If you survived your Kitchen upgrades from the last post on my recommended Top 5 Kitchen Upgrades, then you are ready to tackle the Master Bathroom! There is a strategic reason why I start with the Kitchen design when starting a new home. Besides from needing to finalize the appliances and cabinetry early on for the electrical and plumbing layouts, there are endless amounts of detailed decisions to make for Kitchens which are EXHAUSTING! The Kitchen is the top of the roller coaster in terms of design decisions. Typically, once decisions are reached regarding the Kitchen, everything else is smooth sailing.
This is probably not a surprise to most of you, but Kitchens and Master Bathrooms are the two most common areas in the home where people upgrade both when building a new house or remodeling because of the return on investment. Since we have already covered my recommended finish upgrades for your Kitchen, here are my Top 5 recommended upgrades for the Master Bathroom:
Bathroom hardware like bath accessories, cabinet knobs/pulls, framed mirrors, and corner shelves are the least expensive to add and/or replace but they create a custom feel to the bathroom. Adding an additional corner shelf or shampoo wall niche makes sense to do with the builder because typically they are installed by the tile company and you do not want to replace tile after moving in! In addition, these items are not an expensive upgrade even with the builder’s mark-up ($45 average for a corner shelf and $150 average for a tiled wall niche). Besides from the corner shelves and shampoo niches, I would recommend upgrading the remainder of your hardware after you close on the house so that you are not paying the builder’s administrative fee and mark-up on projects that will take even a beginner less than an hour to complete. *Please note-If switching your builder grade mirror to be replaced with a store bought framed mirror; keep in mind that not all builders finish the space behind the mirror with wall texture and paint-so be prepared for the possibility of having to do this before hanging your replacement mirror!
2. Through Body Porcelain Tile + Tile Baseboards-$$
Here in Austin, Texas, the majority of production builders are using a ceramic 12x12 or 13x13 tile as their “standard” aka what’s included in your contract base house cost. There is nothing wrong with ceramic tile and with the advancement in technology; there are some ceramic tiles that look and feel great! However, I always like to educate my clients on the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles are made from clay, but a through body or “full” body porcelain tile is produced to be denser than a ceramic. The density of the porcelain makes it superior to a ceramic tile when it comes to cracking and moisture. A way to quickly determine if your tile is a ceramic or through body porcelain is to look on the edge; if it has a red body it is a ceramic, but if the color is consistent all the way through the tile, it is a through /full body porcelain. Most porcelain tiles are also rated for commercial and outdoor use, where ceramic tiles are not. You are also able to achieve smaller grout lines with porcelain…. especially if it is a rectified porcelain. Since there are so many advantages to it, I would recommend upgrading your ceramic tile to a through body porcelain. Since it is a heavier and denser product, a specialized thinset and solid tile cutting blade will be required which drives the cost up. If you are thinking about splurging your upgrade money on through body porcelain tile in your bathroom, you should also consider upgrading the baseboards to match. Builders typically put a wood baseboard in bathrooms and paint it with a semi-gloss paint finish…. but have you noticed they become a magnet for dust and hair? A cost effective solution is to have your builder skip the wood baseboards in your bathroom and put tile instead. A lot of tile collections come with a matching baseboard. If the tile you chose does not come with a matching baseboard, you can ask your builder to have the through body porcelain tiles cut (I would recommend anything from a 3” H to a 6”H tile baseboard). Tile baseboards are a lot easier to clean with a mop and do not collect as much dust as the wood baseboards.
3. Decorative Vanity Backsplash-$$$
Shhh-this upgrade is definitely a builder designer’s secret weapon. A lot of the production builder accounts I work with use a cultured marble or Venetian marble solid surface countertop, which is thinner than most granite and looks “builder grade”. Instead of upgrading this included builder grade solid surface to a granite or man-made quartz, (which will run you thousands of dollars); I recommend adding some extra elegance for a fraction of the cost by adding a decorative 4” tile vanity backsplash. If you find a reasonably priced tile that complements the included white solid surface countertops, this option will only run you a few hundred dollars opposed to a few thousand. Keep in mind that most countertop fabricators throw in the matching 4” countertop backsplash, so if you opt to do tile instead they will not always give you a credit for not doing it since it is considered a throw-in.
4. The frameless glass shower enclosure-$$$$
The only thing not to love about a frameless shower is the price. This shower enclosure combination is a real
showstopper if you are able to wiggle it in to your upgrade design center allowance. By not having a frame, your shower will feel bigger and more open. To achieve the frameless shower glass look but to prevent any sort of future water leakage, I recommend doing the frameless with side channel mounts which will ensure the water stays in without compromising the look of a frameless shower.
Additional storage can be very expensive in a bathroom depending on the form of storage you want and can directly affect the layout, which is the driver of cost. Additional storage can be achieved with adding drawers to the cabinetry, medicine cabinets, or cabinets over the commodes, which are referred to as “head knockers”. For cost purposes, it is less expensive to frame/drywall a linen closet in a bathroom than it would be to build a linen closet with the cabinetry company. My favorite hidden storage comes in the form of a framed-in medicine cabinet by Roburn. This particular Uplift medicine cabinet also functions as a decorative mirror as well as an additional light source. This stunner would definitely be an item you would want to plan with your builder or remodeler from the beginning or the project to ensure the proper framing and electrical work.