Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Bathroom

Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Bathroom

Vinyl? Tile? Wood? Laminates? The newer Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)? What’s the right choice for your new bathroom? Her Home™ Magazine recently posed that question to Joe Dubsky, Manager for Thornton Flooring (Sioux City, Iowa, branch). Based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Thornton Flooring is one of the Midwest’s largest flooring retailers.

Of today’s popular flooring materials, Dubsky quickly dismissed wood as an option for bathroom flooring due to wood’s inherent problems with getting wet. Both solid hardwood and engineered wood planks will swell and “cup” from water absorption, ruining the floor. Similarly, some laminate manufacturers discourage its use for bathroom flooring due to water intrusion issues.

The remaining choices basically come down to aesthetics, durability, and budget.

Traditional sheet vinyl flooring is available in a wide range of attractive colors and patterns, including replicating natural stone and hardwood. Glued-in-place as one continuous piece, sheet vinyl offers excellent resistance to water damage. Relatively easy-care, sheet vinyl is often the least expensive flooring option, with pricing and durability typically varying depending on the thickness of the material and the thickness of its (top) wear layer. Thicker vinyl flooring, while more expensive, generally offers greater scuff and gouge resistance as well as longer warranties.

Luxury Vinyl Sheet flooring is at the high-end of vinyl roll flooring. It may be twice the thickness of cheaper vinyl flooring, warmer and softer, and more comfortable underfoot as well as significantly quieter. Dubsky likes the Beauflor® Blacktex HD Luxury Vinyl Roll, stating, “It’s much more durable than traditional vinyl sheet flooring, but less than LVP.” Beauflor’s Blacktex HD is backed by a lifetime residential warranty, compared to the more typical 10-year limited residential warranties common to traditional sheet vinyl.

BeauFlor Futurist Earth

(Photo courtesy: BeauFlor)

LVT/LVP/WPC/SPC has quickly become the choice of builders and home buyers alike. Essentially identical except for appearance (LVT looks like ceramic tile, LVP looks like wood plank), these products offer comfort, excellent performance, and amazing realism. The core material is typically considered waterproof varying from a vinyl plastic, wood plastic composite (WPC), or even a stone composite core (SPC), the latter being harder and better able to handle temperature extremes, which might be important if your bathroom sits atop an unheated garage. Typically, beneath the core is an attached foam pad, contributing to the comfort and warmth, and according to Dubsky, superior sound deadening. The printed layer, atop the core material, is protected by a wear layer that provides a hard scratch-, stain-, and scuff-resistant protective coating, measured in mils. Dubsky advises looking at the wear layer and the overall thickness of the product when considering LV products, “Wear layers are commonly 12 mil to 30 mil. I like to recommend 12-20 mil thick wear layers for homes.”

“Some LVP is smooth, while some is embossed in register, with indentations giving it the feel of natural wood or tile as well as added depth and texture.” Dubsky pointed to a less expensive LVP’s woodgrain and a knot, printed in high definition, which looked exactly like authentic wood planks. Yet its uniform smoothness, especially in that knot area, detracted from the authenticity of actual wood. The embossed in register LVP wherein the feel and texture, particularly in the knot area, was virtually indistinguishable from wood flooring. Dubsky mentioned that the embossed in register LVP was also a bit more slip-resistant, which can be an important factor in bathroom floor choice.

Selecting your flooring for your bathroom can be fun and easy. With today’s technology, many manufacturers offer tools to help you visualize your dreams. Many companies have a room scene visualizer where you can take a photo of your room, select your style and color, and even choose the direction to run your flooring.

As with other vinyl flooring, LVP and LVT prices also tend to vary by thickness of the product. The product has caught on with applications throughout the home, not just in bathrooms. Unlike sheet vinyl’s low-price stigma, for its many practical and aesthetic advantages, LVT and LVP is finding its way into million-dollar homes, often replacing what would have been hardwood and tile floors. Importantly, luxury vinyl planks and tiles, if damaged, can be replaced and sometimes even repaired. In contrast, gouged or otherwise damaged sheet vinyl must be fully replaced.

