Don’t let remodeling jobs get toxic

Home-remodeling projects can be hazardous, warns Glen Hetzel, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agricultural engineer.

Hetzel, who is also a safety specialist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, gives the following tips on how to stay safe:

“It is important to keep areas being remodeled well ventilated and closed off from occupied portions of the house because toxic fumes come from many sources,” Hetzel said. He recommends two weeks of curing time before moving into the remodeled area.

Even new carpet from Carpet One store should be allowed to cure one to two weeks, with the windows open, before family members get close to it, he said.

The most common gas released during remodeling is formaldehyde, said Hetzel. Allergic responses to it might include rashes, headaches, watery eyes, even breathing difficulties.

Other sources of air pollution are dust from sanding hardwood floors and refinishing woodwork, varnishes, some paints, plastics and vinyls.

“Even a new shower curtain releases gases,” Hetzel said.

What’s hot in baths

The hottest bathroom color combo is white, teal and burgundy, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The tidbit was reported in the April issue of McCall’s magazine.

When spot leaves spots

You walk in the door after work. One whiff, and you know Fido needed to be walked long ago.

Don’t get mad, get moving. Cleaning a pet mess right away increases your chances of banishing the odor, says an article in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

It recommends the following blot-and-dilute techniques:

Soak up as much urine as possible by stacking a half-inch of paper towels over the area and bearing down hard with your shoe. Repeat until you can’t blot any more liquid. Then add a tablespoon of water to the spot and, wearing rubber gloves, work it in with your fingers. Put down another pile of towels and continue blotting.

After testing for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot, apply a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Let this stand a few minutes and repeat blotting, then use water to remove vinegar solution.

For feces, pick up the solid matter, apply a mild detergent solution to the area, then proceed as with urine spots.

How to replace a cracked ceramic tile

If you’re lucky, you’ll have some extra tiles. If you don’t have extras, however, visit some tile stores. You might be able to find a close match. If you can’t find anything close, you can get creative and replace a few more tiles to make a new pattern.

Matching the grout can be a bit tricky, even though tile stores carry a wide range of colors. For the best match, take a piece of the old grout with you to the tile store.

Once you’re home, mix some grout before you start the project to make sure the color matches. Grout changes color as it dries and you may find you’ll need to do some color adjusting by mixing two colors.

Adhesives and grout

Whether the damaged tile is on the floor or on the wall, the repair steps are similar. The main difference is the type of adhesive and grout used.

For floor tiles, use thin-set mortar as the adhesive. It comes in a powder that you mix with water. Follow the directions on the package for the correct mixture consistency. To regrout floor tile, use sanded grout.

For wall tile repairs, use premixed mastic adhesive and non-sanded grout.

Always check the adhesive package for the required drying time before applying the new grout. If you rush the regrouting step and the tile shifts, you’ll need to start over. Lastly, seal the grout with grout sealer, available from the tile dealer.

All of the specialized products, including the grout saw, grout float and adhesive trowel are sold at tile stores. Materials and tools will cost about $20.

1 REMOVE the damaged ceramic tile with a cold chisel and hammer. Start at the edge of the tile, in the grout. Ceramic tile is brittle – small pieces will fly! Wear safety glasses and gloves. Be careful not to chip the surrounding tiles.

2 REMOVE the old grout with a grout saw. Some of the grout can be chipped out with the chisel; however, you’ll need to saw away all of the old grout to ensure a proper fit for the new file.

3 SCRAPE off the old adhesive with a cold chisel. Get rid of as much as possible so the new tile will adhere properly and lie flat. Scraping is the best way to remove old adhesive. Don’t use a heat gun or solvent unless you want a big mess.

4 APPLY the adhesive (thin-set mortar for a floor tile) with a notched trowel on the back of the tile. Be sure to spread the adhesive out to the edges. Don’t skimp on the adhesive: Too little will make the tile sit lower than the surrounding tiles. Any excess adhesive will ooze out and can be removed after the next step.

5 PLACE the tile, making sure that the grout lines are even with the adjacent tiles. To set the tile firmly into the adhesive, use a short length of wood and gently tap it with a hammer. If the tile is lower than the the surrounding tiles, simply remove it, apply additional adhesive and then reset the tile. Scrape out any excess adhesive from between the tiles with a screwdriver. Once the ceramic tile is set, stay off it until the adhesive is dry, usually 24 hours.

