Bathrooms – making a list and checking it twice

If the winter holidays have meant more traffic in your home – kids home from college, grandparents visiting, friends in and out – you may be thinking that all you want for Christmas or Hanukkah is a new bathroom.

The first decision on your list will be whether to remodel a current bathroom, create or expand an existing bath by carving out space from an adjacent room, or adding on so that the footprint of your home is altered with, say, a large master bath. The latter will likely bear the biggest budget, but it may be worth it. If remodeling, one of the biggest ticket items is likely to be moving plumbing, and some homeowners avoid it for that reason. But, if rerouting plumbing will result in the bathroom of your dreams, it may well be the best decision.

Regardless of whether you remodel, expand, or build from the ground up, following are additional considerations that should receive decision-making priority.

As for layout, avoid skimping on space, as dual users need approximately 3 feet to 4 feet of space to avoid having to squeeze pass each other. Also, make sure the toilet is not the first thing people see when passing by the door. Toilets definitely make a statement, but probably not the one you desire. If at all possible, try to conceal it in its own water closet or behind a wall, which is nice for privacy as well. And if it cannot be hidden, perhaps choose one of the new styles that look almost like sculpture.

The focal point of bathrooms is ideally a beautiful shower and/or tub. Though frosted glass was once popular for showers – and they do provide more privacy – most owners of remodeled or newly constructed bath are opting for clear glass. Clear glass allows all of those ceramic and marble design dollars to be shown off to advantage. Similarly, most homeowners favor frameless or semi-frameless showers, with the former costing a bit more.

In terms of function, showers with spa-like amenities for relaxation are replacing jetted tubs. Consider dual rainfall shower heads, multiple spray nozzles, and steam. At the very least, include niches for shower products – no one wants those on the floor or in a shower caddy – and some type of seating.

Overall, tubs are generally not included in every bathroom nowadays. They are more difficult to clean and, for some, to step into. When tubs are included in the design, more homeowners are choosing smaller ones, at 5 feet to 6 feet, and freestanding styles, like claw or pedestal. In any case, for durability we recommend choosing a cast iron or engineered stone material over fiberglass.

Though dressing tables or vanities are not as common anymore, double
or integral sinks – provided you can devote about 6 feet of counter space to the sink area – are popular for designating personal space and ample elbow room. More homeowners still choose vanities over pedestal sinks. However, there are many pedestal styles available with handsome under-sink storage. Vessel sinks look terrific but, often, because of the splash factor, aren’t practical. If you choose one, be sure your counter height is low enough to accommodate the raised sides.yu3a0616

Pictured: North End Custom Homes Bathroom

As in a kitchen, the best material for your countertop is critical. But without as much wear and tear, bathroom countertops may not need to be quite as durable. Yet hot appliances, like curling irons, still need to be considered. Weigh the pros and cons of granite vs. marble, quartz, and solid surfaces before making a decision. Comparisons are readily available online. Whichever material you choose, consider a grommet through which cords can be threaded for a neater countertop appearance.

Also, as in kitchens, a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting is ideal. Washing faces with light from above and in front, about at eye level, minimizes unattractive shadows. Sconces, perhaps set into mirrors, are ideal. For the shower, consider a waterproof recessed style. As for mirrors, most homeowners are choosing to frame them, even if large. And, if at all possible, include a window in the design for natural light. If there’s no exterior wall for a window, a solar tube is a good alternative. An operable style will also allow moisture to escape.

Exhaust fans provide that function as well, but should be vented to the outside, not into the attic. They also need to be the correct size for the job, especially if your shower includes steam. Consider carefully the noise level of your fan because, while a quiet fan may seem preferable, the noise level can provide privacy in bathrooms, especially those adjacent to more public spaces.

For walls, avoid wallpaper which, generally, can’t withstand the moisture level in a full bath, though it can work well in a powder room. When choosing paint, select an eggshell finish for durability.

On floors, ceramic and stone are the most popular choices for aesthetics and function. Wood looks and feels warmer, but is not impervious to water. However, many ceramic tiles with a very convincing wood look are available in today’s market in a wide range of finishes. Properly installed heated floors keep toes toasty warm.

