Remodeling your bathroom is one of the biggest tasks you’re going to face as a homeowner.
Not only do you have aesthetics to keep in mind to maintain your property value and coincide with the rest of your renovation plans, but you’re restructuring one of the most-used rooms in your entire house, with the most plumbing.
It needs to be done right. It’s not something you can just do on a whim and stick a perfect landing after two days of work: it takes planning, preparation, and material sourcing with budgeting in mind.
The average cost of a bathroom remodel in the United States is between $9,600 and $11,000, according to Angie’s List, and anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 according to Home Depot, depending on how lavish you want the end result to be.
We have to plan out every seemingly insignificant detail to ensure this goes off without a hitch.
The first rule of DIY anything is that it will never go 100% according to plan, so we plan ahead to mitigate as many oversights as possible. Let’s get started.
Walk Around Your Bathroom
Before you actually decide on what you want, I recommend that you walk around your bathroom for just a minute.
Take a look at the texture on the walls: does it bother you? Peer at your lighting fixtures: do they need to be replaced?
You’re going to have a much more critical eye at this point, because everything will stand out to you.
Go into that bathroom like you’re buying your home, and you want to make changes right off the bat before you move in.
Make notes on a piece of paper or in your phone about everything that you want to change.
This is going to come in handy later during budgeting when we start analyzing what’s doable versus what’s a fantasy.
Seven Steps to Your Bathroom Remodel
Step #1: Visualize and Find Visuals (Six Months to Remodel)
Before you do anything, you need to conceptualize what you want out of a bathroom.
This is your time to look out for ideas while you feel no pressure to hit a deadline or find a contractor just yet.
You have nothing but freedom, so this part of the process is still going to be fun.
Take to Pinterest
To get some stellar ideas, go to Pinterest and look for bathroom remodels.
Not every result is going to be an ideal match or even include the things you’ll have in your bathroom, but it’s a good place to start.
Find out what you want your bathroom remodel to look like, and be sure to search for elements you already have throughout your home to make a cohesive design.
Do you want the sink moved over eight inches? Perhaps a bathtub fitted right over your current one?
Draw a concept of what you want the bathroom to look like in the end.
Keep in mind that not all plumbing can be moved without a huge additional charge and hiring a separate plumber (which will also delay the project completion time), but instead, try to make the plumbing work for you.
The toilet stays in the same spot, sink in the same spot, and so on.
Measure your space and get ready to pick out materials that you’re happy with.
Here, you can use the measurements to get total floor/wall space, and then use the prices of those materials in our next step: budgeting.
Step #2: Prepare a Budget (Five Months to Remodel)
Budgeting is important for any project, but it’s a little difficult with bathrooms.
We talked about the major price points earlier, and those still stand, so you need to see how much you can spend here.
A bit of advice: a bathroom remodel is not worth a second mortgage or a high interest loan.
Plan to have the money around the time your project starts, and if you’re on-track to have everything before it comes time to call the contractor and order materials, then you’re good to go.
Just don’t take out a loan if you can avoid it unless you really need this remodel.
Plan With Finances
When are you going to have the full budget, plus a buffer?
You don’t want to come up short. Plan to have all the funding available or at least on its way by the time you call a contractor.
If you have to postpone your bathroom remodel, it’s better to know a month in advance than wait until the end of the grace period and then inform your contractor days before they’re supposed to arrive.
Don’t Go Overboard
You did an entire sketch and gathered visions of what you wanted. That’s great.
Now the tricky part is to separate that window shopping mindset from what you’re actually able to afford and what is doable.
Don’t over plan this by adding insanely high-priced fixtures and materials. One small change can impact your budget on a large scale.
As you look at the list of things you want to change about your bathroom, you’re going to stop and say “But can I live with that?”, and that’s exactly what you should be doing.
Whether it’s lighting fixtures that you could just clean up and put back, or the popcorn ceilings that you don’t really care about either way, now is time to make some compromise to scale back on that budget.
Step #3: Carve Out Time for the Remodel (Four Months to Remodel)
It’s not going to be a simple, one-and-done type of project, but it can be done quickly with the proper planning.
You don’t want this dragging on for an entire week, so take the time to map out exactly when you’ll be doing this, or when your contractor will be doing this.
Pick a Date, and Stick to it
Don’t be jumpy with dates. You’re still in the planning phase, and you haven’t made any deals with contractors yet.
