All the Suds on Baths

If your home is more than 30 years old and still has the original bathroom fixtures (avocado, dusty rose and powder blue were popular colours in the 60's), chances are they are in need of repair, or are becoming a 21st century eyesore.

Most of us know when it's time to fix up the bath - dirty grout in the shower, leaking faucets, bad plumbing, fixtures that are falling apart. The key question is where to start. A bathroom renovation can involve more time, money and effort than most people realize. It can also increase the value of your home.

Before starting any bathroom project, consider what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend. You can change everything at once, or just one or two items at a time. A lot depends on your budget and what you want to achieve.

Today, bathrooms have become a place to retreat and relax. You can choose from a wide selection of whirlpools, designer fixtures, water- and energy-saving devices and other indulgences that can improve your mood and bring calm to a difficult day.

Minor fix-up
If you can't change everything all at once, but really need to see the last of that ugly vanity and bathtub enclosure, start replacing what is most annoying or in need of repair. This usually includes the fixtures, the sink, faucets, vanity, bathtub, shower, toilet and bidet, if you have one.

New fixtures alone can drastically improve a bathroom's appearance. New faucets can give an old vanity a brand new look. Floor and wall tiles can add colour and texture. They are also easy to install and keep clean. Mirrors and light fixtures can turn a cold, sanitary-looking bathroom into a warm, welcoming, luxurious room.

Bathroom floors can be tile, hardwood or carpet. Walls can be covered with paint, wallpaper or more tile. Accessories can be anything from fancy soap holders to toilet seats that warm your bottom.

Major fix-up
A major bathroom renovation can cost a lot, or it can be quite affordable depending on what special features and indulgences you plan to include. Before cutting comers to save a few dollars, consider that you are investing in the market value of your home. Most REALTORS would agree that renovated bathrooms and kitchens have the best payback potential. In many cases, you can recover as much as 80 per cent or more of your costs.

With all the drains, plumbing, lighting, heating, electricity, caulking and much more, a bathroom is probably the most complex room in a house to renovate. It requires technical expertise and knowledge to do the job right.

You could do it all yourself or hire various tradespeople to do different parts of the job. But if you are planning to tear everything down and start again, your best bet would be to hire someone who specializes in bathrooms, co-ordinates tradespeople and can ensure that all parts of the new bathroom will work in harmony.

Some major bathroom renovations can be a challenge. If you plan to include a new whirlpool, for example, the existing flooring may have to be reinforced and existing pipes may have to be modified to handle the extra water pressure.

Major fix-ups also don't happen overnight. Depending on what's involved, a bathroom renovation can take several weeks. If you are using a contractor, be sure to develop a time line they can stick to before they start the job.

Saving water, energy
While planning your bathroom renovation, considering introducing water- and energy-saving devices that will help cut down on your utility bills.

Water efficient toilets, which use about six litres of water per flush, for example, can significantly reduce water usage. Conventional toilets use anywhere from 15 to 30 litres of water per flush.

Water conserving showerheads can reduce your water consumption by 50 per cent or more, while water conserving faucets can lower water flow to about nine litres per minute compared to a standard flow rate of 18 litres per minute.

Energy-efficient bathroom fans are sized to fit your bathroom space. They usually include an on-off switch that is separate from the light switch so they don't have to work every minute. Often, they also include a time so they can be left running for specific periods of time.



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