My first home renovation was my bathroom. I hired a local company and we together created a master plan to redesign this small room. Then I went about picking out materials, appliances, furniture, and fixtures for my new bathroom.
Ron, owner at New England Equity Builders (pun intended) went about setting up inspections, finding a plumber and electrician, sourcing supplies and appliances, renting a dumpster, and scheduling the work.
What I wanted for my bathroom:
- To use some green building materials
- To have some sort of mildew and mold resistance
- To be easy to clean and keep clean with eco-friendly products.
My bathroom’s issues that affect the design:
–Size of the room
–Window in the room that I wanted to keep.
My bathroom has a window right in the shower area. And that window looks out into the backyard. I love that, and there are only two visual vantage points into the back garden and one of them is in the bathroom, so it’s not going anywhere. A window is also one of the best things to have in a bathroom because it guarantees your ability to air the humidity out the room therefore preventing the growth and spread of mold and mildew. I will have an exhaust fan installed to add to the ventilation possibilities. Since we have winter here I don’t always want to have to open the window. The fan will be high test, super charged or whatever it takes to make sure it is effective.
Who I wanted to work with:
**A bathroom contractor who, besides having skills and ability, was an honest businessperson
**A person who understood good design
**Who had good quality craftsmanship and workers
**Who was clean and easy to have around
**Who would finish the project in a timely fashion and stay on budget
**Who could communicate
**How I searched for a bathroom contractor
The first company I called a guy came over and looked around for a few minutes but he wasn’t interested in my idea of a freestanding tub and shower, but he couldn’t explain why not. He seemed to have a formula for a watertight bathroom that certainly didn’t include a window! Horrors! (Ron, the person I did hire, later talked me out of having a freestanding tub and shower by pointing out there wasn’t enough room to do it right. He was correct.)
The second company spent 2 hours mapping out my existing bathroom, but then took 6 months to call back with an estimate. My new bath had been installed for months by the time the second company contacted me back.
I found company called New England Equity Builders that I found in my search engine searches and emailed and called them. Ron, the principal of the company seemed like the intelligent, professional, creative, yet not too pricy person that I could work with. I wrote the deposit check in early September and work started soon thereafter, as promised and contracted.
HOW I WENT ABOUT THE BATHROOM DESIGN
Ron and I together designed the bathroom. My background in landscape design and fine art took me only so far in being able to design a functional, beautiful, successful bathroom. So, Ron’s advice was to go to a local bathroom showroom and a local tile store, and look around for materials and ideas.
o Shower stall materials,
o Vanities and sinks
Ron designed out the existing soffits. What a relief because now the room has nice clean lines and it feels bigger, which it literally is. I decided to use bead-board for the lower half of the walls, to continue the style from the adjoining room, and bead board is just right for the 1932 craftsman style bungalow that I own. I know this from watching Rehab Addict, btw!
Between the painted walls above and the bead-board below there is bullnose white subway tile. We continue the line of the bullnose into the shower and through the vanity backsplash (also of white subway tile) using the Emperadore Light Accent Tiles.
Floors and Walls
All of the decorating decisions were made around the stone that I picked out for shower stall and floor. I had to have Mystic Seagrass Limestone for the floor. It has a greenish grey color and has real fossils in it. Being a nature girl, I had to have real fossils in my floor. So that color guided all of the rest of the color and décor choices. Ancient shells are what limestone is made from after all, but some of these fossils are still intact sea creatures. Love it!
Would the Crème de Marfil marble that I loved a lot go with the Mystic Seagrass Limestone? The marble is off-white—a soft, creamy, relaxing color that speaks of cleanliness without seeming sterile like bright white. The limestone is greyish green, greenish grey, whatever. Joining limestone and the marble into one cohesive bathroom that also could seamlessly merge with my Pergo floor outside the bathroom would take a little bit of color design mastery. Between the two of us we did it by using Emperadore Light Accent Tiles in strategic places on the walls and on the floor, along with a new oak doorjamb.
Bathroom Vanity and Cabinet (bathroom furniture)
Next thing to choose was the vanity and cabinets. They are, after all, the furniture in this small room so their choice had to come next and the rest would follow. I love the compact Euro style vanity because it saves space while still give you a nice size sink.
At the showroom I found a medium priced, “hardwood material” vanity and cabinet by Foremost Group, called Palermo in a gorgeous espresso finish. This is the one not so easy care feature of my bathroom, but I love dusting and washing it, the surface is so glossy and smooth! The Euro vanity has a recessed, white, ceramic sink. I was going to get the matching framed mirror too, but Ron convinced me that the room was too small for all of that dark wood. A plain piece of mirror was his suggestion and that is indeed the perfect choice.
Sink, Tub, Shower and Wall Fixtures
I settled on Delta brand because I was told that Delta brand is quality without a killer price. So what style and color? I chose the Leland collection in Stainless. I knew wanted a single handled faucet for the sink, and a hand held in the shower. The brushed stainless finish looks amazing with the dark espresso wood and bright white sink of the vanity. The showerhead is called In2ition and I love it.
Updating this post a year later I must report that Delta brand fixtures are not the greatest. They have all malfunctioned and it’s only been 2 years. The tub faucet developed a steady drip and required a pricy plumber visit to fix. The sink faucet has a slow steady leak now, and the kitchen sink faucet that I had installed at the same time is also really sticky and hard to move gracefully, and totally frustrating. I will have to look at replacing all of these Delta fixtures with a better brand as soon as I can afford it!