Ceramic and porcelain tile have long been the go-to choice for custom bathrooms. Both are clay-based, but the clay used in porcelain tile is more dense and more refined. Porcelain tile is also fired at hotter temperatures for a longer period of time, making it harder, more durable, and impervious to water. Due to the materials used and manufacturing process, Dubsky notes, “Porcelain tiles are generally a little more expensive than ceramic, but basically, color dictates most people’s tile selection.” Ceramic is also water-resistant, but more porous than porcelain. While generally a fine choice for bathroom floors, there is a chance of liquid spills staining a ceramic tile, even with the glaze.

Porcelain or ceramic, most tiles are printed with what is essentially a high definition ink-jet process; then the glazing, where an enamel or liquid glass top coating is applied. That glaze protects the tile and its printed surface and may be either a gloss (shiny) or matte (dull) finish. Some tiles also have a slip-resistant texture, which can be especially important for the elderly. Often tile-floor bathrooms also feature tile shower and tub surrounds as well as tile wall accents. Dubsky has found that one porcelain importer (Happy Floors) offers porcelain tile that matches up well to their LVT products, so his customers can enjoy the benefits of both products in their bathroom.

“Tile has stood the test of time,” Dubsky said, “but it is at the high-end of bathroom flooring choices.” One other drawback is that tile floors can feel quite cold to walk on. For that reason, he often installs Schluter® Systems in-floor electric heating underneath tile bathroom floors. In-floor heating can be surprisingly inexpensive when done at the time of construction.

MSI BathRoom Visualizer

So, what is the right choice of flooring for your bathroom? Check out MSI's BathRoom Visualizer Tool - visualize backsplash, wall tile, and floor tile options. Use this quick tool to mix and match your choice of colors to visualize the ideal bathroom. With a simple click—email, print, or save your favorites to help in making final selections. (Photo courtesy: MSI)

Again, it comes down to the look and performance you want, and price considerations. The following chart may help guide your decision.

Bathroom Flooring Chart

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Cover photo: BeauFlor

Tour This Home Through the Mind of a Woman

Tour This Home Through the Mind of a Woman

So… what does a Woman-Centric approach to home design actually look like? Join us as we tour a floor plan through the collective eyes of scores of women we’ve talked with. The Mackenzie (plan #42067) is a family-oriented two-story home that’s just 40-feet wide, fitting perfectly on today’s increasingly common 50-foot wide lots.

Since we go in and out of our homes through the garage 92% of the time (Recon Analytics), the design of the rear foyer receives as much attention as the front entry. We heard tales of having hands full walking in from the garage and needing a place to put things – but not the kitchen island or counters! That inspired the Drop Zone. The coat closet was nothing new, but since kids knew how to use lockers at school, bringing lockers into the home meant a familiar place for everything they needed, from coats to gym clothes to art projects. That would help de-stress the morning rush. A bench meant a place to sit when tying and untying shoes, and since pets are often considered full-fledged family members, a pet shower. Importantly, that essential rear foyer transition space was not to be the laundry room!

Mackenzie rear foyer amenities include a Drop Zone and Pet Shower (click on images to enlarge).

While we have been told we’ve never designed a home with too much storage space, the Mackenzie’s kitchen might come close! The long wall of cabinets is interrupted only by the sink and is complemented by the 5’-2” by 6’-9” pantry – deep enough for cabinetry at one end. Meal prep space is essential, and abundant in this kitchen, while three transom windows over the range add sunlight. Also note the location of the door onto the covered rear porch. Unlike most designs that access the back yard via a door in the eating area, this design solves the problems of that door dictating placement of the table and chairs.

Mackenzie - #42067

Holidays coming up? Go ahead and add the two leaves to your table – the Mackenzie’s 17-foot-deep dining area can easily expand for larger gatherings – so important to women we spoke with. The Great Room’s triple windows deliver daylight, while its sloping ceiling provides drama. Built-in storage for books, games, electronics, and display items is suggested along either side of the home’s fireplace. 

Just off the entryway, the den/home office is close to the powder bath, ideal when receiving clients and colleagues into your home. Just past the front door, a seat recessed between the garage and stairs is handy in case another client shows up early, while the angled office entry provides visual privacy.