And for faucets and cabinetry hardware, the most popular and timeless finishes are still brushed nickel or polished chrome. But there are others, like oiled bronze for an Old World feel, to consider.

Hopefully, these considerations will remove the naughty and preserve the nice when transforming your bathroom spaces.

Kitchen upgrades that make the grade

The frenzy of cooking and family togetherness of Thanksgiving is now past. And if this favorite culinary-centric season left you thinking that the heart of your home is in need of a serious upgrade before next year’s feast rolls around – say, opening up the space to adjacent rooms – we are here to help you make the grade with an abbreviated checklist of sorts. Just think A-F and you’ll leave no stone(ware) unturned.

 

A

Aesthetics: Of course you want your kitchen, the hub of your home, to look terrific. As you begin to plan your remodel – a process that should take longer than the actual construction – one of the questions to ask yourself is whether you want a kitchen that looks like a kitchen – often a more modernist approach – one that looks like another room in your home, or something that’s somewhere in between. Your answer will drive many of your aesthetic decisions about what to conceal or reveal and whether to include furniture-style details.

Appliances: Among the many obvious appliance decisions related to aesthetics and function, a couple of key considerations are whether you need one oven or two, as well as whether a microwave oven is as indispensable as it once was. Most homeowners need two ovens only once or twice a year, and many are ready to jettison the microwave. An increasingly popular decision is to select a single oven and a dual-purpose combination microwave-convection oven. As for ranges, be sure that whatever model you choose is vented to the outside. Hearth, mantel and chimney-style range hoods will help transform this, the hardest working appliance in your kitchen, into a handsome focal point.

B

Budget: Kitchen remodels are not inexpensive, depending on the extent of the remodel. But these $30K-$50K jobs enhance the livability of one’s home immeasurably. And while it is unlikely that you will recoup more than 65 percent to 70 percent of the cost should you sell your home, your inviting kitchen just might be what sets your property apart from others on the market.

C

Cabinetry: Based on the clutter factor, most homeowners still prefer closed, solid wood cabinets. But many possibilities exist for combining closed cabinets with open shelving. Soffits, unless they hide ductwork, are a thing of the past. Yet cabinets that stretch to the ceiling create hard-to-reach space at the top. One attractive solution is lighted, glass-enclosed cubby holes for display. Another is to stagger cabinet height so that some reach the ceiling and others don’t, creating an airier feeling.

Countertops: Natural stones like granite and marble are practically unbeatable for their “natural” beauty, but they are porous. Hence, sealing is recommended. Yet, most people don’t do it, so don’t let that be a deterrent. Soapstone, with a range of colors limited to whites and grays, is also natural, but is nonporous and more pliable, meaning it is less likely to crack from stress or weight. Slate, too, is nonporous, but it comes in a somewhat wider range of colors than soapstone, and is more affordable than granite or marble. Engineered quartz countertops – ground quartz mixed with polymer resins – are durable but more expensive. Concrete is heavy, sometimes requiring additional reinforcement. Do your research before making an informed decision for your application.

D

Design: While you could certainly serve as your own designer/contractor, professionals can see past the limitations that often limit homeowners’ imaginations about what could be. Plus, professionals are not only trained to solve functional and aesthetic problems that crop up in a kitchen, but they know how to avoid painful design mistakes from the outset.

E

Efficiency: The equilateral “work triangle” from refrigerator to range to sink is still a fundamental principle in kitchen design. Avoid letting your desire for the highly sought-after “eat-at” center island upset the flow by incorporating one of the points of the triangle into the island.

Extras: It is easy to become seduced by these bells and whistles: “instant hot” dispensers, pot fillers, warming drawers and many more. Think carefully about which of these sometimes costly add-ons will really provide increased functionality.

F

Fixtures: The importance of lighting can scarcely be underestimated in a kitchen, whether overhead or under-cabinet task lighting, preferably on dimmers. Though recessed lighting is popular, consider flush mounted fixtures for all-over brightness absent that “surgical suite” feel. And, while pendant lighting adds pizazz, pick a style that won’t leave your friends and family seeing spots.

Flooring: Wood is edging out tile for kitchens because of its warmth, both literally and figuratively. Even sealed, though, it is not impervious to water, especially in a leak situation. A possible happy-medium is ceramic wood-look tile.

