When you’re building a house from scratch but it’s not a custom home, a few changes are permitted here and there but big-box builders simply aren’t equipped for total personalization. We were adamant about having a family-sized shower in our master bathroom and invested in that instead of upgrading anything else in the ensuite.
For the last eight years, we’ve lived with a pretty uninspiring space — once you get past our awesome shower, that is. Until last week, it sported basic floor tiles, an engineered vanity with laminate countertop, a mirror that would feel right at home in a strip joint, and a soaker tub built into a bay window with a tile surround.
It was just…blech.
And I hardly noticed it, really. That is, until we gave our master bedroom a facelift last fall.
I’d walk from our hotel-worthy bedroom and cross through the bathroom doorway into 1992. (Even though our home was built in 2010.)
But embarking on a total bathroom gut job was not in our budget. Nor did it need to be since we still love our shower, and I knew both the vanity and mirror could be jazzed up if we remodeled everything else around them.
So, the plan from the get-go was to do a partial bathroom renovation by bringing in a new quartz countertop, changing out the existing light fixtures, slapping down some gorgeous flooring and taking out the built-in tub in favour of a freestanding one.
We went with a new toilet in the end as well, not only because it’s a really neat self-cleaning toilet (more on this later) but because after we experienced the glory of a comfort-height toilet in our rec room bathroom, we just had to have one upstairs, too.
Choosing your master ensuite furniture, fixtures and finishes
Picking out all of the “big stuff” was a dream thanks to some help from The Home Depot Canada who enlisted American Standard. I knew what kind of look I was going for and we had all the showstoppers chosen within hours:
- American Standard Studio Rectangular undermount sinks
- American Standard Serin sink faucets
- American Standard Tofino freestanding tub
- American Standard freestanding tub filler (the exact one shown below is currently being redesigned — look out for a new one at The Home Depot soon!)
- American Standard VorMax Plus Right-Height self-cleaning toilet
This makes it sound like it was an easy project. And, sure, parts of it were easy but there were also things we hadn’t considered — for our budget or our timeline. Ultimately, we called in professionals because the job was bigger than our DIY capabilities.
That’s probably my first piece of advice if you’re going to tackle a big bathroom project: know your limits. It became very clear very quickly that we needed help. Huge, huge thanks to the tireless team led by Brian from Diversified Property Maintenance (905.626.2530)!
Here’s what else we chose at The Home Depot:
- Flush-mount light for bathroom entryway
- Vanity light fixture
- Hardwood-look porcelain tile flooring (similar to this but ours is not available online; look for “Enigma High-Definition Porcelain” in the tile aisle in more of a grey colour. Planks are 6”x36” and come in a pack of 8 for around $3.50 per sq.ft.)
- Nice hardware for the vanity along with a couple of hooks you can only find in-store
- Quartz countertop
Considerations for your master bathroom remodel
- Major plumbing infrastructure — leave it where it is if you can. It’s time-consuming (and painful) to move toilets, sinks and tubs around
- Think about your new tub’s drain — our old tub had a drain at the side while our new one was smack in the middle. Not only did this mean moving some plumbing (despite the fact that our new tub was sitting in the same spot as the old one!), it also turned out that we were right on top of joists. Brian’s team had to fully rebuild the joists as a result. Not exactly ideal, so if you’re not OK with this, either open up your floor before you go tub shopping or choose a tub with drainage in the same area as your existing one
- Bay windows are actually outdoors — I had this vision in my head that the freestanding tub faucet would be nestled into the new space created by opening up the bottom quarter of our bay window where the built-in tub had been. Not so. Because, news flash, that would mean plumbing would essentially be outdoors to accommodate that placement. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but you can’t do that. Be sure to consider your faucet placement carefully if you have outdoor-facing walls and windows in your bathroom
- Undermount sinks will give you a lot more real estate to play with on top of your vanity counter; just keep in mind that they need to be onsite when your countertop is installed and you’ll probably end up with a bit less room in the cabinetry below