So many items on wish-lists are accommodated in your suite! The double door entry is a reminder that this suite is special. Splitting the windows to the corners of the bedroom provides another possible location for your bed. There’s a provision for furniture and/or an entertainment center at one end, and it’s a stunning view into your bathroom with sloping ceiling through yet another set of double doors. Bathing options include both a corner soaking tub and 6’-4” by 4’-9” doorless shower (no door to clean!). Women told us showers should be large enough that her elbows don’t run into the sides when washing her hair.

Mackenzie - #42067 UL

Separate vanities mean they can be built at differing heights, which is a more comfortable solution if your partner’s height is quite a bit different than yours, and a gentle radius countertop adds a bit of sophistication. There’s also a makeup counter area next to the interior vanity. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, there are times when you just need your privacy. Hence the toilet area design with storage shelves, because when you’re sitting in there and there’s no provision for additional rolls of toilet paper or hygiene items, it’s simply not good design. And at 10’-1” by 9’-3”, your walk-in closet provides generous storage.

We learned maximum closet space is also a priority in the secondary bedrooms that, in this design, are separated by a compartmented bathroom. With the toilet and tub separate, two people can use this bathroom at the same time, easing schedule conflicts. The linen closet is also big enough for extra bed and bath items. A study desk in the hall provides another option for completing homework. And for homes with all bedrooms upstairs, locating the laundry room on that second-floor also means avoiding carrying overflowing laundry baskets up and down stairs, which can be dangerous as well as annoying. That laundry area design also answers the calls for natural light/fresh air, a folding counter, sink for washing delicates, plus storage.

Mackenzie - #42067 4-Bed

Larger households may prefer the four-bedroom Mackenzie (plan #42067-4Bed) option. Lost is the sloping ceiling in the great room, in order to gain another full suite with private bathroom and walk-in closet. Or turn this space into an upstairs playroom for the kids when you have neighbors over. How you purpose this additional 318 square feet of space upstairs is entirely up to you!

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Cover image: <a href=''>Technology photo created by gpointstudio -</a>


Home Improvements to Watch for in 2021

Home Improvements to Watch for in 2021

As many homeowners will list their home for resale at some point in the future, here we offer some home improvements you can do now to ensure a successful home sale when the time comes. Also, if you are building a new home, you may find some of these suggestions helpful when designing your new home. See our other posts: New vs. Resale: Peace of Mind and Cost of Ownership - Resale Value

You probably had a lot of big plans for the year 2020; traveling and gathering alike. But with all the changes in society due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of those things have been put on hold due to social distancing efforts and quarantine safety measures. That said, your home environment has probably become extremely important not only for safety but also for your mental health and overall well-being.

If you’re curious as to what the forecast for home improvements in 2021 looks like, read on for some tips and tricks that will help you plan your next renovation, both economically and rationally.

The Importance of Home Improvements

Putting money back into your home can be a huge advantage for many people. While you may be sacrificing some money upfront to finance renovations, luckily you will be able to reacquire some cash on the back end if you ever sell your home.

If you’d like to make some improvements to your home in 2021, it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons of each prior to breaking ground. For starters, you will want to make note of the current market value of your home so you can measure the risk of your renovation plans. Be sure to assess your property value beforehand and how it compares to other houses for sale in your area. Pursuing costly improvements may not be worth it based on factors out of your control like where your home is located, changes in the economy, and interest rates.

However, there are some projects that have withstood the test of time in terms of providing value to your home. The key is choosing which upgrades to do when and budgeting for them over the course of homeownership. Fortunately, several of these upcoming trends and improvements coincide nicely with desirability when balancing resale value and pandemic living situations.

Upcoming Trends and Improvements

This year has given us all a lot to think about! When it comes to trends and improvements to try out in your home, consider the following in terms of what will be worth your time and investment, so you don’t encounter any more headaches than you have to in 2021.