6 SPREAD the grout using a rubber grout float. Hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the tile. Move the grout in both directions at an angle to the grout lines to make sure it fills the gaps between the tiles. Let the grout set for about 10 minutes and then wipe the area with a damp grout sponge. A grout sponge has rounded corners and is the best way to shape the grout lines. Once the grout has dried, usually overnight, wipe off any residue with a soft cloth.

Kitchen remodeling as a multipurpose family room

What if your tired old kitchen’s heartbeat is weaker than it should be? Is it financially prudent to remodel? And, if you do decide to remodel, how can you design a kitchen that works well today and into the 21st century?

For starters, take heart if you’re living in an older home with a 1950s-era “Leave It to Beaver” kitchen, because you’re far from alone. According to the U.S. Census, more than 60 percent of American homes are now more than 20 years old. For the first time in U.S. history, more money is being spent on home improvements than on new home construction, and a dated kitchen is an ideal room for improvement.

Furthermore, renovating a kitchen is one of the smartest ways for a homeowner to spend his or her remodeling dollars. In its annual cost vs. value survey, Remodeling Magazine reports that within one year of a professional kitchen remodel in a mid-priced home in an established neighborhood, a minor project would recoup 104 percent of its cost upon resale. Under the same circumstances, a major kitchen remodel would recoup 95 percent of its cost.

As for design trends that will take you and your kitchen into the future,  Jim Krengel, a kitchen guru, suggested thinking of your kitchen as a multipurpose family room – a casual, comfortable, unpretentious place for family and friends to congregate.

Casual is the word to remember, he said.

“We have casual workday attire now, and we’re getting more casual in our interior decoration, too. Remember the formal dining room? It got used maybe two or three times a year. What a waste of space.”

Casual doesn’t mean bland or uninspiring. For sheer impact, Krengel advocates a healthy dose of color, the “forgotten element” in good kitchen design.

“People are afraid to put color into their kitchen,” he said. “They want to stay with safe, boring colors because they don’t realize that the right colors reflect favorably on food. Red, for example, stimulates the appetite, while blue gives a harsh cast to food.”

Krengel feels soft earth tones are making a comeback to the kitchen, but not the saturated golds and avocados of the 1960s.

He is excited about the two-tone concept, which he said is one of today’s leading kitchen trends and a look that is going to be around for a long time.

The two-tone concept means moldings or trim on cabinets are painted in different hues. For example, natural maple cabinets are accented with burgundy trim or, in another scenario, lipstick red and shiny black laminate cabinets share the spotlight with wood and glass.

“The two-tone concept allows cabinets and work stations to stand apart from their ‘neighbors,’ ” he said.

Cabinets are the most dominant as well as the most expensive element in the design equation. To offset the high cost of cabinets, Krengel suggested using standard-stock cabinets in unorthodox ways.

“Stagger the heights of cabinets instead of lining them all up,” he advised. “Or place a base cabinet forward a bit.”

To give standard cabinets the look of furniture, he recommended replacing a door front here and there with a glass insert. (If you use glass doors on bottom cabinets, remember to use safety glass so that tykes on bikes won’t have accidents.)

Glass cabinets dress up any kitchen, providing you are the neat type. If not, forget the glass option.

“A colorful box of Cap’n Crunch cereal looks great behind a glass door, but an open box of pitted prunes may not be so appetizing to look at,” Krengel said.

Krengel’s kitchen pet peeve is vinyl flooring, followed closely by ceramic floors.

“Vinyl is constantly pretending to be something else,” he said. “And ceramic is hard on the feet — not to mention a baby’s knees — and everything that’s dropped on it breaks.”

His solution is natural wood floors, which he dubs a forever floor.

“Wood floors are big in the Midwest,” he said. “Even if they get scratched, it’s part of their beauty and patina. But if you’re unhappy with the scratches, you can always refinish your wood floor.”

Krengel is delighted with the new wood laminates, too, saying they often wear better than wood.

Installing carpet: a few tricks

Most homeowners believe that installing a wall-to-wall carpet is a job for professionals. But the fact is, unless a carpet installer knows how to use a power stretcher and how to create a good seam, his finished job will probably leave something to be desired. The best carpet installers earn their certification from the Floor Covering Installation Contractors of America, which we consulted for this article. We also consulted the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Residential Installation Standard No. 105. With the right tools and the knowledge of how to use them, you can do a job you’d be proud of.

