In an age where we are constantly bombarded by commercials and emails indicating size matters, there is one area where there is more than a grain of truth: bathrooms and kitchens!

Mark Mathers, registered AIA architect and owner of an architectural firm noted: “In the past 20 years, I’ve witnessed a dramatic change from utilitarian Master Bathrooms that encompassed as little as 5’ x 7’ spaces to ones that typically cover several hundred square feet and, in some cases, are larger than the Master Bedroom! Master Bathrooms are typically designed to be an oasis from the daily grind with luxurious body washes, overhead rain-forest-style shower heads, steam generators, saunas and multiple body-jets designed to massage and pamper every aching inch of our bodies and psyches. What was once a purely utilitarian space has become a refuge and privacy center with four-star amenities normally found only in posh resorts. The same can be said for the evolution of today’s kitchen designs. It’s not at all unusual for our customers to carve out costs from the building envelope in order to achieve the level of luxury desired in the bath and kitchen areas. For instance: cheaper siding; vinyl-clad windows; or less expensive floor coverings. And the upgrades don’t stop with just the plumbing fixtures: flat wall-recessed gas-fired fireplaces; heated towel bars; radiant heating for floors; whisper-quiet ventilation; flat-screen hi-definition TV’s; exotic marble or tile; and lighting are just a few of the accessories consumers want incorporated into new or remodeled bathrooms and kitchens.”

However, according to homebuilders, today’s consumers are expanding beyond the confines of master bathrooms and bringing these same luxury features to in-law quarters and/or children’s bathrooms. Safety features previously reserved for assisted living facilities (like heavy-duty grab-bars; non-slip surfaces; faucets incorporating ASSE-1016 certified scald-guard protection; walk-in showers with little or no trip-lip; and tubs set into a deck for ease of entry/exit) have become mainstream features too.

COVID certainly played a significant role because homeowners were essentially confined to their homes and turned to home improvement projects. Home improvement retailers strengthened their online presence and were declared essential businesses, just as you were too, and in 2020, sales at Lowes increased 24%, while Home Depot sales were up by 20%. Ace Hardware benefited too with a 27.9% increase in sales.

We all have had to adapt to consumer-supplied products while a few manufacturers have strived to protect us, like Bradford White and Navien who make it clear that if homeowners bypass the contractor to purchase their products, there will be no factory warranty. We dealt with this issue long ago by doing two things: a written no-warranty statement for both labor and customer or builder-supplied materials; and increased our hourly labor rate to make up for the lost profit we would otherwise have earned via material sales. If you think you’re charging too much per hour, you are not! A financial advisor once suggested we raise our hourly rate by $5 an hour. Each year, we had been raising our hourly labor charge by $2-$3 and I thought we would get customer complaints by bumping up $5 an hour. Not one peep!

According to Statista figures, 2023 sales of home improvement products topped an astounding $577.3 billion! Projected growth for 2024 is expected to push sales to $597.5 billion and reach $621.3 billion in 2025! Grab your fair share and cash in on this rising tide of the home improvement market. IT is it, baby! Consumers want higher efficiency, conservation of natural resources, and IT-connected products that they can control and monitor from smartphones and computers. From old geezers to first-time home buyers, practically everyone wants their furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, water heaters, kitchen appliances and plumbing products to have an app they can utilize to control their home improvement products!

Projected growth for 2024 is expected to push sales to $597.5 billion and reach $621.3 billion in 2025! Grab your fair share and cash in on this rising tide of the home improvement market. IT is it, baby!

2023 saw the creation of 2.56 million new bathrooms in homes being built, along with 14.2 million bathroom remodeling projects and 10.2 million kitchen makeovers! While many homeowners are purchasing plumbing products for their installation, 60% of them are contracting with professionals to ensure safety and code compliance. And well they should, as electronics have become a substantial component in many of the high-end products. Toilets with heated seats incorporating built-in bidet; washing and blow-dry features at the touch of a microprocessor’s button; faucets with infrared sensors for hands-free operation; faucets that can be changed or swapped with upgraded or newly designed models in less than a minute; motion sensors for circulating water to ensure there’s no waiting for hot water; mirrors with touch-screen capability for multi-tasking via the internet or catching the morning news while shaving or brushing teeth; fixtures that can be lowered or raised by programmed touch-screen pads or an effortless touch to customize individual use; programmed body-spa features that include adjustments for volume, pressure, temperature, lighting, steam and wind — including the ability to blow-dry a body in less than a minute! Not to worry though — most of these fixtures with their multitude of options arrive as plug-and-play with a few now emerging with voice-activated features.

HIRI figures show that consumers were satisfied with contractor charges for installations and felt they had received substantial value for services delivered. 20% were repeat customers, 25% were direct word-of-mouth referrals and 20% by way of public ads. No doubt, direct mail to your existing customer base by way of newsletters or other media will perk up sales and, quite possibly, increase your niche market for high-end sales. Depending on codes in your area, you’ll either need to expand your knowledge of control (typically low voltage) wiring or partner with a licensed electrician who is interested in this emerging field of technology. Either way, those who embrace the new trends will emerge as winners.

A friend who owns multiple-branch wholesale supply houses, added: “Today customers who visit our showrooms want products that offer luxury while incorporating accessories that allow their installation to be customized. Professional installers of these high-end products who pay closer attention to things like distribution piping and corresponding flow rates have seen an opportunity for ancillary sales of larger, more efficient water heaters. Where whirlpool tubs used to be combined with the shower, we now see consumers choosing to have them as separate fixtures. Whirlpool tubs, spa-like enclosures with multiple shower heads and body jets all combine to create a sensory experience that’s sure to please even the most demanding customer — unless the support systems can’t handle the necessary boost in flow and heated water demands.”