Don’t wait to start bathroom projects

Roberta Johnson knew she had problems when the tile in her shower started buckling and falling out. But the Auburn homeowner didn’t know was how extensive the damage could be. “This is how naïve I was. I actually thought Mr. Grout could fix it,” she said. ” I waited too long.”

And when she started getting estimates, she had an even bigger shock.

One company wanted not only to fix her walk-in shower, but to make changes to a separate area of her bathroom – for nearly $16,000. A few estimates later, she found a company which gave her an estimate just under $2,400 to fix only the tiles and water damage.

“Be very specific about what you want done,” Johnson said. And homeowners have a lot to be specific about. First, they need to decide whether they want the damage repaired or the whole tub or shower unit replaced. Sometimes, if cost is a determining factor, they should receive estimates on both.

Tips on retiling

According to Cara Thibault, design partner with Abrazo Construction, homeowners with damaged tile should:

Ask for references before hiring a contractor, and watch the work as it progresses. Even if the homeowner knows very little about the repair work, he or she can watch as the backer board is put in. There’s and “x” everywhere there should be a screw, so it’s easy to tell if the worker is cutting corners.
Consider installing an exhaust fan vented outside the house. Existing exhaust fans should be evaluated for effectiveness. A simple test is to hold a facial tissue close to the fan to see if it is pulled onto the fan’s louvers.
Think about replacing the shower valve if the shower walls are being replaced. It will be far less expensive to replace the valve during the replacement of the walls than to be forced to replace it if it fails later on.

Other decisions: Do you want 40-cent tiles or expensive sheets of stone? What about acrylic liners that look like tile or marble. The options are limitless.

Of course, homeowners do have the option of buying shower stalls or tiles at home improvement stores and doing it themselves. But Cara Thibault, design partner with Abrazo Construction warned that the job can be a bit more difficult than it seems. “It’s not hard to change a vanity or a toilet, but when you’re working with a damaged floor or with plumbing, it’s not an easy job, ” he said.
It’s also not an easy job to estimate. Sometimes the extent of water damage isn’t known until demolition starts.

“The big thing is to address it while it’s small, before the problem gets huge,” Thibault said. And watch the caulking. “Water doesn’t need a very big space to get in and do a tremendous amount of damage,” she said. When the caulking starts to crack and peel, remove and replace it, she said.

Remember that if you’re missing a few tiles, the whole shower is in danger. Most of the loose tiles are found around an existing soap dish or fixture handles.

For more information about bathroom remodeling options, call or visit Bath Fitter, 460 RiverSide Street, Portland, 877-775-2022,

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