As quick as we were to tear out our bathroom, Brian and I were equally swift in our commitment to source quality product and services. We set out with a goal to avoid any material produced in China, which ended up being a bear of a challenge!
Intentionally Sourced Product
With a week of heavy research on our side, we immediately forged ahead with the following:
- Schluter®-Systems from Germany and Canada (Complete waterproofing for tiled shower and floor)
- Merola Tile Hexatile from Spain (Floor tile)
Brian and I were complete novices in almost all aspects of our renovation. We discovered the Schluter®-Systems through various YouTube videos and online forums; it seemed pretty straight-forward for a couple of newbies, so we thought we’d take a shot.
The Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT had a hefty price tag at $474, which was much more expensive than the traditional cement board with RedGard and mud-set shower pan. As far as we understand, the Schluter®-Systems is still fairly new in the grand scheme of shower tiling, having only been established in North America since the mid-1980s.
Brian and I took a chance on this pricey system. One particularly great aspect of installing the Schluter®-Systems was the Lifetime Warranty provided when properly installed. The warranty gave us some peace of mind as we ventured through tutorials and learned our way into the project!
Merola Tile Hexatile
Since we had plans to renovate our bathroom at some point, we already had products and designs in mind. We really liked the look of mid-scale hexagon floor tiling. It was difficult to find enough resources to learn how to lay this kind of tile, but we eventually worked our way through it.
The first bit of research led me to the Create/Enjoy DIY Blog, which showcased a specific tile that I was able to match through our local Home Depot. We placed an order for the Nero Low Sheen color, totaling $827 for the bathroom floor (excluding the shower floor). This tile is sturdy and well-made, with a beautiful dark graphite shade.
Sourcing As We Go…
The lumber, drywall, OSB, and trim we installed all originated in the United States. We even re-used some of the original lumber! As we shopped around for bathroom fixtures, a vanity, a mirror, and more, it became alarmingly obvious that Chinese-made products oversaturated the market. To avoid these products, it was going to cost a good deal of detective work and a pretty penny.
- 2-Kohler Verticyl K-8189 Undermount Sinks from USA: $339.54
- 2-Kohler Hint K-97093 Faucets from USA: $701.14
- Moen Single Handle Posi-Temp Pressure Balanced Shower Trim from USA: $279.66
- TOTO CT746CUFG.10 + ST746EMA Toilet from Mexico: $301.70
- Walnut + Brass Towel Bar: Independent Artist from USA: $140.40
- Broyhill Saga Dresser from USA: $495
- Meek Mirrors, LLC Backlit LED Mirror from USA: $1,657.73
The list above isn’t exhaustive, but rather serves as a highlight of some of the items we purchased. It took a bit of time to narrow down our options, confirm selections, and await delivery.
Bathroom Vanity Frustrations
Once we removed the wall that previously separated the bathroom and second bedroom closet, our bathroom went from 66.67 to 82.09 square feet. Our new layout comfortably fit a mid-sized double vanity, which was an idea that Brian and I happily welcomed.
We hit the pavement for 5 days straight and spent many hours perusing online to try to find a vanity that ‘fit’ us. From outlets, to surplus stores, second-hand, and specialty shops, we had a miserable time hunting around for a quality, American-made vanity. All vanities we encountered in-person were outsourced and poorly constructed of engineered material. I was actually surprised at how mad I became; not only did we have a hard time finding sustainable, well-made options, but they were all priced SO HIGHLY (into the thousands for some styles)! And for what?!
In the midst of our frustration, we visited a local thrift store, stumbled across a dresser, and within 10 minutes…we finalized our purchase. We thought…what the heck – we’re trying new things! We might as well re-work an oldie (and a goodie) into something we can proudly stand behind (or in this case – in front of!).
Originally crafted in the 1960’s, this American-made dresser features sturdy walnut construction, signature engraved stars, and 9 drawers for plenty of storage. I had zero idea how to convert this into a vanity, but Brian and I were so fed up with our vanity hunt that we jumped at the chance to learn something new.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Now that we had a vanity, we turned our focus towards finding a mirror. We especially liked the look of LED backlit mirrors and quickly found affordable options through Amazon and other online retailers. Of course, the common problem we faced was that they were made in China. Oy. It took some patience, but I was able to find a few options that fit our specifications:
- Made in USA
- LED Backlit Mirror
- Hard-wired capability
- Measuring 60x36ins
Despite contacting a few companies, we only received two responses to our inquiries: one local company and another located in Arkansas, Meek Mirrors. Though the quotes were close, Meek Mirrors won our business.
