While the kitchen often is considered the most essential room in a house, the bathroom places a close second among homeowners, according to Frank Webb’s Bath Center website.

“You want these spaces to be comfortable and welcoming while reflecting your lifestyle and personality as much as possible,” notes the national website, which reveals a local center at 60 Lexington Street in Lewiston. “However, finding that perfect balance for your project is no easy task. From choosing a designer to picking out colors, materials, and styles, these projects can be daunting to any homeowner.”

Fortunately for homeowners, there’s no shortage of online information as well as advice from local bath renovation contractors.

Trends in bathrooms for 2010 from the National Kitchen and Bath Association

In with the old, out with the new

Traditional will be the most popular design style in bathrooms in 2010, as contemporary designs will be a distant second, followed by the Shaker style as an even more distant third. Beige and bone will be the most common colors used in bathrooms, followed by white and off-white.

Ceramic and granite

Ceramic and porcelain tile will be the dominant flooring materials in bathrooms this year, while natural stone will continue to prove popular as well. For vanity tops, granite will remain king, with quartz and marble also proving popular options.

Simple fixtures

The most common color for fixtures will be white. Bisque and off-white will be the only other fixture colors common in new or remodeled bathrooms.

A nickel for every finish

Faucet finishes in brushed nickel continue to lead the way in 2010. Bronze and stainless steel will follow as a choice for homeowners.

Practical advice

Beyond seeking the trends in the market, Donald Fortin, president of Fortin Construction Inc. in Auburn, advises a practical balance to bathroom makeovers.

“I try to make sure that the customer is going to get return on investment on all repairs. I believe making sure that the repairs fit the house and maybe even the neighborhood,” said Fortin. “For instance I would not recommend a tile shower that costs $4K in a house valued at $175K. That is not expected in a house in that price range. I would recommend repairs that are for that price range house.”

As for the best value in repairs and renovations, it is not the same for every homeowner. “For some, it is adding a bath and for others it may be just upgrading the fixtures and replacing the floor. We add baths and replace complete bathrooms depending on the budget and the house.”

And Fortin noted that consumers are more value oriented. These days, more customers are looking for oversized showers instead of bathtubs. More people want a nice shower that has plenty of space instead of taking a bath that uses 90 gallons of water for a 20-minute soak.

“I would forgo the bath and put the money in the shower and upgrade the fixtures to brushed nickel or bronze instead,” noted Fortin.

More practical advice

Debby Dickinson, manager of Frank Webb’s Bath Center, offered these tips to consider while planning a bathroom makeover.

When you replace an existing toilet you should verify the rough dimensions to make sure the new toilet will fit correctly. This can be done by measuring from the finished wall to the bolts that secure the toilet to the floor.

Confirm with your contractor and/or plumber that you will have an adequate supply of hot water before you decide to purchase a new soaking tub, whirlpool, air tub, or custom shower.

Grab bars are becoming more and more common in tubs and showers – not only are they a great safety feature, they also provide increased ease of entry and exit into the tub and/or shower.

Living in the northeast we all know what it’s like to step onto the bathroom floor on a cold winter morning. While you’re remodeling (or if you’re building a new home) you many want to think about putting radiant heat into the floor to warm you up on those cold days.

Don’t forget to pick out your accessories when you select your fixtures. Many suppliers will have towel bars, soap dishes and decorative lights that will match your fixtures and faucets.

Online resources

www.nkba.org/consumer_tools_workbook.aspx. – This site provides access to a comprehensive planning guide for bathroom makeovers. Complete online request to receive planning guide.

fwbc.frankwebbbath.com/my-projects.php – Another planning website that allows you to pick and choose items to add to your repair or renovation project. Take the completed list to your local Bath Center expert.

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