Moldy and dirty grout joints. Shower curbs which are too tall and dangerous to step over. Cracked shower pans which leaked onto the floors below. And I haven’t even mentioned the constant maintenance. Who doesn’t love spending time with a scrub brush cleaning grout joints (sarcasm intended)?
If you’re looking to replace your old tile shower – the last thing you want to do is repeat the mistakes of the past. If your shower is screaming ‘replace me,’ the question becomes what mistakes do you need to stay away from this time? How can you get a new tile shower (or a look-a-like tile shower – more about this later) without the hassles your last one caused you?
In this article my goal is to give it to you straight. I’m going to tell you 6 things you shouldn’t do when you replace your old tile shower. These tips will help you get a nicer looking shower stall with less effort and maintenance from you down the road.
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 lived through a shower which was falling apart at the seams. You said you would not get fooled again. You’ve made these proclamations (sounds very official, doesn’t it?).
I’m done with dingy and moldy grout joints.
I will not put up with a cracked shower base which caused a leak onto our dining room table below.
I will not buy or own a home which has wafer-thin plastic wall panels. The last one yellowed and looked nasty.
I won’t own another ‘brown-ish’ shower pan I can’t get clean no matter what toxic solvent I use.
I will not get stuck cleaning the bottom track of a flimsy and pitted aluminum framed shower door ever again.
I will spend less money on disinfectants and fighting back mold problems in my next shower.
I will have a shower which will last me for the next 20 years – or it better, because as Dad used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
You’ve heard the old saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
When it comes to shower remodeling, I will tell you (and I talk to people about shower remodeling every day) I’ve seen many people get fooled again. They have the best intentions to eliminate the nightmare which was their last shower. However, they get fooled and fall into ‘traps’ like these.
They tell their remodeler they don’t want a cheap-plasticky fiberglass shower. Then their remodeler does what remodelers always do and offer them an upgraded beautiful tile shower. As time goes on they find out they’re scrubbing grout joints until their arms are soar. They ‘traded off’ the difficult to maintain dirty, yellow fiberglass shower pan for another difficult to maintain tile shower.
They say they want a shower which will last for 20 years. Then after a life event happens (for example, Mom’s mobility takes a turn for the worse and she needs to move in with you) your cool almost-brand-new 5-year-old shower is getting ripped out accommodate her.
They buy a brand-new home (with the industry-standard-oh-so-impressive – sarcasm intended- one-year warranty) and love, love, love the cool features like the quartz countertops and Shaker cabinetry in the kitchen. They pay no attention to the one-piece fiberglass tub/shower in the boy’s bathroom with framed glass doors (it looked so pretty when it was decorated in the model home). In a few short years the bottom of the fiberglass pan is scummy (you don’t expect your boys to clean up after themselves now, do you?), and the doors are practically falling off. It looks like it’s time to remodel already -and of course, replacing a nasty looking shower 5 years later is not covered under your builders fabulous one-year warranty.
The question is – whether you are remodeling or building a new home – how do you make sure you don’t get fooled again with a shower which fails?
If the title of this article reminds you of the song by The Who titled, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” – you might be an ever-so-slightly graying 70’s rocker like me. And I’ll fess up and say I’m a guy in the late 70’s who sported a ‘quasi-mullet’ as well. But no, I’m not sharing a picture of my mullet here. While this Who song was not exactly written with shower remodeling in mind, I’ve still included a video below to get you in the spirit of the ‘new revolution’ of a new shower – so you won’t be fooled again.
In this article I’ll present 5 foolproof ideas to help you get a stylish shower which looks sharp and lasts, so you won’t be fooled again. My list is not comprehensive. At the end of the article add your ideas 6,7 and 8. Let’s learn from one another.
I’m supposed to be in the bathroom remodeling business. However, here’s the weird thing. I might have the smoothest hands in the remodeling business – although the ladies in my offices might disagree. How exactly does that happen? The reason is I’m motivated to learn about, write about, promote and sell DIY and professionally installed shower remodeling projects. When it comes to swinging a hammer or sweating in a shower valve (see I sound like a pro contractor now), installing shower surround panels etc., I’ll leave that to our team of (thankfully for our company) professional contractors. Ask my wife Rose about my ‘high level’ of home improvement motivation. She has to beg me for a few hours of time on the weekend to do stuff around the house.
