Monday, February 29 2016 10:43

A Small Bathroom Remodel - Part I: Preparation

Written by
  • While all content is editorially chosen, articles may contain affiliate links which may generate revenue for the site when a purchase is made.

They say that one thing leads to another... and in the case of our home, that's absolutely correct. The entire #RockFatherRemodel Project was spawned by one major problem - a leaking bathroom that came through the ceiling of our family room/play room. That was just the beginning, as various components of that overhaul led to further projects, and as we sit right now, the process is ongoing. The full remodel of the Master Bathroom was a must-do, and a daunting task despite bringing in professional help for the bulk of the work. If you're like us and live in a modest, suburban home, our projects will hopefully serve as inspiration that a home can improve with age.

Rock Father HQ is a 1,372 sq ft home built in 1990. With just 1.5 baths, the Master Bath is what I call a "normal" suburban bathroom, a modest 5'x9' room with an 8' ceiling... what most deem to be "a small bathroom." Like many of the homes in the subdivisions that popped-up like crazy in the early 90s, ours wasn't built with the finest of materials - a prime example of "Contractor Grade" or "Builder Grade" crap. Looks great on the surface, but actually live in it for awhile and you find off-sized doors, angles that aren't quite straight... all the fun of home ownership! 

Our only full bath, this room was not only dated, but we knew when we bought the house in 2010 that it was due for an overhaul at some point. During the home inspection, a re-grout or re-tile was suggested, but we just hadn't gotten to it until the leak became visible. The immediate things we did upon move-in was to pull up the stick-on tile that was covering the ceramic underneath, and to put white paint on the cabinets, which were that early 90s brown. I also replaced the door.

A close look at the ceiling in our family room/playroom indicated that a patch job had taken place at some point prior to buying the house, so the full source of the water loss wasn't going to be apparent until everything was ripped apart. Having previously had some good experiences with The Home Depot At-Home Services, we contacted them again for the bathroom... first in December of 2014.

Home Depot's contractor for the Chicago area is Absolute Kitchen & Bath out of Indiana, so they sent a rep to check out the house and throw some ideas on pricing and materials our way. What caught us off-guard was how expensive the labor costs were for such a small room, with the first pass coming out between $10K-$13K. We sat on it for months, but the leak got worse, and we had to get things rolling. By summer of 2015 we had the rep come back and re-price things, a quote that went up significantly. The total quote on the 5'x9' room was over $16,000, and looking at the breakdown, we were looking for some areas to do better on a smaller budget. Again, the labor cost seemed high for such a small space, but where The Home Depot has the hook is on the financing - we took out a Project Loan to cover the labor, and all the materials that we'd need. If you're thinking about using The Home Depot, there's a couple things to watch out for...

Knowing we'd have to finance much of the project, there wasn't really a better deal than the low-interest Home Depot Project Loan. The kicker is that we could've gotten the labor done significantly lower (possibly half or even less) had we been able to hire local contractors and pay them outright. Of course, the debate for that from THD and their contractors is the whole "backed by the power of The Home Depot," with warranty and project management, but overpaying is overpaying, and we'll talk more about that later. What was particularly interesting is that Absolute brought with catalogs from plumbing supply companies, and in some cases tried to push ordering products from those catalogs through them - even downplaying items purchased from The Home Depot has being "for the DIY'er, and not professional." I found that a bit odd, and off-putting, but we rolled with it, later confirming my suspicion that the rep was commissioned. No fault for trying to make a few extra bucks, but when it's our money being spent (or financed), we're gonna keep it in check.

A lot of labor money goes toward demolition, so if you're doing a remodel, you can save thousands by handling as much of the demo as you can on your own. There's things to weigh, however, like the fact that the contractor will handle removing the debris as well. As we continued looking closely at our quotes, there were some things we cut - like a nearly $500 charge for installation of two bathroom fans. I hired a licensed, local electrician with stellar reviews to handle that aspect... for $150. The guy did such a great job, I had him fix some wiring in our kitchen, do some new light fixtures downstairs, and eventually had him come back to put overhead lighting in all three bedrooms - something we never had before. You do good work at a fair price, and more work will follow. We finally got our labor knocked-down closer to the $12K range, and then decided to source most of the materials ourselves (sans contractor supplies and the American Standard bathtub).

Much credit for the design of the bathroom goes to my wife, who really led the way in picking out and putting together all the pieces. One of the first was MARAZZI Travisano Tile. 

One thing leads to another...

With scheduling in-progress, my wife started thinking that while the workers are out here, we may as well have the tile in our downstairs Powder Room and the small foyer in front of it replaced with the same tile as the bathroom. Absolute came out and added that onto the contract - another nearly $3K of labor tacked-on, and some added materials cost as well. Realizing that the tile job would require removal of the vanity and toilet, we opted to expand our scope to doing both bathrooms in one-shot - ordering new cabinets and fixtures for the downstairs as well.

Our friends at MOEN stepped-in to supply some beautiful items from their Banbury Collection, Mediterranean Bronze faucets, towel bars and more, along with some coordinating Old World and Oil-Rubbed Bronze pieces to complete the total look. 

From September-November, it was all about gathering supplies and waiting for permits and scheduling.

To Be Continued in Part II: Installation...

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

Learn more here

Connect with James on Facebook or Twitter.