We recently embarked upon a bathroom upgrade. We had never done something like this before. Certainly, we learned some lessons. In the end, I give us a B+. Here are the lessons and story of the project.
Problem and Floor Plans
We are actually remodeling two bathrooms. The kids bathroom was too big and the master bathroom was too small. Other problems were that the master shower was so tiny that I had to crunch down to get my hair wet. The whole bathroom was old and crusty. I felt bad every time I went in there.
I worked in Figma and designed a better layout. I put a wall down the middle and made each bathroom roughly the same size. This seemed to make the most sense to me.
Note: My mother was the catalyst to change the bathrooms. Without her help, we would never have kicked off the project. Thanks Mom!
Getting a Contractor
Next, we had to get a contractor. This was actually quite difficult. We didn’t like any of the people who came to see us. It was surprising to us. We thought there would be more acceptable options.
Finally, we chose a contractor and got started. The estimate was 8 weeks and way more money than we had anticipated. We took a big gulp and went forward.
In the beginning, the contractor is super helpful and says all the things you want to hear. (Insert foreshadowing music here)
The contractor helped us in the beginning. They made some 3D renders. They helped us refine the layout and pick out materials like flooring, tiles, and shower styles.
Unfortunately, the help dried up a bit as the project progressed. They didn’t help us get vanities or figure out the sink fixtures.
Meanwhile, the construction began. We have an active dog that will try to run outside if he has a chance. The contractors would not keep the door shut. They kept letting the dog out. No matter what we told them, they kept letting the dog out.
Lesson #1: If you have an active dog, you are gonna have a bad time. You have to lock it in a room all day.
The walls came down immediately. A minor incident happens where the workers ran over the neighbors fence with their truck. That was unfortunate. Still, the outline of the rooms came into focus pretty quickly.
This is where we started to feel the pressure of decision making. There were many questions to be answered. Should the shower head be on this side or that side? Where should the vent come out? What size will the vanity be?
Lesson #2: Permanent mistakes can be made early, when the walls are just frame. Pay attention to the details.
In theory, the contractors should have been there to help us with every decision. This is not the case. We had to make the decisions without experience and with an imperfect idea of how this will end up.
Lesson #3: You have to be in charge. No one will care as much about the details as you.
My wife seems to think that the contractors or a “designer” should have been there to help us with these decisions. I still stand behind lesson #3. You might get lucky and the contractor or designer helps you decide. However, I think most people should go into a project like this assuming that they need to babysit every single decision.
The contractors WILL make mistakes without realizing it. You need to watch closely. A mistake that you blame on the contractors will annoy you for years. The effort to stay on top of the details is essential and required.
Time Passes and Setbacks
They needed to remove asbestos. They needed to upgrade the electrical in that area of the house. They proposed replacing the electrical in the whole house for a bazillion dollars.
Lesson #4: Contractors WILL try to upsell you for additional services. Don’t let them unless it is totally unavoidable.
The contractors actually made a mistake regarding the electrical and it cost us an extra $10,000. This is the kind of mistake Lesson #4 would have helped us with.
The contractors created a leak in the garage and didn’t fix it for quite a while. The measurements of the bathtub turned out to be inaccurate, so we ended up with a tub smaller than the one we would have liked. There is an air vent in the room and the contractors put it in a super awkward position on the floor.
There were mistakes made.
However, there were many things that turned out well. The flooring looks nice. The skylight in the kids bathroom is delightful in the morning. Beautiful sunshine. The tiles in the bathrooms look really nice, especially with the nooks. The faucets and shower heads work well. The lighting is nice. The vanities look nice, although the drawers open in a really odd way. You have to really pull hard to open them.
They had some professional photographers come to take pictures. Here is their handiwork.
In the end, I think about the user experience of the bathrooms. I am much happier now than I used to be. It feels like a spa. The flooring is comfortable and the shower is spacious and beautiful. We love the skylight and there is plenty of storage space.
Hopefully, this will increase the value of the house by at least the amount that we paid for the upgrade. Even if it doesn’t, I feel happier every day as I do my morning routine.
Some of the potential next projects:
- Replace the carpet
- Redo the hardwood flooring
- Fix the backyard grill
- Kitchen expansion
- Spring cleaning
Projects are stressful, but if you spend the money and pay attention to the details, you can increase the value of your house and your daily happiness.