DIY shower remodeling is not for me (although my wife will tell you I can blog and do laundry at the same time. She’s thankful for that).
However, I am fortunate to work with lots of people around the country designing shower systems. These people either need to get a project done themselves (but can’t find a qualified contractor in their town if their life depended on it), or just want to save the money (OK – I won’t call you a cheapskate here – oops – sorry I just did).
The problem becomes how do you motivate your spouse to take the plunge and get ‘er done. Let’s face it they would rather be golfing, playing cards, fishing or even take ballroom dancing lessons or yoga classes with you (OK – they’re not willing to go THAT far).
In this article my goal is to take a tongue and groove (‘er I mean tongue and cheek) look ….and a serious look also, at how to motivate your spouse, family member or friend to DIY your shower (or at least portions of it).
The reality today is it’s getting harder to find a contractor. Taking a hold of a project yourself may be the only way it’s going to get done. Let’s look at 5 ways to motivate someone (your spouse, significant ‘utter, friend, family member etc.) else to pull you through your shower remodeling project.
Imagine you go into Dillard’s. You find a Fendi, Gucci or Louis Vuitton handbag on Super Sale. You snatch it off the shelf. The exhilaration of pure fashion joy overcomes you. You bring your new-found prize possession home. You joyously pull it out of the bag in your closet. You try matching it with your existing wardrobe and nothing (and I do mean none of your pants, dresses, blouses or shoes) looks good with the new purse. The new bag is waaaaaay too nice to be ‘mixed up’ with your tired wardrobe. Now what do you do? You head back to the mall in search of a sharp outfit to go with your stylish handbag.
You may be asking, Mike, “what the heck does fancy handbags have to do with bathroom remodeling?” That is a darn good question.
Well – Deborah of Cleveland Ohio can tell you. You see while Deborah was upgrading her kitchen floors and countertops she also made a fateful decision to blow up her 30-year-old ‘Back to the Future’ (circa 1987) chipped and butt-ugly Formica countertops in her bathrooms. She replaced them with luxurious 1 ¼” thick Quartz surfaces. It sounded like a good idea…at the time.
The problem Deborah ran into is directly related to the handbag challenge above. The new countertops put her old showers to shame! Her contemporary and stylish vanity tops now lived side by side with a poorly functioning, builders grade faded and dingy fiberglass showers. ‘A’ and ‘B’ (the countertops and the showers) didn’t work together.
As Deborah told me, “Mike – the Quartz countertops made my existing dirty and yellowed fiberglass original shower look ridiculous!” Something had to be done.
While this fashion faux-pas was prompting Deborah to remodel her showers, this project HAD TO BE about more than fashion. The new showers needed to address function. Since Deborah and her husband are both in their 60’s (although she doesn’t look at day over 39! – my wife has taught me well), and they have no intentions of leaving this home (EVER), they wanted a shower which would not need to be replaced as they get older.
This new design had to address fashion and function. In this article we’ll look at the problems of Deborah’s existing showers. We’ll also see how fashionable product selections and a functional shower design were used to make everything work. Lastly – we’ll get Deborah’s input on a on how she came to appreciate her ‘no frustration’ bathroom remodeling contractor – Cleveland Design and Remodeling. (Note – I’ll have to fess up. This is a shameless plug here since I’m a member of the Cleveland Design and Remodeling and Bath Doctor team). However, I think our guys listened to, connected with and delivered a nice job for Deborah – but I’ll let her tell you why. Let’s dig in.
You’ve decided to venture out into the harsh-cruel world of bathroom remodeling. 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 was talking to Mark (a potential customer) who started venting to me about his bathroom remodeling project. He said, “Mike, planning this bathroom remodel is a pain in the rear. Too many choices, too few contractors. The budget is getting squeezed left and right. My wife Lisa has this urge to remodel. I wish her urge would just go away.”
Mark then said, “Mike as someone in the biz can you help Lisa and I figure out if we should – or shouldn’t – remodel this upcoming year? As you know I’m voting for “shouldn’t,” she is completely in the “should” category. I’d like the ammunition to bring Lisa over to my side.”