Though this checklist barely scratches the surface, it hopefully lays the groundwork for top marks on your kitchen upgrade.

For more kitchen tips visit our website at vbhomesliving.com

So, you’ve decided to remodel your home. Here’s how to select a contractor.

You’ve decided to remodel your home. That means you’ve decided to, as Southern architect Bobby McAlpine would suggest, reflect “the gorgeous world inside of (you).” And that is no small decision. Nor is it an inexpensive one. But it is transformative. In this month’s column, we provide you with tips for choosing a top-notch remodeler to ensure a rewarding renewal.

Think of this matchmaking process in four categories: business experience, technical expertise, customer service and communication, and company policy.

In terms of business experience, legitimate remodelers will maintain a permanent mailing address and phone number so they can be reached in a timely fashion, and they will carry proper insurance. In Virginia, for jobs exceeding $1,000, contractors must be licensed as Class A (unrestricted dollar amount), Class B (up to $120,000 or $750,000 annually), or Class C (up to $10,000 or $150,000), each with appropriately stringent requirements.
Though there is always room for newcomers in the industry, someone with an established presence may be more likely to have financial stability and solid relationships with trade contractors and suppliers, not to mention an excellent reputation with peers and with customers who would be willing to offer recommendations. Membership in a trade organization demonstrates a commitment to professionalism, as do professional designations like Certified Graduate Remodeler.

When assessing technical expertise, beware of the very low bid, which could indicate a lack of knowledge of actual costs involved. Your remodeler should offer a warranty and have an intimate knowledge of products and materials used for your project, offer an array of options and maintain a portfolio of finished projects at the ready. This professional should also arrange for the building permit, thereby rendering him or her the contractor of record who is, as such, liable for the work.

Your remodeling contractor should be someone you are happy to welcome onto your property day after day, as well as someone with whom you feel comfortable addressing the issues that are bound to arise. Be sure this person not only listens to and fully understands what you need and want, but enthusiastically embraces your ideas. Ask for examples of how the contractor has solved remodeling challenges within budget for other customers. And assess whether this person’s communication style suits yours.

Finally, understanding company policy and procedures at the outset will help you sidestep heartburn along the way. Insist on a written contract to include work performed and a fair payment schedule. And be sure you understand procedures related to changes such as to design, materials or schedule.

McAlpine asserts that the only reason to build a house – and we would assert, remodel a home – is to “expand the territory of the heart.” Hopefully, these considerations will do just that while helping to avoid heartache.

Have a question on building or remodeling? Please send them to chris@vbhomesliving.com

Shiplap

One of our favorite finishes that’s trending right now is shiplap! This design creates a unique coastal feel for your home. Back in the day, shiplap was mainly used in older homes, constructing sheds and barns because it was the cheaper way to build, but now it’s seen in houses to give a different interior finish instead of just a plain wall. Shiplap is very versatile, so it can be used in any space throughout your house. There are several different ways you can finish shiplap:

  1. Use Cedar wood with a semitransparent stain
  2. Sand and paint the pine wood for a smooth finished look
  3. Natural pine wood with a stain for a natural finish

In one of our spec houses pictured below we decided to use shiplap to add a different interior look for this coastal cottage home. We decided to use cedar wood and sprayed it with primer to create this coastal finish look.

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Pictured below is an example of painted shiplap

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Picture by: Bungalow Blue Interiors

In this picture below is another way to use shiplap. Here they used hard pine and stained it for a natural finished look.

hallstrom-home-shiplap-kitchen

Picture by: Hallstrom Home

Visit our website at http://www.vbhomesliving.com for more design ideas or visit our social media sites that are linked on our blog home page.

VB Homes Living Fall Newsletter

Featuring the Liebler and Mutzabaugh’s recently renovated homes. You will be excited by the Liebler’s master suite addition and the Muztabaugh’s exterior before and after renovation.

Thank you to our trade partners: Custom Contracting, James Hardie, and Clayton Hicks with TowneBank Mortgage.

Also thanks to our publication team: photographer Glenn Bashaw, Danya Powell Bushéy with Carte Blanche Marketing, and graphic designer Kendra Parker.

Be sure to look for VB Homes in volume 4 of The Scout Guide Virginia Beach & Norfolk out now!