Light and Airy Surroundings

After all of the time we’ve spent indoors this last year, it’s no wonder that light and airy surroundings will be a focal point for 2021. Windows and doors are one area of the home that rarely get a facelift until major problems start to develop. Staying proactive on their maintenance and upkeep can go a long way for your improvement expenditures.

If you are in the market for new windows and doors, choosing models that allow in more light and natural air will go a long way in terms of your investment. Believe it or not, window replacement has an ROI of a whopping 81% while door replacement averages a 74% ROI, meaning you will get much of your money back when it comes time to sell.

If you don’t plan on putting your home on the market any time soon, you still benefit either way. For example, did you know that natural light provides many health benefits? In a time when things look bleak, boosting the amount of natural light in your home can help improve your sleep, increase the amount of vitamin D you receive, and reduce the negative effects of seasonal depression. If you’re feeling trapped due to the pandemic, now may be the perfect opportunity to lighten your mood and your home by including more room for natural light.

VELUX Skylights Bedroom

(Photo courtesy: VELUX)

Bathroom Bespoke

Catering your home to the specific needs of you and your family is essential to foster a hospitable environment. If everyone in the house is fighting over the same vanity, it may be time to find some room for improvement to your bathroom, like utilizing space-saving solutions.

Whether you add a new one completely or simply update the one, or multiple you already have, you can’t go wrong with putting this project at the top of your to-do list. Studies show that a bathroom redesign can award you upwards of 70% on your ROI, meaning that when it comes time to sell you will reap some major compensatory benefits. And, with everyone confined to one house, having a more functional bathroom will also save you plenty of aches and pains as well!

All Things Considered

This year has presented homeowners with a lot of overwhelming challenges. From isolating during quarantine to abiding by stay at home orders, people’s homes have become so much more than just a place to rest their heads. That’s why taking the time to properly plan any improvements will give you plenty to look forward to in 2021, even if you are stuck at home!

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Photo: <a href=''>People photo created by yanalya -</a>

Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home

Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home

How your choices affect the cost of your new home.

While a 2,000 square foot home selling for $350,000 works out to $175 per square foot, all square feet do not cost the same. For example, square feet in the kitchen are much pricier than square feet in bedrooms. Some of that difference is due to the presence of added products such as cabinetry, countertops, and appliances in the kitchen. And some of that difference can be attributed to your choices.

The Minter (#29305) plan has a kitchen measuring 11' x 19'. A basic appliance package (microwave over the range, refrigerator, dishwasher) in stainless steel finish prices out at about $3,000 (retail). But stepping up to a top of the line refrigerator, ultra-quiet dishwasher, microwave with convention cooking, and a serious 6-burner gas range puts the appliance package at $18,000!

Kitchen cabinetry. The size and number of cabinets, style, materials used/wood species, finish, construction features such as dovetail joints, and hardware such as full extension drawers and soft-close hinges all impact cost. Cabinetry in this kitchen would start at about $5,000, with custom cabinets more likely coming in around $12,000 or more.

Minter - #29305

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Countertops. Laminate countertops for this kitchen would start at about $1,200, while solid-surface, granite, or quartz countertops might come in around $2,500 - $3,500 or more. Adding the appliances, cabinetry, and countertops, a budget approach to the Minter’s kitchen totals $9,200; the high-end choices are closer to $33,000. That approximately $24,000 difference works out to more than $12 per square foot in the overall price of the home.

Cedar Pointe - #42389

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Bathrooms. As originally designed, the Cedar Pointe (#42389) plan has a 3' x 5' shower, private toilet area, and 3' linen closet in the rear suite. If you want a bathtub, that same bathroom space can be reconfigured to also have a 5' tub. Is that going to be a $500 or $3,500 tub? By the time you’ve paid for the additional plumbing, faucet, and the 4' x 4' window, you may have added $5,000 to the cost of the home.

Then there’s the same cabinetry and countertop cost drivers illustrated in the kitchen example. Even your bathroom mirror(s) can vary in price by $1,000 or more.

Flooring choices are another area that can affect your new home’s cost significantly, and there’s wide variability in costs even within the same product. Carpeting costs vary by the fiber, style, density, and padding. Hardwood varies due to thickness, wood species, size of the planks, and finish. Tile cost differences show up in ceramic vs. porcelain, tile size, and finish. LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) and LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) have come on strong in recent years due to the combination of durability, looks, and easy care. Several builders offer buyers the choice of LVT/LVP or wood flooring at the same price.

