Tag: planning a remodel

Linear Drains & Curbless Showers

Linear Drain From our “Bay Shore Bathrooms” Project

What is a Linear Drain you ask? Well they go by many other names including trough drain, channel drain & slot drain all of which are correct and simply refer to the shape of the grate & drain body. Instead of a round or square drain grate in a central location  where all areas of the shower floor are pitched toward the drain;  a “linear” drain is linear in shape and the attached drain body is a trough that channels water to one central exit port using a slope in only one direction. Linear drains can be installed in various locations in a shower but the most common is at either an outside wall or at the shower entry point. Drains of this type have been used in commercial applications and overseas for decades but have emerged more prominently on the US residential market in the last decade or so.

We’ve noticed that requests for linear drains are on the rise and they have been incorporated into many of our recent projects.  Curbless showers are also gaining in popularity whether it be for better access as a homeowner ages in place or to fit a more modern and streamlined aesthetic. These two features are often combined although it is possible to have one without the other; you can opt for the look of a linear drain but still want the peace of mind that a shower curb brings in terms of containing water in the showering area.  There are also alternative “curbless” or “level entry” drain systems that employ a standard center drain but are installed recessed into a subfloor to be able to eliminate the curb. Depending on the reasons for wanting either a linear drain or curbless shower entry a number of factors need to be considered to determine if they’re right for your home & project.

Many homeowners main objective in selecting a linear drain is to achieve a “look”. They perhaps saw one featured in a home design magazine or website and fell in love with the sleek modern feel. Some though, have more practical objectives like handicap accessibility or reducing tripping hazards. Whatever the end goal; there are pros and cons to consider.

 

Pros

  • Option for Curbless Shower entry

    Although linear drains don’t need to be installed in a level entry application, they do allow for this. Do note however that not all linear drains are recommended to be installed at a level entry point, check with your drain supplier & manufacturer for recommended applications of your specific drain.

 

  • Option for multiple drain exit ports
    Linear drains also allow for additional drain ports within the same drain body. Some states require additional drains by code if the gallon per minute rate of water flowing from multiple fixtures exceeds a predetermined amount. When a shower has multiple heads & body sprays etc. a second drain outlet is usually required. Having two standard drains is typically undesirable but the trough design of a linear drain allows for multiple exit points to be installed in line with the same main trunk, creating the look of only one linear style drain.
  • Nicer on the feet
    Because linear drains are typically installed at the edge of the shower floor it allows for a clear footpath at the showering area and makes it so the person doesn’t have to continually step on the drain underfoot.

 

  • Design Flexibility
    In a standard shower the floor tile is usually required to be smaller to be able to contour to a floor that pitches in multiple directions toward a central drain. With a linear drain the floor need only pitch in one direction, this allows for a larger format tile to be installed on the shower floor if desired. In some cases even continuing the main bathroom floor right into the shower if installed without a curb. No longer limited by the shower slope you can choose a tile floor of any size and shape meaning the design possibilities are endless! A variety of drain grates are also available on the market today in multiple patterns and finishes to suit any style.
Linear Drain from our “Lincoln Kitchen & Interior” Project

Cons

  • Higher Cost
    While a standard drain is pretty nominal in cost, a linear drain or any level entry drain system can multiply that cost significantly in some cases reaching in to the thousands when all material & labor costs are factored in. The product itself is more expensive and typically the installation, prep work & coordination is bit higher as well.

 

  • Installation Limitations
    Because of the size and requirements to install a linear drain you may be limited on where it can be installed. When working within an existing structure for a renovation the sub floor material, depth of the joists and path for running a drain line all factor into the feasibility of such drains. This style of  drain in general is much more difficult to incorporate into an existing structure as a retrofit. Even in a new construction the placement and planning will require much forethought, sometimes well before the engineering and framing phases commence. 

