Bath Remodel Strategies: Medium-Level Budgets
In the world of bathroom remodeling, expert designers say $25,000 or less is considered a mid-level budget. It opens up possibilities beyond the decent shower, vanity and toilet with quality labor and limited frills available at lower budgets. While you're not in the sky's-the-limit range of, say, the $40,000 level, $25,000 still gives you the opportunity to indulge some pet fantasies or invest in top-notch materials.
Whether you put the extra money toward nuts-and-bolts quality or toward that trendy feature you've been dying to add to your bathing experience, the money you spend now can increase the value of your home in the years to come. Here are some different ways you can make that happen:
Set Your Priorities
This basic rule of thumb is especially true at the mid-level budget. That's because more possibilities are available than at a lower budget, and you will find you have more spending decisions to make. At the lower level, budget limitations often dictate what you can afford, but now you will have to set your own priorities.
It pays to sit down, consider your options and determine what's most important to you before you start writing the checks. Sabrina Foulke, architectural designer at Point One Architects + Planners in Old Lyme, Conn., says, "The one thing we really stress with our clients is that we want to hear what they want. If they tell us what their biggest problems are, then we can try to be creative with our solutions."
Buy Better-Quality Products
The answers to those problems lie in choosing the right products. That's where the extra money over $10,000 goes, says Thompson Price, president of Callier and Thompson Kitchens, Baths, and Appliances in St. Louis.
"You spend more on the products," Price says. "The labor is going to be what it is. With a pretty nice bath, ceramic tile floor, a nice vanity, medicine cabinet, fan and light, painted, decorated, you're looking at $14,000 to $16,000. If you want to add wainscoting 45 inches up the walls with the same ceramic tile as the floor, and you want a decorative insert in the shower or tub area, you're going to need upwards of $18,000 to $22,000."
Invest in Tile
Sabrina Foulke believes the beauty and durability of tile walls make them a wise investment.
"You can walk into a nice bathroom with a tile floor and painted walls," she says, "or you can walk into an incredible bathroom that has tiled walls all the way to the ceiling. If you have the money, this is an area where you can make just a huge difference, and, maintenance-wise, it's a lot easier to wipe down dirty tile walls than to have to paint."
Use Cultured Stone
Cultured marble, granite and onyx are alternate materials that are a step up from the fiberglass and acrylics often used in showers and tubs. A natural marble or granite crush held together with a polyester resin, cultured stone offers the look and feel of luxury panels and countertops at an affordable price.
"When you look at the overall investment," says Thompson Price, "you can probably put cultured marble panels on the back wall and two side panels of a shower and have a 100-percent better look for not too much more money than the fiberglass and acrylic panels."
Buy the Bells and Whistles
Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News, believes that, within reason, following trends in bath design and decorating can pay off for homeowners. For example, she says, "people take a shower every day, and it has now become kind of the hot thing to invest in."
"People are demanding the supershowers that have all the bells and whistles," she says, "the multiple jets, the rain bars that simulate a summer shower, the hand-held jets, the programmable temperatures that let different family members get the temperature they want at the touch of button—everything you need for a more extensive shower experience."
Create More Storage
The more room for storage you can find in a 5' x 9' bath, the better off you'll be. Sometimes, our experts say, you can make room where none existed before.
"You can gain storage by going in between the existing two by fours in the wall and putting some shelves in," says Sabrina Foulke. "You can do it fairly inexpensively. The shelves will be about the depth of a medicine cabinet."
Thompson Price adds that you can gain space vertically with between-the-studs cabinetry: "They can be floor to ceiling if you want."
Replace Brass With Stone
"Some people have old fixtures in the bathroom," says Sabrina Foulke, "and a lot of times you'll find that the faucets are chrome and the light fixtures are brass. We recommend that you get rid of the brass and go with the chrome. Chrome is generally less expensive, it looks so much better and it holds up better. To get good quality brass you have to pay much more."
Hot Tip: Install a Towel Warmer
Janice Costa says there's a special pleasure in getting a luxury feel at a mid-range price.
"People want the towel warmers," she says, "It's a nice touch. It's a warming drawer like they use in kitchens near the oven. People see this when they stay in hotels and they really like it. If you're going to upgrade one thing, this kind of gives you a sense of luxury."