Renovating a bathroom can be an exciting project that allows you to update the look and functionality of one of the most used rooms in your home. However, bathroom renovations can also be complex, expensive, and disruptive if not properly planned out. Before diving into a bathroom remodel, it’s important to understand all that the project entails so you can set realistic expectations and budget accordingly. Here is an in-depth look at key things to know before starting a bathroom renovation.
Developing a Bathroom Remodeling Plan
The first step in any bathroom remodel should be developing a detailed plan. This involves defining your goals, setting a realistic budget, choosing a design, and establishing a clear timeline. Rushing into a bathroom remodel without proper planning can lead to frustrations, unexpected costs, and subpar results. Be sure to take time upfront to think through all aspects of your bathroom project.
Defining Your Goals
Give careful thought to how you want the updated bathroom to look and function. Consider these key questions:
- Do you want to simply give the bathroom a cosmetic facelift with new paint, fixtures, and flooring or make structural changes like moving plumbing? Cosmetic updates are simpler and less costly.
- Is your priority to update the aesthetics or improve storage and organization? This will inform design choices.
- Do you plan to update for resale or age in place? Aim for timeless over trendy if staying long-term.
- Does anyone in your home have accessibility needs that should be addressed? This may impact the layout.
- How do you envision using the new bathroom? More storage and electrical outlets may be needed.
- Do you have a style in mind like modern, traditional, or contemporary? This will guide fixtures and finishes.
Having a clear vision and set of goals is key to creating a cohesive design and avoiding scope creep during the renovation. Discuss goals thoroughly with all household decision-makers before moving to the design phase.
Setting a Realistic Budget
Bathroom remodels can range from a few thousand dollars for a minor update to $50,000 or more for a complete overhaul with high-end finishes. Be realistic about what you can afford before creating a design. Get quotes from contractors on expected costs for must-have aspects like:
- Tilework, tub/shower unit and plumbing rough-ins
- Vanity, lighting, mirrors and other fixtures
- Painting and repairs
- Demolition of old bathroom and waste disposal
Keep in mind that unforeseen issues often crop up once walls and floors are opened up. Have a minimum 10-20% contingency fund to allow flexibility for surprises. Securing financing ahead of time is wise if you need to spread payments over time.
Choosing a Layout and Design Elements
With a budget and goals in mind, start making specific design decisions. Key aspects to plan out include:
Floorplan and Layout
Consider bumping out walls, removing partitions, or relocating plumbing to create your ideal layout. Measure carefully when designing spacing for fixtures and accessories.
Choose tile for the floors, walls and shower enclosure, coordinating colors, patterns, materials and sizing. Mosaic, glass and larger format tiles are popular options.
Cabinetry and Storage
Select a vanity style and research smart storage additions like drawer organizers, pull-out shelves, and recessed medicine cabinets.
Pick out a tub and/or shower unit, faucets, sink, and toilet. Check that proposed models meet codes.
Lighting and Electrical
Plan lighting, exhaust fans, heating, outlets, and wiring for accessories like built-ins.
Materials and Finishes
Choose materials for the countertops, hardware, paint/wallpaper, accessories and other decorative details.
Browse sites like Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. Consulting bathroom designers can help turn your vision into a cohesive plan.
Creating a Timeline
Bathroom renovations often take 2-4 weeks from start to finish. To keep your project on schedule, build out a detailed timeline with milestones including:
- Design and planning phase
- Permit application and approval
- Demolition and prep work
- Rough-in electric and plumbing
- Installation of new fixtures/cabinets
- Tilework and flooring
- Painting and finishing touches
- Final cleanup and walkthrough
Factor in potential delays like shipping issues or backordered tile. Give yourself a buffer of a few days in case unexpected issues pop up. Confirm contractor availability before setting dates.
Careful planning is the best way to keep bathroom remodels on time, on budget, and headache-free. Spending this upfront time is an investment that pays dividends during the renovation process.
Choosing the Right Contractor
Vetting and hiring contractors is one of the most important aspects of any bathroom remodeling project. An experienced, professional contractor helps ensure the renovation goes smoothly and the finished bathroom meets your expectations. Here’s how to find the best contractor for your bathroom remodel:
Research Prospective Remodeling Contractors
Start by asking friends, neighbors and co-workers for referrals to bathroom remodelers they’ve used and would recommend. Search online review sites and the Better Business Bureau for local contractors with consistently positive feedback. Be sure any you consider are licensed, bonded, and insured.
When evaluating contractors look for these green flags:
- Significant experience completing bathroom remodels similar to yours
- A portfolio of past bathroom projects with examples of their work
- Strong reviews praising their communication, timeliness, and quality
- Extensive knowledge addressing your questions and concerns
Red flags include very low bids compared to other estimates and inability to provide references from past clients.
Once you have 3-5 potential hires, schedule in-person consultations. Walk them through your project plan and design to get feedback and estimated costs. Observe how responsive they are to your needs and questions. Key things to discuss:
- Their work process and typical timeline for bathroom remodels
- How they communicate with homeowners during the project
- How they keep work sites clean and minimized disruption
- Their subcontracting process and use of project managers
- Warranties and protections provided should issues arise
Go with your gut feeling on who you can best work collaboratively with.