 

  • Longer lead times & added planning time
    Because of all of the additional planning involved and the custom nature of some linear drains or level entry drain systems the coordination time is longer and products are often custom ordered with longer lead times to arrive in. Be sure to notify your building professionals far enough in advance so all details can be worked out and products ordered in time for the rough plumbing phase of your project.

 

  • Reduced Water Retention
    when installing a curbless or level entry drain of any type there is an increased risk of water escaping the showering area. Simply put, water doesn’t always flow where you want it, splashing is inevitable and drains sometimes get clogged. A shower with a curb would at least retain any backup but a curbless shower would not,  causing water to migrate to other areas of the bathroom.

Whatever your reason for considering a curbless or linear drain there’s much to research & discuss before pulling the trigger. Every project is different and although one bathroom in a home may be a good candidate for a linear drain , another in the same home may not, so speak with your qualified building or remodeling professional well in advance to discuss your options and allow ample time to plan for a proper installation.

 

 

Planning your Renovation

 

 

When a prospective client calls our office they  have two main questions that often become the determining factor in whether we can work together or not; When can you start? and how much will it cost? Although these two questions are important and valid, they often can only be answered after we ask a few questions of our own;

How far along in the planning process are you?
Do you have a clearly defined scope of work?
Have you checked your local town  laws and regulations regarding ability to perform the work?
Are architectural plans prepared and contain enough information to provide an accurate cost estimate?
Have you thought about the materials and finishes your project will include?

Many homeowners are very focused on cost and timing and forget the many details that need to be considered before they even begin to obtain pricing for a project.

The reality is that the planning portion should be the longest phase of the entire building or renovation project. The planning phase is a multi-step process that should not be rushed.  So before you take the leap and call a contractor to ask the two ever important questions (how much? & how long?) take a moment and review the 5 steps to planning any building or renovation project below and arm yourself with the information you need to have a successful and well planned project!

 

Step 1

Determine your objective & budget

Keeping in mind why you are renovating start to determine the scope of the project. Will you add on to the home or work within the existing footprint? Are you planning significant structural changes to the home or just looking to update finishes and fixtures?  These questions will help you determine the right professionals to contact first.

Having clear budgetary goals will help  when determining scope also, obviously the more involved a project is, the more it will cost so your budget may to a degree drive the scope of the project.  Many homeowners don’t know what a project in their area would cost so have a hard time with this step. They may try to get a bid for the project as a first step,  but we advise against this because this early in the process it is almost impossible to project an accurate budget number.

Instead, we point prospective clients to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report to get a general sense of where their budget should be. The report lists cost ranges for 35 of the most popular renovations and the data is separated by region so the numbers are more accurate than a national average or regional study. An alternative would be to ask a trusted friend or relative who has remodeled recently or at least in the last 1-3 years.  Armed with a general idea of what your project may cost will help you to better refine the scope and determine exactly what your budget will allow.

Step 2

Gather information & ideas

If an addition or structural changes are in the plan then you will likely have some zoning, historical or conservation regulations to abide by. In some historic locations any change to the home’s exterior warrant a check in with the Historical Commision to ensure your plans are in compliance.

You can gather necessary documents like site plans, septic plans and as built plans from your local town offices. These documents will help you determine the area you have to work within to add on to a structure and will be necessary for the design & permitting phase.  You will likely also need to enlist the services of a site/civil engineer to draft new site plans showing your proposed changes if you will be altering the footprint or height of your home.

Now is also the time to start gathering ideas about your style & material preferences. Use online resources like Pinterest and Houzz to create digital idea books about spaces, designs and products that you like. The more specific you can be about the style, finishes and products you prefer the easier it will be for the professionals to plan for and price your project as accurately as possible.

 

Step 3

Hire an Architect or Designer

If structural changes are in the plan, an architect will be the next step. If only interior renovations are planned you may just want to enlist the help of an interior designer.  Architects and designers have inherently unique styles and strengths so do your homework and find one that tends to have an aesthetic that you are drawn to. Contact them  and use all of the information you’ve gathered to discuss the parameters, scope and style & material preferences.

