what you need to know before remodeling your bathroom

Photo Credit: Scott Webb

Photo Credit: Scott Webb

I realize this is going to sound like an exaggeration, but I was living in bathroom hell. HELL. Let me paint the picture for you: my bathroom was tiny. Tiny as in Jonah Hill, circa “SuperBad” days, probably wouldn’t have been able to fit inside it. It also had a pedestal sink, which is a woman’s worst nightmare. Where do I put my straightener to heat up? Where am I supposed to store all my nail polish? Seriously, I was using the toilet as counter space for my make-up. How unsanitary. Don’t believe me? Here’s what I had to live with for almost a year:

On top of the structural restrictions, the bathtub faucet began to leak and the water pressure coming from the shower head decided to forever be on drizzle mode a month after I moved in. It took forever and a day to get the conditioner out of my hair every time I took a shower. A few months later, my light fixture also decided to go caput, and because I knew I wanted to remodel at some point, I decided to forego the $500 it would cost to fix both the light and shower faucet (yes, I got it quoted); instead, I lived with a dripping faucet and a desk lamp for a light for months. Yes, I know it was ridiculous, but I did it because I’m a cheap son of a biscuit. Sue me.

About 4 months ago, I decided that enough was enough, and I set out on the path of remodeling my bathroom. It was quite the process, but now, after the fact, I can say it was well worth the stress, time, and money. Not only do I now have a bathroom that is wider than my wingspan, but I learned a lot in the process. And now I am going to impart my wisdom onto you. So read on to see the top 5 things I learned these past few months about the remodeling process (and to see the finished product!).

1)      Know your neighborhood

Listen, if you live on Park Avenue, then feel free to deck out your house in real hardwood floors, marble tile, and faucets made of gold. If you don’t (and I’m assuming you fit the bill since you’re reading this blog), then you need to take a walk around your ‘hood and realize what you’re competing against. I know this goes against everything your sports coaches ever taught you, but you never want to be the “best” where your house is concerned. Why? Resale value. No one is going to buy a $300,000 house that is surrounded by ones that cost only $120,000.  It's just not practical.  So if this isn’t your forever home, make sure you are creating a room that is nice but not too nice. You want to get a good return on your investment.

2)      Provide your contractor with a picture of your vision

I went on vacation for a week while my contractor tiled and grouted my shower. When I got back home, I walked into my bathroom expecting this wondrous masterpiece. Instead, I was looking at a wall of white tile that looked like they had been traced with a dark gray crayon. Turns out that when I told my contractor that I wanted gray grout, he thought I meant dark gray instead of the light gray I was envisioning. It eventually worked itself out and all was corrected, but a word to the wise: show your contractor a picture of the direction you’re going. That way you both are on the same page when it comes to details like the color of grout. And as an added note, always be specific. I assumed he knew what color I meant, and I assumed horribly wrong.

3)      Create a budget and then add 10%

My budget. Oy vey. I blew that thing out of the water. Ok, not out of the water, but I definitely didn’t meet expectations. It seems like no matter what, something additional always came up. I would forget to factor in the cost of a new mirror or light fixture, and dear Jesus in Heaven, do you know how much building material costs? I mean, really, how many of us can say how much lumber for framing is on the spot? Not me. So before you get started, do as much homework as you can, create your budget, and then add 10%. If you can’t afford that extra 10%, then trust me, you don’t want to start the remodel. No one wants to have a bathroom with no toilet because you ran out of cash.

4)      Be flexible

I live in a house that was built in the 1920s, meaning that I have rooms with no electrical outlets, walls made of crumbling plaster, and plumbing that looks like a tangled web of metal that has been unmethodically pieced together over the years. That being said, going about remodeling my bathroom was definitely an exercise in the give and take. Originally, I was going to put in a standard shower unit, but because of the weird measurements of the space where the shower was (thank you, 1925 builder), I had to customize the entire thing, tacking on another $2,000 to my budget. I also had to forgo having a shelf built into the wall of my shower because of the additional dinero it would cost me to install it into my godforsaken plaster walls. In the end, everything turned out great, but you need to realize that there will be bumps in the road – know what is important to you and don’t stress about what isn’t.

5)      Audit, audit, audit

The last day of my remodel, my contractor sat down across my dining room table from me to tally up all of the material expenses he had incurred that I needed to pay for. Once he was done and had given me the total, I looked at him and said, “Ok, now I’m going to audit it you.” Was a strange look received? You bet your britches, but this gal didn’t care. Luckily, I have a great excuse for being so anal, as I once was an auditor, but I strongly suggest you follow in my footsteps because it saved me over $50 (everyone, and I mean everyone, makes math errors). So when the times comes for you to settle up with your contractor, make sure to go through all the receipts with him, question what you don’t understand, check his math, etc. Yes, that $50 was chump change in the grand scheme of things, but hey, that $50 could buy me 4+ six-packs of Blue Moon or tickets to 5 Indy Eleven soccer games. Well worth it.

There you have it, friends.  Remodels tend to be extremely stressful (seriously, I had a day where I was almost crying at work because of it), but if you take enough precautionary steps, you can mitigate a majority of it. As for my finished product? Check it out below and let me know what you think!

Been through a remodel before?  Comment below and let us know what you learned through the process!

Photo Credit: Morre Christophee

Photo Credit: Morre Christophee