GETTING STARTED

Using a steel tape measure, find the length and width of the floor you wish to carpet. Add about 6 in. to the longest and widest parts of the room to make sure you buy enough material. Carpeting is sold by the square yard, so divide the nominal length and width in feet each by three. Multiply the quotients to determine the square yardage needed. For example, you’d need 28.41 sq. yd. of carpet for a room measuring 15 ft., 6 in. x 15 ft., 6 in. Here’s how it was figured: [(15 ft., 6 in. + 6 in.) / 3] x [(15 ft., 6 in. + in.) / 3] = (16 ft. / 3) x (16 ft. / 3) = 5.33 yd. x 5.33 yd. = 28.41 sq. yd.

Carpet manufacturers produce carpet in 12-ft. rolls. If both room dimensions are longer than 12 ft., as in the example, you’ll have to make some seams. Make a dimensioned sketch of floor area to be carpeted to determine how you’ll piece the carpet material together in the most efficient way. Place seams away from high-traffic areas. Depending on the shape of the room and how many irregularities there are, you might need a little more or a little less carpet. At the same time you buy the carpet, buy appropriate padding, following your carpet dealer’s advice.

You’ll also need to buy tackless strips, which are lengths of wood about 1 in. wide buy 1/4 in. thick with pins protruding from one side. They are installed along the edges of the floor to hold carpet in place. Measure the perimeter of the room to determine the amount of tackless strips required for the the installation. If you’re working with thick carpet, you may have to double up on the strips.

You’ll have to rent a seaming iron and a power stretcher from a tool-rental shop. When you rent the iron, buy hot-melt tape at the same time. The tape is used to bind pieces of carpet together when you seam them.

You may have trouble finding a power stretcher, but if you can possibly get your hands on one, it’ll be worth the effort it may take. If your tool-rental shop doesn’t have one, try to buy or rent a used one from a carpet-tool distributor or a local carpet shop.

Once you’re ready for carpet installation near Lansing, take all furniture out of the room. Since the old carpet may be full of dust and other debris, vacuum thoroughly before taking it up. Once the old carpet is gone, vacuum the bare floor.

INSTALLATION

Nail the tackless strips to the floor along the entire room perimeter. Tackless strips usually come with pre-installed nails, so you just have to drive them home. Secure small pieces of tackless strip with at least two nails. Set the strips at distance from baseboards equal to slightly less than the thickness of the carpet, but no more than 3/8 in. away. The pins in tackless strips protrude at an angle; they should point toward the wall.

Don’t place tackless strips across openings and doorways. Instead nail down trim molding, which will hold the carpet and create finished edge

Next put down the padding in the longest continuous lengths possible, overlaying the tackless strips. Lay the padding seams at right angles to carpet seams. If this isn’t possible, be sure padding seams fall at least 6 in. to one side of any carpet seam.

Staple the padding to the subfloor 1 to 6 in. within the perimeter edges. Space staples every 6 to 8 in. around the perimeter and along seams. Once the padding is secure, trim it back to reveal the tackless strips.

The next step is to lay-in and pretrim the carpet. With a helper, carry the carpet to its preplanned spot and unroll it. Position it so that 3 in. laps onto the walls. Cut inside and outside corners at an angle and trim away the excess carpeting.

If you have to seam the carpet, make sure the pile on the adjacent pieces lies in the same direction. You can check this by running your hand over the carpet. When you run your hand one way the pile will appear to stand up or darken. Run it the other way, and the pile will look like it’s lying on it’s side or will appear lighter.

Carefully trim back about 1 in. on both seam edges using a straightedge. Put hot-melt tape under entire length of the seam with the glue side up. Preheat the seaming iron. Starting at one end of the carpet, separate the seam slightly and place the iron on the seaming tape. After about 15 to 30 seconds move the iron up to the next section of tape. Carefully press the just-heated seam together. Separate the carpet fibers with your fingers and look at the backing to make sure it forms a good joint, with no overlapping and no gaps.

Place a heavy object on the completed seam to hold it down until the adhesive cools. If the object is metal, such as a toolbox, make sure the weight sits on piece of wood to prevent heat conduction. Work your way along the entire seam in this manner.

Once the seams are completed, stretch and hook the carpet as shown in the illustrations below. As you hook the carpet with the knee kicker, trim the fabric along the baseboard with a razor knife.

You may be able to rent a wall trimmer, which is special cutter that trims the carpet precisely along walls. After trimming, use a carpet chisel or a 4-in.-wide cold chisel to tuck the carpet in the space between the tackless strip and the wall.

One the carpet is stretched, trimmed and tucked, vacuum it to remove excess fiber and fluff it up. Replace all the furniture in the room, and you’re finished.

