PHOTO BY CROSSFORD CONSTRUCTION /Postmedia
If a New Year’s resolution wasn’t encouragement enough to purchase a gym membership, a bathroom renovation might be.
That’s the advice from local renovators for homeowners who plan to undergo work in a single-bathroom household, where they will have limited to no access to a toilet, shower or bath for the duration of the project.
Depending on how luxurious your changes are the time span can range from 10 days to a few months.
Of course a gym membership isn’t the only option. You can use the shower at a friend or family’s home, simply stay elsewhere during the renovation or make a do-it-yourself wash station in the kitchen or laundry room.
Roni Powell, 72, chose the latter.
Her main bathroom was made accessible during a three-week renovation. Because it took place during the winter, it was difficult for Powell to leave home.
PHOTO BY BLACK WALNUT KITCHEN AND BATH /Postmedia
“It was quite an upheaval but I was able to wash my hair in the kitchen sink for the time being, because that’s all I could do,” she says. “It wasn’t the end of the world.”
Powell’s biggest concern was the toilet.
“I didn’t want to come all the way downstairs at night to use my powder room for risk of falling down the stairs,” she says.
Justin Linden, chief designer at Black Walnut Kitchen and Bath, didn’t want her to risk falling either so he reinstalled the toilet every day.
“I think that’s what most people want— someone to take care of them,” says Linden. “Renovations should be fun and if people are getting stressed out, then I’m not doing my job properly.”
It’s not something all renovators do in Ottawa but reinstalling the toilet daily made a huge difference for Powell, who said Linden’s accommodation, expertise and personality are the reasons she has hired him “over and over” again to work in her home.
Renovators in Ottawa agree that bathrooms are one of the more difficult renovations to undertake.
“If you renovate your family room, for example, you’re working with some electrical, some drywall, some floor finishes, some paint and maybe some trim work but bathrooms are involved with almost every single trade,” explains Gordon Weima, owner of Gordon Weima Design Build.
Bathrooms can require plumbing and electrical work, tile, cabinetry, counters, vanities and more lavish features like heated flooring or towel racks.
Each trade has to complete their portion of the project before the next. It’s a step-by-step process made harder due to the small size of many bathrooms.
Local contractors say that proper planning is key to a successful bathroom renovation and is vital for homes with only one bathroom to minimize the amount of time without a working shower and toilet.
Before the work starts, a solid budget and design should be agreed upon. If a permit is needed, it should be approved. Products or customized cabinetry should be ordered or available and structural or health concerns, like asbestos in the drywall, should be managed beforehand when feasible.
“You’re going to be losing the bathroom for the duration of the construction so you want to make it as efficient as possible,” says Lindsay Nicol, owner of Crossford Construction.
“Knock off as many decisions as you can to make it easier on the person or people performing the work to make sure it flows smooth and expeditiously.”
Nicol, Weima, and Bob Steele, owner of Kitchen and Bathrooms First agree that interested homeowners frequently underestimate cost and time.
Weima estimates that bathroom renovations vary between $15,000 and $50,000. More luxurious features like marble countertops, heated flooring or therapeutic bathtubs will obviously raise the cost.
“A bathroom or kitchen renovation does hold its value very well and gives you a return on your investment,” says Steele. “Now, if the renovation goes bad it’s just the opposite.”
With such a range of trades, there are a lot of opportunities to go wrong. Bad plumbing can result in ankle deep water while you’re showering, toilets that don’t flush or loud pipes that bang when the water is shut off.
The most obvious is a poor finish where visual elements like tiles, cabinetry or counters look cheap or ugly.
So how do you ensure you’re getting the best for your buck?
Hire someone you trust.
“I know that sounds simple but hire a professional, hire someone that is credible, that has references. There are so many horror stories I hear of. People will start the job and not finish. Homeowners will put down a huge deposit and not get it back,” said Weima. “It all comes down to who you hire.”
“You want to be able to trust someone so that you end up with a result you are happy with. I can’t understate how important that is,” he said. “There are a lot of pretenders out there, but a bathroom is not something you want to mess up.”