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Posted at 05:30 AM ET, 01/21/2013

Trends in bathroom remodeling

Tubs are mostly a thing of the past, at least when it comes to master bathrooms. For families with kids, a tub in the hall bathroom is still a necessity, but in a master bathroom, the tub has become a space-wasting nuisance.

That’s what Jeff Pregman of Two Poor Teachers told me when I met him on Saturday afternoon at the Home and Remodeling Show at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. The exhibit hall was packed with exhibitors showcasing the latest in home renovation.


Jeff Pregman, left, general manager of Two Poor Teachers, stands with co-founders Tom Pennell, center, and Ken Nies in front of their mobile showroom. (Kathy Orton - The Washington Post)
“If you don’t take a bath in your master bathroom, there’s no law in Virginia that says you’ve got to have a tub in there,” Pregman said. “Now, if you have a massive bathroom, it makes sense to have a tub because it looks funny if you don’t. But if it’s a medium-sized bathroom, and it felt cramped in there before, let’s get rid of the tub that you don’t use. Let’s make it a bigger, spa-style shower.”

Bathroom remodels are big business for Two Poor Teachers. Founded in 1999 by two Fairfax County teachers — Ken Nies and Tom Pennell — the Annandale-based full-service residential construction company does about 300 bathrooms, 30 kitchen and 15 basement renovations a year in northern Virginia.

I asked Jeff if most people were remodeling their homes these days in order to sell them or if they were making the renovations for themselves. He said about 30 percent of the work Two Poor Teachers does are for people who are looking to sell their homes. But he expects that percentage to increase as home prices rise.

Two Poor Teachers doesn’t use subcontractors. They do all their own carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. They take pride in their ability to turnaround their jobs quickly. Pregman boasts that the firm can redo a bathroom in a week or less and a kitchen in two weeks or less.

“We’re not the high high or the low low,” Pregman said. “We want to be in the middle. Our average kitchen project is [$30,000 to $40,000] complete.”

For a bathroom renovation, Two Poor Teachers offers a standard package for $6,850. It includes labor and materials for a standard 5-by-7-foot full bathroom with tub.


Ken Nies, left, and Tom Pennell, co-founders of Two Poor Teachers, look at samples in their mobile showroom. (Kathy Orton - The Washington Post)
Like most companies that weathered the economic downturn, Two Poor Teachers was looking for a way to stay competitive. About three years ago, they came up with the idea for a mobile showroom. They turned a former bookmobile from Nashville into a design showroom with sample cabinets, facets and tiles. It also has a flat-screen television that presents a slideshow of their most recent work. Now when they visit your home, they can bring most all of their samples with them.

I asked Jeff what other trends he’s seeing in the market this year.

“We don’t do a lot of cutting edge,” he said. “We’re not in that market. People are looking for a good price more than anything else.”

He said a lot of people want vessel sinks until he tells them the problems with them.

“They don’t want it in their main bath,” he said. “It’s great for powder rooms. You don’t want toothpaste caked on it. That’s a piece of art. It’s got to be kept clean or it looks bad.”

He also said that a lot of people are interested in body sprays and hand-helds in their showers, until they see the costs.

“I guess that’s what I keep coming back to,” he said. “Everybody is still buying on price.”

By  |  05:30 AM ET, 01/21/2013

 
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