Painting concrete? Reading is first step

I want to paint our concrete porch and steps, which are covered with outdoor carpet. What kind of paint should be used on concrete, and how do I remove any adhesive left after stripping the old carpet?

Look for a “porch, floor, and deck” paint or a “porch and patio” paint that is also labeled for use on concrete. Epoxy paints and other solvent-based porch-floor paints are available, but I’ve had good results with water-based latex paint on porches and steps and recommend latex because it’s easy to use. As you go searching for new carpet, please visit Hosner CarpetOne.

A clean, dry surface is essential for painting concrete. You should be able to remove adhesive by scraping and sanding. Use a sharp metal scraper to remove most of the adhesive, then switch to a belt sander or disc sander with sandpaper that is 60-grit or coarser. Wear goggles and a dust mask when scraping or sanding.

Vacuum the surface and scrub with a heavy-duty cleaner such as trisodium phosphate (TSP), sold at paint stores. Rinse the concrete and let it dry thoroughly.

For other surface preparation steps, follow directions on the paint can. Be especially aware of any cautions on the label. It is often recommended that the concrete surface be etched with a 10-percent solution of muriatic acid, which is sold at some paint and hardware stores.

Acid etcher must be used with extreme care. Wear goggles, gloves, and long-sleeved clothing to protect yourself against splashes. The etcher will make the concrete more porous, thus facilitating paint adhesion and eliminating some contaminants that can also cause poor adhesion.

The easiest way to apply the paint is to use a roller with a long handle, so you won’t have to bend. Apply two coats or more.

When painting the steps, pour some paint in a separate can and add some grit or sand to improve traction. Paint stores sell special grit just for this purpose.

A few additional tips for painting concrete:

Let fresh concrete cure for at least 60 days before you paint it.

If a garage floor is to be painted, check the paint container for special directions. Automobile tires contain compounds that can soften paint. One paint I’ve used recommends double etching of garage floors and use of cardboard pads under tires for two weeks after paint is applied.

Ideas for Great Kitchens

How the kitchen looks, how it greets you each morning and its functionality are important. That’s why paying attention to details such as kitchen cabinets reaps such great rewards. Just as a friendly smile is welcoming, so to are handsome kitchen cabinets.

This week, we’ll show you how to choose the best quality cabinets that you can reasonably afford. We’ll do this as we review the book, Ideas for Great Kitchens.

Cabinets are generally manufactured and sold in three different ways. The type you choose will affect both the cost and appearance of your finished kitchen.

Stock cabinets are mass produced, standard-sized cabinets. While purchased “off the shelf,” you can always specify door styles, the direction they swing as well as finishing details.

Custom cabinets are, in turn, more expensive. Made by professional cabinet makers, these cabinets can accommodate non-standard configurations and complexities that can’t be handled with stock modular cabinets.

Custom “modular” cabinets combine the best of both worlds. While still manufactured, they are of a higher grade and offer more design flexibility than stock cabinets.

Whichever model you choose, you must still judge for quality. While not always easy, you can usually look to a cabinet’s drawers to find elements of fine workmanship. Literally a cabinet within a cabinet, drawers take a greater beating than any other cabinet component. As such, they offer the first signs of sub-standard quality.

Look for drawer guides that run smoothly. Check that the drawers are properly aligned and make note of whether or not they fully or only partially open.

Because cabinet costs can vary so greatly, determine a budget before shopping. You’ll quickly find a range of cabinets whose prices you can afford. You can then begin judging for quality and looking for a style that suits you and your kitchen.

For other great kitchen renovation ideas, read our book, Ideas for Great Kitchens. Its 96 pages include design basics, measuring guidelines, actual case studies from 18 remodeled kitchens as well as a shopper’s guide for everything from cabinets to counter tops.

If you plan to do much of the renovation work yourself, ask for our book, the Kitchen Remodeling Handbook. It will guide you through even the most complete kitchen makeover.

Quick kitchen cures

Looking for ways to dress up your kitchen quickly for far less than the cost of a complete makeover?

Here are three tips to do just that. All are taken from one book, Ideas for Great Kitchens. n Replace a counter top. Counter tops are not only the most used and abused aspect of any kitchen, they also go a long way in giving your kitchen character. For example, while wooden counter tops provide a warm country feel, white counter tops are known to liven up a dull kitchen. n Change your lights, both for practical and esthetic reasons. Use large bright lights for cooking but switch to soft track lighting or under the cabinet lighting to accent the style of your kitchen when all the cooking and cleaning is done. n Change floors. Linoleum flooring is now available in all sorts of designer styles. Wood flooring provides added comfort for long days spent standing in the kitchen, for more information, please visit this website.