Heck, you haven’t even ordered materials.
Pick a date range that can coincide favorably with work, family life, personal life, and ensure that you’re able to oversee the progress so that the end result is to your liking.
Plan for Delays
There’s very few times when a construction project on any scale goes completely according to plan.
Your contractor will be the one calling the shots to their laborers, and once you agree on a time frame with them, they’re going to make it their duty to get the job done in that time frame.
By this point, you will have already agreed on a bid, and they don’t want to be there for extra time (outside of your contract) to finish up agreed-upon work.
However, delays do happen. Plan ahead an extra day in case something goes wrong.
Plan to have the three to five days, or however long your bathroom remodel is going to take, with no major obligations surrounding it.
No doctors appointments, no quick visit to the in-laws: this is important.
You’re spending hard-earned money on this remodel, so be on top of it with nothing to distract you.
Step #4: Hire Your Contractor (Three Months to Remodel)
Hiring a good contractor isn’t easy. Thankfully, the online world has made it easier to find someone competent in your area.
There’s an art to reading good online reviews versus angry people who just wanted to vent their unjust frustrations, so finding out how to tell the two apart is key.
Call Multiple Contractors
A contractor has to make a bid for the job.
They can’t do all of it over the phone, but if you have the necessary information nearby (square footage, level of removal, etc.), it becomes far easier to iron our details and give a solid quote.
Do this with as many contractors as possible to find the best price.
Cheap Isn’t best
Understand that the cheapest contractor isn’t necessarily going to be the better one.
While it could just be a knowledgeable contractor that’s trying to beat their competition’s prices, the more likely scenario is that they’re going to do a half-job instead of taking care of things the right way.
Keep prices in mind, but don’t let it 100% dictate your decision.
Find a Time Frame
You mapped out time earlier, so now you have to find out if your contractor can have it done in the allotted amount of time.
For a single bathroom remodel, it should be easy to make a concrete timeline so long as you don’t encounter any hidden surprises in the walls or flooring.
If you’re remodeling more than one bathroom, then it’s time to consider a longer timeline and that you might run into more issues with one contractor coordinating two separate jobs.
Outline the Project
Give a hard date. If you give a wild date range for the starting period, even if it’s in a three-day gap, any contractor is not going to take you seriously.
You need to be concrete with what you want so that they know this is serious, because they can’t afford to pay people for an entire day’s work when there is in fact no work to do.
Don’t be afraid to ask around and use word of mouth to find a contractor from friends and family, but take it with a grain of salt.
Everyone has their own experiences, so whatever worked for your brother in-law might not work for you the same way.
Step #5: Purchase Materials and Place Orders (Two Months to Remodel)
We always underestimate just how long it can take to get something to you.
In a world of Prime shipping in two hours, it’s easy to forget that these heavy products take more manpower and time to move properly.
Take this information into account.
After getting your materials list, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to need.
Sketches, visuals and everything else are all in check, so now it’s time to take those measurements and order the appropriate amount of materials.
Lowes has an excellent construction calculator that you can use to determine exactly what you’re going to need, based on the category of the materials in question.
On average, it takes about six to eight weeks to actually have materials at your doorstep once you’ve placed the order.
Don’t take this time for granted, otherwise you’re going to have a contractor team ready to go with no materials in sight.
Purchase What You Can Now
Inspect the material list. If you can get the exact faucet fixings that you want right now, then get your shoes on, go out, and get them.
Don’t take a chance on a cancelled order to ruin one of the most basic parts of your bathroom remodel.
While it might not be convenient to go out and get a hundred pounds of tiles right now, if you’re getting stock model pieces for your bathroom, now is the time to move.
Custom cabinetry, sinks and other bathroom pieces could take that six to eight weeks that we mentioned earlier if you’re getting them created just for your bathroom.
Lowes and Home Depot are the first place that homeowners go to for materials, but they’re not the only providers out there.
Because there’s overhead in these businesses, you can actually save money by buying directly from wholesalers.
Look up showrooms and areas in your city that sell discount flooring, fixtures, and anything else you can get your hands on.
Don’t be afraid to call smaller businesses and ask them what their prices are; not everything is going to be perfectly updated online when dealing with smaller businesses.
You’re going to need materials to cover your backsplash, your lighting, cabinetry, a vanity mirror, flooring, fixtures (toilet, toilet seat, tub, sink), countertops, waterproofing and caulking, and so much more.