I told Mark, “I don’t want to get in the middle of any family squabbles over remodeling. I’m not the “Dr. Phil of Remodeling,” besides I’ve got way more hair than him. However, as a supplier and remodeling contractor I’ve seen remodeling projects which have gone well – and others which were so wacked-out the owners wish they never started. Let me think about this. I’ll put a list together of “should’ s and shouldn’t’ s – and try keep you out of divorce court, or the Peoples Court, over a simple bathroom!”
As I got to thinking about this my crazy mind went in a bunch of directions. Included below is the list I prepared for Mark and Lisa. I hope you enjoy it, and learn a couple of things along the way. If you have any additional reasons (fun or serious) why you should (or shouldn’t remodel) add them in the comments at the end of the article. If they’re humorous give me a call – I like a good laugh.
When you moved into your suburban family home 18 years ago you and John certainly weren’t financially set up to live in the lap of luxury (not that you are now either!). The boring, white shower stall in your first-floor master bathroom was already getting dull. It had some dirt and stain marks on the shower floor. The ugly thin-glass framed sliding glass door wasn’t quite falling off the hinges, but it wasn’t a thing of beauty either. You never knew cleaning the bottom track of this door would get you spewing out so many 4-letter-words a sailor would blush. The plastic shower tree you hung off the shower head isn’t a thing of beauty – but what they heck – it’s getting the job done (even though the soap and shampoo oozes out the bottom). You don’t complain.
You have had more than your share of costs to deal with raising Chris and Emily (you never imagined how expensive raising them would be). Now with the kids “almost” off the payroll (Emily already has her first “real” job as an Account Executive with a tech company and Chris is rounding into year 4 (lucky you – sarcasm intended) of his “5 year” college plan. The end of funding the kids is ALMOST in sight.
Now it’s time for you and John to finally enjoy more vacations and ditch the ugly master bathroom shower you’ve been putting up with for 18 years. But how can you get a shower which is fun, stylish, comfortable and low maintenance without draining your wallet and sucking up all your vacation funds?
In this article I’ll look at 7 smart ideas you can use to blow up your boring, white dirty-looking builders grade shower without using up all your mad money. We’ll take a “bottom up” (starting with the shower floor pan, then the wall surrounds and finally the enclosure) look at how you can transform your shower.
You’re strolling through Pinterest enjoying a rare quiet moment on your den computer. You feel bathroom envy bubbling up. Your mind starts to wander. You think about expansive luxury walk in showers, separate free-standing bathtubs, and beautiful chandeliers gracing the wide-open spaces. What would it be like to have a bathroom like that, you think. Then your 17-year-old son barges in and says, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Now you’re grounded back into the reality which is your life.
You don’t have an expansive bathroom. You have a tight 5’ x 8’ space like most suburban Cape Cod, ranch or 2 story homes.
You don’t have space for both a free-standing tub and a shower (unless you can figure out how to bolt the tub in upside down on the ceiling and determine how to have water suspended in mid-air – that’s a bit crazy).
A chandelier also isn’t happening. You would probably walk into it with your 8’ high ceilings.
You want the luxury, style and low maintenance features of a walk in shower. You realize you’re stuck with a 5’ x 8’ space unless you get creative. Maybe you could blow out the wall into your son’s bedroom and make him sleep in the basement? That’s an idea. OK, maybe it’s not too practical.
The challenge becomes how can you design a walk-in shower which will work in your 5’ x 8’ suburban bathroom (or tiny loft apartment or cramped historic home for that matter)? In this article I’m going to give you 5 simple tricks to make a cool walk in shower possible even if you don’t have the benefit of the mega “Pinterest-esque-sized” bathroom you wish you had.
Shower remodeling can be a pain. There are so many decisions to make and the cost of mistakes can be high. Here’s just a few decisions you’ll have to wrap your head around:
What type of shower base (or floor pan) is best?
Should you tile the walls or use a shower wall panel system?
Where is the best location for the drain? What is the optimal spot to put the shower valve to turn on the water?
Should you DIY all, some or contract out this project?
Since shower remodeling is not your ‘day job’ (and it’s a project you may do every 10 to 20 years) it can be tough to get it right the first time. How do you make sure you don’t make errors which haunt you down the road?
One way to make sure you’re on the right path is to read these top 5 shower remodeling mistakes and the strategies to not repeat them on your job. I’ve seen them way too frequently and don’t want you to fall into the same trap.