March 11, 2015

Renos Reno's - Remodeling a Bathroom

Renos Renovations! Ha ha. #RenosRenos is what I've been using on social media for the last few months. It just fits. We've been doing some incredible things around the house since we bought it just 2 years ago. Let me start by explaining that this was one of the most well maintained older homes that we had seen. No updates, no remodels, and only one coat of paint. While it wasn't the look I loved it was in incredible condition and I was OK with the floor-plan but let me be completely honest: We bought it for the yard. Finding 1/3 of an acre lot was just impossible on new homes and buying a lot and building just wasn't going to work in the area we were searching in. We found one lot the size we wanted and it needed a LOT of work. So here we are. Renovating our home to make it what we want.

This post is wordy. It's more about the decisions and/or problems we faced when we decided to renovate. My hope is that this will help others with their remodeling decisions.

The boys bathroom has been a torture/distraction/project for me over the last 6 months. But that seems to be the story with all our renovations so far. I have to confess there have been moments where I have looked back fondly on my life as a tenant when all I had to do was move in and decorate - that was fun. Then I start to remember the down side to renting and face the renovations with renewed strength and energy.

I've shown very few photos of the house but let me show you the bathroom I am talking about.

(Bathroom The Day We Moved In)

Problem #1 - Face Lift or Gut Job?

Looking at the before pictures you might think the answer is obvious. Gut job please!! The decision wasn't quite that easy though. Removing the tub meant more work, more time, and more money. The rest was an easy choice to get rid of.

After almost two years in the house we knew that the boys bathroom was urgent. Kids can be really hard on a house. Especially one built in 1979 and never updated. The vinyl on the floor in front of the tub was peeling up. The toilet was wobbly and honestly it seemed like the floor was starting to rot around it. I also worried about the floor under the tub. Everything was dated and the tub had to be replaced - it was too shallow (13" depth) for splashing kids. A local bath company came and gave us a $6,000 quote just to do the tub alone - re-fitting it with a new outer shell. I wasn't excited about that idea - I wanted to rip everything out and be very confident that the hidden areas were in good shape. But leaving the tub would have made doing the rest of the remodel ourselves an option. Eventually we decided on complete demolition. It seemed the safer option (because then no possible rot would go unnoticed) and less work on our part.

I am very glad we went this direction. The floor was going bad around the toilet and a little on the front edge of the tub. What a relief it is not to worry about one's safety on the toilet!

Lesson learned: Follow your instinct. Or in this case - go with the gut! It really didn't cost that much more to completely rip out and re-do everything and now it is worry free as well as beautiful!

Problem #2 - Materials!

Oh my goodness. It took a lot of work to find what I was looking for. There are endless vanities, flooring, tubs, tiles, faucets, and everything else you could possibly need to renovate a bathroom. Part of me wanted to have someone provide me with a shopping list and just have it over with. The other part of me was thrilled to shop and imagine. I will confess, the latter side won that battle. I love finding something and knowing it's just right. Trust me - even finding the right toilet was exciting. Am I the only one?

For those of you at a complete loss - Houzz.com is an incredible resource for home design. I have spent a lot of time saving ideas onto various boards. It really helped me visualize my ideas.

Of course there were other setbacks as well. When you shop without a contractor's advice you may make mistakes. There are different types of tubs to go with different surrounds. My tub was designed for tile or panels - not direct to stud panels though. Thankfully most things can be returned. Also - that mistake wound up costing less in the long run as the tile I chose was cheaper than the surround.

Lesson learned: Ask for advice from someone who really knows what they are doing and make sure products will work together. If you don't understand ask more questions until you do. You will be glad and save yourself time and money when you know before you shop.

Problem #3 - Timing

I'd like to say that this hands down has been the most frustrating of all. Not because of the people I've had to deal with - but because of the time frame I've had to deal with. I started shopping in July last year and here we are in February finally finishing this project up. Life happens folks. You know how it is. But when you rip out a bathroom only to have EVERY single weekend be one that you're either away or work can't progress for one reason or another it gets CRAZY! Especially when your kids are using your master bath and you now have tooth paste smashed into the carpeted bathroom. Seriously?! Who carpets bathrooms?! Then you have guests and have to share the master bathroom. (We all survived unscathed - but I really felt bad for my guests.) The bathroom was gutted in November folks. Early November. And now it is almost done 4 months later. And this wasn't a DIY project.

Another note on timing: Even with contractors it's still work to schedule everything.

Lessons learned: Life happens and you have to be patient with the timing of everything.

Problem #4 - Hiring Help

The first question I always ask myself is "Can we do this?" Sometimes that answer is no! As a DIY addict I know my limits. I know how much work I can realistically take on myself and as a busy mother with a huge amount of personal drama in our lives I knew there was no way we could take on the project ourselves.

Oh my goodness it's crazy to think of all the times I've blundered when it comes to getting someone to do work. Working on our yard was DRAMA. This was not as bad - thankfully - but we have had our setbacks. Hiring someone we knew was not bad - he worked hard and did a great job. But the drawback was timing. He could only work weekends. His available weekends and ours just didn't seem to coincide. He finished the demolition and some of the flooring repair and then we searched for a plumber. It only took us 3 tries to get one to come. The plumber installed our bath and changed out things for the new toilet. He did a great job too - but he really didn't like my bathtub. It was a different style than he was used to. I LOVE my bathtub! It is so pretty and modern and I am totally jealous of my boys bathroom right now. But because it wasn't what he was used to it took him longer to install - plus he damaged it in two spots and didn't tell me.

Finally after a few months of looking we met a contractor at the Home Renovations show in Seattle. He's busy - but he does a LOT of different things and he was just the right kind of person for us to work with. VERY very soon I will be able to show the completed bathroom. I absolutely LOVE it!

In two instances the contractor did something I didn't quite like. The first time I was frustrated. I knew it meant more work for them and more time. But I knew I just couldn't be happy with it. After worrying and stressing about it and even talking the first problem over with my husband I brought the issues to their attention. Both times I received a positive response and the issues were resolved without complaint, without any problems whatsoever. That sure made me happy!

Lesson Learned: Take time to find someone who fits with you. Don't be afraid to say what you need or clarify things either. Renovations can get really overwhelming. Don't be afraid to stop and say something doesn't work for you but also be prepared to compromise on solutions. Sometimes there is a reason things were done differently then you expected.

Have you done a remodel or had someone do one for you? Feel free to add your input in the comments section. We have a lot to learn from each other about this and I'd love to hear about your experiences!