Large Bathroom Upgrades

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Large upgrades cost more than $4,000, although some can be completed in a day or two. Enlarging a bathroom generally takes at least a week, whereas adding a showerhead to an existing tub can take just a few days and cause a minimum of disruption. A project categorized as large doesn’t necessarily mean a large disruption.


Adding a Showerhead

Adding a Showerhead to an Existing Tub

The addition of a showerhead will significantly improve the usefulness of an existing tub and of the bathroom in general. In new homes it's rare to find a tub without a showerhead, unless there is a separate stall shower in the same room.

Although not having a showerhead probably isn’t a problem as long as the primary users of the bathroom containing the tub are small children, keep in mind that before long they too will want the convenience of a shower.

A successful installation depends on finishing several tasks before adding the shower- head. First, remove the existing tub valve and replace it with a new combination tub and shower valve that will allow the user to select one or the other. You will need to turn off the water supply to the house while changing the valve. It’s a good idea to let everyone in the house know when this is to take place so that they will be able to plan their activities that require water.

You will have to remove the wallcovering surrounding the existing valve in order to extract the valve. No special care need be given to the wallcovering surrounding the tub, since it will have to be replaced with a waterproof surface.

Once you have removed the existing valve, install the new valve according to the manufacturer’s directions. If the old valve was installed with galvanized pipe and the new valve is to be installed with copper pipe, be sure to use dielectric unions that will keep the dissimilar metals from deteriorating via electrolytic action.

Before cutting the vertical length of pipe that will run from the valve to the shower- head, hold the new showerhead up to the framing to determine a height that will be suitable for those using the shower. Make a pencil mark on the framing, and measure from it to the valve to determine the length of pipe that will be required. The average showerhead is about 6 feet above the floor.

Once you have roughed in the new valve and showerhead, expose the wall framing by re moving the balance of the wall- covering that surrounds the tub, from the top ledge of the tub to the ceiling. This will allow you to inspect and repair any water or fungus damage to the wood framing members surrounding the tub. Consult a contractor authorized to diagnose and make repairs if you suspect even the slightest damage.

Apply a vapor barrier over the framing, followed by a layer of water-resistant wall board, mortarboard, or a bed of mortar, depending on the wall- covering that you will use. Water-resistant wallboard is an excellent substrate for solid- surface material, such as cultured marble, cultured onyx, or Corian®. Mortarboard or a mortar bed is a must if the wall- covering will be ceramic tile or marble tile. Although the new wallcovering can go to the ceiling, it's especially important that it extend at least 6 inches above the showerhead, usually 6½ feet above the floor.

Finally, install a new tub enclosure or a curtain and rod to protect the surrounding area from water damage. Do not in stall a new tub enclosure until the surrounding wallcovering has had a chance to set, typically not less than 48 hours. Furthermore, allow the caulk that surrounds the frame of the new enclosure to dry for a minimum of 24 hours before using the shower. This will help to ensure a watertight seal.

The cost of this improvement will vary according to the size and height of the tub enclosure and the type of wall- covering selected. Cultured marble and cultured onyx are among the most popular materials, and they are also the least costly because no mortar bed is needed under the product, which saves on labor.

These materials are also among the most versatile in terms of design. Both come in a wide range of colors and patterns, offering almost limitless deco rating possibilities.

Corian is another popular but expensive solid-surface material. It is seamless and is installed in much the same way as cultured products. Unlike cultured products, however, Corian has no surface finish that can separate from the core; it's of a uniform substance throughout. The manufacturer recommends polishing the surface of the product with a dish- scrubbing pad to maintain a clean and attractive finish.

Ceramic tile is the most versatile material in terms of color, size, shape, texture, and finish. Ceramic tile installed in mortar is second only to Corian and other solid-surface materials as far as cost is concerned. Unique and interesting patterns and designs can be created with ceramic tile—an effect that can’t be achieved with other materials. The main disadvantage to ceramic tile is the ongoing maintenance associated with the grout that surrounds each tile. Corian with a decorative border is a popular alternative that almost eliminates the grout maintenance necessary with a horizontal ceramic tile installation.

Marble tile has become one of the most popular upscale bathroom wallcoverings. The natural veining and patterns that are inherent to marble add unusual interest and elegance to any bathroom. However, because of the depth and density f the patterns, marble tile can be overwhelming in small spaces. An advantage to marble tile is that because of the large size of individual tiles (usually 12 inches square), there are fewer grout joints than with standard-sized ceramic tile, and the joints are significantly narrower, making maintenance considerably easier.