Meek Mirrors is an American Veteran-Owned company that produces handcrafted, highly-durable mirrors and glass products in the USA. Reputable with quality service, Brian and I thoroughly appreciated our experience with them. Meek Mirrors was willing to work with us as we negotiated our price since we received a similar quote close to home. While the price of the mirror was nearly 3 times the cost of its Chinese counterpart, Brian and I were firm in our decision to purchase American-made. We were even more committed once we learned more about the history and ownership behind Meek Mirrors. From service, to quality, and communication, we found our experience with this company to be well worth the price and wait time of production and delivery.
Brian and I hired out for 3 jobs during our bathroom rebuild:
- Countertop Installation
- Glass Shower Enclosure
Things can get tricky when you hand over certain aspects of your project to a different party. At that point, you are trusting someone else to do the job they have been paid to do…Unfortunately, as we all might have learned by now, sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned (especially during a pandemic)!
I strongly believe in conducting your own due diligence, vetting out options, and educating yourself as much as possible. When we outsource work, we make sure we have a three-quote minimum per job. For us, we have found that three different sources with three different quotes allow enough room for comparisons and negotiations.
Plumbing – $1,600
Moving cast iron pipes seemed really daunting. In fact, not only did we want to move the pipes, but we were also looking to replace them with PVC. It seemed wise and efficient to hire out!
- Replace cast iron with PVC
- Add new lines to accommodate double vanity
- Replace and relocate shower line/drain
One gentleman expressed that “the job was going to be much more extensive than we really think” and cautioned us in a way that honestly made me feel as though he thought we were stupid. Luckily, while he was lecturing us, we managed to set up multiple appointments for complimentary estimates from other companies.
Our three estimates wildly varied, starting at $1,600 through nearly $4,000! After much information gathering and background tracking, we chose a brand new company with an experienced plumber and owner. It took two days for him to complete this tall order of a job. Brian and I are grateful that he worked with us; he let us pick his brain, gave us valuable suggestions, listened to us, and was innovative in his approach. He was even able to replace and relocate a vent pipe that allowed for a larger linen closet than we originally thought was possible! In the end, it felt as though he personally cared about our project, as if it were his own.
Countertop Installation – $835.98
Brian and I ended up removing the top off of our Broyhill Dresser. We entertained the idea of keeping and sealing the top, only modifying it to allow two vessel sinks to sit on top. However, we believed it would have created a much more cluttered appearance.
It was difficult to garner interest or response to our estimate request. Many companies were overloaded with projects that were on a much bigger scale than ours! I mean, truly, we were only looking for approximately 9 square feet worth of quartz!
One company responded the next day; a representative visited our home a few days later for an in-home measurement and consultation. She was extremely knowledgeable and took the time to walk us through our options. After further research and a few more estimates, we opted to go with the first company that reached out.
Locally-owned and well-regarded, the countertop contractor we selected was highly communicative and offered professional guidance and premium service. We never felt that topping off our dresser-to-vanity conversion was an annoyance to them. Our small project did not seem insignificant.
Brian and I chose a pure white quartz from Canada. This countertop was installed with cutouts for undermount sinks and widespread faucets. We were a little worried with how tight the sink and faucets might fit due to the non-traditional vanity, but the contractor reassured us that our modifications allowed for enough room.
Even though the price of our finished vanity (including the countertop, sinks, and faucets) is comparable to some of the bathroom vanities on the market today, we are so happy with the end result. It is a one-of-a-kind feature, built out of sustainable intention and creativity.
Glass Shower Enclosure – $1,737.64
Before we started our bathroom rebuild, we figured we would be able to install a shower enclosure ourselves. However, once we realized we were customizing our own shower, it became more realistic to hire out for manufacturing and installing a custom glass enclosure.
All three quotes were within $1000 of each other. Brian and I picked the middle quote; competitively priced with an experienced and knowledgeable, no-fuss owner, we had a gut feeling that he would get the job done right.
Because we installed the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT, we were a little concerned about the need to drill into the shower curb. The shower curb is essentially super tough foam, so I absolutely did not want to have anything drilled into it. Also, if you recall, the drilling into the curb is what caused the waterproofing failure in the original shower! Fortunately, our installer was able to secure the glass enclosure using multiple brackets on the shower walls, as well as a corner bracket at the top of the half-wall. Whew!
Before we committed to the enclosure, the company even double-checked and confirmed that the glass and selected hardware were sourced in the USA.
A Team Effort
The entire master bathroom rebuild was a gigantic team effort from start to finish. Of course my dad, Brian, and I served as home team, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge the team behind these products and services.
Empowered by information and careful background scrutiny, we made deliberate selections. It takes a team to provide quality service, just as it takes a team to build and manufacture quality product.
We are grateful for all we have learned and all the teams we have learned from.
Thank you for being part of our bathroom rebuild.
Follow our series and join us next as we break down our installation adventure!