Even with the best of inspections and meticulous maintenance, eventually every bathroom needs a partial or complete rehabilitation. Just the simple fact of our not so perfect world we live in is that nothing lasts forever. Good landlording starts with the idea that you want your investment to stand the test of time, and that is going to take some effort and smart planning on your part.
Lets begin with water. It is the reason we need the bathroom, and the reason we spend so much money keeping it running. When you begin your remodel keep your main focus ahead of function and ascetics. Keep the water where is belongs and use materials that are impervious to water. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your hard earned dollar last a bit longer.
  • Bathtubs and Showers– KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the idea- Tile surrounds are beautiful but very time consuming to keep them that way. You may find yourself in the position eventually where you have to replace the tub/shower unit. For my money I go for fiberglass every time; simple and cost effective. The only draw back for a rental property is going to cheap. There are several brands and an enormous array of installation options. One that is often over looked is the 3 or 4 piece options for the remodel. Next, make sure you have a good contractor. Check their work and ask questions. Do not worry about offending them. The good ones love to brag and explain their work.
  • Flooring– The same theme here- Good vinyl is great, but a good tile job is better. You can spend more with tile, but it last a very long time. If you choose vinyl make sure it has at least a urethane finish and is a glue less application. That way if you need to re-install the vinyl some day you do not need to install new sub-flooring as well. Also, think of your floor and the tub. I like to run the vinyl up behind the baseboard. It’s not always possible, but it can be worth the small effort. Keep the snap together flooring out of the bathroom. Some of the snap together flooring is quite impervious to the water. However, the joints are not sealed and water runs right through to the sub-floor. The main idea is to keep the water where is belongs. Stop dreaming about that perfect tenant who is going to painstakingly dry the floor after a shower.
  • Toilets– The Saga Continues- Do not bye a cheap toilet. You will spend the cost of a good one several times over in stoppages over the years. The fact is the good ones will flush a big load (sorry for being a bit coarse), including the occasional diaper, and if you buy the cheap ones you will need the number of a good plumber. Then, be prepared to begin a battle with the tenant over who should pay for it. Save your self the trouble. The better ones are not much more. Ask your plumber about which brand and type he prefers.
  • Sinks and Cabinetry– Again- With cabinets it is hard to not use particle board, so you are going to have to just bare it, as the money spent for quality here is usually out of proportion to the return you get. Just take your time in making sure the seams are caulked and inspect for leaks. Some left over vinyl on the base of the vanity and rolled up the sides a bit to help the water run out onto the floor is a nice touch. With sinks, they all work. Metal sinks chip and rust, and porcelain should last a bit longer. Cultured marble sink/countertop combos are very cost effective and can look fine if installed well. Talk to your contractor, and be reluctant to have the plumber install it.
  • Exhaust Fan- Victory- A well thought out exhaust fan system can be a thing of beauty. The perfect system is one the tenants cannot bypass, moves a lot of air, and is quiet. Try to switch the light with the fan so they cannot take a shower with out turning on the fan, or a timer, or maybe a humidity bypass where the fan does not go off until the humidity has been exhausted. You will still need to explain to the tenants about using the system and keeping the humidity out of the bathroom. I have seen bathrooms where the walls were almost permanently wet with lots of mold growing on the walls. Prevention is the key here.
The most expensive item in your remodel is labor and time off the market, so spending a few extra dollars on materials and a little extra time can save thousands over the years. The idea is to spend this kind of money as least often as possible. Think it through and it can be fun and profitable.