Editor’s Note: Our biannual Remodel Memphis section has been known for before-and-after photos of some of the most beautiful houses around Shelby County. This time, we’re doing something different. Builders Dave Moore and Ryan Anderson walk homeowners through the rebuilding process for kitchens and baths, while local industry experts provide advice on everything from new faucets to decor and financing. Looking to revitalize your space? Memphis magazine’s 2020 edition of Remodel Memphis is the place to start.
Right now, as more and more people are working from home, there’s no better time to remodel where they’ll be spending most of their time in. And as tastes and trends change, bathroom remodels have been popular among homeowners.
Whether the home dweller wants to transform their master bath into a haven of relaxation or if they want to provide a welcoming vibe for guests, anything is possible. Anyone wishing to revamp their bathroom space has plenty of options to execute this project, including taking on the project or contracting a builder.
RKA Construction, known for providing superior quality, craftsmanship, and customer service since 2011, is one such company that could take handle the task. Since COVID-19 emerged, they’ve spent considerable time working away from the office but have still been conducting renovations for their clients.
Owner Ryan Anderson says that homeowners can take on the responsibility of some or most of a bathroom project if preferred. He expresses caution, however, against DIY remodelers trying to tackle reframing, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical work themselves. Those aspects should be left to licensed contractors.
“It’s one thing just to swap a new faucet. You can certainly watch a couple YouTube videos and figure out how to do that yourself,” he says. “But it’s a whole other thing to swap a tub, install a new shower valve, or replumb a sink. If you do them wrong, you can certainly run the risk of causing some pretty major water damage during the process or down the road. And the same applies for electrical work. You could hurt yourself, cause a fire, or do things that would cost you a lot more than if you had a licensed electrician come in and install that new light fixture or rewire that room.”
But there are many installations that homeowners can take on themselves, including adding tile to the floor or tub surround, painting and adding hardware to vanities, and perhaps even replacing the entire vanity.
Before the project begins, the homeowner needs to check with their local code enforcement offices on any permitting requirements they might have. “Generally, the things that are going to require a permit are probably what the average person shouldn’t be tackling on their own,” Anderson says. “And then from there, if a permit is required, homeowners can pull a permit themselves. They would be required to hire a licensed plumber and electrician to work under that permit.”
Once permits and contractors are established, homeowners can get to work on the demolition.
“If they’ve already got the tools, such as a circular saw, then they could certainly do those themselves if they feel comfortable,” says Anderson. “If not, they would need to hire a framer to do that.”
For any reframing, framing repairs, or wall relocation, it is advised that a framer do this for you. Then, after reframing, the other licensed contractors will need to take care of any electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work.
“That would all need to occur while everything is still opened up,” says Anderson. “Once that’s done and inspected, you would put in any insulation then that would be required if it’s on an exterior wall. Then you’d hang the drywall.” He notes that drywall might be something best handled by a professional if the homeowner is not experienced with it.
Next comes any tiling that would be needed, whether that’s for the floor, shower, or tub surround. Shower tiles should be left up to a professional, but homeowners can take on floor and tub surround tiling themselves, provided they do enough research.
“Think about picking fairly basic materials,” says Anderson. “If you’re going to do any kind of complex mosaic tiles, sometimes for a novice, it can be really challenging to make it look right.”
From there, the bathroom is ready for DIY trim work, such as baseboards and crown molding, followed by vanity installation and painting. Professionals can then install plumbing and light fixtures, and voila, the brand-new bathroom is complete.
“This will certainly give you a much nicer space to live out of day-to-day as a homeowner, and it’s also going to give you a pretty good return on your dollar when it comes to the point of resale,” says Anderson.
Below, some renowned suppliers can best help you get your bathroom and/or kitchen outfitted with up-and-coming trends and products to ensure you have the dream home you’ve always wanted.
Tile Floors and Walls
Memphis Tile and Marble Co. offers a range of products suited for both bathroom and kitchen, including high-quality porcelain and mexican tile, brick pavers, radiant floor systems (NuHeat), and beyond. They offer full-scale kitchen and bathroom remodels and can help with tile, marble, granite, or natural stone products.
Owner Richard Cox says that subway tiles are a popular option for wall tiling, while white and grey porcelain tiles have been a favored substitute for marble flooring. “Manufacturers have gotten very good at producing a porcelain tile that looks like real marble,” he says. “This saves the customer money versus using a real marble that has to be maintained routinely.”
Cox says the company has begun to install porcelain panels as large as 5’ x 10’ on shower walls and bathroom floors. “These thin panels are really popular now with the designers and specifiers,” he says.