I also bought towel rods, a door hook and a tissue dispenser. They were all on sale from Amazon, of course, with free Prime shipping. They are functioning fine : )
I found the soaking tub I wanted by reading about bathtubs on Amazon reviews. Lots of people liked the American Standard Evolution soaking tub. It has a special plumbing feature that allows you to fill your tub almost to the very top by moving the out take line higher than normal. You can literally sit in this tub with water up to the base of your skull, if you are not too tall that is. Very close to being a ‘hot tub’. But, you must make sure you have a big enough hot water tank or hot water system to be able to fill the tub.
It turns out that my inherited, ancient hot water heater is pretty small (40 gallons) and I have to fill the tub in increments. It takes time but I still get my hot soaks. I decided not to get the 6 foot tub, although I could have actually lain out fully in the tub and floated (great for re-birthing! Remember that?). Instead I went for the 5 footer. It is cheaper to fill up that the 6 foot tub, and left room for a set of shelves next to the tub/shower area. I can’t say that I am rationing my water use when I take a long soak in my new tub
Custom designed by New England Equity Builders, the shelving looks fabulous and is awesome for storing some towels and mats and stuff. Although one snafu was that the adjustable shelves they made were not sanded smooth before being stained creating shelves that were really hard to keep clean. The guys sanded and re-stained them and now the shelves are somewhat smoother and easier to clean. This little custom piece of carpentry was stained with a Kona color stain that closely matches the Espresso colored furniture.
I also wanted some shelves in the shower area, somewhere I could put some plants. Here is what Ron designed for me.
I installed my own shelf over the toilet a year later using these antiqued rustic shelf brackets.
Don’t forget the all-important toilet. I wanted a taller toilet, one for an aging adult so I got the Kohler Cimarron 1.28g/flush. I am actually a tad short for my throne, but it is still better than a child’s height toilet. And it works like a charm with hardly any water.
I found this really cool brushed steel sconce light with a halide bulb for over the mirror. The light is semi direct and warm. Who needs harsh lighting just so we can see our wrinkles better? Maybe not bright enough to apply makeup with though. The ceiling light is inside a Broan brand exhaust fan, and there is a spotlight in the shower complete with dimmer switch (outside the shower area). That was a later addition to the scope of work that Ron graciously added to the project at no extra cost. Now I can read comfortably in the tub. The fan works really well to carry away moist shower air and unwelcome odors.
Wall and Ceiling Paint Colors
I found paint chips at Lowes and then so the guy at Tags Hardware in Cambridge, one of few places one can purchase Mythic, non-toxic paint was able to match my colors. My colors are Buttermilk white, Leaf Bud green, and Bright white for the ceiling.
I had a great time at the Frank Webb showroom, at Best Tile, online, and at a local lighting store. I joined Amazon prime in order to get free shipping on many items that the contractor did not purchase for me.
All the plumbing associated with the bathroom has been upgraded too and with proper venting out the roof. The bathroom smells no more.
What I didn’t get:
• Heated floor
• New hot water heater
Installation was not that bad. They built a little plastic vestibule outside the bathroom and basement door, and that really helped keep the rest of the house clean. The workers were polite and Wayne said “good morning sunshine” every morning which really annoyed me at first but now I miss it : )
When Ron (that is not Ron, that’s Wayne) said 28 days to finish, he meant 28 workdays, which turned into practically 6 weeks. I had a dumpster in my driveway for 3 weeks and it really smelled bad. They told me it was good I wasn’t home when they demoed the room because the floor was revolting. I was so glad when it all went to the landfill.
~~~Area where the paint bubbled away from a strip of caulking looks bad, it’s right at eye level next to the mirror.
~~~Nail holes in the bead board were not filled and sanded before painting. I didn’t notice this right away, but after awhile I realized that it was wrong. An oversight or something. Maybe the schedule was too tight to do the job right =:-
~~~I’m thinking of calling Ron about these things before my year warranty runs out. He put me off for so long about 6 months ago that I just gave up trying to get him to come back over. I am a contractor myself so I get it, but as a homeowner I also get it. Hmmmmf.
Is that all I have to complain about?
Actually, today the electric inspector came by telling me that there was never a final inspection and the permit was never signed off on. I’m not sure who was supposed to be responsible for this, Ron, or me but I guess I will have to tie up the loose ends myself.
It is great when the work is finished and you have your home back, much improved!
ANOTHER UPDATE NOVEMBER 2015
An unscheduled hot water heater replacement occurred last week. I opened my basement door one evening, Friday evening, dontcha know, only to find my basement flooding with hot water. Luckily my plumber came right over and we discovered a busted pipe inside the old water heater had caused the flood.
My basement floor got a nice cleaning, and I got a cool new Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater! It has four settings, including a vacation mode. Hybrid is the default setting. From the company website:
The Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump reduces water heating cost by up to 66% through an innovative design that pulls environmental heat while dehumidifying and cooling the ambient air at the same time.
The SHPT-50 uses heat pump technology to deliver tremendous savings, by generating heat through the heat pump technology instead of the heating elements. It offers premium features including a user-friendly display, vacation mode to save money while you are away, and a heavy duty anode that protects your tank for 10 years. In addition to the heat pump technology, this model also has two heating elements that help the water heater recover quickly during periods of high demand.