What to Consider Before Renovating a Bathroom

Bathroom renovations are some of the best projects homeowners can take on in terms of both ROI and improving their own quality of life in their homes. There’s nothing like having a fresh, beautiful bathroom to make you fall in love with your home again!

But I consider a bathroom remodel a high commitment project as compared to changing paint, furnishings and accessories in other rooms. Because of the effort and investment involved in changing out the finishes and fixtures in a bathroom, I always work to help my clients make the best possible decisions by thinking ahead when they decide to renovate a powder room, guest bath or master bath.

So before you start picking out tile and getting your contractor to demo your bathroom, give some serious thought to these key questions I always dig in with my clients. 

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Does the current layout work? 

Whether you have major frustrations or relatively minor inconveniences in your bathroom, a change in layout could make a world of difference for you.

Even something as simple as adding a second sink to a 60″-72″ single-sink vanity can greatly improve your bathroom’s functionality – especially if siblings or spouses are constantly jockeying for sink time!

Though it can be more costly due to moving the pipes, sometimes actually moving the toilet or bathtub can free up precious floor space. This can make the “flow” of how you move through the room better (no more banging your knees on the edge of the tub to get to the sink!). It might even make space for added storage, such as a linen closet or built-in hamper.

You might be able to gain space without moving plumbing fixtures by taking out a linen closet. It will add to the open space in the bathroom and you can find storage for towels in another part of the home. I often find that some of the older homes I work on have linen closets are too small to store a toothbrush, let alone bath towels. Why not claim that space for a few extra inches in the bathroom itself?

Think about what’s working and what’s not, and then ask your designer and contractor for help in finding viable solutions.

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Do you want to add a luxury feature or two?

Apart from a warm bubble bath, “luxury” isn’t always something we associate with our bathrooms. Sure, we all want a beautiful, updated space, but actual indulgence may not be on our radars.

Nonetheless, there’s a whole world of luxury bathroom fixtures available today that can give you a spa-like experience at home on a daily basis. 

One of the more down-to-earth examples is radiant heat for floors. Living in the Midwest as I do, this feels more like a necessity than a luxury! But it’s definitely one of the best options you can add to your renovation no matter where you live. 

Another relatively low-key – but very nice to have – luxury is flush transitions from the shower to the bathroom floor so there’s no “curb” to step over. 

You can get a little fancier by adding body jets or steam jets to your shower. Put in a high tech mirror that’s also a television or add speakers throughout the bathroom. Or go all out with “smart home” items like voice controlled lighted mirrors, showers and faucets. The possibilities are endless!

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Are you renovating to help a family member with physical challenges now or in anticipation of that in the future?

I’ve had the pleasure of designing bathrooms for several clients with physical challenges. There are so many ways to create a beautiful bathroom that’s still accessible and easy for everyone in the home to use. In addition to bringing in gorgeous finishes and fixtures as with any other bathroom renovation, we widen doorways, add grab bars in key areas (or put blocking inside the walls to make it easier to add them later without having to rip out tile), lower the sink and use flush transitions for the shower to make the space wheelchair accessible. 

Even if no one in your home needs accessibility now but you know this is your “forever home” or that a loved one may come to live with you there down the road, you may want to take that into account for this renovation. Ask your designer and contractor to make some key changes now that will allow for much easier and less costly changes later to make the space fully accessible when and if needed. 

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What are your storage needs?

Storage is one of the first things you’ll want to think through since it can impact both your fixture options and the overall layout of the space.  

Let me just say that I LOVE a vanity with drawers instead of cabinets! It’s so much easier to access bottles and all your toiletries from a drawer as you get a “bird’s eye view” of it all, instead of having to bend down and rummage through a cabinet. Whenever possible, I specify drawers instead of cabinets for my clients, making sure to measure their tallest products to ensure we give them a drawer that can accommodate them. 

That said, the bathroom truly can be one of the most difficult spaces to organize. You may want to consider hiring a professional organizer to help you pare down your products and store everything for maximum functionality. 

You’ll look like you binge watched Marie Kondo and you’ll feel like the storage in your newly renovated bathroom is more than adequate for your needs!

What kinds of lighting do you need and exactly where do you need it?

I never start a renovation project for a bathroom or any other space without a reflected ceiling plan. This is a drawing that shows everything to be placed in or on the ceiling such as lighting, smoke alarms and exhaust fans. 

For bathrooms, I want to be sure the plan is to have can lights in the ceiling as well as vanity lighting around the mirrors. I also always try to place a woman’s makeup table by a window so they’ll have all the natural light they need! 

For the vanity, generally speaking, it’s best to place lights beside the mirror instead of above it. Of course, some bathrooms simply won’t allow for that. In those cases, I find a way to work in some other type of lighting around the mirror such as a window or a can light aimed strategically.

You may also want to consider a beautiful fixture over the tub and putting all the lights on dimmers so you can adjust the lighting level for relaxation vs. getting ready in the morning. 

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Should you choose on-trend materials or classic options?

When it comes to the material selections, I say keep it clean, fresh and simple. Just like kitchens, bathrooms don’t get renovated frequently. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to change a trendy paint color that’s gone out of style than it is to change a dated tile surround. 

My go-to is light or white shower walls with simple, subtle flooring. I love adding color to bathrooms through accessories, window treatments or wallpaper – yes, wallpaper! As long as you use an expert wallpaper hanger, it’s not very difficult to change it up if you get tired of it.

If you really want to use some fun color then think about painting your vanity in a bright, bold hue. Again, this is an easier fix than changing colorful tile, sinks or tubs. 

Adding fun, colorful artwork is another way to make a bold statement in a bath without requiring another renovation to change it down the line. 

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If your bath is due for an update, think through these questions first so you’re sure to end up with a beautiful – even luxurious! – bathroom you adore for years to come. And if you do decide to add those steam jets to your shower, invite me to come stay as your houseguest, please! 

Want a little professional help making these and all the other decisions involved in your bathroom renovation? Reach out to us – we’re here to help! 

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