Given the complexity of bathrooms—multiple components in a compact space, not to mention all that water—doing the project right is a challenge. (See Remodeling Dos and Don'ts.) On a cost-per-square-foot basis, bathrooms are one of the most expensive spaces to remodel. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. That’s where Consumer Reports’ Bathroom Remodeling Guide comes in. Our product testers have spent months rating the latest toilets, sinks, countertops, and other bathroom essentials to separate the winners from the also-rans. We’ve also interviewed designers, contractors, and real estate pros nationwide to find out what to include—and what to skip—on your bathroom-remodel wish list.
The “Gorilla Style” Method: Bend a metal coat hanger so that the hanger portion forms a hook. This is a great way to fish out any clumps of slimy hair that might be clogging your shower drain. With an old plastic grocery bag acting as your catch-all for the mess, quickly tie the bag shut when all the gunk is gone to contain the odor. Pour baking soda down the shower drain. Then, add vinegar and immediately plug the shower drain with the rag. Wait 20 minutes for tougher clogs.
Powder room: Larger homes often have a powder room, or half-bath, that has little more than a sink, toilet, and a door for privacy. It is a convenience bathroom used by family members and guests when they have no need for the amenities of a full bathroom. The small size and a limited number of fixtures mean that a powder room can be remodeled fairly quickly, but because it is a secondary bathroom, it also means that you can take your time since there is at least one other bathroom that can fill during remodeling.
You’ll spend $3,000 to $8,000 on the typical remodel. Anywhere from 40 to 65 percent of a bath upgrade cost comes from labor. However, doing any project yourself means no insurance and added fees if something goes wrong. Hire a professional for any work you’re not comfortable doing, such as the plumbing and electrical. Consider the pros and cons of DIY vs professional bathroom remodeling.
Inexpensive shelves from a home center transform the wall above the toilet to provide a storage spot for bathroom essentials. Throughout the bathroom, a simple light-and-dark scheme helps the space appear larger, and the same scheme was applied to the vignette above the toilet. The dark tones on the shelves, picture frames, and art contrast with the white towels, photo mats, and bud vase.
Disconnect the trap from the tub, remove any clips, fasteners or screws that hold the tub to the wall, and demolish the old cast iron tub with a sledgehammer. Remove the sink and toilet. Turn off the electricity at the main panel and remove light fixtures. Cap the wires with wire connectors. Then rip out the wall finishes and surfaces clean down to the studs and pull out any insulation. If your ceiling is in good shape, use a utility knife to cut the drywall along the edges so the wall materials will separate cleanly from the ceiling.
Preassemble the shower valve by soldering copper nipples and the shower supply pipe to male adapters and screwing them into the shower valve before fastening the valve to the blocking. That way you won’t damage the valve with heat from the soldering torch. Mount the valve 36 in. above the floor. You can mount the showerhead at any height, but plumbers typically mount them 6 ft. 6 in. above the floor.
These compact spaces are often tucked into nooks in the home, such as converted pantry closets or the cavity beneath a staircase. They’re all about economy of space, though the best examples also emphasize design. “This is not a high-traffic room, so function is not as important as the wow factor,” says says Elizabeth Goltz, owner of Design by Orion in Kansas City.
A one-piece shower pan is the key to a leakproof shower. We opted for an easily installed fiberglass shower pan. Forty-eight inch wide pans are common and will work well; 60-in. units like we used must be special-ordered. The shower pan has to fit into the space left by the removed bathtub. Most bathtubs are 60 in. long, perfect for a 60-in. shower base.
Be adventurous. Design treatments that would look over the top in other parts of the home are fine in the powder room. Deep dark hues, such as burgundy and eggplant, play well in these small spaces. Not that adventurous? Limit dark hues or unusual colors to wall paint. Pricey materials such as vessel sinks, custom floor patterns, and stone counters won’t be as hard on your budget because you won’t need as much as you would in a larger bath.
Adding wainscoting to your bathroom creates a more classic look and lends a bit of visual interest. For a more design-forward approach, invest in a graphic wallpaper, such as this tropical one seen on Design Sponge. By keeping the wainscoting white and neutral, the bold print adds a pop of personality without overwhelming the small space. The white pedestal sink not only uses less floor space than a large vanity but also blends in with the paneling to create an optical illusion of more space.
Once everything has been panned out, we provide you with a detailed quotation which lists all the service costs, materials required (including tiles and accessories) that are needed to renovate your bathroom. Please note that you may wish to use your own supplies and products but we can provide you with customized packages that have them included, as well.