Making the best use of small spaces

Making the best use of small spaces

Valley News Correspondent

The bathroom, or bathrooms, are often the smallest rooms in the house with clearly defined and limited functions.

They are also the most used and the presence of bacteria, moisture and odors. That means homeowners want a bathroom that is well-lit, easy to clean and sanitary, especially if it is used by guests.

Because space is limited, remodeling a bathroom requires a lot less research for products, style and material options or how to use that space efficiently. Moreover, because the plumbing fixtures are in place, options to move things around are limited, if they exist at all. But a bathroom remodel can present some challenges and requires a careful look at how the redesign will function for the household.

“I think options tend to be fewer so they usually want to do (remodel) the whole thing,” said Dan Martin, a bath designer with LaValley Building Supply. “Some people do their homework before coming in and some walk in and say ‘I have no idea what I want.’ But people want to make the most use of their space.”

Working with a designer is advisable at it allows for options to be explored using computer software that provides nice visuals to see how everything will function.

Bathroom remodels focus primarily on the vanity, mirror, wall tile, storage space, and the tub and shower setup, which more often is just a shower, said one bathroom designer.

“We are taking out a lot of tubs out because people are not using them,” said Kelsey Haigh, a designer with Foremost Builders in West Lebanon, a design-build and construction company.

Some, Haigh said, want a tub for appearance sake only. “If people update their bathroom, they want a really nice appearance. They may install a high-end tub just for the look of it.”

Another thing to consider is who will be using the bathroom; adults and children — or one or the other — or guests, can influence the style and materials selected and the amount being spent.

Moisture can present a lot of problems, especially if the bathroom does not have a window. Without good ventilation, over time moisture can lead to mold and mildew on painted surfaces so adequate ventilation needs to be a priority.

“We always make sure to specify that more is better,” said Paul Keyser, of Keyser Karpentry, in Canaan. “So we insist on adding to or upgrading their exhaust fans.”

Keyser also favors a timer on the fans because he said they should run four to five minutes before you get in the shower and 10 minutes after getting out. Placement of the exhaust fans is also important in order to have they operate efficiently.

“It used to be they would be in the center of the room,” Keyser said. “Now we can put them right over the shower.”

The moisture issue should also be part of the selection of paints and flooring. Some tile can be slippery when wet and some paints stand up better than others when exposed to lots of moisture.

Keyser said customer tastes vary as well on the type of shower walls and it usually depends on budget.

“A lot like tile work but some still go with fiberglass,” Keyser said. “We have done a shower where the back wall was nine feet of granite.”

With space at a premium in a bathroom, homeowners might be looking to see where they can add some in a remodel for more storage. A closet, if there is room, may sound like a good idea but Keyser said you are better off spending a little more for a cabinet.

“You end up with more storage space because you don’t have to add a wall, which loses you four inches,” he said.

As for dual sinks, that may sound like a selling point to Realtors, but more than one person in a bathroom at a time is not common so you may want to rethink the second sink idea, Keyser said.

A complete bathroom remodel, with new fixtures, flooring, a vanity and more can run at least $12,000, Keyser said. Like kitchens, it is recommended to spend no more than between 5% and 15% of a home’s value on a bathroom remodel. The average full remodel is between $10, 000 and $12,000, but they can get to $25,000 or more.  

As with any remodeling project, the amount spent should be in relation to whether the owner expects to stay in the house for a long time or sell in a few years. The former will allow consideration of more options and spending more.

As with any remodeling project, the amount spent should be in relation to whether the owner expects to stay in the house for a long time or sell in a few years. The former will allow consideration of more options and spending more.

Claremont Realtor Bonnie Miles said a dingy looking bathroom can harm the interest from buyers and affect the selling price.

“People want to see fresh and clean and then they think sanitary,” Miles said.

Something as simple as a new, white shower curtain will enhance a drab looking bathroom, she added.

“It doesn’t matter what they have,” Miles said. “I will tell them to get a white shower curtain.”


Enterprise is a quarterly business magazine published by the Valley News. For more information email or call 603-727-3315.

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