Things I’ve Learned During The Remodel

Nine hours worth of work – black tile and the concrete in the tile pan

I’ve remodeled lots of rooms in several houses (including my current home) – mostly on my own. When it came time to do the bathroom, though, I thought it was best to leave it to the pros. As you all know, it’s been a process. As with all processes, I’ve learned a few things along the way. I hope that if you ever find yourself in a remodel these tips will help.

Get A Schedule

Seems like a no-brainer, but one of the things I failed to do early on was get a schedule. Since I’ve always done things on my own it just wasn’t something I thought about doing. It has probably caused 90% of my frustration because things aren’t happening at the rate/speed I thought it would. Of course having a schedule doesn’t mean everything will happen as it should, but at least you will have a guideline (a very, very loose guideline).

Ask The Pros

I’m not a plumber. I know nothing about drains, faucets or showers other than they are essential to getting clean (and keeping me relaxed). One of the first purchasing mistakes I made was my tub. I found one that I loved so I ordered it. When I talked to my plumber, he quickly let me know that the only way that tub was going to work was if we tore up floor joists (which meant we needed permits and lots of money). Needless to say, I ordered a different tub. If I had asked Richard (the plumber) for his opinion up front, I would have saved myself lots of time and trouble.

Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up

I hate, hate, hate getting people in trouble at work but if someone isn’t doing a good job, sometimes you just have to speak up. A prime example: my tile guys came out today to finish the shower. They arrived at 8:30 and left at 5. What did they do in that time? They added the black band and put concrete in the tile pan. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough concrete and instead of going to buy more, they just decided they’d come back tomorrow. Now, if it were me, I would have leveled the floors and prepped for floor tiles while the shower pan dried. Something. Not these guys. They sat around for hours and watched concrete dry.

Nine hours worth of work

Nine hours worth of work – the black tile and concrete pan.

I had spent the majority of the day out running errands so I was unaware all of this was happening (or not happening). When I got home and saw it my first reaction was “I love the black!” then it was “This is all they did today?”. Blood pressure boiling, I called the manager. Long-story-short, they are coming out tomorrow (Saturday) and finishing the shower (shower pan and grout) as well as laying as much floor as they can in a day. Chad (the manager) said they should be completely finished late Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I had no clue it would take 5 days to tile a shower (this is where having a schedule would have saved me a lot of frustration).

Don’t Be Afraid To Send It Back

I don’t like buying things online. I’m one of those people who likes to see it, touch it then buy it, but with a bathroom remodel if you want something a little more unique you are probably going to have to buy it online. Take my sinks. I opted to buy my sinks online. My beautiful Kohler vessel sinks. I ordered them from build.com and received them crazy fast (two days after I bought them – and that was using the free shipping option). When they got here I eagerly took them out of the box only to find that they were semi-recessed sinks. What that means is that instead of cutting a hole for the drain, I was going to have to cut a massive hole that the sink would sit into. For about a week I thought about those sinks. Finally, after a talk with the Z Gallerie furniture guy (random, I know) I decided to call build.com and ask about returning them. Which brings me to my next point:

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For a Discount/Refund

When you order something online and don’t like it, you have to pay to ship it back (most of the time). When I called build.com I figured this would hold true with them – it does. The thing is, it’s not that I didn’t like the sinks, they just weren’t what they said they were. The rep, Michelle, told me she would send me return directions and that I would need to ship them back. Those sinks are HEAVY and there are two of them. Shipping would have been crazy expensive. I politely (no, really. I was really nice) asked if they would pay for shipping because the description was incorrect and she said “of course.” If I hadn’t asked, they certainly wouldn’t have offered.

The second time this happened is with my pendant lights. They had 5 left in stock. I needed 5. I light-heartedly asked if I got a discount for clearing their stock and the answer was yes! He knocked off $20/light, which saved me $100! Again, if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have received the discount.

The final time this happened was with the drain work (this one also kind of falls under Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up). I was quoted a price based on a certain amount of work. The plumber (not Richard, a different guy) based the quote on having to do a lot of things (I won’t bore you with the list). When he actually started doing the work he saw it was a lot less than he had originally thought and was out of here in about 2 1/2 hours. I paid the bill and he was on his way. The next morning I started to think about the services versus the bill and I realized I paid over $200/hour for the work. I thought about it for a while and decided to call the company. When I spoke with the manager he explained that they do a flat rate to protect the customer from huge bills. While I appreciate this, it ended up costing me a ton for a little bit of work. I explained what Richard would have charged (and he is on the way high end for plumbers) and the manager agreed to adjust the rate for me.

These three examples alone saved me almost $500. In a remodel that has already cost a ton, that $500 was huge.

Getting A Deal Is Great, But Replacing It In Six Months Isn’t

Boy that was a mouthful, but it’s the best way to say it. I like a good bargain. During my kitchen remodel, that love of a bargain ended up costing me a fortune (see my post on the kitchen mistakes here). It also taught me something – often times it’s better to spend a little more to get exactly what you want than to pinch pennies and settle for something you kind of like just to save a few bucks. You will probably end up changing it out in a couple of months and spend a lot more money in the long run. Trust me on this one.

Use Angie’s List

We’ve all seen the commercials for Angie’s List – you can get real, honest reviews from people just like us. I was hesitant to use their services at first, but I have to say that I’ve become a fan. One of the reasons I love Angie’s List is because their top-ranked people know how important the reviews are. Remember that manager who adjusted my plumbing charges? Well, before he agreed to adjust my rate he asked “You found me on Angie’s List, right?” Yes, yes I did. I believe the thought of me giving him a bad review was the main reason he adjusted my rate (I wasn’t going to give a bad review, I was simply going to say he was terribly expensive for the services provided). If you do find someone on Angie’s List, make sure you review them! It’s such a great service and those reviews help other folks find great pros to work with.

Enjoy The Process

Did I just say to enjoy the process? I did. As I type this, I’m frustrated by the fact it’s been two weeks and I have no floor. I’m behind in school and at work because this thing has taken so much of my time. The thing is, every day I learn something new. Something about plumbing. Something about electrical. I get to shop for beautiful products and I’m building a solid base of great contractors for the future (not that I’m planning to remodel anything else, but you never know). It’s been a pain, but it’s been educational and a little entertaining and at the end of it all, I will have a beautiful bathroom.

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