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#1 Home Renovation During the Pandemic




Contagion aside, a sparkling bathroom is where people get ready to face the day. Over time, it has become more than a functional space and now is viewed as more of a retreat. And the way folks are renovating reflects that trend.


According to a 2021 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, homeowners are seeking more of a “spa feel” for their bathrooms, which starts with an uncluttered layout, adds in some mood lighting, and calls for a soaking tub, which was on the wish list of almost 70 percent of respondents.


While the median expenditure for bathroom renovations was $8,000, people undertaking something more major (including a shower upgrade) might spend multiples of that. Shower upgrades include rainfall shower heads, which more than half asked for; almost a quarter wanted dual showers. Some 13 percent eyed a thermostatic mixer, a shower valve that mixes the hot and cold water supplies to set the temperature.


People remodel for a variety of reasons, according to the study, and about a third of respondents wanted more storage, while another third wanted a bigger shower. Some 14 percent of homeowners want more than one sink.


Almost 9 in 10 were looking for a style change, opting for transitional (that magical point between traditional and modern) and contemporary styles, which are roughly equal in popularity.


At the least expensive end of the spectrum, almost 40 percent of people installed dimmable lighting, a quick fix that can have a big impact.


Nearly 1 in 5 also put some form of greenery in the room to further reinforce that wellness vibe and spa atmosphere, up 5 percent from the year before. (For owners showing a house to sell or rent, It’s not a bad idea to pick up an inexpensive potted tree before prospective buyers or tenants come in.)

Investments that give back

There is much debate as to whether expenses will be recouped after a project, but the consensus is that doing the work is worthwhile.


According to Kitchen and Bath Shop, bathrooms can “make or break the deal in a home resale.” They recommend a new tub, creating a spa-like ambience, and/or making the shower doorless (a trend to be sure).


A few experts recommend painting the walls an offbeat color, but most recommend against it, saying it’s better to stick with the tried and true neutral colors such as white for kitchens and blue for bedrooms and bathrooms.


Kathy McCleary writes in HGTV Magazine that she and her husband “dreamed about granite counters and steam showers; what we ended up with was a new furnace, new gutters, and a draining system to keep the basement dry.”


When speaking with realtors, architects, and contractors about whether they had made the right decisions, the consensus was yes. The idea was that if the roof was leaking, buyers or renters won’t care how swanky the bathtub is.


But McCleary says that in a hot housing market, bath remodels are sound investments since people spend a lot of time in them. Having enough baths matters a lot: adding a bath to a home increased the sale price by 8.7 percent, more than twice the number for adding a bedroom.

Think neutral when it comes to colors

Bathroom color schemes tend to be fairly limited, with all-white, black and white, and black and white with wood accents the most popular. Black and white is a particularly good choice because it’s dramatic without being too loud, and is generally best kept to the floors and maybe some trim.


Walls are most often white, but some decorators recommend light blue; the next most popular way to go is gray, which is used about a quarter of the time, according to the Houzz survey.


Painting an ugly — think ’80s or ’90s faux-cherry — vanity white, and replacing the top with an engineered material such as Corian or a piece of cut stone for a more upscale look, can brighten the space.


Replacing hardware and fixtures (pulls, handles, knobs) is another less expensive way to quickly add some luster to an otherwise dull space. Changing out the medicine cabinet with something eye-catching can also go a long way to freshening the look.


There are plenty of fixes, both on the higher and lower end, that can be put into play that are well short of a full renovation.

Bathtubs

For a tub that allows for a good soak, there are myriad options. One major decision is form: an alcove, a freestanding model, or a walk-in.


MINOR: A 60-inch rectangular white acrylic soaking tub, meant to fit into a 32-inch-deep alcove, can be found for less than $300. It can be paired with a tub surround, about $300, that covers the three walls and turns an alcove into a shower without the need for tile.


MAJOR: The sky’s the limit for a freestanding model in resin with all sorts of bells and whistles (such as mood lighting and a build-in sound system). Even without the electronics, a nice one can cost $1,300 to $2,500. The (usually) oval shapes take up far less space.

Tile

Stylistically, it’s a way to unify the space and give it some character. White or very pale gray is the most universal, but the adventurous remodeler can go wild with color.


MINOR: Basic 3-inch-by-6-inch subway tiles — an evergreen choice — will run a little over $1 a square foot, so they’re a bargain. Swapping in a 3-inch-by-12-inch version, which is more interesting but still classic, will run closer to $4 a square foot. All come in white, gray, and colors. Penny tiles, another classic choice, can be had for about $3.50 a square foot.


MAJOR: A step up in appearance and sustainability would be eco-friendly encaustic tiles, which are made from cement. (No intense heat from a kiln required.) They come in a variety of finishes, most often an appealing matte, and are available in solids but are often used in colorful and geometric applications. The 2-inch-by-8-inch subway tiles will run about $15 a square foot.

Showerheads

For something that performs such a simple task, there are a dizzying number of choices, from a simple showerhead to a full-on system.


MINOR: Low-flow showerheads have come a long way since the early models that used needle-like high pressure to compensate for lower water volumes. Now there’s droplet technology, which changes the size and frequency of how water is delivered to make it feel like more is pouring down. Great models can be had for as low as $60.


MAJOR: For the ultimate in modern shower trendiness, try a walk-in or doorless model. To avoid soaking the whole room, these configurations use a rain can, the delightfully wide heads mounted directly. A swanky 12-inch diameter model in a glam nickel finish can run as high as $1,500, although it’s possible to find a great one for far less. These used to water hogs, but now are low-flow as well.


LUXURY: Why stop at a mere showerhead? Go for an entire system. Available features include steam showers, huge flush-mounted rectangular spray units that deliver a veritable rainstorm, multiple showerheads that come from several angles at once, plus lighting and sound. The OMEGA Multifunction rectangular steam shower cabin from Jacuzzi can be had for a cool $25,000.

Vanities

Picking a vanity is governed by space issues, and comes down to the number of sinks and how much storage will be useful (hint: a lot).


MINOR: Even a simple, one-sink vanity adds a clean look and provides a little (or a lot of) extra storage space. These are available for as little as $200 for a plain, painted-wood model for a single drop-in sink with almost no counter space and a little bit of storage; spend $500 to $700 for something with a wider stance, more counter space, and even a few drawers.


MAJOR: Those who have space might go with a double-wide vanity that houses two under-mount sinks. This will provide plenty of space for two people getting ready for work (even if “work” is in the next room).


The top models are made from hardwoods like white oak and “float” off the floor (wall-mounted, that is), with marble (or other stone) or Corian tops. It’s easy to spend $1,500, or up to $7,000, on one of these.

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