Angie's List offers advice on bathroom upgrades

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

When it comes to bathrooms, forget that old ceramic tile and clunky shower door. Remodelers and homebuilders are reporting that "sleek" and "stylish" are the current trends, and they may be here to stay.

"Remodeling bathrooms is a popular home improvement project, but they're not cheap. They can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

An Angie's List contractor survey revealed that homeowners are willing to spend handsomely on better bathrooms because much of the cost – often around 80 percent – comes back to them on resale. People are pulling out their ceramic tile in favor of cultured marble panels, thick-glass shower doors and sleek fixtures. They want to enjoy their bathrooms, not constantly maintain them.

"They're tired of fighting the grout lines. They're tired of having to re-caulk. Maybe they don't have a lot of people in their family members that squeegee a lot. So by that maintenance standard, they want something that's easier to clean," said professional bathroom designer Mary Wright.

"Consumers are looking for less work around the house especially when cleaning their bathrooms, so the trend remodelers are seeing is more walk-in showers with frameless doors because they're just easier to maintain," Hicks added.

They also look very modern, much like the floating vanities many people are going to. Homeowners seem willing to give up that underneath storage space in exchange for a streamlined appearance that makes it seem like a bigger room.

"People really like having that open feel. They don't like, necessarily, feeling so built-in, so compartmentalized in the space any longer. They're trying to more or less to take down the walls, have a much more spa feel," said Wright.

Free-standing tubs remain very popular. As for fixtures, chrome, brushed nickel and Venetian bronze are still in style.

One contractor says his average remodeling project is now starting at 20,000 dollars after years of costing 15,000. Hicks warns everyone to be careful not to overspend and then price yourself out of the neighborhood when you go to sell.

5 Steps for planning  a bathroom remodel:

  1. Evaluate the space The first step to planning a bathroom remodel is evaluating the existing space. If you're planning on updating or renovating an existing bathroom, what would you like to see improved? Do you want to update the look of the bathroom by changing details like lighting and mirrors, or are you interested in a major overhaul? Answering these question will help give you a clearer idea of what you want the finished product to look like.
  2. Make comparisons Whether a bathroom remodel pays off in terms of improved resale value often depends on what comparable homes in your neighborhood feature in their bathrooms. For example, if every home in the neighborhood features just one bathroom, you could improve your home's sales appeal by adding a second bathroom where one previously didn't exist.
  3. Think about your future plans Much of what you decide to take on during your bathroom renovation work should depend on your future plans. If you plan on moving out of your home in the next five to seven years, a modest project that updates that bathroom for mainstream tastes may be a better option. If you plan on staying in the home for more than decade or for the rest of your life, building the custom bathroom of your dreams can make more sense.
  4. Create a budget Bathroom remodels are expensive, so make sure you spend wisely. Take an objective look at your budget and take a realistic approach about what you can afford. Invest in high quality workmanship and high quality materials. Don't skimp on items like the faucet, sink or toilet, for example, because this is a highly utilized area and you want things that are going to hold up. Cheapest isn't always best. If you're trying to do your bathroom on a budget, consider choosing just a couple of elements to remodel. Maybe you keep the floor but change out the sink to meet your budget.
  5. Determine what you want and get professional advice Once you've decided how much you can afford to invest, it's a good idea to do some window shopping for the materials, fixtures and features you'd like to include in the remodeling project. Material costs can quickly add up, but they're only a portion of your total budget. Unless you're an experienced DIY renovator, you'll need to hire an experienced contractor to install bathroom features like plumbing lines, sinks, faucets and toilets, ceramic tile, and flooring.  

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