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10 Steps for the Perfect Bathroom Remodel

February 16, 2021 · 8 minute read

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10 Steps for the Perfect Bathroom Remodel

One of the most challenging projects you may take on in your home is a bathroom remodel. Even with the help of an interior designer and general contractor to take care of the construction and installation, there are a lot of decisions you’ll want to make upfront, such as: What’s your budget? Are you remodeling your bathroom for functionality or is it ultimately for the resale value?

Regardless of the overall intent of the bathroom remodel, you’ll want to read through these 10 steps and take notes as you start the lengthy process. But first, it’s important to understand why you’d go about remodeling your bathroom in the first place.

Why Homeowners Remodel Bathrooms

There are three main reasons many homeowners want to remodel a bathroom, and for some, it might be a combination of these reasons (or even all three).

Updating the Look

If you’re happy with the layout of your current bathroom but feel it just needs a refresher, then you’ll want to focus your attention on material selection and perhaps add new cabinetry or plumbing fixtures.

Pay attention to the age of your home and the remodels done by previous homeowners. Putting new tile over a foundation rife with dry rot or severely outdated plumbing is only delaying a potentially huge problem down the road. You may want to consider tackling essential tasks first—or, if your budget doesn’t allow, then wait until you have the money to do the complete job right.

The Resale Value

If you’re updating your bathroom to sell, you’ll want to look at the market and what potential buyers might want. While it’s hard to anticipate what a random buyer is looking for in a new home, you can do some research within your local real estate market to see what appeals to the majority of homeowners.

You also can find out the resale value of your bathroom remodel by using SoFi’s Home Project Value Estimator.

Better Functionality and More Storage

Perhaps you’ve always hated how the door swings open and hits the vanity or you’re tired of stacking toilet paper on the tank and seeing makeup on the counter. Maybe you never use the bathtub and long for a large shower stall or wish for two sinks instead of one. Or perhaps your bathroom is a cave of darkness and you crave more natural light.

This level of bathroom remodel will likely have you gutting the entire space, possibly rearranging the elements within it, and rerouting plumbing. This would result in an all new bathroom and one that is higher end, too.

Here are the 10 steps you should take before completing your perfect bathroom remodel.

1. Determine What Your Bathroom Remodel Achieve

When embarking on any project that will require a good chunk of your time and bank account, you want to acknowledge first and foremost what the overall goal is for your bathroom remodel. Is it to expand the existing space? To add a shower or a tub? To improve its value? Or simply to update the current bathroom to one that is more modern in design and functionality?

And lastly, how often will it get used? All of these answers will factor into your design and budget. Other considerations to make when planning a bathroom remodel include:

•  How many people will use it?
•  How much time do you spend in the bathroom during the morning, afternoon, and evening?
•  What’s your routine, how does your current space hinder it, and how could a new space improve it?
•  Do you just want something that’s easy to clean? Or do you want to update the look for resale?

2. Research and Budget

Before you get ahead of yourself with your bathroom remodel, it’s best to know what you can afford to spend. You probably already have a budget in mind, but you’ll also want to understand how much a full bathroom remodel is going to cost in the end.

A bathroom remodel typically costs between $6,122 and $15,370 with $10,740 as an average. Before proceeding with your dream plans, first think about whether you’re after a basic renovation, a mid- to upper-range remodel, or a fully deluxe bathroom remodel, and always factor in a cushion of at least 10 to 20 percent for unforeseen costs that might arise. To shave costs off, you might see if you can make your updates without moving any of the existing plumbing or wiring.

To find out how much it would cost to update your home use our Home Improvement Cost Calculator.

3. Find a Professional

Whether or not to hire a professional for your bathroom remodel project is up to you and dependent on your home renovation skill set. If you know what you want and where to find what you need—and, most importantly, are confident that your ideas will work—then you might take on the design process yourself.

But know that a professional interior designer may think of things you may not have considered, like which way the doors swing open, if adding a washer and dryer in your bathroom will improve your quality of life, how installing a skylight might add to the beauty of the space, or ways to rearrange the room in a creative way that maximizes both functionality and efficiency.

If you’re comfortable tackling the demolition, construction, and installation yourself, you may not need a general contractor, but know that a bathroom remodel is a project that can quickly get out of hand once you start exposing old work and framing studs. The complexity of routing plumbing, laying tile and flooring, and installing vanities and toilets leaves a lot of room for error, and you’re not careful it can quickly spiral into a budget-busting project.

