Apr 13

All about shower remodeling in Chicago

In the eighties and nineties, it was considered the height of luxury in the master bathroom to build in a large whirlpool tub. Over the years people have come to realize that they are almost never used and they take up an awful lot of space. Now that we’re moving from the decadent nineties to the practical teens, there’s a surge in people interested in turning their tubs into showers. It’s certainly makes sense. Most people shower every day and take a bath two or three times a year.

Before you start there are some serious considerations to think about. The best place to start is with space planning. When you look at all the pictures in magazines or websites, the master bath is the size of your whole apartment. Many of us who live in a city use a bathroom that is about six feet by ten feet or smaller. So you’re not adding a massive shower to your bath. You’re taking out the tub and converting the space to a shower. In order to be comfortable in the new space, you should have at least thirty inches of width in your shower. Any narrower and it will be uncomfortable. Fortunately, standard tubs are thirty inches wide, so most baths have the space. You also should have at least eighty inches of ceiling height. That’s less than seven feet, and you can’t get by with less than that. If you’re putting a door in the shower, measure the space between your toilet or vanity and where the shower will go and make sure you have enough space to place a door. The minimum width door you will want is about twenty four inches wide, so if you have only a four foot tub (which is rare but I’ve seen many of them in old buildings), you won’t have room to open the door. You should thoroughly think about how the new space will look and what’s important to you in the shower. Is it critical to have lots of shelf space so there’s plenty of room for shampoo and soap? Would you like a bench so you can put your legs up on it to shave? Do you want to install a steam shower because you feel chilled to the bone all the time during Chicago winters?

The next step is to call in a pro. In this case I’d recommend a general contractor because this is definitely not a do it yourself project. You will need carpentry, drywall or cement board installation, waterproofing expertise, tile installation, new plumbing, and possibly electric work. First, we are going to double check your measurements and make sure that everything fits. Once that’s done, the fun starts. Everything must go, and the room will be stripped to the studs. The next few steps no one sees but they are most critical. When you read a Houzz or House Beautiful article about shower remodels, they’ll talk about picking tiles and fixtures. Those things are important, but what really counts is building the new shower properly from the ground up. I’ve been involved in six or seven shower disasters when I was called in by people whose issues ranged from leaking showers to the supporting frames underneath rotting away and the shower starting to collapse. Fixing an improperly installed shower costs more than building it right in the first place.

In a nutshell, here’s what now goes into the shower. We either frame out a custom size base, line it with a rubber membrane and fill it with cement or purchase a premade vinyl base that can be your floor or can be tiled (your choice based on esthetics and cost). The plumbing is changed from the tub and shower configuration to shower only. The drain is reworked to function in the space. The most important step in the whole process is to make sure that there is a continuous waterproof barrier from the floor to the ceiling. Expert tile installers do this by using a combination of waterproof boards, rubber membrane and waterproof epoxies. If this step is not done right, you will eventually have leaks. Next we tile and put on the shower fixtures. Finally the glass goes on and you have a new shower.

Your esthetic choices are important. I want you to pick beautiful fixtures, have a great rain shower head, select gorgeous tile, and have storage space for all your stuff. But even more I don’t want you to have nightmares after you build your new shower. Have fun!

Feb 28

Why I’m writing a kitchen bath design build renovation blog about building (or, how I’m learning not to be afraid of social media).

Buildings are something that we all use every day. We live in them, work in them, and play in them. We take all those buildings completely for granted unless something’s not working for us in them. It might be something functional that’s not functioning. When your air conditioning stops working and its 95 degrees outside, you stop taking it for granted. It might be something emotional or aesthetically that’s jarring. If you hate your kitchen, you don’t take it for granted. It bothers you every time you walk in there.

Since we spend most of our lives in them, buildings impact us in every way. They can make us healthier or less healthy, happier or more depressed, bring families together if the design is good or separate them if the design is bad, help or hurt our productivity at work. Few things impact our lives as much as our environment. In a way, the buildings where we live and work have as much emotional and physical influence on us as the people with whom we spend time.

I have a passion for design and construction. I believe strongly that my work makes people’s lives better by making their home or work environment a better place for them to live in. I get just as much psychic satisfaction from fixing a flawed bathroom as in building a multi unit condominium. And the gratification is much more immediate! The best thing for me about my business is that pretty much every job involves improving someone’s life.

I see buildings (and rooms) as living things that have a life cycle. We can extend their lives by surgically intervening and resuscitating their essence. When we make their lives better and longer, we do the same to ours.

I think a lot about all this stuff and I have a lot to say about it. It might interest you. If it does, read my posts and pass them on to your friends and colleagues. You can always write or call me. I enjoy talking about construction and design. I’m happy to look at building problems and design opportunities and give you my thoughts. You can go to my website at www.m5chicago.com to see my work or my Facebook page to send me a message. If you’re not interested in this stuff, just unsubscribe. My feelings won’t be hurt. We’re all bombarded with more information than we can absorb.