- Repurpose what you can — if you’re on a budget, I mean! Our shower stayed as is; we kept our vanity and simply changed the countertop and fixtures, along with the door handles; the original builder mirror stayed in place; and I reused some of our old décor pieces (including re-painting the wooden ladder I’ve had in our bathroom for eight years using some leftover paint from our walls, and re-hanging some floating shelves we bought at The Home Depot when we first moved in)
- Plan well — make sure (especially if you’re DIYing) that you carefully plan the order of work that’s being done. For example, we should have left the countertop installation for the very end so that the silicone they add at the end to seal the joints was over new paint
- Read product installation manuals before you remove things from packaging, if possible, and certainly before you dive in
- Budget for the things you don’t think you’ll need — because you’ll need them. Add some kind of contingency plan because you’re probably going to go over-budget somewhere. We didn’t know until the old tile came up that there was no subfloor product laid (it was just some mesh over plywood), which meant we had to buy a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of Ditra to ensure our pretty new porcelain tiles stay pretty for the long-haul; that’s money you don’t see in the end result but you’ve got to account for stuff like that
- Invest in things you’ll love — you want that freestanding tub and spectacular bath filler? Splurge. You’ll find a way to save elsewhere to make up for it. That’s your room’s showpiece, so make it count. To bring down the budget, we went with inexpensive flooring and chose not to add radiant heating underneath; we also decided against some small tiles I wanted to put inside the bay window. Décor choices were done on the cheap as much as possible. All of these helped us save on the overall bottom line
- If a toilet can clean itself, buy it — American Standard’s VorMax Plus toilet (which comes in white and off-white and in both standard and comfort heights) features a drop-in Lysol cartridge that, for 30 days, cleans your toilet bowl every time you flush it. I like that the cartridge is totally concealed and works without your help. There are no buttons you need to remember to push! We’ve been using in for more than a week now and it really does keep itself quite clean (despite seeing a lot of, er… action). And the bonus? It’s a really decadent-looking toilet with gorgeous hardware
What does a partial bathroom remodel cost?
Budgeting for a master ensuite overhaul will obviously depend on the size of your bathroom and whether or not you’re ripping out everything or doing a partial renovation like we did. Our bathroom is definitely on the large side, but we really focused on saving money where we could.
This is how much our master ensuite renovation cost:
- Bathroom countertop, furniture and fixtures, total = $6,081.56 (broken down item-by-item below)
- Quartz countertop (~$1,900)
- Undermount sinks ($326 ea.)
- Sink faucets ($279 ea.)
- Freestanding tub ($1,499)
- Freestanding tub filler ($369)
- Toilet ($348)
- Flush-mount light for bathroom entryway ($119)
- Vanity light fixture ($239)
- Hardwood-look porcelain tile flooring ($350)
- Vanity door knobs ($5.26 ea.)
- Two hooks (~$8 ea.)
- BEHR Premium Plus Ultra paint (Nano White) with a separate primer to help protect against bathroom humidity = ~$120
- All the stuff you can’t see (like subflooring, drywall, screws, pipes, caulking, etc.) = ~$500
- New trim = ~$200
- Décor, L’Occitane products and towels = ~$400
- Labour = $2,670
- GRAND TOTAL (pre-tax) = $9,971.56
Not bad considering we now have a magazine-worthy retreat that probably added $15k to the value of our home.
Master ensuite remodel before and after photos
This is our vanity area, before and after:
This is our bath area, before and after:
This is our toilet area, before and after:
Drumroll, please… more stunning pics of our new bathroom
Come on in…
A view from above…
Our new oasis is centred around the Tofino freestanding bathtub from American Standard, available online at The Home Depot Canada, along with the self-cleaning Vormax toilet:
A freestanding tub and faucet give our bathroom the illusion of more space. It’s not actually bigger, of course, but it feels like we added a hundred square feet!
Our quartz countertop turned out even more beautifully than I expected:
If you’re looking for some more master bathroom reno inspo, check out the Pinterest board I created for my own process. And if you have ANY questions about this project that I haven’t covered here, feel free to shoot me a PM on Facebook.
I hope you don’t mind that from now on I’ll be taking questions from the comfort of my tub…
PHOTO CREDIT: All “after” photos by Kristen Recalis Photography.
DISCLAIMER: The Home Depot Canada and American Standard provided some of the products for this project. While I am eternally grateful for the gifts, it doesn’t alter my opinion or experience. (And don’t worry, I spent plenty of my own money!)