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Basic bathroom remodeling - an important way to improve your home

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Bathroom remodeling continues to rank second only to kitchen remodeling as countless thousands of Americans determine to ''stay put'' in an economy that stifles new-home construction.

Remodeling companies and do-it-yourself homeowners alike are behind the surge to upgrade existing baths and make them more attractive as well as more functional for the modern family.

Just like planning a new bathroom, remodeling an existing bath begins with a determination of the desired floor plan.

Often this decision will be made for you for the most part by the amount of space available, but if you are adding on to your home, you can begin from scratch and enjoy a wide latitude in design and layout.

Before buying new fixtures and materials, take a pencil in hand and jot down a few answers to such questions as:

* What area of my home will be served by this new bathroom?

* Who will be the principal users of the bath - parents, children, guests?

* Will this bathroom be an integral part of the master suite, or should it be ''family'' in nature to serve several nearby bedrooms?

* How much space can be allotted to the new bath?

* What is the ''outside'' cost figure that can be considered?

* What basic fixtures are ''musts'' in the new or remodeled room? Tub or shower?

* How much space should be set aside for storage?

* Will the room be used for other than normal bathroom purposes, such as an added place to relax, an exercise room, or an extension of the master bedroom suite?

Your answers will lead you to other necessary determinations, including basic placement of the major fixtures - tub-shower, lavatory, toilet (bidet) - which cannot be as easily changed the way you might move furniture around in another room in your home.

On the other hand, if you are remodeling an existing room, don't fail to consider actually moving the existing fixtures if they now cause an every-morning bottleneck or are so badly outdated that they make this a room where you always want the door closed to keep it out of sight.

New fixtures on the market provide a wide range of shapes and sizes from which to choose.

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