I’ve done a lot of things in my day. I learned to install floor and wall tile. I even learned that there are bargains to be found at tile distributer showrooms, where manufacturers introduce new products at rock bottom prices. I’ve installed wood parquet flooring, mastered a jig saw, and accumulated a lot of power tools over the years. I’ve glazed windows, painted walls and trim inside and outside, and I have the brushes and rollers to prove it. I’ve occasionally worked as the general contractor on small renovations for family and friends. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that people often don’t think their renovations completely through. That’s why I say, “Think, Boomer, before you renovate that bathroom.”
It sounds like such a simple concept, and yet it’s harder than you think. You have to be able to imagine yourself in your home for another five years or more. You have to be clever about what you want from your home.
One of the biggest mistakes I saw people make was to go with what is trendy and new. There’s nothing wrong with a contemporary look. But consider the practicality of that look before you leap.
When you pick a bathroom sink or a faucet, consider the ease of use and cleaning. Unless you’re Oprah Winfrey and your cleaning staff comes in twice a day, you’re going to maintain it yourself, even if you do have someone once a week to do the heavy lifting. How much effort do you want to put into that?
Lever faucets are great if your fingers aren’t as flexible as they once were or you just want to tap it on and off. Turning faucet knobs can become a challenge for carpal tunnel sufferers. And the more detail a faucet has, the greater the surface to clean.
Trough sinks and one-piece seamless sinks are a new trend that actually makes sense. Bowl sinks that sit on a counterand rimmed sinks actually require more maintenance because they have more surfaces and edges to them. Do you want to scrub-a-dub-dub all the time or simply swipe away that toothpaste?
If you plan things wisely when you renovate, you can actually build in some nice features into your remodel that make sense. Unless you’re under five feet, consider using a taller sink cabinet. It puts things at a better height for most people, and you often get an extra storage drawer for your goodies.
Unless you actually want a “granny” house, think about hiding the grab bars for the bath tub/shower. Check out “Aging in Place” lines from manufacturers for a great grab bar that doesn’t look like a grab bar. It’s actually a ledge that is built into your tub/shower wall and it allows you to hold on. This is can be tiled with whatever you use for your tub/shower surround. Consider the design possibilities – you can make it eye candy with accent tiles or make it fade into the background, giving it an architectural look.
And speaking of grab bars, a lot of people go without them because they don’t like the “nursing home” look. There’s no need to sacrifice safety for good style. Companies now manufacture some good-looking grab bars that have matching towel bars and other accessories. That’s a great alternative to the “institutional” grab bar.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you don’t have to think about grab bars now, even if you don’t want to put them up at this point in time. In order to properly install them, grab bars require solid blocking behind the walls. Do you want to have that gorgeous tile ripped up down the road? A good renovation takes that kind of thing into consideration.
Want to treat yourself well? Consider adding a hand shower or a shower tower to your renovation. Why? These are adjustable and allow you to sit on a bench while you bathe. If you try to add this kind of feature down the road, you might find yourself handing over a good chunk of change and (again) ripping out that gorgeous tile. A hand shower is also a great feature if you’ve got a young grandchild or a pooch to bathe.
Want to replace your tub with a big shower, for ease of use? You’ll have plenty of room to move around and if your home already has one tub, a walk-in shower could be a bonus. Consider adding a built-in bench. Want to keep the tub? You can still have a bench down the road. There are wall-mounted choices that fold down.
How about a taller toilet? Those few inches make it easier to sit comfortably, but the cost is negligible. It’s a small change that can help, especially if you might need hip or knee surgery at some point in time. Most of the manufacturers offer taller toilets for their fancy lines, so you won’t sacrifice design for accessibility.
These are just a few of the ideas you might want to consider before you plan the actual bathroom renovation. There are a lot of great products out there from reputable manufacturers, so choose wisely for your current needs and your future needs.
But my best advice to you is this. Consider visiting plumbing showrooms that have certified “Aging in Place” specialists. These people can demonstrate some of the products that can make your life better and discuss with you the myriad of options that are available. Let them educate you on what is available and then work within your budget to get what you really need.
Whatever you do, don’t rush into a renovation. Take some time and think it all through. What works now? What works five years from now? What works when you sell your home? Do it right now and you won’t have to absorb extra, unnecessary costs down the road. You’ll be glad you did.