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Needs and Wishlists
To get the most from a new bathroom, you'll want to make sure it meets the needs of everyone who'll be using it. If you're remodeling, you'll also want to identify any problems with, or features you don't like in, your current bathroom. Here is a list of questions you'll want to ask yourself:

Who will be using the space?

  • A family bath should comfortably accommodate two people at the same time. That could mean, for example, planning enough space for two sinks. "Zoning" your fixtures--isolating the toilet from the shower, bathtub and sink(s)--will help provide privacy and reduce congestion.
  • A master bath suite, which is often planned as a private retreat from family and the outside world, should have space to accommodate extra relaxation and luxury features, such as an oversized chair for reading or resting.
  • A powder room, guest bath or half bath typically requires less space than a full bath. That said, make sure you don’t sacrifice comfort and adequate storage for space.
  • Children's baths pose unique concerns. They typically require more safety features and lower heights, but also need to be adaptable as kids grow.
  • If you have elderly relatives living with you or family members with disabilities, be sure to take functional or safety needs into account.
  • Do the users have a preference for showering vs. bathing? If you’re remodeling, do your present fixtures reflect those preferences?

Is the bathroom conveniently located and accessible for all users?

  • Is the layout user-friendly?
  • Does it make the most of the existing space?
  • Is your existing bath too small?
  • Could you annex an adjacent closet or hallway to expand the space?
  • Does the bathroom offer enough privacy?

Is it hard to clean?

Does the bathroom reflect the style and taste of the individuals who use the space?

  • Is there a preference for traditional, casual or modern style?
  • What is the preferred color scheme or favorite colors?
  • What style or decor goes best with other rooms in your home?

Does the bathroom offer enough storage space?

  • If there are children in the home, is there adequate secure storage for prescription drugs and cleaning supplies?

Is the current ventilation adequate?

  • Accumulated moisture results in not only steamy mirrors, but also mildew on tile, loose wallpaper and blistering paint.

Is the lighting sufficient for specific grooming tasks, overall ambience and safety?

  • Consider adding task-specific lighting above mirrors and a light inside the shower enclosure.

Do you have enough towel-rack space (two feet minimum) for each person using the bathroom?

Will the bath be used for other purposes, such as a home gym? If so, is there enough space to accommodate the necessary equipment?

Make a Wishlist and Project Binder

Once you have determined your needs and identified any existing problems or issues you will want to correct with a new bath, start a "wish list" binder or project scrapbook. A great source of inspiration when it comes to designing your new bath, a project binder or scrapbook will also help keep you organized and focused.

Items to include:
  • Design idea and trend articles clipped from magazines
  • Information from consumer publications that rates products and building materials
  • Pictures of attractive bathrooms from magazines or product literature
  • Creative ideas for storing towels and toiletries, and for decorative items to personalize your new bath
  • Product literature categorized by fixtures and faucets, cabinets and countertops, flooring, lighting and window treatments
  • Paint samples and fabric swatches
  • Business cards, newspaper ads, and the names and addresses of interior designers, builders, and retail suppliers
  • A pad of paper for jotting down ideas, layout sketches, likes and dislikes

Use the Special Features checklist below to identify those features you feel would add value or convenience to your new bath. Add it to your project binder for ready reference.

Creating a project binder--and visiting showrooms for further inspiration--will help you to better visualize what you want your new bathroom to look like. Ultimately, this will save a lot of time and guesswork as you move forward with your project.

Special Features for the Bath

Use this checklist to identify the features you feel would add value or convenience to your new bath:
  • SeparateShower
  • Whirlpool
  • Two-person whirlpool
  • Anti-scale shower valve
  • Two bath sinks
  • Makeup mirror
  • Shower only
  • TV cable
  • Lounge area
  • Steam shower
  • Dressing area
  • Towel warmer
  • Hand-held shower
  • Microwave or wet bar
  • More natural lighting
  • Better ventilation
  • Linen/towel storage
  • Medicine cabinet
  • Grab bars
  • Bidet
  • New accessories
  • Sound system
  • Fitness area
  • Sit-down vanity
  • Walk-in closet
  • Other

The Bottom Line - Your Project Budget

On a per-square-foot basis, the bathroom is the most expensive room in the house to remodel. What you'll pay depends on many factors, but the area you live in and the products you include are the two biggest variables. If you are remodeling, the most expensive aspects of your project will be cabinet installation and relocating major fixtures within the space.

When developing your project budget, consider how long you intend to stay in your new or present home.
  • If you intend to stay in your home for a number of years, a new or remodeled bath is well worth the investment.
  • If you plan to sell your home in the next few years, check with a local real estate agent to find out how many baths and what kinds of amenities home-buyers in your area expect.

As with any project, you'll need to make some tradeoffs. Determining your budget can help you prioritize your needs so you can begin to consider less expensive alternatives, if necessary, and get the most for your money.

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