Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer project

Every year we tackle a major home project. This year we decided to remodel our bathrooms. Countless weekends later, faucet testing, tile sampling and granite scratching later, we're done.

When we purchased our house it had been a rental property. As a result, the inside of the house was serving a utilitarian purpose and wasn't kept up very nicely. Similarly, our bathrooms were basic bathrooms with plastic tub sides and a cheap vanity. It has done the job since we moved in, but it was time to redo them.

How did we start tackling the remodel?
First we shortcircuited the contractor finding process. We had a great recommendation through some friends: Royal Kitchen and Bath and got a decent quote. A little higher than competitive quotes, but I wanted somebody who was going to see the job through. Some companies were horrible unprofessional, already during the bidding process. You would think that in these though times they would behave like sheep hungry for a design win.

Where did we shop for material?
It is worthwhile to be intimately involved in the material selection and go shop around. Don't just take what the contractor offers. A good contractor will recommend you quality places to visit. We spent many weekends checking out faucets, granite, or vanities. Here's a short list of places in the South Bay we selected from:

Shower and bath material: American Custom Marble, San Jose, CA
Bath tub:
Shower doors: Blossom Hill Showers
Toilets: and Home Depot
Faucets: Lowe's
Vanities (Jensen Cabinets): Southern lumber, San Jose, CA
Tiles: Tileshop, Brokaw, San Jose, CA
Molding: The Molding Store, Brokaw, San Jose, CA

What material choices did we make?
  • Steel vs Cast iron vs Acrylic bath tub: the difference is price, comfort and quality. Steel are cheaper. Cast irons are heavy as hell to install and take time to warm up. Plus if they scratch you have a tough time to fix. Acrylic tubs sometimes require a concrete base to be installed to avoid flexing. We selected a solid acrylic tub: Kohler Archer 19" high which is taller than most tubs. But with great back support.
  • Faucet brands range from $30 to $900. We selected a brushed nickel finish and a decent price quality faucet from Delta. If you select the Lowe's or Home Depot model you get a good price. The shower set allows you adjust the temperature, as well as the water flow through two different handles.
  • Tile or wooden baseboards: The joint of tile baseboards with the floor tile might break as a wooden house flexes. We opted for a wooden/MDF baseboard.

What lessons have we learned?
A key lesson we learned is not to order big ceramic items via the internet. We purchased one toilet (Toto Drake) through The shipment was arranged through UPS. First of all, two days before the toilet was to arrive, an email update informs me that only part will arrive in time and that the toilet base is delayed 1 week. If I knew this at purchase time I would not have gone this route. Worse was that the toilet base shipment then arrived one week later but damaged and needed to be reshipped. It had broken in pieces due to poor packaging and rought UPS shipment. As a result, the toilet was delayed for 2-3 weeks.

And one more item. As a a geek and Google fan-boy, we managed the project entirely on the net: we planned it via Google Docs and maintained a Bill of Materials in Google Spreadsheets. It was great to do competitive price check and updates from my phone while being in the store. We took pictures and shared them via Picasaweb.

Now we take a break and get ready later this year for our next project.

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