Beautiful kitchen cabinets can completely update a tired, old kitchen.

Kitchen and bath remodeling kit

If you’ve ever remodeled a kitchen or a bath, you’ve got to know that it’s a simple deal to get in over your head fast –  real fast.

Planning’s the key. A lack of solid planning and you could end up spending tons more than you’d anticipated and not get the function and the look you’d hoped for.

That’s where the new Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Kit comes in. It’s a well-produced, idea-packed package that covers just about any question you might have concerning kitchen and bath remodels.

The kit is a product of  a leading manufacturer of plumbing and specialty products, plus nine other kitchen/bath manufacturers ranging. Add baths and kitchens created by designers and stylists from seven of the country’s leading design magazines and the picture of how a kitchen/bath remodel should work comes clearly into focus.

The kit includes a design guide, a nut-and-bolts workbook, a color guide, a video and software for home computers.

What impressed us most was the workbook. It’s a 45-page, spiral-bound guide to putting together a kitchen or bath with the least amount of tribulation. There are tips for measuring specific spaces; critiquing your current bath or kitchen; selecting plumbing and fixtures, tile, laminates, solid surfaces, windows, appliances and wood flooring from Sherman Oaks floor store.

There also are grids and cutouts of various kitchen/bath features that allow you to design the space step by step before you begin the actual work.

To give you a better idea of what you can expect from the kit, here is a sampling of tips for kitchen remodeling that are included. They, like the rest of the information in the package, are quite specific, which leaves little room for guessing and making costly mistakes.

Eating counters take up less space than tables. Allow a minimum of 21 inches of counter space per person. Rounded corners create a smoother look and are safer.

You don’t need a lot of cabinets. Open shelving is a good place for frequently used items. Walk-in pantries can store food and cooking supplies in an out-of-the-way area, reducing the amount of expenisve cabinetry needed.

Island designs are ideal for work areas, but don’t attempt an island of less than 10 square feet.

Vary work surface heights if possible. Not only will your back appreciate this during long cooking or baking projects, but varied heights accommodate people of different heights, including children.

If you have decided to build custom cabinets, raise the height of the dishwasher above the baseboard. This will make loading and unloading easier, and the counter above the dishwasher makes an ideal bookshelf.

For refrigerators, industry guidelines range from 16-20 cubic feet of storage space for the first two people in the household, and then 1-2 cubic feet for each additional family member.

Side-by-side refrigerators offer proportionally more freezer space and easier viewing than other units but do not accommodate large items as well. If the work area is small, side-by-sides also require less door swing space.

Plan on at least 1 foot of counter space on each side of your range or cooktop. Unlike ranges, cooktops can be set at any height you desire.

Kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project

Used to be that kitchens were strictly back-burner stuff. We dumped buckets of money into our living rooms, family rooms and master bedrooms. We put our money where we wanted to impress and drew an invisible curtain around the kitchen.

Statistics show that we’re staying at home more, inviting guests in instead of taking them out. As a result, the kitchen has made a dramatic rise on the it-better-look-good-and-function-well scale. Kitchens are no longer at-home orphans.

According to designer Lisa Weber, of Lisa Weber Design in Fullerton, kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project facing consumers today. Quoting a recent article in Kitchen and Bath Business, she notes that Americans will spend $27.5 billion renovating 4.4 million kitchens.

“The average homeowner will spend a great deal of time and money remodeling the kitchen,” Weber said. “And if they haven’t researched the market, planned and shopped carefully, they can make some very costly mistakes.”

When private investors Ginger Figge and Jim Buckle moved into their 30-year-old California bungalow, the compact, 15-by-15-foot kitchen was anything but a show stopper. The home had been a rental for years.

“The home was very run-down,” said kitchen specialist Steve Salazar, who owns Kitchens del Mar and handled the remodel project. “For a small space, it did not function well.”

Goals for the kitchen remodel were threefold: reconfiguration with optimum function in mind, incorporation of functional storage space, and a clean, uncluttered look designed for easy maintenance. Because the front door of the house opens with a view directly across the dining area to the open kitchen, first impressions were a consideration.

