Bathroom remodeling: The price is right and timing could be, too

Tile Meister
Randy DiDonato, owner of the Tile Meister in Grand Junction, says a photograph of marble in a shower creates the appearance of marble walls. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

While many homeowners focus on remodeling jobs instead of searching for a newer home, they might be reticent to take on an expensive project — like redoing a kitchen. For such people, it might be a good time to consider a less expensive job, such as remodeling a bathroom.

“It’s the right price point,” said Randy DiDonato, owner of Tile Meister in Grand Junction.

The timing could be right in terms of the age of homeowners, too. Members of the baby boom generation are well aware of the cost of staying in assisted living facilities and also enjoy the freedom that comes with remaining at home. “Baby boomers want to stay in their homes as long as possible,” DiDonato said.

A bathroom remodeling project can cost as little as $3,700, less than the cost of one month in an assisted care facility. And while they’re at it, boomers might consider making the bathroom more age-friendly for the time they reach their 70s even as the oldest boomers hit 65 this year.

DiDonato was the first aging-in-place specialist in Mesa County, a designation awarded by the National Association of Homebuilders and American Association of Retired Persons. He touts the advantages of converting bathtubs to showers and installing handrails in showers. With health care prices outpacing inflation, one fall in the tub could be more costly than the renovation that could help prevent accidents in the bathroom.

While conversion from a tub to shower is popular, some people prefer to retain their tubs and convert them to walk-in tubs, DiDonato said.

On the decorative front, hot items include a photograph of marble placed on a cultured marble surface. The resulting surface can appear to be marble, but the cost is less than for regular marble. A gel coating can be used to cover nature photographs, such as pictures of waterfalls, to add a personal touch to a wall or shower.

Porcelain surfaces are cost-effective as well as durable, DiDonato said, adding he plans to display black porcelain panels at the Housing and Building Association of Northwestern Colorado Home Improvement and Remodeling Expo in Grand Junction.

In an effort to step up awareness of his business, DiDonato recently sponsored an “ugliest bathroom contest,” inviting people to send in pictures of their bathroom in hopes of winning a bathroom remodel. Next, he plans a “most dangerous bathroom” contest, with the winner receiving installation of safety features for older clients. “We can install wider doors and make them wheelchair accessible,” DiDonato said of homes that could be in need of upgrades.

DiDonato also emphasizes customer service. He offers a five-year warranty on workmanship. And he tries to speed installations to save customers money. He said one project entailed remodeling two bathrooms in three days. A tub can be converted to a shower in one day. “You have to be efficient,” he said.

DiDonato has been efficient in watching the bottom line through the years. During stronger economic times, DiDonato paid off the building mortgage and figures he’s in good position to run a healthy business if the economy continues to strengthen.

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