Again, even though I knew better, those four little words, so often uttered in the throes of home remodeling, got me right: as long as we are, remodel the kitchen, let’s update the guest bathroom! yeah!
That innocuous little word, only U.S, and the convenience it falsely implies, also masquerades as four equally dangerous (and expensive) words: While we’re at it. … These humble phrases are usually followed by why don’t we, or should we, or let us. Next thing you know, your whole house is torn apart.
My husband and I are remodeling our kitchen and picked out new stone for the counters. If you’ve never done this, you need to buy a rock slab the size of a highway ramp. To avoid untimely seams on your counters, you’ll often need to buy more slabs than you technically need, which means you’ll be left with pieces. Sometimes large pieces. What you have will be wasted unless….
True to my Scottish roots, I can’t part with all that good quality quartzite that I’ve paid for, but where? how? Ding! Upstairs guest bath!
long story short
This is where the confusion begins. When we bought the Happier Yellow House five years ago, I knew I wanted to remodel this Jack-and-Jill bathroom. Designed for kids, the double sink vanity is only 31 inches tall. Standard counter height is 36 inches.
Even at 5-foot-3 and wearing shoes, I felt like a basketball player in that room. Since most of our guests are over 4 feet tall, I wanted a full height dresser and new counter. The existing countertop was a molded imitation marble material that flowed directly into the sink. I think 20 years ago was cool.
However, the thought of tearing down the old (barely used) dresser, finding a new one, buying a new sink and faucet, and pulling out the anodized glass mirror that needs to be removed when the counter is moved up seems daunting. Daunting and costly. Usually not enough, by my mental estimate, around $5,000 or so. So we did nothing.
When the aunt of the stone installation company came to measure the kitchen countertop, she mentioned the remaining stone material. Knowing the potholes, cliffs, and brambles ahead, I barely said anything, but the words were out before reason intervened. “Just curious, do we still have enough stone upstairs for a bathroom?”
“Let’s see,” she said.
We stood there, two giants, surveying the situation. “You have more than enough stones,” said the counter lady, who has been in the business for 30 years. “Builders don’t do these kid-high sinks anymore,” she added. “The child has grown up.”
“In the meantime, they can use the stool,” I said.
Then, like reading my mind, she removed one project after another. The same contractor who did the carpentry work in the kitchen can remove the existing counters and raise the vanity to standard height. Her company can provide new porcelain basins. We could re-use an existing (again barely used) chrome faucet.
cost is important
This is starting to make sense, but concerns remain. How much? She jacked up the price. Fabrication and installation of quartzite counters and backsplash, $850, including sink. For the carpenter, remove old counters and mirrors, raise existing double vanity 5 inches, install new toe kicks, and reconnect faucets after new counters are installed, $875.
My heart is racing. I mean, when was the last time a home design project cost less than you thought? What’s more, I’m not going to spoil a perfect vanity, or throw away good rocks. Plus, I have workers and materials on hand. In today’s world of supply chain delays and labor shortages, when that happens, you want to seize the moment.
I only have one level left. “Honey?” I approached my husband. “only U.S……”
Making an additional home improvement while you’re working on another can be a big, costly mistake. But not always. Next time you think of those four little words, consider the following:
Think about it: Be careful with impulsive reshaping moves. If the project is something you’ve been thinking about and wanted to do, but the timing or price just wasn’t right until now, consider doing it.
Learn about cost and scope: Before you begin, make sure you have a good handle on labor and material costs for existing projects as well as new ones. So costs don’t spiral up, know before you commit what you need to buy, what you can reuse, and who’s going to do the work for how much.
With workers and materials on hand: One of the great benefits of working on two projects at once is efficiency. Workers can complete work in one go. When you have a trusted contractor at the ready and the materials available, you can get a head start in time, money, and hassle.
Keep distractions to a minimum: Think twice before tearing down too many homes at once. The inconvenience may not be worth it, especially if you have to move out.
Is the improvement family friendly? : Make sure updates will integrate with the rest of the house. Changes need to be coordinated, or the upgrade will look out of place.
Is the improvement appropriate for the community? : If resale value is important, and it should be even if you’re not planning to move, then make sure your neighbors can support your home improvement. You never want to be the best house on the block. However, if everyone around you is updating their decades-old kitchen except you, you might want to step up your efforts to meet market norms.
Marni Jameson is the author of six family and lifestyle books. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.
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