By Ann Robinson & Annie V. Schwemmer


Home remodeling takes money. How much depends on the level of remodeling you intend to do. Obviously, the more involved the project the more expensive it will be.

This week we want to share some tips and ideas for the varying stages of bathroom remodels.

The first level of bathroom remodel is sprucing up what you already have. New paint, sinks, faucets and cabinetry will go a long way to making an old, outdated bathroom look new again.

However, there are two potential issues you need to address before you spend money on an “as is” bathroom improvement. First, is your bathroom the size, layout and location you want to keep forever? If you are not happy with any of these issues, don’t waste money on aesthetics.

Second, is changing the bathroom part of a future remodel plan? If you plan to take over the bathroom space to expand your master suite down the road, it doesn’t make sense to spend money on interior updates that will ultimately only be temporary.


 Bathroom tips 1

Before: This bathroom not only had outdated finishes, but it was also a very inefficient use of space. In the remodel, we took some space from the large bathroom and added it to the adjacent bedrooms instead. (Daniel Barton, Renovation Design Group)

What if you really aren’t sure what you will do with your house down the road? You may have some far off dreams but realize that it is doubtful that you will ever have the capital to remodel the whole house in one fell swoop.

What you need is — can you guess what we’re going to say? — a master plan for your house. With a master plan, your little projects can have purpose and direction.

So, with that said, the second level of bathroom remodels is gutting the bathroom and replacing everything within the existing space. This will strip everything out back to the studs and subfloor. The bathroom will stay in the same place and be the same size, but the layout could be revised within that space.

Even if the layout stays the same, everything in the room will be fresh and new. There will be all new infrastructure (wiring and plumbing), as well as new plumbing fixtures (sink, toilet, tub), faucets, cabinets, counters, lighting, flooring and surrounds for the tub, shower or both.

Bathroom tips 2

After: This bathroom not only had outdated finishes, but it was also a very inefficient use of space. In the remodel, we took some space from the large bathroom and added it to the adjacent bedrooms instead. (Trina Knudsen)

Most bathrooms older than a decade or two will benefit from a total redo. There will usually be evidence of some leakage around the toilet or shower pan when almost any bathroom is demolished. Mold may even be present. Especially if your home is old enough to have galvanized piping, you will benefit from a total replacement. Over the years, these pipes become corroded, resulting in poor water pressure as the pipe itself gets narrower and narrower as the corrosion builds.

There are codes relative to the size of bathrooms and the placement of plumbing fixtures. Legally, you should obtain a building permit when undertaking this type of remodel. The city inspector serves as a good second set of eyes to make sure the wiring and plumbing are up to today’s standards. The required drawings for such a project are quite simple — a floor plan, electrical plan and maybe a lighting plan, depending on the municipality.

Of course, an architect can help you with such drawings, but this level of project could be handled by an interior designer. A contractor could probably come up with sufficient plans to get a building permit, but don’t scrimp on the design end of a bathroom. Once the project is complete, this is a room in which nothing can be changed except the paint and the towels; you want to make sure the room functions well and looks terrific for the next couple of decades.

The third level of bathroom remodels is to use existing space in your home to expand the bathroom or to create a new bathroom. This will require the moving of walls and the addition of new plumbing lines.

An architect can be helpful in this situation because he or she doesn’t see the same roadblocks that a homeowner does. Walls, doors and even tubs and toilets are not permanent structures in the eyes of an architect. These elements can be moved if it is warranted and the budget will allow.

This sort of remodel costs more, but the result can be life-changing. A master bath is a requirement to create a master suite, and a master suite has become a standard expectation in today’s residential market.

The fourth level of bathroom remodeling is adding on new space for a bathroom. This allows you more freedom to size the new room to your personal preferences, and possibly to control the light and views that are available. Because this will involve new footings, foundations, exterior walls, windows and a roof, this is the most expensive solution to the dilemma of too few bathrooms. The same advantages as stated above apply for adding this type of bathroom, though the cost per square foot will clearly be higher.

When designing your new bathroom, remember the formula “size x finish = cost.” A smaller bathroom can often be more luxurious than a large one because you spend less money on constructing the physical space and more money on high-end fixtures, tiles and equipment. With heated floors and tile bars, rain-head showerheads, tankless water heaters and more, you can have great fun shopping for a bathroom these days!

Bathrooms definitely add value to any house and will impact the lives of the occupants drastically. If a bathroom remodel is in order, just make sure it makes sense and is in line with your master plan.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to as*@Re*******************.com

Renovation Solutions: Tips for remodeling a bathroom