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Costs: On average, $9,720, according to 2002 figures from Remodeling magazine, an industry publication.

Value added: 81 percent of the remodeling dollar comes back at resale, according to Remodeling.

Popularity as a remodel target: Ranks second in number of rooms remodeled but third in terms of money spent, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

New trends: Products once available only in million-dollar homes, like marble countertops, are now "available to the masses," says Dan Tratensek, analyst with the National Retail Hardware Association and Home Center Institute, an industry group. Look for: larger luxury showers with a combination of spa-type attributes, like multiple shower heads, pulsating shower heads, steam generators and shower towers (which create a waterfall-like effect). Also big: frameless shower enclosures, larger or double vanities, faucets in brushed antique or satin finishes and heated flooring and towel racks.

Features to consider: "People are spending more time in the bathrooms and bedrooms," says Julius Lowenberg, president of NARI. "It's a luxury item for them."

Think about whether you want a tub, shower or both. Regular size or something larger? And with what special details? Once you decide, consider the cost and the amount of space you'll need to do it right.

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For permanent fixtures, think neutral. A brightly colored commode, sink or fixture could get old quick, and black shows every soap stain and water spot, says Lowenberg. If you must have colors, he says, "be sure you can live with them." And if you want the look to last, save the brights for the accessories.

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: Got an old bathtub you've given up on? Plumbers can fit a custom-made acrylic liner over the top -- just like capping a tooth. Result: A brand-new tub without the mess of ripping out the old one. Cost: about $2,200 to $3,000, says Lou Manfredini, author of Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home and a home improvement expert for Ace Hardware Corp.

New products: Vessel sinks, which sit above the counter, soaking tubs and quieter, more-efficient toilets. For do-it-yourselfers: luxury shower heads create "a mini-spa for less than $200," says Manfredini. And a curved shower curtain rod can give a little extra elbow (and shoulder) room for $50 to $60, he says.

Special problems: Resale value: If you remove a tub in one bathroom in favor of an over-sized luxury shower system, you could limit your resale prospects.

Also, mold prevention. "You really have to make sure the bathroom is vented well, especially if you're creating a home spa," says Tom Silva, the general contractor on the PBS series "This Old House." "Today's houses are built tight," he says. If you don't let the moisture out, you risk mold, mildew and dry rot.

Biggest mistakes: Homeowners have large soaking tubs or multi-head showers installed, but don't confirm that the hot water heater can handle the new load.

In addition, a larger tub requires a high-flow faucet or you may have to wait 15 minutes to fill it, says Don Sever, certified remodeler, and marketing committee chairman for NARI.

Professional or DIY: Do-it-yourselfers can handle a variety of bathroom remodeling tasks, including tiling and replacing commodes or faucets. Look for: products that put everything for a job in one box, says Tratensek.

Veteran do-it-yourselfers also might be able to help out with some of the demolition work, says Silva. "[But] I believe in leaving the electrical and plumbing to licensed persons because you don't want any problems."

-- Posted: April 7, 2003


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