Who Renovates and Why: Part II

By Steven V. Philips –

The two most common rooms that undergo home renovation projects are the kitchen and the bath. Last month I expounded on the kitchen so this month we deal with the bath. The big trend currently is to tear out the bathtub and replace it with a big walk-in shower with multiple showerheads, a seating area and sometimes a steam feature.

“Realtors tell me houses with no tub are hard to sell,” says Gerry Gingras at Crown Colony Construction in Connecticut. “But my demographic wants showers, no tubs. And also better quality tile, fixtures, vanities, tops and lighting.”

Technically, a bathroom cannot be called a full bath without a shower, tub, toilet and basin. Realtors know this. So, for resale it’s smart to have at least one bathroom with a tub because that’s where small children get clean. Families in the market for a home need a bathroom with a tub. Retiring Baby Boomers, not so much. They’re looking for glamorous spa features because they’ve spent too many vacations in fancy hotels in Vegas.

The good news for the impatient and budget-minded is that a bathroom redo is relatively fast compared to kitchens which tend to be complicated. Kitchen remodeling-talk starts with “Our doors and drawers stick” and before you know it someone is saying, “Hey, let’s open up this room to the dining room/family room.” Or, “we really need a new addition.” The word “endless” comes to mind.

So kids, to execute your bath dreams successfully ask what a qualified remodeler can do for you on your budget? Budget comes first. And then be prepared to go over that figure by as much as 15 percent. Bad surprises can happen when you fool with plumbing. About the contractor,  speaking oh-so-subtly, he should not be a liar. You want on-time and on-budget and to specs. To make sure your contractor will deliver on his promises and time schedule, get drawings and detailed terms on paper. Ask to see the license. And call for references. Really. At least two.

Crown Colony has their own office building, not just a fetchingly cute red pick-up with a shiny roof rack. The client’s decisions are made in the CC conference room, not on your lawn in the rain. Very reassuring to new clients. And Gerry, or his project manager, visits your job on a regular schedule to check for compliance. I think because he was a actuary as young lad, he’s picky. Not so easy to find. The picky part. Builder/actuaries are sooo common.

Gerry finds that while a majority of clients today come from client referrals, a Web presence is still very important. Sayeth Gerry, “When we decided to focus on the remodeling aspect of our business, our early clients came 90 percent from the Internet.” Now it’s far more from satisfied word-of-mouth clients. “The problem is that most people who have had experiences with contractors have nightmares about it. Those contractors who can get the job done without making enemies are hard to find.” Duh.

Expect a reputable contractor to require 1/3 down, 1/3 midway and final at finish. He’s not a charity. Get everything in writing.

Start-to-finish time on a fully ripped-out to the studs and totally replaced bathroom, is 8 to 10 working days. Losing a bathroom, even for that time is no fun, so book your mother-in-law into the Holiday Inn. Two towns away.

In a typical Northeast bathroom the total remodel figure runs from $7,500 to $15,000. Marble costs, faux marble not so much! And only replacing a commode or a vanity, is obviously less.

Kitchens are difficult to estimate due to many variables. And the construction surprises that are found don’t help! Be prepared to use a hot plate for three to four weeks. Holiday Inn for your mother-in-law again.

Look for the good contractor to have the critical trades-people on his payroll. Trade sub contractors bring unpleasant surprises in the form of cost over-runs, delays or worse, lousy work. As in “I’m going fishing for a week or two. Wrap a rag around the leak.”

Kiddies, ask all the right questions before you sign. Once the deal is on paper, shut up and stay away and keep your sense of humor. If you’ve done your homework, your contractor will prove reliable. The contractor wants you to be happy, and nobody wants to end up in court. Changes mid-work cost money and time. If the remodeler is left alone, the job will finish on time, on budget and happily for all.




5 thoughts on “Who Renovates and Why: Part II”

  1. I think the only time a house should have a shower (no tub) is if there is a master bath. A hall bathroom should never have just a shower.

  2. Now that I have become a subscriber to F&M, I can can look forward to reading articles from my favorite columnist, Mr. Phillips. There are quite a few things we can learn from him.

  3. I just returned from design center heaven. We were in Kohler Wisconsin. WOW the new designs for bath and kitchen are endless! If you don’t have a budget it’s like a kid in a candy store.
    Great advice on the remodel project.

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