Once preliminary drawings are complete you are ready to begin taking the plans to builders and contractors in order to get the estimating process started but remember that the more complete and comprehensive your plans are the more accurate your bidding process will be.

Step 4

Obtain Estimates from Contractors

Your architect will advise you when plans are ready to be submitted for bid.  However, if your plans are incomplete or missing key features like framing & foundation plans, window & door schedules, structural specifications etc. then your contractor may want to wait until those are included before even beginning to estimate your project. Leaving these details up to the contractor to determine will mean that it will be hard to compare one quote to another. One contractor may factor in sub par materials, cheap windows/doors while another includes higher quality materials and those minor differences will quickly add up to a major cost discrepancies between bids.

Some architects have a list of preferred contractors or you can do your own research and determine which companies you are interested in quoting the project with. When vetting companies consider all of the factors; too often homeowners make a decision based on price and timing. They want the project done for the lowest cost and/or the earliest start date. Basing decisions on these factors often leads to hiring a contractor who perhaps just wasn’t very detailed with their cost estimation process so hadn’t included all factors. It stands to reason that the most qualified and professional companies that do the best quality work will have a bit of a backlog so plan for that and be flexible.

Read all bids and scope details carefully and be wary of vague or missing information and never make assumptions that anything not in writing is included in the overall cost of the project. A qualified company will provide a detailed scope with an outline of the types of materials they will use for your project. They will also be able to answer any questions you have about a process, product or cost. Open communication at this phase is key. Knowing what materials & methods are being proposed in the project can help determine the reason for any variances in cost from one company to the next.

Keep these questions in mind when selecting a contractor:
  1. Are they a professional company with all of the proper licences, insurance & certifications?
  2. How long have they been in  business?
  3. Have they completed recent projects similar in scope to what you are proposing?
  4. Do they have a team of  qualified office & in-house staff that will bring experience and knowledge to the table?
  5. Does their proposal/contract include a detailed scope and material specifications?
  6. How do they manage a project? Will you have access to updates, schedules, financials via a client portal?
  7. What portions of the project, if any, will you be responsible for managing or supplying materials or fixtures?
  8. How do they communicate? Will they be available via phone, text and email?
  9. Can you contact past clients to discuss their experience in working with them?Once you’ve selected your contractor be sure to sign a formal contract or agreement about the specific scope and payment terms and have a general discussion about their availability to begin the work and how long the project will take so you have a realistic expectation about start date & timing going forward.

Step 5

Permitting & Product Selection

You’ve selected your professionals and signed your contract and your contractor begins pulling permits and processing all of the paperwork to prepare for the start of your project. Before you hand your project over to them there are still many decisions to be made before your project can begin. Product selections will be your next big task. Your contractor will likely provide you with vendor resources to make your selections with and an idea of which selections take priority, typically the first on the list is windows, doors, siding & roofing, followed closely with appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring, tile, paint colors etc. Each project is unique so be sure you have an idea of what choices need to be made and by when. Once your choices have been finalized your contractor will then confirm when products will be available for delivery and build your project schedule and start date around those lead times.

The last thing you or your contractor want is to have a project in progress be held up by a product that is backordered or has long lead times that no one anticipated. This is why planning and preparation are key to a successful project. With everyone doing their part to ensure products are selected, permits are pulled  and schedules are created to coordinate with available product dates your project can move along swiftly with no bottlenecks or surprises.

So whether you are building a new custom home, adding an addition or remodeling an existing space taking the time to properly plan your project will be the difference between a pleasant and stress free project and one riddled with problems and unforeseen costs and delays. Everyone wants their project done as quickly and cost effective as possible including your building professionals so take a team approach to the process and work along with your design & building team to meet the deadlines for product selections, make timely decisions on any design changes and communicate openly and often.