Some choices are more obvious than others. Few amenities can match the ambiance of a fireplace, but to keep price down, dashed lines in the family room of the Womack Springs (#29389) plan show the suggested location of an optional fireplace. Heatilator offers a variety of great looking fireplaces, with electric units starting around $850 and natural gas models running about $1,800 - $6,000+; that’s without installation costs.

Womack Springs - #29389

Or consider lighting. We’ve had clients come to us to design their one-of-a-kind home and they’ve already picked out one-of-a-kind light fixtures. Stunning – both in their looks and price tag. On the flip side, hidden in plain sight, Design Basics’ popular Hepburn (#42065) plan has sixteen 32"-wide interior passage doors, a size that is truly appreciated when moving furniture! Arched, 2-panel, hollow-core molded interior doors cost around $100 each, while their hefty, sound-deadening, solid wood door counterparts are likely going to run you $200+ each. A difference of $1,600 for the Hepburn – with similar looks.

Schulte closet system

Photo courtesy of Organized Living
(Click on image to enlarge.)

Storage and organization. You may not have been thinking about spending extra money in your closets, but storage and organization are a high priority with many home buyers. The standard closet shelving offered by your builder may be perfectly adequate. But a well-designed closet system with just the right amount of double hanging, long hanging, cubbies, shelves, and drawers that are easily reconfigured as needs change can be a beautiful thing that eliminates stress. Yes, there’s a price tag. It usually comes down to priorities. If you had to choose between a dream closet and, say, a heated tile floor in your bathroom, which would you choose?

Big and small, your choices of products in the home can add up to significant added costs or significant savings. Another example of why it can be misleading to compare new home prices on the basis of cost per square foot.

Next time we look at the cost of some popular energy efficient and green building choices.

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Cover image courtesy of iLumigreen.

(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Beauty is Within

Beauty is Within

Aesthetics and Livability

Let’s look at a few of the sometimes overlooked or underappreciated floor plan design factors that drive cost.

Staircase - Grand Manor #9286Staircase design, construction, and materials run the gamut of pricing. One guideline often used relates to the staircase’s public visibility – the more prominent the staircase placement, the more attention it usually gets. In some homes, the staircase is a signature design element; in others it is primarily functional. Simple and straight is the least costly staircase design, but that layout doesn’t work for some home designs. U-shaped staircases and L-shaped staircases with a 90-degree turn are also common but require a landing, which adds some cost. Flared and curving staircases can be stunning but are expensive.

This elegant staircase (at right) is from the Grand Manor (plan #9286).

Staircase finish materials can have a large impact on the staircase cost. Having a wall on either side of the staircase is less expensive than a railing with balusters, cables, or glass panels. Carpeted stairs are usually less expensive than finished woods, Corian, stone, or glass. Regarding steps leading down to a basement foundation, if there is a door at the top of those stairs, they need not be carpeted.

Stair Carpeting

“Waterfall” carpeted steps are less expensive than “cap and band” carpeted steps.

Ceilings. Most new homes today feature 9-foot tall ceilings on the main floor, though some rooms may have even higher ceiling for dramatic effect. Those 9-foot ceilings make rooms appear and feel larger, but the longer framing lumber and larger sheets of drywall mean homes with 9-foot or taller ceilings will cost more than if they were built with 8-foot tall ceilings. Detailed ceilings (e.g., boxed, trayed) look great, but add expense as well. And even though cathedral ceilings may follow the home’s actual rooflines, they are considerably more expensive than standard, flat ceilings.

Ceilings are truly special in the Westcott Manor (plan #9171). There’s the Family room’s cathedral ceiling as well as cathedral ceilings over the tub in the suite bath and over the sink area in the compartmented bathroom shared by Bedrooms 2 and 3. Bedroom 3 also has a ceiling that slopes to 11-feet high in the center, as does the suite’s tray ceiling. 

