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3 min

Building a better bathroom

Five rules for making lasting changes the right way

It's important to buy good-quality products for the bathroom, especially those that can withstand humidity, leakage and soap residue. Credit: Uproar interiors

Bathroom renovations are notoriously pricey, and many people look for ways around that. But as Janice Saikaley, owner of Ottawa’s Uproar Interiors, explains, cheaper isn’t always better. Here are her top five rules for creating a bathroom you’ll love for a lifetime:

1. Keep it clean and buy a good fan. “Rule number one is scrub your bathroom top to bottom,” Saikaley says. “Spend not 10 minutes. Spend three hours.” If you can see drip marks on your walls, she says, you need a new fan. “Go to a hardware store and get a Broan. Get a good one.” Accumulated humidity over time can promote the buildup of orange residue from shampoo and soap, which attracts sticky dust. All of this makes walls more difficult to clean and paint and will make your bathroom look dingy and neglected. “The more you wipe it down, the easier it is to clean.”

2. Make sure the bones are solid. If the infrastructure in your bathroom is good and there are no structural problems, you’ll save money and time in the long run. “Make sure that the sink is in good shape, that there’s putty around the drain, that there’s no leaking, everything’s sound,” Saikaley advises. A good-quality toilet is important — it should be the most expensive fixture in your bathroom; a proper seal will prevent water damage. “Spend good money on a faucet — something that’s going to close tight, that has brass fittings in it, not plastic, because then it won’t leak. Because leaking water will make your water bill go up.”

3. Use good-quality paint and accessories. Uproar Interiors stocks Farrow & Ball paints, which Saikaley recommends above all others. They contain all natural pigments, with no volatile organic compounds, and have a rich matte finish. “It looks like velvet on your walls,” Saikaley says. At approximately $90 per gallon, it’s more expensive than other paints, but the pure pigmentation means you’ll need only half as much per coat compared to other brands. Warm whites and greys are often Saikaley’s choice for larger bathrooms because they’re neutral, soothing and clean. “If you’re doing a powder room, that’s different,” she says. “That’s where you can put the colour.” A single wall of wallpaper can also create a dramatic effect. Lots of hooks, especially behind the door, give you more options for hanging linens and can be less expensive than towel bars. A big no-no: “You don’t want shelves above a toilet; things fall into it. It’s happened to all of us.”

4. Don’t try to substitute cheaper products and expect the same results. This is especially true for paints. If a contractor tries to match a paint colour with a less expensive brand, the finish, the amount you use and the end result will be very different. It also holds true for fixtures, cabinets, vanities and anything else you buy. Especially in the bathroom, where humidity, leakage and soap residue are all factors, the best products you can afford will go a long way toward preventing damage. A good fan, shower curtain or even a soap dispenser will last longer and serve you better. “The cheaper it is, the faster it’s going to break down,” Saikaley says.

5. Hire a professional. “Between the bathroom and the kitchen, those are the two rooms that require every trade,” Saikaley says. “Consult with a designer. Don’t consult with your contractor — they are not designers.” If you’re spending money on fixtures and tiles, you want to be sure they’re installed correctly. “There’s nothing worse than going in and seeing a really bad tile job and a really bad grouting job,” Saikaley says. “Those, leave to the professionals.” Don’t be afraid to ask a designer or contractor for examples of their work or to ask lots of questions when you’re at the hardware store. “I like the boutique hardware stores — Home Hardware, Preston Hardware — because they tend to give better service.”