•Learn when it's time to upgrade your bathroom.
•Discover the relationship between lifestyle and room design.
Holes in the floor, a rusty bathtub, a toilet that wastes water and works only when it wants to—these are the types of problems that tell you in no uncertain terms that it's time to make repairs or replace products. But what about the smaller, more subtle, signs that it's time to upgrade your bathroom? They might not be quite what you expect.
1. The little things start to go wrong
All bathrooms are prone to everyday wear and tear, but some problems require more than a simple repair job. "When the tile grout begins to flake out of its joints, the whites in the bathroom turn yellow, or the ceiling is crumbling from moisture, it's time," says Toronto-based interior designer Tania Bortolotto.
Old, degrading materials in your bath are not merely an aesthetic problem; they can potentially be hazardous. That flaking paint could contain toxic lead if it was applied prior to 1978. Another hazardous material, asbestos, is now also subject to a partial ban in the United States. Bathroom surfaces that are damaged are not only harder to clean, but also invite mold and bacteria. For more details concerning potential environmental hazards in the home, visit the EPA's guide to indoor air quality.
Depending on the cost of serious repairs, it may make sense to start over and create a new, healthier bathroom.
2. You're stuck in a rut
While it's true that yesterday's trends often resurface, some are best forgotten. "Some people still have the avocado-and-gold color palette from the '70s," says Carol McCurdy of Galleria Bath and Kitchen Showplace in Pinellas Park, FL. "Creating a fresh look can be as simple as using a neutral color in your tub and lavatory, and accenting it with color on the wall and window treatments." If your bathroom sends you into a time warp, it's due for an update.
3. You're thinking of selling your home
Why would you remodel your bathroom if you're not planning to stay there forever? The answer is simple, says Seattle real estate broker Mike Kass: Making relatively small changes is a smart way to raise your home's value. "You can have a really upscale house, but it won't look good with cheap hardware," he says. "If the bathroom doesn't look high class, you should upgrade it. Or, if you have an older house and update an obsolete bathroom, that can add value." Especially in this buyer's market, homes with recent kitchen and bath remodels tend to be best positioned for a quicker sale and the potential for recouping a significant part of the remodeling expense.
4. Your family's needs shift
When your family situation changes, so does your needs. "People often remodel or add a second bathroom when they have children on the way," says Susan Templer, an interior designer in San Francisco. "They might want a bigger bathtub or need more storage for the kids' things."
But it's not just the little ones who inspire alterations to the bathroom. As older adults find their mobility changing, they may be more comfortable in rooms designed for their needs. "Older people might not want to step in and out of a tub," McCurdy says. "A lot of people replace bathtubs with walk-in showers for safety."
5. Your bathroom isn't "you"
Standard-issue faucets and fixtures may be functional, but there's nothing distinctive about them. If these details don't fit your personal taste, maybe it's time to explore a new look that better expresses your style. "The fixtures in a bathroom are like furniture," says McCurdy. "Just as you would redesign a living room or dining room, you can create a bathroom that fits your design." Whether you prefer classic lines or a sleek modern aesthetic, a few small changes can make a big impact.