Bathroom remodeling requires a plan

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The bathroom is the smallest room in most houses and, along with the kitchen, one of the two rooms most often remodeled.

Limited space is typically the chief constraint in a bathroom remodeling project. That’s because the usual floor plan is only about 8 feet by 5 feet, and once the essentials are in place, there’s not a lot of room for anything else, says Jim Bateman, owner of Bateman Custom Construction, a home remodeling company in Fairfax, Va.

“If the typical bathroom is all the space that’s available, you’re kind of restricted in what you can do. You have to look at ways to make it prettier, or choose things that might make it more functional, (such as) a walk-in shower instead of a tub bath,” he says.

One way to overcome the constraint is to enlarge the bathroom. That can be done by incorporating an adjacent closet, hallway, part of a bedroom or merging two back-to-back bathrooms together. Bateman recalls one couple who converted an unused child’s bedroom into a master bath. With that much space, it’s possible to include a separate tub and shower, Roman or Jacuzzi tub, dual showers, double large-bowl sinks, or even multiple big fixtures.

Major amenities

The shower, tub or combo question is crucial because any configuration will consume a big chunk of floor space in a bathroom remodeling job.

Today, big showers are “in,” according to Robert Criner, president of Criner Remodeling, a home remodeling company in Newport News, Va.

“We take more tubs out,” Criner says. “But always leave one in the house, at least, for children or resale.”

A shower big enough for two is an especially hot item in bathroom remodeling projects, and doesn’t have to be hospital-like, but it can be functional and attractive.

“If you’re 30, you think, ‘This is going to be fun.’ If you’re 60, you’re thinking, ‘I can get some assistance.’ It works for both ages,” Criner says.

Two other high priorities are lighting and storage space.

Proper lighting is especially important in a larger bathroom where dark areas or shadows might be a problem. One mistake to avoid, Criner says, is a light fixture above a vanity that creates shadows on a mirror used to apply makeup.

Cabinets are important because many people want a place to keep medications in the bathroom.

“That means nice cabinetry on one or both sides of the mirror over the vanity or, if it’s a double sink, a cabinet that goes to the ceiling between the two vanities. It’s only 12 inches deep or less, but it’s for all the medicines and paraphernalia people use around the sinks,” Criner says.

Aging in place

Homeowners of any age should consider adding aging-in-place or so-called universal design features when planning a bathroom remodeling project. Examples of universal design include grab bars in the shower, a comfort-height toilet, a walk-in or curbless shower, and power outlets and light switches that are low enough to be reached from a wheelchair.

It’s often easier and less costly to make provisions for these accommodations while other work is being done, rather than wait and retrofit later when the accommodations are needed, says Gary Henley, president of Henley Homes, a home remodeling company in Liberty Hill, Texas.

“When we open up those walls, go ahead and put the blocking (for grab bars) in there because, eventually, they are going to need it,” he says.

Remodel return on investment

The average cost of a midrange bathroom remodel was $15,782, of which $10,295, or 65.2 percent, was recaptured when the house was resold, according to the 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling magazine. An upscale bathroom remodel cost $50,007, on average, and recouped $29,162, or 58.3 percent, of the cost.

Adding a second, third or fourth bathroom is more costly and recaptures less of the investment as a percentage at resale. The report found the average cost of a midrange bathroom addition was $37,501, of which $20,569, or 54.8 percent, was recouped. An upscale bathroom addition cost $70,969, on average, and returned $39,730, or 56 percent, of that investment.

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