Remodeling the bath is a popular home improvement project. There are many choices in fixtures today, with several options that are new to the bath scene. Attitudes about the function of the bathroom have changed. Especially the master bath can be viewed as a refuge away from busy lifestyles, a place to relax and let the stress melt away.
When remodeling a master bath, I look for extra space to accommodate both a shower and a larger tub. Sometimes we can use an adjacent closet or bump out an exterior wall.
Barrier free showers are becoming important in our aging society. Grab bars are available in many finishes and should be included to provide safety and assistance for everyone. Another popular feature in the shower is a built in bench to give a place to sit or wash without balancing on one leg. We usually build our benches out of tile but there are fold down wood benches that work well smaller showers. A recent design that allows a free-span diagonal corner bench is also a great way to put a tile bench in a smaller space.
Multi-spray heads provide lots of options with slide bars allowing showerheads to be set at his and her height. Pressure balanced, anti-scald valves prevent those shocking temperature changes when someone in the house turns on the water. Frameless tempered glass enclosures are available in all sizes and those pesky, hard to clean tracks are no longer used. If the budget allows, 3/8” thick glass makes an impressive statement.
Ultimate enjoyment can be yours by enclosing the shower and installing a steam unit to create a steambath. The steam units cost from $900 to $1500 and are easy to install requiring 120/240 volts and are small enough to fit inside a cabinet or closet. Controls are installed to offer temperature and timer control directly within the steamroom. A full height glass shower enclosure and moisture proof shower compartment keeps the steam where you want it while you relax and enjoy the luxury of a personal steambath.
The tub can be a soaker or jetted for relaxation and therapy. Larger tubs are usually installed in a raised tile platform, which requires at least a four by six footprint. It’s best to have a little extra room adjacent to the tub for accessories like candles and wine (can you picture it?). We order tubs without jets if they are to be used as a soaker. If the tub is jetted, we try to mount the pump remotely to reduce noise and to eliminate unsightly access panels in the tub skirt. Tub faucets are usually deck mounted with flexible locations for the controls allowing bathers an easy reach to fill the tub. It is important to check the capacity of the water heater when installing a large tub since they hold sixty gallons of water or more. The weight of a large tub, especially if designed for two people, is another consideration. Most tubs are acrylic and are surface mounted so it’s important to provide support with a mortar base when installing the tub.
Vanities are also growing in size. Newer vanities are typically taller at 34 ½” high to finish at kitchen cabinet height. Adults will appreciate brushing their teeth without stooping over. Many vanities are equipped with double sinks for when husband and wife both need to get ready to go out. Countertops can be tile, laminate or solid surface like Corian® or Swanstone® with integral bowls for ultimate ease in cleaning. Cabinetry choices have moved into lighter woods like maple, cherry or birch/alder, with strong movement away from tried and true oak, with the exception of oak Shaker-style cabinets. Painted cabinetry works well in baths with a strong color scheme. Medicine cabinetry can be built to match the vanity cabinets or simply a mirror either of plate glass or framed.
Ceramic tile is still the dominant surface in baths today with granite, slate and marble tiles or slabs as upgrade choices. Popular large tiles finish shower walls, minimizing grout lines. Glass block is a long time favorite to build partitions in the bath. Floor tile still provides the best value although tight budgets will look to vinyl as an option.
Cold tile floors are now a thing of the past with new heating elements that install under the tile. Nu-heat® makes a heating pad made to fit your floor that runs about $600 – $800 plus tile and electrician for a standard bath. The control is installed like a switch in the wall, allowing for time and temperature control at the touch of a finger.
One of the luxuries long known to European travelers are heated towel bars. Becoming more popular, heated towel bars are reasonably priced at $600 on up. They can be oil filled electric heaters or plumbed into a hydronic heating system if your home is so equipped.
Bath remodels are a good winter/spring project when additions and exterior work seem unreasonable. Although basic baths can be updated with new fixtures for $5,000 to $10,000, most people will add a few bells and whistles that can bring costs to double or more depending upon any adjacent spaces that are included in the remodel. Bump outs or reconfiguring other rooms to expand the bath often trigger new flooring, drywall, siding and paint that add to the overall project. Typical timeframes for a bath remodel can be as quick as several weeks to two months or more for more complex projects. Like a remodeled kitchen, updated or remodeled baths bring good resale values according to local realtors. In the meantime, sit back in your new spa tub or steam shower and say, “Ahhhh.”
Andrew Wright, CR is an award winning General Contractor and Certified Remodeler with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. He may be contacted at WrightBuilt Home Remodel & Design at 272-6657.