As far as installing tiling yourself, Cox says the process is ever-changing due to so many kinds of tiles emerging on the market. He recommends that homeowners stay up-to-date on new techniques or different installation instructions from the manufacturers.
“Glass tile is a good example,” he says. “You cannot use a cheap mortar to install them. Depending on how the glass is mounted on the sheet, a different technique to install them may need to be used.”
Before a shower is ready to receive tile, however, Shelby County Code Enforcement must conduct a shower pan inspection by filling the pan with one inch of water and letting it sit overnight to make sure everything is waterproofed correctly. “For the DIY, the shower pan is a very critical process,” says Cox. “If not done correctly, the shower will leak from day one.”
Bluff City Stoneworks, Inc. is a locally owned and operated stone fabrication and installation company that services the tri-state area and has more than 30 years of collective experience in the stone industry. They offer professional custom fabrication, installation, and restoration services of granite, marble, manufactured quartz, and other natural stones.
The company’s vice president, Melissa Peterson, says that Bluff City Stoneworks factors in budget, design, and functionality when helping clients choose stone selections for bathrooms and kitchens. When it comes to bathrooms, they start with measurements so they can offer remnants from their shop to help with the budget, rather than purchasing a slab for small areas.
“Then, we try to determine functionality,” says Peterson. “If they want marble, how often will they be using that top? Do they use a lot of products that have citrus or other acidic items that might etch or scratch the marble? Do they use a lot of makeup that might stain the marble? What cleaning products do they use? Will they be all right with more upkeep and having to re-seal yearly? Is the top for a kids’ bathroom?”
Depending on answers, Bluff City Stoneworks might try to dissuade the client from going with marble countertops and opting instead for man-made quartz, such as Cambria, Caesarstone, or Silestone, that will give them the marble look without all the upkeep.
Peterson says that clients have been gravitating towards white and grey color schemes, although some designers are bringing warm tones back into the mix.
“Honed or leathered stones have been quite popular with clients over the last few years,” she says. “The honing process gives it a matte finish and the leathered, more of a textured finish.”
If the client is upgrading from another material and wants to replace it with granite, quartzite, marble, or man-made quartz, Bluff City Stonework looks for desired colors and designs that are within the customer’s budget.
If the client is looking for durability, Peterson says that granite is a preferable choice, as it is stain-, scratch-, and heat-resistant.
“Granite will last for years, and depending on what cleaning products are used, it won’t need to be sealed as often,” she says.
She says that marble may work for bathrooms but is not practical for kitchens, since it is a soft, porous stone that can stain and scratch easily, and it is sensitive to etching with acidic foods, drinks, and oils. Clients must also be cautious about the cleaning products they use on marble, because chemicals can damage the stone. To make these countertops work, Peterson recommends that marble be sealed at least once a year, if not every six months.
“I generally feel my clients out if they want marble,” she says. “Personality has a lot to do with it also. I tell them that if they are a bit OCD and want everything shiny and looking good all the time, then it is not for them. But if they are more laid-back and like the look of worn marble, like in Europe, with the pits, etching, and stains that those give the stone character over time, then it may be okay for their lifestyle.”
For a marble look without the hassle, however, Peterson recommends a natural quartzite. These stones can provide the marble look with a harder surface than granite and marble, meaning it won’t stain and scratch easily. However, it can still etch like marble would and it is not very heat resistant.
If the client is looking for a low-maintenance product, Peterson suggests man-made quartz, which can also be used to achieve a marble look without all the hassle. Unlike a natural stone, it won’t stain, scratch, or etch. The one downside, however, is that this type of countertop is not fully heat-resistant, so homeowners should refrain from placing hot pots and pans directly on the countertop.
With a lot of options for countertops, Peterson reveals what has been trending: “Granite is still one of the best, but in the last few years, more and more people are going for quartzites or man-made quartz like Cambria.”
When it is time for installation, Peterson recommends allowing a professional to install countertops. “I don’t recommend homeowners installing them unless they have had contracting experience,” she says. “The stone can be quite heavy and hard to handle if you don’t know what you are doing, and you could get hurt. You will most likely get a better fit or look letting the fabricator handle it.”
Graham’s Lighting has been around for more than 60 years, providing design, expertise, and commitment to quality nationwide. They have become renowned for providing customized lighting and have attracted well-known customers such as Dixie Carter and Morgan Freeman.