Check Licenses, Bonding and Insurance
Before hiring a contractor, verify they are properly licensed in your state and that their insurance and bonding are current. Ask for documentation. Review the details of their insurance—it should provide ample coverage for your home if damages occur.
Sign a Detailed Contract
Have an attorney review any contract before signing to help limit liability. Ensure the contract specifies project costs, timeline, work plan, responsibilities of both parties, and warranty information. Make sure any verbal promises about the remodel are added in writing before signing. Setting clear expectations upfront is vital.
Taking the time to find the right contractor for your particular bathroom renovation can give you tremendous peace of mind and help ensure your project stays on track and within budget.
Preparing the Bathroom for Remodeling
Once you’ve completed the designing and planning stages of your bathroom remodel and hired a contractor, it’s time to prepare the space for the demolition and construction work ahead. Proper prep work helps keep the project on schedule and protects the rest of your home during the process. Here are key tasks to complete before major bathroom remodeling work kicks off:
Remove All Bathroom Items and Accessories
Clearing out everything from your existing bathroom is an essential first step. This includes:
- All personal belongings and decor
- Shower curtains, rugs, organizers and hardware
- Towels, cleaning supplies and toiletries
- Plumbing fixtures like the vanity and toilet
Pack up anything you want saved and store it elsewhere in your home or offsite. Anything left behind may get damaged or discarded as old bathroom components are removed.
Protect Surrounding Areas
To avoid damage beyond the bathroom itself during demolition and construction, take precautions like:
- Covering floors, walls, and doorways with plastic sheeting or tarps
- Sealing off ventilation ducts to prevent dust spreading
- Moving furniture out of nearby rooms to avoid scrapes or spills
- Turning off power to the bathroom at the breaker
- Draining water supply lines
Ask your contractor if any additional areas should be protected.
Create a Temporary Bathroom Setup
Unless you have a second bathroom, setup a temporary toilet and sink area for use during the remodel. Options include:
- Renting a portable toilet and sink for your driveway or backyard
- Designating a basement or utility sink as a makeshift bathroom
- Building out a simple temporary bathroom using plywood and plastic sheeting
This ensures your household can maintain bathroom functions during construction.
Install New Venting
It’s ideal to add bathroom ventilation that vents directly outside prior to starting demolitions. This helps limit dust and odor issues. Your contractor may be able to install a temporary exhaust fan and ductwork through an existing vent or window to allow air circulation during construction.
Proper preparation like clearing, protecting and planning for temporary facilities can prevent headaches and keep your bathroom remodel sailing along on schedule.
Demolition and Removal: Tearing Out the Old Bathroom
Demolition is one of the most disruptive, messy stages of any bathroom remodeling project. However, it’s also an exciting milestone, signaling the start of your bathroom transformation. Here’s what to expect as your contractor tears out your old bathroom:
The contractor will fully “gut” the bathroom, removing:
- Old flooring and baseboards
- Sink, toilet, tub, shower, plumbing fixtures
- Medicine cabinets, vanity, hardware
- Lighting fixtures and exhaust fans
- Drywall or plaster walls and ceiling
Often the room will be taken right down to the wall studs and subfloor. This allows inspecting for hidden issues and provides a blank slate for remodeling.
Plumbing and Electrical Disconnections
Your contractor will disconnect and cap off supply and drain lines along with electrical wiring. Some lines may be updated, relocated or fully removed depending on your new bathroom layout.
Dumpster Delivery and Debris Removal
A large dumpster (or several) will be used for hauling away debris. The contractor is responsible for proper disposal of all bathroom waste. This often represents the biggest dump fees in your total remodel budget.
Dust, Noise and Vibration
Demolition creates a great deal of dust and noise. Your contractor should close off the bathroom with plastic sheeting to contain dust. Be prepared for banging, power tools, and heavy vibrations through the home’s framing as walls come down.
Schedule demolition when you can be away from home if the noise will be disruptive. Make sure to turn off smoke detectors temporarily to avoid false alarms from dust. Removing an old bathroom can take 1-3 days depending on size and what’s being removed.
What to Expect During Bathroom Remodel Construction
The demolition of your worn-out bathroom is complete—now the process of building your beautiful new bathroom ensues. Here’s an overview of key phases, milestones, and timeframes to expect as construction progresses:
Rough-In and Framing
With your bathroom gutted to the bones, the first major phase involves:
- Installing new plumbing, drains, vents and supply lines
- Electrical rough-in with new wiring, outlets and fixtures
- Framing new walls and partitions with wood or metal studs
- Installing bathroom exhaust fan and ductwork
Plan for the rough-in stage to take several days to a week as the new bathroom layout takes shape.
Most bathroom projects require securing permits and undergoing inspections at multiple points by your local building department. Inspectors examine framing, electrical, and plumbing rough-ins to ensure they meet code. Passing these inspections is crucial for moving on to the next steps.
