Episode: "The Master Bathroom," season 1
Topping the list of rooms whose renovation will give you the best return on your investment dollar are the kitchen and master bathroom. While the kitchen needs to be family friendly, the master en suite is a more personal place. Remodelling it offers an opportunity to carve out a little space for pampering, primping and rejuvenation.
I’ve yet to encounter a project where money is truly "no object," so my approach is always to get the most for the least and to make it look as though you sacrificed nothing to achieve your dream room. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when designing your home spa:
The toilet rules. Seems crazy, but the first thing I consider when conceptualizing a bathroom layout is the location of the toilet. If you can work with the current location, fabulous, but if you can’t, it’s best to move it within the existing joist cavity (you’ll need to know which direction the joists run in your home). Relocating the toilet and stack to the opposite end of the room isn’t impossible but can be a costly undertaking, and in most cases it’s easy enough to devise a great layout while working with the toilet location.
The his and hers option. A double vanity with two sinks seems to be the norm in master bathroom layouts, but it’s not a necessity. If you and your partner have the exact same schedule and tend to be in the bathroom at the same time during the morning rush you may want to invest in the two-sink approach. If you have a staggered schedule and aren’t tripping over one another, it may be a waste of money. You can design a beautiful vanity with space for two, and save yourself as much as $1,500 by the time you factor in the additional cost of buying an extra sink ($150 to $500) and faucet ($200 to $600), paying for the plumber to rough in and connect the faucet (about $400), and the charge to cut and polish an undermounted sink in a stone counter (about $150). That said, if you are really motivated by resale in the short term, you might want to take the plunge. I was determined to go for one sink but was overruled by my design sidekick, Tommy Smythe, who insisted that I install two.
White tile is cheaper. It’s only natural to be dazzled by the wide variety of mosaics tiles. But at upwards of $20 a square foot (before installation charges), those pretty pieces can drive the overall cost of your reno way up. A typical three- by 5-foot walk-in shower needs approximately 100 square feet of wall tile. If you do the math you’ll soon understand why I tend to use inexpensive white wall tile (about $3 a square foot) wherever possible, and then dress it up with accent bands in the fun stuff.
The case for standalone tubs. You’ll likely experience heart palpitations and sticker shock when you see the price on a deep, luxurious, standalone soaker tub. At about $3,000 to $4,000, they are no bargain, but neither is the $900 built-in option that you might be considering instead. The freestanding option is ready to go and easy to install. One visit from the plumber and you’re in business. Meanwhile, the built-in option needs an army to get it up and running. The choreography goes something like this: The carpenter builds the base, the tiler covers the skirt, the marble company measures for a stone surround (and you pay for the giant piece of marble that gets cut out of the middle), the stone takes two weeks to arrive, then the plumber finally comes to hook it up. In the end, you realize that the giant box of a tub that you just built into your bathroom cost as much – or more – than that cool, sultry standalone tub you thought was out of your budget.
A mirror makes the wall. You might consider the mirror above your sink a decorative accent, and something that doesn’t need to be dealt with until the end of the project, but that could be a costly approach. If you don’t plan the placement of wall sconces, electrical plugs and your backsplash with the dimensions of your mirror in mind, you may end up with a space that doesn’t accommodate a readymade decorative mirror. It’s much easier to adjust the spacing during the rough-in phase than try to find just the right mirror to suit your completed space. Trust me … I know what I’m talking about on this one.
Heat it up. When asked the question "should I heat my bathroom floor?," I have only one answer – yes. On the harshest winter morning when the temperature is deep in the negatives and the sky is still black, stepping onto a toasty floor makes the morning feel a little brighter. If this last indulgence isn’t within your budget, I’d suggest you find something else to sacrifice in order to make it happen.
Know when to stop. Let’s face it: The sizes of master bathrooms aren’t getting any smaller. In order to squeeze in the items on the standard wish list (freestanding shower, soaker tub, double vanity, separate water closet, chair and storage), the average master bathroom is about the size of a small bedroom. If you thought it seemed pricey to tile the shower stall in something exciting, just think about what it’s going to run you to cover all the walls in tile, too. With so much space, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be splashing water on the walls, so why not create some impact with a great paint colour instead of wasting your money tiling walls that will never get wet?