Lighting designer expert Bob Myers says that one can never have too much lighting in bathrooms and that having a sufficient amount of lighting can help brighten up the room. Because bathrooms can be used for both relaxation and for cleansing, grooming, and applying cosmetics, Myers suggests that lighting in these spaces should be multifaceted and variable to provide appropriate lighting for all situations.
Vanity lighting requires soft light sources coming from multiple angles to provide an even, pleasing source of light. To pull this off, Myers recommends pinhole recessed lighting that shines down on the vanity top to light up the sink area and adding a pair of wall-mounted fixtures on either side of the mirror.
“I want to be able to light the face evenly without shadows, so that if I’m doing any kind of work with the face, whether it’s shaving or makeup, I can see what I’m doing,” he says. “And I want to make sure that it’s a shielded source because I don’t want to create any glare.”
He says that although clear glass shades and clear filament bulbs have been trending, this type of lighting should be avoided due to the harsh glare they can produce. Instead, he recommends a shielded source of light that can be achieved by encasing the bulb in white glass or by covering the bulb with a silk shade.
And to transform these lights for relaxation purposes, Myers highly recommends installing dimmer controls.
“Some people like to sit in a nice warm bath and relax with a good book and soak away some of the strain of the day,” he says. “Well, if that’s another way that I’m going to use that bathroom, then I have to be prepared to have lighting that takes that into account.”
The need for sufficient lighting carries over to the kitchen, too, so that homeowners can see what they’re doing when preparing or eating food, grabbing dishes out of cabinets, and more. For overhead lighting, Myers recommends recessed lighting. “It has become more popular to use smaller aperture recessed lighting, as opposed to larger aperture recessed lighting,” he says.
Myers also considers under-cabinet LED lighting an essential component for lighting up countertops. “If you do a lot of cooking, you want to be able to see recipes and mix ingredients,” he says. “If my back is to the light source, I may end up shadowing what I’m working on. But if my light source is in front of me, above my eyeline, shining on whatever I’m working with, it’s going to give me much better work light.”
This type of cabinet lighting can also look stunning above cabinets and inside cabinets that have glass doors, according to Myers. Other popular kitchen lighting fixtures include pendant lighting with fabric shades, chandeliers, and even small lamps placed in a corner on the counter.
“The more little sources of light we can place around the room, the better the lighting system feels when everything’s turned on,” he says. “When all those are turned on without being turned up, the room can be really pretty. And it’s well-lit, but you’re not aware of any glaring source of light. It’s just that there’s light in every direction that you look, because in each case, there’s a light there.”
Bathroom Plumbing Fixtures
For the last 25 years, MiniMax Kitchen & Bath Gallery has served the Memphis community, providing a range of services, products, and designs for bathroom remodels. They are a one-stop-shop for bathroom plumbing fixtures, including bath tubs, whirlpools, showers, sinks, faucets, and more.
When clients come to MiniMax for bathroom design plans, the first thing designers consider is the homeowner’s lifestyle, according to company president Steve Juang. “The use of space is probably most important,” he says. “That will determine, what’s a better layout? What’s a better flow? What’s a better movement?”
For instance, a homeowner who prefers showering over soaking in a tub may want to consider getting rid of their soaker tub to make more space for a large shower stall. If the client chooses to install a standing shower, they can choose between a solid panel or tiles, but Juang says that tiles have been the most popular option.
“The key to tile showers is waterproofing,” says Juang. “You should choose porcelain tiles over ceramic, because ceramic is made up of red clay, which absorbs water.”
However, grout can absorb water, so if the client wants a truly waterproofed shower, Juang recommends selecting a solid panel made by Corian, which is not only completely antibacterial but also cost-effective.
If a soaker tub is desired, free-standing acrylic tubs have been popular with his clients. “You see those in magazines all the time,” Juang says. “People love them.”
Alternatively, for a more luxurious soaking experience, clients may want to opt for a whirlpool tub. For that, Juang recommends Jason Hydrotherapy tubs. “Most whirlpool brands accumulate gunk, but Jason actually has a patent on a connector that completely drains water out of the pipe and eliminates the chance of buildup,” he says.
When it comes to sinks, Juang says there are many options to choose from. “You can use a sink to bring out your own personality,” he says. “Everything from colors, to shapes, to styles like under mounted, halfway mounted, or vessels on top.”
However, clients typically choose a basic, rectangular-shaped bowl for its simplicity and clean lines. And to go along with that look, Juang says that the hot color for faucets has been matte black.
“Fingerprints don’t show, and it goes real well with that white and black, clean line look people are going for these days,” he says.