Applying Vapor Barrier and Insulation
Your contractor will install a vapor barrier of plastic sheeting or building paper over stud walls and ceilings. Next comes batt insulation between studs to muffle noise, hold temperature, and prevent condensation issues.
Cement Board, Tile Backer and Waterproofing
Cement board or a waterproof tile backer like DensShield gets fastened to surfaces which will receive tile. Areas like the shower receive additional waterproofing via materials like Kerdi membrane. This provides added protection against moisture issues.
Tile Installation and Grouting
The fun part starts as your tile design comes to life. Your contractor will lay the pattern of wall and floor tiles you chose across the bathroom surfaces. Grouting fills joints between tiles and adds the finishing touch. Multiple days will be needed for careful tile placement and grouting.
Painting and Finishing Touches
With cabinetry, lighting, mirrors and other fixtures installed, it’s time for painting, caulking, and hanging decorative touches like art. The exciting transformation of your bathroom takes place during this finishing stage.
From rough-in to final details, most bathroom remodels take a total of 3-5 weeks. Stay engaged with your contractor throughout the process to keep work quality on track and be aware of any decisions that need making.
Key Bathroom Remodeling Costs to Anticipate
Bathroom remodels vary widely in cost depending on factors like size and scope of the project. However, you can expect most bathroom renovations to involve the following common categories of expenses:
Demolition and Waste Disposal – Costs for dumpsters, hauling away debris, and disposal fees. Typically $500-$2,000 or more.
Permits and Inspections – Fees charged by local municipalities for permits, inspecting work, and final approval. Often $200-$800 total.
Plumbing – New drains, supply lines, shower valves, sinks, toilets and associated labor. Ranges from $1,500 for minor to $4,000+ for extensive.
Waterproofing and Tilework – Waterproof shower membranes and vapor barriers plus tile purchase/installation. Often $2,000-$5,000+ for a typical bathroom.
Electrical – New wiring, lights, fans, outlets and switches. Approximately $1,000-$3,000 depending on scope.
Framing and Drywall – Building new walls/surfaces, subfloor, cement board, drywall. From $1,500 to $5,000+ for major reframing.
Doors and Windows – Installation of shower doors or glass block windows if included. $200-$1,500.
Cabinetry and Vanity – New sink/vanity plus storage like medicine cabinets. Ranges from $500 for basic to $3,000+ for high-end custom.
Countertops – Popular options like quartz and solid surface often range $800-$2,000 installed.
Fixtures and Decor – Showerheads, faucets, mirrors, lighting, art. Budget $1,500-$3,000 or more.
Labor – Construction labor costs often equal $10,000 to $25,000 or more, especially on larger renovations.
Contingency Fund – Have at least 10-20% extra for surprises like rot/mold or pipes that need updating.
Carefully tallying estimates for each element from your contractor and budgeting contingencies is key to avoiding cost overruns.
Staying on Time and Budget During Your Bathroom Remodel
Even with thorough planning, bathroom remodels are prone to delays and cost increases as work progresses. Here are tips to help your project stay on schedule and within the budget you set:
Visit the Work Site Regularly – Check in often to inspect progress and quality of work. Watch for potential issues before they escalate.
Communicate Frequently with Your Contractor – Discuss any changes, challenges that arise and how they may impact the timeline and costs.
Adjust Expectations – Understand that minor delays and tweaks often happen. Don’t sweat small setbacks and be willing to compromise if needed.
Add Cushion to Your Timeline – Build a few “buffer” days into the schedule in case tasks run long. This helps keep things on track.
Use Your Contingency Fund Carefully – Only dip into this extra cushion budget if absolutely necessary. Save it for true emergencies needing extra funds.
Pay in Installments – Break payments to contractors into progress installments based on work milestones met. Don’t pay anything upfront.
Make Timely Decisions – Be responsive in making design selections to avoid holding things up. Weigh in promptly when needed.
Communicate with Other Household Members – Keep everyone updated on the project status and impacted by the process.
Staying engaged, flexible and communicative as your bathroom remodel progresses is key to protecting your budget and minimizing delays for a successful project.
Design Elements That Increase Bathroom Value
One key goal of many bathroom remodels is increasing resale value and appeal. As one of the most private spaces in a home, bathrooms don’t necessarily need to follow trends. Focusing on attractive, functional additions with timeless style is a smart approach. Here are bathroom remodel investments that typically boost value:
Open, Spa-Like Showers – Removing tub/shower combos for large, open showers creates a spa vibe. Frameless glass doors enhance this.
Dual Sinks – Double vanities give couples private sink space and increase perceived value.
Soaking Tubs – Elegant soaking tubs project luxury. Built-in models seamlessly integrate.
Quartz or Marble Countertops – Durable natural stone surfaces convey high-end quality.
Smart Storage – Custom cabinets and drawers maximize organization and appeal.
High-Efficiency Options – Low-flow toilets, water saving showerheads, and LED lights satisfy eco-buyers.
Heated Floors – Radiant floor heating adds comfort and a lu