Finished Bathrooms

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This post first appeared on Brownstoner.com on November 17, 2014

Designing the bathrooms in a narrow house was a challenge. One option was to forgo having an office to accommodate a massive long master bathroom. I’ve never been the type of person that needed a huge home or bathroom — and I always wondered who were those people on HGTV that insisted on having double vanities. So the smaller but fully functional master bath won out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The en suite master bath is in no way tiny. It does have a tub and standing shower but there isn’t much room in there except for the necessities and I’m fine with that. The master floor tiles came from a company in California. I searched high and low for inexpensive patterned concrete tiles and there isn’t such a thing.

And the electrician put the bathroom sconce too low. To remedy that problem, I need to a find a horizontal medicine cabinet.

To save on costs, the new guest bathroom is actually an existing bathroom off the hall in the old house configuration. Crazy how much money you can save by not moving plumbing. The downside is that things are really tight but cozy. The Moroccan-inspired floor tiles in the guest bathroom, pictured above, were also pricey but luckily I didn’t need a lot. And at the store where I purchased them, if your designer or architect places the order then you get a 10 to 15 percent discount, depending on the style. The wall tiles are from Overstock.com.

I’m debating adding a shower enclosure to the claw foot tub. Reviews from my few overnight guests have been mixed. My mom loved not having an enclosure, as did my friends who stayed over with their kids. But another set of friends said the current setup was awkward. But I must say, I love not sharing a bathroom with guests. Continue reading

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Renting the one bedroom

We’re about five weeks away from being completed in the duplex. Will everything be done in five weeks? Who knows but I just listed the rental unit- click here. I might be pushing the price slightly for the location but hey a studio next door is asking $1900. We’ll see how it goes.
Here are some before and after photos. I apologize that not all the pictures were taken from the same angle.

Here’s what changed in the rental.

Bathroom:
New tiles, shower head and medicine cabinet. I kept the tub, toilet and sink. I painted the vanity and added a faucet . I also, moved the door to bathroom from the bedroom to the hallway.
Bathroom Before:
Old bathroom

Photos after the break…..

Continue reading

Choosing a Contractor

This post first appeared on Brownstoner on January 16th 2014- as part of our cross blogging partnership

contractor

 

When I told people I was buying a fixer upper in Bed Stuy, one of the more popular responses was a warning about horrible contractor experiences. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about the entire prospect of finding a reputable contractor.

Choosing a contractor with a 203K loan is a bit of a process. First the 203K consultant will come and write up a report on the amount of work that needs to be completed. Work such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, and a new roof (if needed) would be the work that would come first in the consultant’s estimate. Next is the work that you want to complete — cosmetic things like new kitchens, new bathrooms, and flooring. Cosmetic upgrades will really depend on the loan amount and the amount of structural, plumbing, electrical and roofing work that needs to be done. Next, the consultant will give you two reports. One report will have all the work outlined along with the estimated costs. The other report will have only the outline of the work without the costs. This is the version you will give to contractors to bid against.

I sent out bid requests to three contractors but really any number you feel comfortable with is fine. One contractor was recommended by my architect, one recommend by my real estate agent and one by the Brownstoner Forum.  Two bids were very close and the third bid was so low that it led me to believe the contractor didn’t really read the work outline. In the end, I chose the contractor recommended by my architect because his bid was comprehensive and he was certified by the bank.

Now here comes the curve ball. Last year, there weren’t a lot of comps in Bed Stuy to support the rising prices — which resulted in a low appraisal. Because of the low appraisal, the loan amount was reduced and as a result of that, the scope of renovation work was also reduced. The contractor had to submit a new bid for the bank reflecting the changes. And to make matters worse, a few months later I had to change banks (the subject of a future post) and we had to do everything again for the third time.

My relationship with my contractor has been mixed. He’s done a lot of work that has been above and beyond — plus he’s been flexible with my tight budget. But..there has been some issues with the quality of the work but he usually does his best to fix them right away. He’s not part of a big firm, so he doesn’t have as much money to float a project like this, which puts pressure on everyone. But again, overall, I know things could be so much worse.

Always check the tile box…ALWAYS

The correct tile

A few weeks ago, my contractor changed the configuration of the studio bathroom.  The new configuration actually works better than the original plan.  When he changed the plan  I asked him to let me know how much more tile he needed.  In all honesty, I didn’t push the issue and looking back I should have been more proactive and had the measurements taken on the spot. Well, I didn’t do that and last week I got a frantic call from the project manager that they needed more tile ASAP.  I went to the tile store to reorder the tile.  The tile arrives the next day and my project manager goes and picks up the tile. I come by the house later the following day and to my horror the guys are putting up the wrong tile. Seems that the tile store filled the order with the wrong tile and the contractor nor the project manager checked the box before leaving the store or even before bringing it to the house.

All this was made worse because the previous day I had conversations with the project manger and the contractor about being proactive and being able to order things like tile correctly without me being involved.  Anyway, I made the guys take down the incorrect tile but the tile store is orthodox and therefor not open on Friday and Saturday.  I waited until Sunday to make the changes and asked them to check the boxes twice.  The guys are going to put up the correct tile tomorrow, I’ll keep you posted.