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Bathroom renovations: Sinking in some money

Top-end equipment for bathroom renovations can make the jobs more of a drain than usual.

But, sometimes, that is the only way to go, says Kristin Bozella, showroom manager at Bathroom Showplace in Ross. To get the bathroom that is going to make the project worthwhile, it might be necessary to spend $500 for a low-flow toilet rather than a less-efficient $200 one.

But Pittsburgh-area homeowners tend to be practical about what they do, said Mark Uchida, a designer of baths and kitchens from A ReMARKable Kitchen in Blawnox.

“Hey, it’s Pittsburgh,” he said with a chuckle.

They are not alone in that thinking, said Dave Alderman, president-elect of the New Jersey-based National Kitchen and Bath Association, a design and supply industry group.

“I think only about 2 to 3 percent reality go into the high-tech stuff,” he said.

For those interested in that direction, there are a great number of ways to put together a major project.

• A VibrAcoustic bathtub from Wisconsin-based Kohler will play music with rhythms that vibrate through the water and into the body, said Kohler designer Diana Schrage. Cost: $7,500 to $10,000.

• A floor-mounted faucet and spray from Milwaukee’s Graff provides elegant plumbing for a tub for $2,265.

• Stone vessel sinks from the Stone Forest company of New Mexico range between $590 and $660.

• Sink faucets from Florida-based THG start at about $2,600 but can go to $10,000 when equipped with black stone inlays.

Even more practical matters can gradually creep to higher costs. Steam showers from Kohler, for instance, provide a sauna-like cloud of relaxing steam, but require doors that cost $1,500, steam generators for $600, and controls for $500.

Bozella said systems that provide radiant heating through a bathroom floor cost from $350 to $600.

But those prices do not include any work that would have to be done by a plumber.

Uchida has seen clients spend as much as $80,000 for bathroom remodeling, but said that money here generally goes toward such practical items rather than expensive or decorative items.

Lawrence Iovina sees practicality prevailing also. He is the sales manager of Plumbers Equipment, a design and supply firm with five locations in the Pittsburgh-Greensburg area. It is the owner of Bathroom Showplace.

Focusing on practicality does not make a job cheaper, though.

The average price for a bathroom renovation in the Pittsburgh area for 2009-10 is $17,693, up from $16,983, according to an annual study by the National Association of Realtors. But the cost recouped in resale has dropped from 78 percent to 64 percent.

Alderman suggests that could be because home buyers are less willing to pay for bathroom renovations even if their inclusion might make the decision to purchase a house.

His group suggests limiting spending to about 5 to 10 percent of a home’s value.

Kohler’s Schrage said buyers are looking for features that provide an “authentic” benefit, instead of simply offering stand-out equipment.

That means homeowners might be more attracted to a good shower installation than something as dramatic as a VibrAcoustic tub, she said.

Bozella pointed to the popularity of spending for showerheads that create the impression of using a great deal of water without doing so. Raindance units from the Hansgrohe company are operated through a patented system of infusing water with air, Bozella said. They can cost as much as $1,267, the company said, but she has seen that price accepted because the desire for a good shower is seen as a vital part of the bathroom everyone wants.

Schrage said that kind if thinking is all part of the “new normal.”

Whatever the cost, Alderman said, the aim of always is the same.

“The whole idea is to make the bathroom a little nicer, less cave-like,” he said.


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