Total renovations of 30- or 40-year-old bathrooms in Santa Fe account for a good chunk of DMC’s bread and butter. It’s not just about updating faucets and floors and showers; it’s also usually about going to a more clean, contemporary look. “Definitely,” said owner Douglas Maahs. “For us it is. Our customers seem to really want less stuff, cleaner lines, cleaner finishes.”
That shows up pretty dramatically in today’s color palette: cool, neutral grays with crisp whites. However, those choices are never made without reference to the house itself. “If there’s a lot of wood, we’ll go with warmer neutrals to complement the house,” he said. “Our philosophy is to make it look like it never happened. We try to stay within the confines of the design of the home and incorporate fresh, new design into that.”
The remodeling of bathrooms built in the 1980s and 1990s “seems to be a big window in the Santa Fe market,” Maahs said. “It’s getting rid of jetted tubs and deck tubs and a lot of freestanding tubs, even with our older clientele; they’re finding that they would much prefer that that freestanding tub look a little more contemporary, for a little more of an open feeling.
“People are really tearing out the old Jacuzzi tubs and wanting a simpler technology that is a little more bracing, including the new bubble-tub technology and the warming-tub technology.”
DMC often converts the old, standard 60-inch bathtub in the corner to a walk-in shower. “The philosophy of the real-estate agents is to keep at least one tub in the household. Whether that’s the main bedroom or the secondary bathroom, we do try and leave one. But some of our more mature clients really don’t care. They say, ‘We want the convenience and we don’t do soaking,’ so we eliminate tubs. That trend is growing.”
If it’s possible, Maahs will alter walls to enlarge the bathroom, but the majority of time the remodel happens within the existing space.
Countertops are a big deal in bathrooms. They provide practical space for storing and setting things, and because they occupy an expanse, beautiful new countertops will elevate the whole room by several notches.
Solid-surface tops are still king.
“There are so many varieties of granite and quartz and the newest are porcelain countertops,” the contractor said. “Porcelain is able to infuse a lot more movement into the top, much like natural granites and marbles.”
By “movement” he means the color variations within the veins that run through the material. “It wasn’t always as easy to do with quartz, but with the porcelain technology and inks being embedded in the material as it’s formed, they’re coming up with amazing stuff, and it’s quite thin. The new countertops in my showroom are a half-inch thick.”
Like much else in the construction world, prices have increased because of trade duties and COVID-19 difficulties and transportation costs. But Maahs said he can still do custom countertops for between $100 and $150 a square foot installed.
What about toilets? There is a tremendous variety avail-able today and how do you choose? “The main consideration is really what’s the right height and how efficient it is, whether it’s Kohler or American Standard or Toto. The next step is, do you want it to bathe you when you’re done? The washlet technology is amazing.”
These are all matters for discussion, and DMC works collaboratively with homeowners on materials and appliance choices as well as design issues. And business is booming for Maahs and his crews, even in the pandemic. “I’ve got to say we’re really blessed. The construction industry seems to be pretty incredible,” he said. “I’m grateful to be putting food on the table for so many families.”
Over at Pompei’s Home Remodeling, another Santa Fe company, Steve Pompei said, “I’ve been doing this 40 years and I’ve never seen it this busy. We’re talking some big projects, up to $500,000. And these are not people sitting at home and saying, ‘Gosh, Honey, what should we do next?’”
Pompei’s bathroom-remodel jobs are substantial do-overs. “I typically want to take it back to the studs and start all over, and bring it up to code. Our biggest stumbling block right now is electrical deficiencies. Everything that was built previously to 2008 or 2010 doesn’t meet current codes. If I touch a circuit that doesn’t have the correct size wiring, I have to bring it up to code. So all of a sudden a little remodel turns into a fairly large deal.”
He also said contemporary style is generally the way to go. “Eveyone wants easy maintenance, less grout and more tile, so we’re using larger-format tiles. Were not having a lot of bulky lumber and beams and decking.”
And in 99 percent of these jobs, he’s taking out the spa tubs. “Nobody has time to sit in the tub any more, nor do we have the water resources to fill a 100-gallon tub.”
An emphasis is luxurious showers that are barrier-free, for one reason because you can wheel a wheelchair in. “Look, we’re all getting older and it’s getting harder to lift our legs, so you want to be able to shuffle into the shower,” he said with a laugh. It’s also a more elegant look, not having those curbs. It requires a depression to accommodate such a barrier-free entrance. That is no problem with new construction, or with a wood floor, but it can be a challenge in existing homes that are slab-on-grade.
Expanding the bathroom space is always nice to be able to do, if there’s room to do it. “Everyone wants a bigger bathroom,” Pompei said. “But our stock of housing frequently does not afford that luxury, nor does it work well all the time with the owner’s budget. But my projects generally I’m trying to gain them a little bit of space for closets or whatever’s necessary.” He had the same thing to say as Maahs about modern color schemes: white and muted grays. “We’re seeing very little color. I’m doing two bathrooms in a house in Tesuque right now with Mexican tile, built in the 1980s, and in one we’re replacing it all with subway tile, all white, with white cabinets and white counter-tops. In the other bathroom, it’s white countertops and a gray vanity.”
The two contractors also basically agreed (in separate interviews) about the cost of doing a whole bathroom remodel. Maahs said the majority of his company’s bath remodels fall into the $35,000 to $75,000 range.
Pompei’s current two-bathroom in Tesuque came in at $80,000, and he said his solo remodels usually run from $35,000 to $60,000. “Everything’s so damn expensive right now,” he stressed. We’re seeing costs on product the highest I’ve ever seen them. For example, plywood last week was $11 a sheet all day long and this week it’s $23. Our lighting fixtures, our solid-surface materials are more expensive, the metal and plumbing fixtures are just skyrocketing.
“Sometimes I wake up and wonder who is ever going to be able to afford remodeling, moving forward? And consequently I think that’s why a lot of our housing stock is falling apart. People cannot afford to remodel, unless you’re in the One Percent. Fortunately, many of my clients are in the One Percent.”