How Hard Can It Be?

A simple bathroom remodel. How hard can it be, right? Right!

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Published on 02 Feb 2023

It is common for us to get calls from homeowners hoping against hope that the littlest room in the home, the bathroom, can be easily remodeled for a few thousand dollars. After all, they saw it done on HGTV in less than 30 minutes for 5k!
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No design is complete until it is in use.

We all know there’s an unseen crew of 12 behind them, months of planning and gobs of unseen money being spent behind them like a glitter bomb at a kid’s birthday party. They are setting you up and it’s not fair to you! Even the reality remodel shows don’t do it justice. Although we will admit the 2022 Ugliest House in America mini-series does a pretty good job of showing how bad, bad can be.

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No design is complete until it is in use.

To put it another way, remodeling your bathroom (any room really) shouldn’t be on your average homeowner’s Honey-Do list. You are not getting that one done in a week or so.

Let’s be Fair. It is Not Easy and for Good Reason.

Granted we are having some fun with these examples of installation madness, which are rare, thank God, and not typical of most DIY’ers. Consider these as cautionary tales to illustrate the importance of design done right, in the correct order and by a unified team.

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There is such a thing as too handy.

Just because the room is small, doesn’t mean it is easy or won’t get complicated. Size has less to do with it than you think. What also matters is the age of the existing structure, its strengths, and weaknesses in materials. What adjacent rooms are affected, and what are the potential hidden dangers such as mold or rot? How about the utility of the space utilization and layout functionality and building code compliance regarding plumbing, electrical and HVAC? All are prime factors that only experienced design/build experts fully understand.

Who is Your Friend, Really?

There are literally a half dozen questions one must know to ask and be able to answer to change out a single toilet. A full gut-and-replace remodel of a bathroom will require dozens upon dozens of the right questions to be asked and answered in detail.

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Our most recent master suite remodel was not $8,000.

It's hard to know who to trust anymore. Prize Fighter Mike Tyson, once said, “Everyone who fights you is not your enemy and not everyone who helps you is your friend.” True enough. HGTV is your entertainer, not really your friend. Another case in point, consider the 2022 Houzz.com blog which states the national average for a master bathroom suite remodel is $8,000. If only it were true.

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Sonya Teclai

“Of course, it depends on what you mean by a remodel,” explains Murphy Bros. Director of Project Development, Bob Mock, has more than 30 years of experience managing remodeling projects of all sizes. “I suppose you could paint the walls, maybe replace the countertops or a big-box vanity for that. But I wouldn’t call a simple surface replacement a remodel.”

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From left: before and after remodel. You don't see carpet in bathrooms very often, but every now and then...

A successful remodel is based on knowing what to ask and getting the answers right the first time. When was the last time you did a DIY project that didn’t require at least 5 trips to a big box store because you didn’t think far enough ahead to ask all the right questions? Be honest now. That knowledge of knowing what to ask is the hidden value you get with a design/build approach to remodeling.

What is the Value of Knowing & Asking?

Think of design as the master plan. Done by a true design/build approach it encompasses all the disciplines including psychology, safety, mathematics, biology, geometry, color theory, physics, moisture control, material science, financing, style trends, construction management and scheduling software.

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One of our Design/Build Consultants checking the detail on a 2-D plan.

All that for a simple bathroom? Yep. In fact, for an average remodel we would start with these basic questions to determine the scope, plan, and budget:

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  • Who is the remodel really for?
  • What are the pains being addressed and how important are they?
  • How do you live in the space to be remodeled?
  • How long do you plan to live in the home?
  • Does anyone have special needs now or in the future, such as grab bars?
  • What about storage and access to things?
  • How important is resale value vs. enjoyment now?
  • What style appeals to you?
  • Will utilities need to be relocated?
  • Will the footprint be expanded?
  • How will this affect adjoining rooms and their surfaces?
  • What is the desired durability of your materials based on predicted use?
  • How level/plumb are the ceilings, floors and walls?
  • Vanity cabinet style?
  • Number of sinks?
  • Undermount or top mount?
  • Backsplash?
  • Wall color?
  • Vanity height?
  • Accessories such as towel rods?
  • Vanity color, paint or stain?
  • Cabinet pulls or knobs, style, color, finish?
  • Drawer depth, composition?
  • Soft-close?
  • Faucet style and functionality?
  • Lighting type, placement, and temperature in degrees Kelvin?
  • Shower curtain or glass, sliding or hinged?
  • Walk-in shower?
  • Zero threshold?
  • Free-standing tub or built-in?
  • Tile selection and pattern layout?
  • Grout color?
  • Tile edge treatment?
  • Toilet style, pedestal, or wall-mount?
  • Trim pattern?
  • Door style?
  • Windows and type?
  • Electrical requirements & placement
  • Ceiling texture?
  • Permits?

All of these are considered BEFORE the project is ever signed, scheduled or built out. It is the culmination of dozens if not hundreds of hours of thoughtful work by drafters, designers, project managers, estimators, and production directors, all working together on your behalf within the design/build framework.

And Then There's You

Or more likely two of you, each with all your own likes and dislikes. Someone has to skillfully help you both negotiate and navigate through all of these decisions without causing any harm to you, your marriage, your budget, or the timing. That’s our job. What’s that worth to you?

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Who's remodel is it anyway?

Since every remodeling project is as different as the people for whom it is performed, no two designs are going to be the same. Sure, they contain many of the same basic elements and are produced with the exact same process and order, but it is designed specifically for you and your family.

So, is remodeling hard? If done right, let's say it is challenging and complex. If you want hard, do it without a detailed plan, budget or proper guidance. That's hard and expensive!