Installing a Skylight

A skylight can convert a dark, uninviting bathroom into a light and cheerful space. It is especially useful in a bathroom without a window or an exterior wall where a window could be installed. Unfortunately, many roof-framing configurations prohibit the installation of a skylight. A thorough inspection of the roof in the attic will determine whether you can in stall a skylight.

A skylight adds architectural interest to the bathroom, and an operable unit greatly enhances ventilation. Skylights are sold with hand cranks or automatic openers. Other popular options include tinted glass, energy-saving gas-filled thermal glazing, and retract able shades.

Because the installation of a skylight typically involves carpentry work, wallboard, insulation, roofing, sheet metal, and painting, this project is often best performed by a professional. A home-improvement or remodeling contractor is most likely to be able to help you. According to statistics gathered by major construction and real estate organizations, the addition of a skylight offers one of the best returns on the investment.

Enlarging the Bathroom

When you need more space for a bathroom remodeling project— for a second sink, a separate shower, a bidet, a whirlpool tub, or added storage space—the major decision is where to obtain the added space. You can take space from an adjoining room, eliminating a closet or reducing the size of the adjoining room itself, for example.

A project of this magnitude requires a well-thought-out bathroom design as well as attention to the impact on the adjoining room. If it's a bed room, will the smaller room still be comfortable and accommodate your furniture? Would taking over the entire adjoining bedroom be more appropriate? This is especially popular in homes with four or more bedrooms that have two or fewer bathrooms and where the master bedroom and bathroom are both too small. In such cases, the existing master bed room, master bathroom, and an adjoining bedroom can be combined to create a new master bedroom suite that includes one large bedroom with perhaps a sitting area, increased closet space, and a larger, more elaborate bathroom.

As you can see, what begins as the need for a second sink or a tub separate from the shower can balloon into something considerably more complex. The project can be very expensive if the new design calls for moving the plumbing fixtures, especially if there is no crawl space and the floor consists of a slab on grade. Other structural concerns may further complicate the project.

Because of the complexity of this upgrade, in terms of both design and construction, it's generally a good idea to enlist the services of a design-and- build contractor, a designer or space planner, or an architect. In addition to helping create a workable design solution, the person you choose will also be able to point out any potential design or construction pitfalls that should be addressed.

The proposed plan should be presented to local building officials to ensure that it meets current health, building, and safety codes. A building permit will most likely be necessary before construction begins. Periodic inspections will be required during the construction of the project.

Because a project such as this can range in cost from $5,000 to more than $50,000, you should give a great deal of consideration to the budget as well as the design.


Skylights, neutral vinyl flooring, a sit-down vanity, and brass fixtures and drawer pulls exhibit a range of upgrades that can add distinction to a bathroom without undue expense.

Adding a Whirlpool Tub


Installing a Whirlpool Tub: Removable access panel for whirlpool motor and switches; To create a wider ledge, build a second frame parallel to the first; Cover frame with waterproof wallboard or tile-backing unit, depending on finish material.

A whirlpool tub can turn even the simplest bathroom into a more pleasant place to be. Aside from the added comfort that these tubs offer, they enhance the overall look of the bathroom. Whirlpool tubs are sold in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, colors, and finishes.

Like other bathtubs, whirl pools are available in enameled steel, cast iron, cultured marble or onyx, acrylic, and teak. They can also be custom-built in place with tile, granite, or marble. The prefabricated models are available with a skirted front similar to that of conventional tubs or in self-rimming styles, which are designed to rest on platforms. The platforms are constructed of wood and then finished with the same type of material used to surround the tub.

Decorative ledges and interesting designs are possible with either type of tub. The skirt is sometimes removable to pro vide access to the pump motor. Building codes require that there be access to this motor; this can be achieved via an exterior access or through an adjoining closet or room, should the configuration allow.

Enameled cast-iron tubs are usually the most expensive, not only for the tub itself but for labor and installation materials, which can cost almost as much as the tub, depending on the changes that are required to install the tub and the type of wallcovering you choose to surround it. Acrylic tubs are the most popular and offer the greatest selection of shapes and sizes. They cost about two thirds as much as enameled cast-iron tubs and are considered easier to install.

The size of the pump motor and the number of jets will also greatly influence the cost of the tub. Most tubs are equipped with either a 3 or a 1-horsepower motor and from four to six jets. Additional jets are available; in some cases you can specify the location of the jets if the tub is a special order. For example, if the lower back or feet would benefit mos from the jets, the tub can be configured that way.

