better option behind door #3?
The question is, can you find a better option for cost-effective space which is neither door #1 or door #2 above? If so, what is this better idea?
I’ll make the argument for people who own a basement, finishing the lower level (i.e. the space right below your feet) can be a perfect area to ‘find’ cost-effective space. Whether you’re a growing family or soon-to-be empty nester couple looking to reinvigorate your home around hobbies and entertaining friends, basement remodeling can be a smart financial move.
Sure, I know today you may refer to your basement as a cellar, dungeon, or cave because it’s not exactly the sexiest space going. OK – if we’re being real – it’s butt ugly. But there are ‘cures’ for your lower level.
Goals for this article
In this article, I’m looking to do two things.
First, I’m going to offer 5 practical reasons basement remodeling makes more sense today than ever.
Second, I’m going to give you 5 practical steps to transform your basement into a place you’ll want to spend time (and will help save money vs. buying a new home or a larger existing home).
At the end of the article, I’d love to hear ideas you’ve used to improve your basement and your opinions on this type of type of remodeling project.
Since you’re reading this article you deserve a round of applause. Learning about shower pans is as sexy and ‘interesting’ as seeing your Mother in Law ‘attempting’ to imitate your teenage daughter’s hot new look. Not a pretty picture. Certainly not sexy.
Shower pans literally get walked on and ignored daily. They get no respect.
However, I’d argue they’re propping up the entire ‘show.’ The show is your fancy shower heads, niches, contemporary sleek wall panels, tile surrounds and body jets people do notice.
If your base fails, you’re in a heap of trouble. You can throw in the dumpster all the cool features above the base (and your dollars – literally – down the literal drain with it). Sure, you can ‘cheap-out’ buying a low-cost shower pan or ‘zone out’ with no thought put into the design of a shower base. However, if you take this route as they’d say in high school Latin class – caveat emptor (that’s a fancy term for ‘let the buyer beware.’).
There’s a huge (or hugely as Trump would say) price to pay for a shower pan which fails, is designed incorrectly or doesn’t work as a family member ages and their mobility goes in the wrong direction.
There are 2 pivotal questions in selecting a shower pan you need to get your arms around:
Question 1 – What are the biggest mistakes, blunders, pitfalls (insert your negative adjective here) when selecting shower pans? The more important question is this second one.
Question 2 – How can I avoid the problems posed in question 1 to save time, money and aggravation having to ‘re-remodel’ (not a word, but it happens in reality) or throw away a costly shower purchase?
The purpose of this article is simple. Answer questions 1 and outline the 7 biggest blunders I’ve seen in bad shower pan purchases through my years (when I started in the bathroom remodeling business I had more hair, and none of it was grey either!) Next, I’ll cover question 2 and give you tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to the mistakes in question 1.
I never expected to become a bathroom wall panel geek.
I grew up a mini-Alex P. Keaton (for those of you not old enough to remember he was the young business-geek son on the sitcom Family Ties popular in the 1980’s – yes I’m dating myself here). My heart and passion were business and finance. The dream job I wanted when I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with my B.S. (it doesn’t mean what you think) in Business Administration was to get a job as a strategic planning consultant with McKinsey and Company (a hot consulting company).
That’s not how things worked out.
After 4 years doing the ‘corporate thing’ as a Product Manager at a cutting tool manufacturing company, my Dad let me buy (he floated me the loan actually) 50% of his glass block contracting business. Away with the 3-piece suit and fancy mahogany desk. Say hello to jeans and hanging out with ‘gontractors’ (that’s how you say contractors with an Italian accent).
I got into the bathroom wall panel business like most entrepreneurs. I morphed into it. Here’s how:
Glass block shower walls led me to offering shower bases to go with them.
Shower bases lead me to acrylic bathroom surround panels.
Acrylic bathroom surround panels lead me into 4 lines of wall panels (so far) – cultured granite, a decorative PVC composite line, high gloss panels and thin acrylic panels.
I started in bathroom wall panels with standard 1/8” thick acrylic panels – like you see from ‘one day bath’ companies Bath Fitter and Rebath. Today, this line is a small part of what people are buying from us. The world has shifted. We have shifted with it.
With all this being said, my journey into bathroom wall panel geekdom probably doesn’t matter one iota to you (hey- what exactly is an iota anyway?). If you’re like most people, you’re confused researching the plethora (that’s a fancy word I threw in there to make you ‘think’ I’m smart) of choices in wall panels. You’re left to ‘sift through the rubble’ and figure out which bathroom or shower wall panel line will work best for you. Many homeowners are confused in this process. That’s why I wrote this article.
My goal is simple. Explain to you 5 little known secrets I’ve learned in my years educating, selling and (my company) installing bathroom wall panels (you wouldn’t want me installing, I might have the smoothest hands in the bathroom remodeling industry!). I want you to make the best choice for you the first time out.
Below you’ll find these secrets. At the end of the article let me know which ones have helped you and if any others are simply too ‘out-there’ for you (I can – at times – resemble that remark).