When you lay down 8K to 20K for a new master bathroom you want to be sure that everything is done correctly and will stand the test of time and repeated use. I get many questions from homeowners on the correct methods for making sure the bathroom is completed properly. This article is designed to educate homeowners on the proper methods for remodeling a bathroom including materials, how to apply them and what should be done in preparation for the final materials that make up the finished bathroom.
Gut or not to gut
If you can afford it, it is better to completely gut the bathroom so you can make sure that everything is put together properly and previous problems won’t shorten the life of your new bathroom. Gutting the bathroom down to the studs exposes everything and allows the contractor to see and repair any potential issues. This is especially true if you think your previous shower or tub and tub surround have leaked in any way into the walls. Trapped moisture causes many problems down the road. In addition, gutting the bathroom gives you the homeowner the ability to select where everything goes and add additional things like electrical, ventilation and lighting without manor issues.
Framing & Insulation
One thing bathroom remodelers are looking for in any bathroom remodel is moisture damage on the framing from an old leaky bathroom. Making sure the framing is dry and sound are paramount to the finished product being correct. Believe it or not, the framing for your bathroom takes proper planning as you want the contractor to account and frame (Block) for items like towel bars, toilet roll holders, medicine cabinets and any bathroom hooks that may be installed down the road.
Obviously, if the bathroom touches an exterior wall it needs to properly insulated with your choice of insulation. For basic installs, regular faced r-13 insulation is good for 2×4 exterior walls. The best option for exterior wall insulation is spray foam, but this can be expensive. Outside of the exterior walls, you should consider sound proofing insulation to lessen the noise transfer through the walls. Let’s face it, nobody wants to hear other people in the bathroom. There are very good soundproofing insulation options on the market at a reasonable cost.
For new bathrooms, the best option for water supply lines is converting the old copper lines to Pex pipe and fittings. Typically the plumbing is converted from copper to Pex where it emerges from the slab. Pex pipe has unique advantages over traditional copper including material cost, ease of routing, fabulous freeze protection and cheaper labor for install. Of course, regardless of the type of pipe used it should be installed on the warm side of the insulation. Also making sure the plumbing is properly vented is key to making sure everything drains the way it should.
Plainly stated, your bathroom should be properly vented and the layout of the bathroom determines the amount of venting needed. If you have a private water closet (toilet Area) it should have its own venting solution. In the primary part of the bathroom, the venting should be at the highest part of the ceiling and the exhaust fan should be properly sized for the square footage of the bathroom. Whether the vent should have a light in it is up to personal choice, just make sure it’s vented. You can install humidity sensors that automatically control the exhaust fan as well. All vent fans should be exhausted to the exterior of the home, either through the soffit or through the roof. Venting into the attic is a very bad idea.
Shower and Tubs
When building a new shower, taking the time to do it right will allow many years of enjoyment and functionality. Installing a new tiled shower pan looks the best and will last the longest. The shower pan is made up of a shower liner that is installed correctly. This means the shower liner is laid flat on the slab floor and extended 16 inches up the stud walls and properly secured to the walls and sealed around the drain. Hardi backer (Or other cement board) is installed on the walls down 2 inches off the floor and over the pan liner (Accounting for new mud pan). Hardi backer should be properly screwed to the walls using the manufacturer recommended screwing pattern. The Hardi Backer joints are sealed with fiber tape and thinset and a waterproofer like red guard is installed. Finally, the new mud pan is poured and shaped to allow for proper water fall to the drain. Shower heads should be installed at a height to cover most people, the typical install height is seven feet from the floor. Of course, there options for multiple spray heads and rain head that come out of the ceiling, the choice is yours.
When installing tubs (either drop in or skirted tubs) having the framing done correctly is paramount to many years of use. Consider this, water weighs over 9 pounds per gallon, when added up this is a lot of weight the tub has to carry, and this is before the human gets in the tub. If the tub is jetted, providing access to the motor is essential for future servicing. Tubs should have the proper framing installed and be set in the proper mortar bed to reduce movement and cracking, especially of the tub is fiberglass.
Cabinets & Countertops
When it comes to bathroom cabinets, they should be solid wood if at all possible as laminated pressboard is very susceptible to moisture. Having the cabinets custom made ensures the cabinets are strong enough the handle the typical granite install. Drawer guides should be full extension as storage is a premium in most bathrooms. If the cabinets are painted make sure the contractor properly preps the cabinets including sanding, priming and using the proper oil-based paints.
Cabinets should be installed after the floor tile is in and grouted. This way the homeowner has the optionof changing the vanity in the future without affecting the floor and having to modifications. This also helps if there is ever a leak in the sinks as the leak will be more readily visible and not collect in a pool under the vanity cabinets.
Solid surface countertops should be handled by a firm that specializes in these products, They have the proper tools an training to make sure these items are done right. A quality granite company will do the proper measurements and install the countertops and sinks as a part of the price. The choices and grades of countertops are nearly endless and up to customer imagination.
Glass doors and finished products
Most consumers these days are going with frameless shower doors. These doors are elegant and highlight the beauty of a proper tile job in the bathroom. Again, these items should be left to specialist companies. Typically the shower glass company will insist on taking their own measurements after the shower is completed. With the rise in frameless shower doors, traditional frame and semi frame shower door manufacturers have really increased their offering for beauty and style. There are many options available to customers for these typically cheaper shower door solutions.
Customers can go crazy here but the focus should be on proper task lighting for the activities that are done in the bathroom. Proper lighting also makes the difference between well lit functional areas and a damp dark cave that nobody wants to spend time in. At a minimum, the lighting options should cover all of the critical areas including the vanity, toilet, and shower. Can lights need to be Insulation contact rated so they do not cause fire risk and fail prematurely.
Some of these topics may seem very technical in nature. However, it is always a good idea for homeowners to understand what should go into a proper bathroom remodel so they know what to look for. Insist on having your contractor explain the process and show you the materials that go into your bathroom. This will make the difference in the beauty and longevity of your bathroom and the investment. Remodeling a bathroom is always a good investment as homeowners will recoup 70% of the cost in the sales price.