The most cost-effective way to add a whirlpool tub is to replace the existing tub with one of the same size, although this may be difficult if the existing tub is the standard 60 inches by 30 inches. Most whirlpool tubs are larger and more elaborate than standard rubs and are frequently large enough to accommodate more than one person. However, an aggressive search will probably reveal a variety of tubs that will work within the confines of the existing space.

If you would like a more spacious tub, some minor framing changes may be all that's required for installation. For example, you may find a tub that matches the existing tub in length but is a little wider (36 to 42 inches), which would greatly enhance the comfort of the tub and even provide space or more than one person to enjoy at a time. However, avoid installing a tub so large that it overwhelms the space or makes using the other areas of the bathroom either unsafe or uncomfortable.

Installing a new whirlpool tub involves many different aspects of construction. For example, it will be necessary to remove the wallcovering and wallboard surrounding the existing tub to make way for the installation of the new tub and surround. If the new tub will not have a showerhead, the new surround can be as simple a 12-inch splash to protect the wallboard surrounding the tub, If the tub will have a showerhead, the wallcovering should be waterproof (tile, for example) and will need to extend at least 6 inches above the showerhead. Once the wallcovering, wallboard, and existing tub have been removed, make any framing changes needed to accommodate the new tub. Plumbing and electrical changes can be made at this time also. It’s likely that you will need to relocate and per haps replace the tub faucet.

There may be space on the deck of the new tub for a deck-mounted tub filler instead of a conventional faucet. Many new bathtubs include filler valves that are installed as a part of the tub. Underwater light kits are also available, but keep in mind that these elaborate options combined can cost as much as the base price of the tub.

In addition to the plumbing work required to reconfigure the water supply, the drain and waste system will most likely need to be reworked as well. More often than not the existing drain will need to be altered to accept the waste from the new tub. The final bit of plumbing work will involve installing the pump motor. Although most of the tubs manufactured today are pre-plumbed, with all jets and pipes assembled, some minor connections will still need to be made on site.

Due to the size of the pump motor, a separate electrical circuit will be required with at least a 20-amp breaker and a 15-amp ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This means running the electrical wire from a new circuit breaker at the subpanel to the new pump. The electrical connection at the pump motor is typically concealed under the tub. You can have an optional timer switch installed to limit the amount of time that the whirlpool function is used and to control the motor speed. Many tubs offer an optional air switch that allows you fingertip control of the various functions of the tub and avoids your having to get out of the tub to operate the timer. These safe, handy de vices are generally located right on the tub ledge and have become almost mandatory options.

Adding a Bathroom

Of all the improvements that can be made to a home, the addition of a bathroom not only lends the most favorable return on the dollar invested but has a dramatically positive effect on the family’s life-style, especially in a home with too many people and too few bathrooms.

Is an addition to the home necessary, or can the new bath room be located within the existing floor area? In either case, where will it be located? How large will the new bathroom be, and what facilities will it include? These are just a few of the many questions that you will need to address when considering a bathroom addition.

The best place to start is by making a list of what should be included in the bathroom. Will there be a tub, a shower, or both? Is one sink adequate, or is there a need for two? Is a window important, or will a sky light suffice? The answers to these and other questions will help to determine the amount of space required and the approximate cost. This will in turn help to determine whether you can include this upgrade within existing living space or if an addition will be required.

Decorating magazines, home-improvement guides, and model homes will give you ideas on how the space might work. Look into classes that the local community college may offer and how-to seminars offered by trade organizations. Home-improvement and home and garden shows are also good sources of ideas and information. Homeowners can examine a variety of products in the presence of a representative who can answer specific questions. Often, experts on home improvement are available to discuss a project in general, from planning through construction.

You can seek additional de sign and planning assistance from an architect, designer or space planner, or a designer and builder. Sometimes you will need input from a combination of these professionals. The fee for the design should be between 5 and 10 percent of the projected cost of the improvement. An additional 3 to 5 percent is added to the base design fee if the person will select materials and supervise the project.

Before planning a bathroom addition, give serious consideration to the amount of money you can budget for the project, which will likely influence your decisions about many of the design considerations just discussed.

A bathroom remodeling project is as complex to build as it's to design. Unless you are unusually handy, have an open-ended schedule, or are willing to take time off from work, you will need to have a general contractor perform the work.



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Updated: Saturday, March 12, 2011 6:44