Deciding on the right shower and tub wall panels is tough enough, but it becomes ‘doubly-difficult’ when the two systems you’re comparing are newer to the United States market (even if one of them has been around the world market for over 26 years).
While Kohler Choreograph (also known as LuxStone) and Fibo laminate wall panels are both 100% waterproof, simple to maintain, respected brands in their country of origin (everyone knows Kohler in the United States and Fibo is used in 1/3 of the homes in Norway) and are an excellent alternatives to tile, this is where the similarities end.
As you’ll see below the Kohler and Fibo wall panels both have their strengths and weaknesses, just like you and I (note: even my wife of 35+ years thinks I have a few weaknesses…OK I’m lying, she thinks I have more than a few!).
You dream of owning the luxury shower you saw on Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines. You saw an article in House Beautiful with a shower to die for. It had marble floors, Brizo fixtures, Toto toilets and you thought to yourself, “With this shower it won’t look like I live in generic ‘builder-special’ (sarcasm intended) home anymore.”
These luxury showers and bathrooms you see on TV or in fancy magazines, while completely drool-worthy, aren’t your reality!
Maybe your life resembles the following …
Example #1) You’ve started your family and now have a two-year-old. You stretched to buy the home in the walkable neighborhood. You want to kick up your version of This Old Bathroom (‘er that would be your master bathroom). Money is tight, but you still want it to look cool. But how?
Example #2) You’re getting close to becoming an empty nester (which sounds weird to say). You plan to be in this home another 5 years. However, the bathroom in your ‘Chevrolet-esque’ neighborhood doesn’t justify ‘Mercedes-Benz’ shower products.
In addition, you’re tired of moldy, brown grout joints, the dated builders-grade shower pan and flimsy framed shower doors. However, you’re not going to sink a lot of bucks into a fancy bathroom remodel. How can you improve this shower on a budget, but not have it look cheap at the end?
In this article, I’ll tackle the hard question…the how. We’ll look at how to remodel your shower on a budget (without buying junk) and not have to do the following:
Have your 2-year-old run around without diapers because you spent all the money on the remodel.
Put off adding money into the already-too-small college fund for your 14-year-old daughter because your budget was blown up on the shower remodel.
Spend ALL your kid’s inheritance pretending to be your own version of Joanna Gaines or Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor (if you remember him).
While I’m (partially) joking about the three points above, it just makes good common ‘cents’ (OK – bad play on words, but I’m goin’ with it anyway) to be thoughtful (and careful) with how and where you spend money on your next shower remodel.
In this article I’ll share 7 practical tips to stretch your shower remodeling budget – without buying junky products (do flimsy framed shower doors and fiberglass shower surrounds ring a bell?) which are as disposable as your last pack of razor blades. Let’s check out the 7 tips.
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).
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.
I took the all-too-familiar call from James and his wife Linda.
Linda started out saying, “Mike – I HATE the ugly white fiberglass stand up shower in our hall bathroom, and the tile shower in the master is a mess. The grout joints are black and nasty. I’ve finally convinced James it’s time to blow up these 2 bathrooms now that the kids are “mostly” grown and out of the house (she mentioned her son Michael was on the 6-year college plan and almost ready to graduate). I am not going to deal with the maintenance or an ugly shower again. I’ve had it.”
James chimed in and said, “Linda and I went to the local big box store only to find the same crap we have right now. Lots of ceramic tiles. Basic cheap fiberglass shower pans and walls in stock sizes which won’t work for our tile shower. I am thinking about installing this job myself. I tried to ask the guy with the orange smock the steps to get this job done. He was clueless. Linda and I need your help with two things. First, what stylish, low maintenance products are out there? Second –I’m not sure what the right installation steps are. Can you help us?”
I understand where Linda and James are coming from. As a homeowner – no matter how handy or construction-savvy you are – you’re not researching shower products or installing a new shower every day (hopefully this will be the first and LAST time you do this). So – if you want a cool shower, which isn’t a pain to clean and maintain and don’t want to screw up the install (or have a contractor you hire mess it up either) you need to know the right steps to “get ‘er done” (as Larry the Cable Guy would say) right the first time.
In the article below I’ll look at 7 crucial installation steps I shared with Linda and James for a stylish low maintenance shower. For this project I would recommend to take your time. Be methodical. When you get this job done using the right steps, you’ll end up with the shower which is cool AND done – once and for all!