This is number 9 in a 10 part series on better building design.
I have mentioned in previous articles in this series that I am working with some other guys on renovating a house, turning it into a non medical drug detox and ministry house.
The house built in 1928 has “good bones” but over the years do to lack of care and needed changes in the mechanical systems, needed some major upgrades. As we undertook these upgrades we really wanted and needed to make sure that the infrastructure and finishes could handle the reality that as many as 12 men could be living in the house at the same time. This led us to take a good and long look at the longevity, cleanability and overall durability of what we put into the house. We knew that we needed a robust mechanical system, in particular we knew that the plumbing system needed to be able to accommodate very high usage.
This led to oversizing the supply and sewage pipes, moving to an on demand style water heater and adding a complete additional bathroom. We also knew wear and tear would be an issue so we took a lot of time exploring the finishes that were going into the house.
We definitely wanted surfaces that would last, but we were also very concerned that the house would not have an institutional feel to it.
This proved to be a big challenge. As we looked at durability only the finishes started to look like they were going to be very sterile and institutional. As we explored the “look” of the finishes we wanted often the durability would come into question.
Finally as we looked at the cleanability of the surface, this introduced a completely different variable. To wade through all of the what seemed like competing needs. We made a mental checklist and tried to prioritize each area and in particular the surfaces needed to give us something that was aesthetically pleasing, durable and easily cleanable. What we found out was that with new modern products was that in most cases we could obtain all three. What it took to find what we were looking for was asking a lot of questions, doing a bit of research online, but more importantly just paying attention. If we were in a restaurant and liked the table finish, we talked about it and researched it.
The same happened as we would talk about bathroom finishes, even wall coverings. We asked questions and visited with painters and the home improvement shops about the best quality paint and the best type of paint (satin, semi-gloss, flat) to fit each room. We talked about the pros and cons as it relates to the main three things mentioned above, Durability, Cleanability and Aesthetic.
Through all of that discussion, we learned a lot and made decisions based on importance of each surface. For some areas like paint we were able to lean a little more towards the aesthetic side of things as we know color and style will change and it is relatively easy for us to repaint. For surfaces like countertops we placed a really high value durability and cleanability. It is much more difficult to change a countertop than paint.
Also as far as the aesthetic we decided to go neutral on the countertops and let the aesthetic flair come from the paint. Finding the right finishes can be challenging but if you keep in mind aesthetic, durability and cleanability it will help you filter through and pick the right finishes for your project.