Originally, the cooktop had been on a long counter separating the kitchen from the dining area. Not a pretty picture for arriving guests. It was relocated to a less conspicous spot on a counter facing a hall leading to the bedrooms. The move allows the dining area/kitchen counter to do double duty as a spacious kitchen work surface or dining room buffet.

To minimize its size, a 36-inch-wide, 24-inch-deep Sub-Zero refrigerator was installed flush with other built-ins. Unlike some refrigerators, it does not protrude into the kitchen, presenting an unsightly obstacle.

“Typically, with a small space, lots of our work is devoted to maximizing the storage function,” Salazar said, “and that goes right down to the TV.” Instead of simply plopping it onto a counter, it was hidden in a custom-made TV cupboard with retractable doors above a built-in oven.

Tight-space storage? The existing breakfast bar was raised six inches above the adjacent counter to buffer the sight of the relocated cooktop. Three 12-inch-deep storage cabinets were then neatly tucked under the bar.

To give a clean, crisp look that de-emphasizes the small size of the kitchen, a color palette of white with Delft blue accents was used. Durable, easy-clean Arctic white DuPont Corian replaced damaged light-blue ceramic tiles on counters. The Corian flows in solid, seamless pieces that do not distract the eye as tiles would. Delft blue appears in handmade accent tiles that fit neatly into white tile backsplashes and trims.

To anchor the white kitchen, the oak floor, which had been whitewashed, was refinished to a deeper, more natural hue, Further Details. The white opens up the kitchen, while the oak pulls it all together.

Renovating your Kitchen on a Budget

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most common targets of the remodeling homeowner’s gaze. They are the most expensive rooms to do because of appliances and fixtures.

A good rule of thumb for a total kitchen renovation is stay within 10 to 12 percent of the home’s market value. Remodeling magazine said the best kitchens were those with lots of light to make the space appear larger.

With good quality materials and appliances, a kitchen should last for 20 years but your taste will probably change halfway through. Since fashion colors may change before an appliance wears out, some decorators suggest neutral colors such as white or washed aluminum.

“You can update a kitchen with new countertops or by changing cabinet doors,” said Burgin Barousse of J. Burgin Barousse Interior Design in Metairie. A coat of industrial paint on the existing cabinets can give a facelift too.

New countertops – granite and tile are popular choices – or floor covering can update a kitchen too, explore more. Barousse prefers ceramic sinks although stainless steel is easier to clean because you don’t have to worry about scratches.

Among countertops and cabinets there are major variations in price. Cabinet prices vary according to the type of material they’re made of from including high-pressure laminates to woods – oak, hickory and cherry, said Jerry Keller, manager of Singer Kitchens and Baths in the Lake Forest Plaza.

Priced at $11 a linear foot plastic laminate countertops are the most popular, Keller said. Compare Corian at about $100 per foot or granite at $150 to $175 a foot. Appliances come in a wide range of prices, but generally homeowners have been out of the appliance-buying market for so long they go through sticker shock when they start to shop around.

Installation is available but many customers hang their own cabinets with diagrams supplied by Singer, Keller said.

Creating a Bathroom Oasis

When it comes to bathrooms, the overriding factor is personal taste. Older bathrooms are often tiny, akin to tiled closets. Homeowners – especially younger couples – want lush and lavish surroundings, but that requires more room. Mirrors and marble have crept in where four-inch tile once sufficed.

The extra space for such an oasis can come from a closet in a neighboring room. Some people fold two bedrooms in with a bath to create a master suite complete with walk-in closet. It is good to try and keep the addition within the existing structure when you can, but some homeowners have added onto the house to accommodate a larger bath.

For those who cannot expand into other rooms, there are whirlpool baths that will fit the space presently occupied by standard 30-by-60 tub, said Lisa Trouth, a showroom consultant at LCR Plumbing Supply in Gentilly. Whirlpool baths are becoming routine in new construction.

In existing houses, it may not be possible to bring a preformed shower enclosure into the house. But there are seamed enclosures that arrive in parts and can be assembled inside the bathroom, she said.

When it comes to fixtures, price depends mostly on manufacturer and color. But color preferences change according to the women’s ready-to-wear fashions.

So rather than get a tub or toilet in the latest color, Trouth suggests using color as accent tile or trim. Despite the myriad offerings, the most popular colors are still white, gold and silver gray because they are so neutral, Trouth said.

Four-inch tile is popular again for walls as well as man-made marble. The same color tile can be available in glossy version for walls and non-skid finish for floors, please follow link.

Whatever your decision, remember: The kitchen and bathrooms are probably two rooms potential homebuyers scrutinize most.