Westcott Manor - #9171

Natural Light. The physical and mental virtues of our exposure to natural light are well-documented, but there’s a cost to having larger or more windows in our homes. You may notice that some Design Basics’ home designs have the suffix “BL” (Better Living) following the plan number. Looking carefully, you’ll see additional windows on those home plans. Take the Cavanaugh plan for example. The BL version of that plan shows added windows in several rooms. Importantly, those windows are on other exterior walls, providing natural light from another direction, which is especially appreciated if the only windows in that room faced north. Additionally, having windows on two separate walls allows for natural cross ventilation of those spaces, improving the flow of fresh air in your home and those breezes make it feel cooler on warm days, so you may not feel the need for turning on the air conditioner.

At left, the Cavanaugh (plan #8540), and the Cavanaugh BL version (plan #8540BL) at right. Notice on the BL version the added windows on the right side (eating area and den), plus an additional window in the Suite bedroom.

Upstairs, both bedrooms gain windows on the outside walls in the BL version of the plan. There’s even a window to brighten the optional expansion area in the BL design!

Cavanaugh - #8540
Cavanaugh - #8540
Cavanaugh BL - #8540BL
Cavanaugh BL - #8540BL
First impressions matter.

The Durango (plan #50020 below left) impresses, with its dramatic, curving, window-lined back wall and radius peninsula kitchen. It also costs as much to build as the larger Durango Point (plan #50043 below right) that provides a more spacious eating area.

Durango - #50020
Durango Point - #50043

Arches and columns can add distinction – and cost. As seen in the Murnane Manor (plan #42156), arched openings line the home’s front entry, with arches on either side of the formal dining room resting atop columns. Echoing that theme, arched recesses for a hutch space and display niche add further “Wow!” It’s a matter of your investment priorities, the look you’re after, your budget, and how you want your home to live.

Murnane Manor - #42156

Rear Entry Foyer. For homes with attached garages, we go in and out of our homes through the garage over 90% of the time, and that rear foyer entry has become a design focal point. Facilitating how people actually live in their homes, top rear foyer designs will provide a place for coats, a bench for tying or removing shoes, and a drop zone for organization and minimizing clutter. These must-have amenities do add to your home’s price, however, compared to dated home plans where a laundry/mudroom is your entry from the garage. Laundry rooms are a top priority among new home buyers, they just need to be elsewhere. Those laundry rooms are also an expense consideration, especially because laundry room amenities may add to your home’s price twice – the cost of the amenities themselves, plus they often require a larger space, increasing the home’s square footage.

Locklear - #42074

The Locklear (plan #42074) presents an accommodating rear foyer with drop zone, bench topped by lockers or cubbies, and coat closet. The laundry room is separate and provides storage, hanging, folding counter, sink, and window, all of which add to the home’s price.

Bathrooms can have a significant impact on your new home investment. The Cedar Ridge’s (plan #42434) Suite 1 bathroom is accessed via a pocket door, which costs more than a hinged door, but eliminates the door swing conflict potential for someone standing before the first sink. It also has the expense of an extra wall and door to enclose the toilet area, which many buyers value. Three-foot by five-foot showers are pretty much the minimum size today in suite bathrooms. Fortunately, that’s a standard size for shower pans, eliminating the expense of needing a “job-built” shower. An alternate layout loses the private toilet area and some linen storage in favor of adding a soaking tub (and some expense).

Cedar Ridge - #42434
Cedar Ridge - #42434 alt bath

Fireplaces. As shown in the Moss Bluff II (plan #43066 below left), fireplaces positioned inside the home avoid the expense of having to trim around the bump out of a fireplace on the outside (example Portsmouth - plan #8638 - images below right). In addition, the dining area cantilevers (extends beyond) the foundation, avoiding an expensive foundation jog. And the large walk-in pantry provides the kitchen storage you want cheaper than adding expensive cabinetry.

Moss Bluff - #43066
Portsmouth - #8638 Elevation
Portsmouth - #8638 ML

Next time we dive deeper than the obvious when we address how the type and size of home influence its price.

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Cover photo: Perrypointe (plan #56399)

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