Monday, September 19, 2011

Ten Cost Saving Bath Remodeling Options

The next series of blogs will review bathroom remodeling.  Improving your bath will improve the enjoyment of your home, add to your quality of life, and increase your home’s resale value.  By square footage, baths are often the most expensive room in a home.  With plumbing, electric, heating, tile, sheetrock, paint, accessories, cabinets, counters, etc. numerous trades and products are packed into a very small space.  There are, however, cost saving options for bath remodeling.  The following is a list of ten options to consider.

1.       Small changes can have a big impact- Your budget may not allow for a full bath remodel but small changes can make a difference.  Options including changing plumbing fixtures, changing the vanity and counter, painting, or changing a tub to a tile shower.

2.       Save on luxury items- Steam showers, jetted tub, heated floors, multiple shower heads, and frameless shower enclosures are all very nice but are a significant cost upgrade to a bath remodel.  A basic, well built, bath may meet your needs at a much more affordable cost.

3.       Consider plumbing options- Plumbing work and materials are a significant percentage of the cost of a bath remodel.  Leaving fixtures in their current locations is much less costly than reworking all the piping and plumbing rough-ins.  Plumbing fixtures come in a variety of finishes with standard chrome being the least expensive.  There is a huge selection of plumbing fixtures including toilets, sinks, faucets, showerheads, etc.  Your designer, plumber, remodeler, or plumbing supply showroom can help you with alternate and cost saving product selections.

4.       Limit the tile work- Older baths often have tile walls four feet above the finished floors.  Tile work is a large cost increase over painted sheetrock.  Consider limiting the tile work to the tub/shower and bath floor.

5.       Use pre-fabricated showers or tub surrounds- Tile is very nice but pre-fabricated fiberglass shower bases and tub/shower walls are fairly inexpensive to purchase, quick to install (saving labor costs), and easy to keep clean.  Certainly for a hall, kids, or 2nd bath this will be a cost saving option.

6.       Install a tub/shower versus shower only-  A tub/shower is almost always less costly than the tile work required for a custom tile shower with a tile base.  Installing a tub gives you the floor and about 16” of wall.  Installing tile includes a vinyl membrane, sloped mortar sub-floor, cement backer board, waterproof membrane, and then the tile.  All added together this is a very labor-intensive process.

7.       Install a pedestal in place of a vanity- A pedestal sink typically is less expensive to install than a bath vanity.  A vanity includes the cabinet costs, the counter, the sink, and the labor to install each.

8.       Save energy and water- Installing energy saving lighting and low water use toilets and faucets will save costs in the long term.

9.       Have a design focus- Consider keeping the basic bath simple and inexpensive, white vanity and white tile for example, with a decorative tile pattern in the shower or on the floor, or a decorative vanity top and sink.  This can create a dramatic and unique bath while minimizing costs.

10.   Consider the accessories- Towel bars, toilet paper holders, towel rings and other bath accessories can create an updated look at minimum costs.  Similarly changing vanity hardware, window treatments, or door hardware can upgrade a bath again at a small cost as compared to a full bath remodel.  Even new bath linens can make a difference.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kitchen Sinks: Materials 4-6

 This is a continuation of the previous blog reviewing kitchen sink materials. 

A wide range of choices are available for the kitchen sink.  We have come a long way from stainless steel or cast iron being the only options commonly available.  Below is a brief review of some possible material options and pros and cons of each material.

§         Engineered Materials including Solid Surface & Composite:  This category covers a wide range of options including solid surface materials like Corian or Swanstone, quartz, slate, or granite –acrylic composites, and cast acrylic.  The major advantage of solid surface kitchen sinks is their ability to be an integrated unit with the countertop.  Composite sinks fall into three main categories; polyester/acrylic, quartz composite, and granite based.
o        Pros – Solid Surface
§         Seamless joint with solid surface counter
§         Durable surface, deeps cuts or scratches are repairable
§         More forgiving to dropped objects than cast iron or stone sinks
o        Cons – Solid Surface
§         Not resistant to high heat or very hot pots and pans, can scratch or nick
§         Can be expensive, especially since they typically involve totaling replacing the counters as well as the sink
§         Installation and repairs require professional fabrication

o        Pros – Composite
§         Reasonable durability and resistance to scratching and chipping in stone composites
§         Available in a variety of colors
§         Stands up to heat better than solid surface
§         Acrylic composites are typically inexpensive
o        Cons – Composite
§         Acrylic composites are the lowest performing in terms of scratch and stain resistance
§         Granite based composite can command a premium price
§         Stone based composites are limited in color to a neutral palette.

§         Natural Stone:  The most common stone sinks are made from granite or soapstone, but there are also sinks made from travertine, marble, and onyx.  These are heavy, dense sinks and the soapstone is impervious to stains. 
o        Pros:
§         Strong, robust, durable surface
§         Good sound-deadening qualities
§         A unique and interesting style option
o        Cons:
§         Heavy and typically require custom built cabinetry for support
§         Some stones are porous and require sealing
§         Often expensive to purchase and install

§         Other:  Kitchen sinks are available in other materials including concrete and various metals besides stainless steel such as nickel, copper & bronze.  Other metals are often used for specialty sinks such as a bar sink. 
o        Pros Concrete:
§         Unlimited customization
§         Distinctive and unique style option
§         Can be incorporated with a concrete counter for seamless design
o        Cons Concrete:
§         Requires periodic sealing to avoid stains and to repel moisture
§         May show cracks and fissures over time.
§         Costly as they are typically custom made and include counter replacement

o        Pros Nickel, Copper & Bronze:
§         Non-rusting, visually unique
§         Copper will take on an aged patina depending on the type of care given
§         Nickel is harder and stronger than copper
o        Cons Nickel, Copper & Bronze:
§         Expensive to very expensive depending on size and design
§         May need polishing to retain bright appearance