When we bought our house, we knew we wanted to renovate the guest bathroom. Our wish was to update all the bathrooms, but a full bathroom renovation is very expensive, and we could only afford to renovate one full bath. There is another full bath on the basement level that was not in great shape. Eventually, even though this bathroom was in pretty good condition, we settled on doing the family bath, because it’s the one we’d be using more often. We did come up with an affordable solution for the basement bath and I am very happy with it now. I’ll feature that room sometime in the future.
I didn’t like how dark the bathroom was before, with floor to almost ceiling navy blue tiles, but they were in good condition and were big, thick, expensive Villeroy & Boch tiles (from 1972). I also wasn’t a big fan of the gray floor together with the blue walls. The bathroom was okay, but I also felt a bit under water in there.
Problems, Problems, Problems
We went to a couple bath places and got estimates. Completely renovating a bathroom is about the same as buying a big Mercedes. We picked out tiles and contacted a tile layer from our village who was highly recommended by some friends. Our move in date was 1 month out from the day we took control of the house, so we figured all, or at least most, of the work would be done before we moved in.
The bathroom was emptied of fixtures and tiles by our plumber (another local, I generally recommend going with locals when living in a village, as they have the most to lose if they don’t do a good job). The heating guy came in and, although we hadn’t planned it, convinced us to add in floor heating as it would only cost 500 Euro more. We thought that sounded great. Unfortunately, that was only 500 Euro more for his part. The subfloor needed more concrete and the costs for everything else suddenly rose.
There were delays, and our move in date came and went. Now we were living in a construction site.
A day before the tiler was supposed to start, he emailed us that his costs were increasing by 500 Euro and if we didn’t transfer it to him that day, he couldn’t do the project. We thought this was fishy and asked him for an itemized list of where expenses had increased. Two weeks passed and we still hadn’t heard from him. I guess something more lucrative had come his way.
The tile needed to get done, so we got an estimate from the other local tile man, which was pretty high. He could see our desperation and there is, of course, a desperation surcharge. Rainer ended up picking some tile people off the site My-Hammer.de. They came out, gave us a fair estimate, and they had good reviews, so we said yes.
While I think they would have been excellent at your basic tile job, they complained that the stone tiles we had chosen weren’t easy to cut through. Then they didn’t know what to do with the turquoise mosaic tiles we had chosen, since they were quite thin, and the stone tiles were thick. They laid them flat with the bottom of the stone tiles, so the tiles had markedly different heights. Not good.
They had to come back out because the shower floor didn’t grade properly and the water would pool in spots. They removed the shower floor tile and redid it. They also put a second layer of mosaic over the first so that the surface was even with the stone tiles. I wasn’t happy about this, since the mosaic was very expensive Bisazza mosaic, but at least they came out and did it. They were nice about it too and didn’t complain. We were worried when we saw the problems, that we would end up having to sue them and wouldn’t have the bathroom done for months, so we were very happy that the bathroom was done without too many additional headaches. I imagine these tile workers are good at basic stuff (turns out their main work is drywall, but they also do tile, which Rainer neglected to tell me – I would have insisted on someone whose main work was tilework). Our job was a complicated one and they didn’t recognize their limitations.
The Finished Product
After the tile was done and the old straps for the outdoor window shutters were put back in place, we realized that they were poorly placed originally, which we hadn’t noticed before (one twisted around the edge of the windowsill). Since the windows were frosted, we didn’t think we needed to use the shutters, but this left big holes cut in the tile for the straps. We ended up getting these wall vases to cover the holes.
I like having them as decoration on the tile, and I probably wouldn’t have put anything up if there hadn’t been holes to cover. Also, if we have to sell the house someday, it gives the next owner the flexibility to put the shutter pulls back in if they chose.
I love having an open rain shower. I liked the look, but worried a little about water getting out of the shower. It does just a little, but not enough that it is a bother.
In it’s past incarnation, there was also a bidet in the bathroom. We decided to eliminate it to make more space. We had started out wanting to replace the bidet with a toilet, but then decided not to include a toilet. The guest toilet is next door and this way, you can really relax in the tub without staring at a toilet.
What we learned
While we were in the middle of renovating, we felt like it was a nightmare and regretted our decision to renovate. Especially the decision to put in in-floor heating, since that seems to be what started all the mess. In the end though, we love love love our bathroom and we especially love the in-floor heating. It was a major headache and cost more than we expected, but it was definitely worth it.
In the end, what I learned from this project, is to go with a bathroom company if you’re not able to manage the work yourself (and most people are not able to manage while looking after two small children obsessed with getting at the workmen’s tools) and/or don’t know anything about renovation (we had never renovated anything before, and although I’d seen my parents renovate and manage contractors, I had never done it myself, and building techniques are very different in Germany). The estimates from these companies are higher than if you go with getting estimates from all the various contractors, but if there are problems, the price does not go up for the companies. Their estimates include dealing with any unseen problems that come up.
It’s also important to know what you want and not change your mind, as I found changing your mind mid-project, even if you remove something, seems to raise all prices. We had originally wanted a built in bench next to the tub and decided to eliminate it mid-project so the floorplan is more flexible. I am glad we eliminated it, but doing so mid-project was a problem.
If you aren’t 100% certain what you want, wait until you are.
We made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we are happy with the way things turned out. Are you thinking about renovating a bathroom? Do you have any advice to share?