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In my decades as a contractor, I have seen my fair share of lousy bathroom renovations. They sound simple enough, but they are not, which is why so many homeowners have bad experiences.
A bathroom renovation is a great way to update the look of a home, add more functionality, and increase energy efficiency. It can also add value to your home. But the most important thing is that it allows you to repair any water damage or mould accumulated over the years.
No matter what your new bathroom remodel looks like, it is essential it be watertight. Utilizing continuous moisture protection is the most effective way to create a watertight bathroom.
Put extra money into doing it right and incorporating some design elements that allow you to age-in-place. For instance, add grab bars, a shower bench and more storage to make life a little easier and safer.
Today’s grab bars are stylish and come in various colours and finishes to suit any decor. Grab bars provide support when sitting or standing, so they should be strategically placed near the toilet, sink, shower or bathing area to provide stability and to help prevent falls. Make sure they are tied into a stud for maximum support.
When remodelling your bathroom, you may not be able to increase the square footage, but remember to include some storage, whether that’s cabinets, a wall unit or a separate chest of drawers.
If you need more space, consider adding a shower niche for your toiletries. Niches are shelving units inset into the wall, that provide a streamlined space for your bathing items. They can come prefabricated, or they can be custom-made, depending on the design. Some units come with a lighting system that helps with visibility and provides ambience to the space. If you don’t like the look of a wall niche, consider adding shelves within the tile work, including corner shelves.
When it’s feasible, I love adding natural light to bathrooms. If there is already a window, I keep it whenever possible, but I have no problem adding one. It must, of course, fit the design and be appropriately installed. In addition, a window offers extra airflow and ledge storage. Make sure you use high-quality, energy-efficient windows and an installer that is backed by a manufacturer. If privacy is a concern, window dressing, frosted glass or a window film can be added.
Bathroom lighting should be bright, consistent, and shadow-free. Good lighting is essential for shaving, grooming, applying makeup, cleaning, and reading the fine text on prescription bottles. Most bathrooms should have side lights, such as wall sconces on either side of the vanity or mirror, in addition to an overhead light for optimal lighting. Remember, lighting in the shower and over the bathing area must be rated for damp or wet conditions. I suggest adding smart lighting features, too.
Install in-floor heating for a bit of luxury. It provides warmth and comfort, which we deserve, especially as we age. Just remember to use a high-quality in-floor heating system.
If you want a separate shower area, will it be a walk-in shower with a small lip or a walk-in shower with no lip — called a curbless shower? Both are good options; however, a curbless model will be accessible for a wheelchair. No matter your style, ensure you use a linear drain with proper drainage. The floor must gently slope toward the drain for efficient water flow, reducing the risk of mould and slips. I’d also recommend including a shower bench.
Even if you decide against in-floor heating, use a high-quality waterproof and vapour-retardant tile membrane over the floor substrate to prevent moisture and mildew damage.
Another essential element is a good exhaust fan. My preference is to use fans that are motion-sensored as they begin circulating airflow before moisture is released, which reduces the likelihood of mould or mildew formation. A bathroom fan should exhaust warm, moist air through sealed, insulated ducts outside, so that walls and ceilings are not exposed to condensation or moisture.
And, finally, use an experienced and reliable contractor, but remember you will also likely need a licensed plumber if any lines are moved or altered and a licensed electrical contractor. Don’t forget about permits. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as homeowner, to obtain all required permits.
A bathroom remodel or renovation is a big job, so take your time and consider some of these tips.
Residents of the GTA can apply for Holmes on Homes: Building A Legacy at makeitright.ca.