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posted: 4/9/2015 6:00 AM

Showering attention on bathroom renovations

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The Washington Post

Josh Baker, the founder and co-chairman of design and construction company BOWA in McLean, Va., joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week in our Post Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q. I am working with a designer on a major master bath renovation. We got a bid from one place to do all the work. Is it wise to do one-stop shopping or better to get bids from tile people, electricians, plumbers, etc.? Also, should one person be home all the time to oversee the project? I can't be there, and the designer charges by the hour.

A. Look for a firm that specializes in the kind of project you are considering, and make sure that you are very comfortable with the folks you'll be working with. Familiarize yourself with the product they deliver. I don't recommend you contract individual tradesmen yourself. With any larger-scale remodel, you should insist on full-time supervision of your project. It ensures quality control and efficiency. If you feel that you need to be home to oversee the project, you probably need to find a different remodeler.

Q. For my bathroom remodel, I want a classic look that hopefully will not go out of style. I'm going with subway tile with gray grout in the bath and chrome fixtures. I'm not sure about the floor. I love the look of marble hex. Is it a maintenance nightmare? Should I go with ceramic (basket weave, octagon and dot, hexagon) instead?

A. With regard to maintenance, the pattern is not the big issue. The larger issue is the material itself. Some white marbles are susceptible to staining and water spots. There are many new ceramic products available in the last few years, some of which are indiscernible from stone. You may want to check those out, as they are much better in terms of maintenance. Also, remember to pick a stain-resistant grout.

Q. I have a classic 1950s green tile bathroom with plumbing problems. I like the original tile, however, the sink plumbing inside the wall needs repairs, and the shower plumbing should be updated. The tile can't be matched, of course, but is the only alternative replacing all of the tile?

A. Unfortunately, from what you describe, it sounds like the best solution is to remove the entire tile. This will allow you to properly replace the plumbing and address any rot that may have occurred over the years.

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