Mastering the art of the bathroom remodel

The best bathroom remodels are a dance of finish experts, accompanied by designer-builder-client collaboration.

I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the coolest parts of my job here at Hammer & Hand is to pick the brains of the folks here about what makes our work as remodelers and builders special.  This place is run by a passionate and smart bunch, so there’s lots of depth to mine.

I recently spoke with Hammer & Hand’s CEO, Daniel Thomas, about the fine art of bathroom remodeling.  No chuckling please.  Good bathroom remodeling – well designed, well built, and executed on time and on budget – requires intensive choreography and orchestration.

What’s behind the need for this level of artful coordination and management?  Concentration of finishes.

To illustrate, Daniel posed this thought-exercise comparing a typical bathroom and a typical living room: cut a cross-section through the walls of each room and what do you see?  For the living room you see framing, drywall and paint.  So the construction of the room required a framer, a drywaller and a painter.  Even if you add a floor installer to the mix, you’re still talking about just four players to coordinate.

Now take a look at the bathroom wall cross-section.  You’ve still got the framer, the drywaller, the painter and the floor installer involved, but now you’ve also got a tile setter, a plumber, an electrician, a glass manufacturer, a fixture manufacturer, etc.

“The creation or remodel of a bathroom means piling a whole bunch of trades people on top of one another in a space the size of a closet,” Daniel said.  “And that requires some really skillful project management.”

This choreography of craftspeople and subcontractors might mean slotting a morning for trade A, followed by an afternoon with trade B so that trade A can come back the next morning to finish up in time for trade C to do their thing, and on and on.  Each step in the process depends on previous steps, and impacts future ones.  It’s all interconnected, tightly woven.  Managing it all requires finesse and élan.

The concentration of finishes in bathroom remodels (and kitchen remodels, for that matter) also makes the designer’s role really crucial, elevating the importance of designer-builder-client collaboration in project development.  There are thousands, possibly millions of tile choices out there, for instance.  The same goes for flooring… and glass, and fixtures, and paint hues and tones.

“The consumer is confronted by a massive maze of unparsable information,” said Daniel.  “In our design/build collaborative process, the designer takes three thousand choices and distills them down to a handful of options that are right for the house, the budget, the client and that don’t disrupt the schedule or our critical path to project completion.”

The product of this collaboration and coordination can be deeply satisfying.  Take a look at this post for links to a good representative sampling of bathroom remodels we’ve done in the Portland area, as well as this recent post about our recent Koin Tower bathroom remodel.


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