By Barbara Schmidt
Building Successful Remodeling into Your Home
Tips on Bathroom Remodeling for Any “Do It Yourself” Project
Home improvement has become one of our country’s greatest pastimes. Americans spent an estimated $214 billion on home improvements, maintenance and repairs in 2001, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies research report issued in February 2003. Just how and where that money is spent can make a big difference when it comes to investing in your home.
Of all the rooms in your house, bathrooms represent the greatest and fastest return on your remodeling investment. According to Remodeling Magazine, more than 80 percent of your bathroom remodeling expenses can be recouped within a year of resale. Not every room in the house offers such a return. Surprisingly, kitchens are sixth on the list with just over 60 percent of the costs returned. Only bathroom additions beat bathroom remodeling with returns over 90 percent.
Despite today’s homeowner remodeling craze, you should weigh the pros and cons of taking on an entire bathroom project alone. Knowledge -- including admitting your strengths and weaknesses -- is the key to successfully completing any project on time and under budget. Ask yourself the following remodeling questions to ensure you are making the best decisions for your investment.
Is it a Remodel or Makeover?
“The first consideration should be the scope of work,” says Rick Peters, remodeling expert and author of “MoneySmart Makeovers: Bathrooms.” He asks: “Do you understand your home’s plumbing systems, such as where the waste/vent stack is?”
If the remodeling project involves more than cosmetic fixture replacements or surface redecorating, it may be time to call in an expert to assess your home’s plumbing and pipe placement. Peters suggests the following checklist:
Call a remodeling contractor when:
* Moving a toilet, sink, tub or shower
* Removing or adding walls
* Installing venting that runs through the roof
All of these projects require specific skills and knowledge of your local building and plumbing codes.
Try the following makeover projects yourself:
* Replacing a faucet, sink or toilet using existing plumbing
* Installing shower or shower-tub combination doors
* Installing new accessories, such as shelves or light fixtures
* Painting, tiling or wallpapering
These projects require some skill base, but even a first-time do-it-yourselfer may be able to complete them in a reasonable timeframe.
What’s the Real Deal on What You Want?
Tempted by what looks good? Check out the quality. Does that new faucet have rubber washers or plastic valves? A client of mine bought a faucet five years ago with plastic valves and it lasted exactly four and a half years. Cheaper versions of the real thing are not repairable and have to be replaced entirely. This means you are spending twice as much in 10 years as you would once in a lifetime for a better faucet.
Look for quality fixture manufacturers such as American Standard. The company’s Champion Toilet featuring America’s Best Flushing System, includes a Worry-Free Decade Warranty that covers the whole toilet inside and out. American Standard’s faucets come with a lifetime warranty on the washerless watertight seal, the function and the finish. Most of its sinks and toilets are made of vitreous china that resists dirt and bacteria. Even the acrylic tubs are made tougher with a fiberglass bonding for extra strength.
Bottom line: “Your bathroom takes a daily beating,” says Peters. “Buy quality.”
Is There a Great Cover-up Waiting for You?
A number of times, I’ve ventured into bathrooms that have been madeover by covering damaged tiles or walls with acrylic panels. “Sure it looks better, but the problem is still there,” says Peters. “In fact, panels like these hold in moisture and mildew that was the problem in the first place, and now it will get worse. Make sure leaks and damage are repaired and not just covered up.”
Peters also suggests using a mildew resistant drywall. “Standard drywall can’t stand up to the moisture in the air, even with proper venting,” he notes.
What’s your pay-off in investing time to answer these important questions before you start? You’ll end up with a successful bathroom remodeling project that adds to the value and enjoyment of your home.