Step #6: Clean, Clear, and Contact (One Month to Remodel)
We’re about to make the final preparations for your bathroom renovation.
You’ve sourced materials, picked your contractor, and now all that’s left to do is solidify everything.
Clean Your Bathroom
You don’t have to Lysol all the tiles, especially since they’re being ripped out, but you should clear out your medicine cabinet.
Take any cleaning materials out of your bathroom from your pantry, remove towels, and anything that isn’t nailed down.
You should also aim for general cleanliness so that your contractors and their labor aren’t walking into a mess.
It’s going to take more time, and they may have to charge an extra hour’s worth of time to haul things out.
If you’re one of those lucky folks that have to put their washer and dryer in the bathroom, it’s time to move them.
You’re not going to have a good time doing it, but if you’re getting a full floor remodel (which you should be doing if you’re going to the lengths of hiring contractors and laborers), everything needs to be cleared out of the way.
At all points throughout this, you need to ensure that your contractors are still set to go.
Contact them a month before the set date and make sure that nothing has changed.
If they need to change the date or move something around, they might have calling you on the bottom of their list of priorities as they deal with everything else.
Contact them and touch base.
Step #7: Mental Preparations (Three Days to Remodel)
You’ve got three days to go until the remodel.
These are critical last-minute checklist items, and you should take your time going through all of them, checking them thoroughly, to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.
You contacted them previously, but now it’s good to just call ahead and touch base.
It’s easy for plans in the contracting business to get shifted around last-minute, and nobody understands this better than contractors themselves.
Give them a call, check in; it can’t hurt.
Did you need to take some time off of work to ensure everything is being done to your liking?
Check your calendar, make sure your boss is aware of your time off, and be prepared.
If you’re leaving work early, make your supervisor aware.
If you’ve been given the opportunity to work from home for a short while, get your space ready. It’s almost showtime.
Any renovation that you go under can be stressful, so just remember that it’s been planned out to the best of your ability, and you’ve done everything you can to reduce the stress.
There will be some there, especially since you’re spending your own money on this, but it’s important to be level-headed going into this.
Can I DIY This Project?
If you have sufficient knowledge of bathroom remodels, you can definitely DIY it.
The most difficult parts of all this are knowing your home and ensuring you don’t hit pipes, water lines, or create additional damages during demo that are going to cost you more in the long run.
Keep in mind that taking the DIY approach means that you’re going to greatly extend the total work time of this entire project.
You simply can’t do what a team of three could do in the same time.
DIYing a project also means that it’s more work on top of your nine-to-five, so you’re going to be exhausted by the end of the project when it’s time for quality assurance.
Do I Need a Contractor for a Bathroom Remodel?
If you aren’t going to DIY it, you can’t just hire a few laborers to save money.
Contractors are usually the ones making actual contracts and promises to you, their client, and then they source their own laborers or use workers in their own company.
It cuts down on the time it takes to source labor, but it also means you have less to worry about.
You contact a contractor, and they take care of a lot of the small details.
A contractor is going to go over your end goal with you when they make a bid on the job.
Their goal is to get your idea, or as close to your idea as possible, to come to life.
Hiring a contractor isn’t going to be cheap, but it is going to ensure a smoother time, less for you to do, and that someone competent with more on the line is manning the job (because you can’t be there every single second of it).
How Long Should My Bathroom Remodel Take?
If you’re planning on remodeling one average-sized bathroom, you can expect anywhere from two full days up to five.
This is why it’s best to start one of these projects on a Monday, when available, to account for those potential delays we discussed earlier.
Depending on the depth of the renovation (structural versus cosmetic, or both), compounds may need time to dry, paint will need time to set, and so on.
The more intricate your bathroom remodel is, the longer it will take.
This is why it’s important to iron out these details in the bid agreement from your contractor prior to allowing them to rip up your old bathroom.
Time to Put Your Plan Into Action
You have a six-month plan, ideas regarding your specific costs (even though it’s impossible to get it down to the penny), your bathroom remodel checklist ready, and you’re mentally prepared to undergo this remodel.
Whether you’re going to DIY it or go the route of professional, insured labor, it’s time to get started.
Either polish off your tools or hit Yelp to find suitable contractors in your area, and get a plan rolling.
From concept to quality check at the end of the line, it’s all up to you. Make it worth it.