If you lack DIY experience, a bathroom remodel could take you several times as long as a professional to complete, and the result might still be of poor quality, in which case it’s time to bring in hired help. And if you want to trim back your budget, you can do so by agreeing to take on the straightforward tasks like painting.

For major structural changes, you will want to hire an architect, and consider bringing in professionals for the plumbing and electrical work, too. In some places, it’s required by law.

4. Refine Your Bathroom Remodel Plan

If your dream bathroom doesn’t seem as though it could ever fit in the space you have, think about what’s on the other side of the bathroom walls. Can you steal square footage from an adjacent closet, adjoining bedroom, or unused hallway? Is it possible to punch out to the exterior of your home to create more room?

Other options to consider are whether or not you want the toilet out in the open or housed in its own private water closet. What kinds of special storage you need—for the hair dryer, makeup, shaving kit, and everyday essentials? How can you add more natural light to your bathroom?

Choosing the style of bathroom you want can be complicated. Designers recommend that you look to the rest of your house for an inspirational jumping-off point or consult resources like Pinterest for ideas. For example, you probably don’t want to do an industrial-style bathroom in a Craftsman bungalow.

5. Approve Your Bathroom Remodel Design

Once you’ve hired a designer and architect as needed, next you’ll review sketches and preliminary floor plans and elevations that show the layout of your planned bathroom and the size of its components, like the shower, vanity, and any cabinetry.

Here is where you’ll focus on the big picture like where the major elements go and figure out the functionality of the space rather than worry about the finishing touches like colors and materials. These drawings, sketches, and scope of work will be used to interview contractors to start getting estimates.

Once the measurements and sizes are nailed down, then you will know how many square feet of tile you’ll need to order or how big of a marble slab you’ll need for the countertop. You or your designer can use this information to start shopping around for pricing on materials.

6. Choose Your Bathroom Materials, Finishes, and Colors

Next, it’s time to research materials so you’ll have a basic working knowledge of what you want and how much it will cost. For example, marble may look great, but it’s not stain-resistant and, thus, is a pain to maintain.

Maybe you want to look at easy-to-clean options. Or perhaps you didn’t know that wood can indeed work for countertops in bathrooms if properly treated, or weren’t aware of the vast stone possibilities that could work for your bathroom remodel.

7. Work on Design Development and Construction Documents

At this stage, you should be actively reviewing the floor plan, elevations, tile layout, and any other relevant drawings associated with your project. More planning on the front end of the project means fewer mistakes will arise later in the process.

You’ll also want to be kept up to speed on everything that goes into your project: what materials will be used and how they will be laid out. If something in construction drawings isn’t specified—such as general tile layout or how you want trim pieces in your shower niche to look—chances are your tile installer will make a decision on the spot, especially if you’re not around on the install day.

This stage will also encompass the permit process. If you’re working with a knowledgeable professional, he or she will likely take this on, as they are skilled at navigating the process with contacts they’ve made at the local planning office. If you’re doing much of the work yourself, you’ll need to brush up on what permits you’ll need and where and how to submit drawings for approval.

8. Get Estimates From Contractors

It’s a common process to get three separate estimates from licensed contractors for each home remodel project in which you bring in professional help. If you’re already working with a designer, he or she may know skilled contractors or can help you interview different professionals to make sure they’re right for the job.

And it helps to know about what goes into a contractor’s bid. Don’t let the highest bid scare you, and don’t immediately jump on the lowest bid.

9. Plan for Installation and Prepare for Bathroom Demo

In an ideal home renovation world, you will have every last detail planned and every material picked out and ordered before construction starts. The last thing you want is to get halfway through your remodel and have to tell your construction crew to take a two-week break while you wait for that back-ordered marble to arrive from Italy.

You’ll want to nail down the nuts and bolts of how things will flow and where things will generally be placed. You’ll need a dry space to store your materials, so you’ll need to plan on where you’re going to keep everything while construction is underway. Can you make space in your garage or on the side of your house? Or is there another closet near the bathroom remodel that can be cleared out to store your belongings in the meantime?

Other questions to consider include: Are you prepared for the project and disruption? What time will the workers be there, and will someone be on-site to answer questions and oversee the construction? Will it affect your work schedule or any trips planned? Where will you shower during construction?

Do you have an alternate place in which to stay should the inconvenience of not having a bathroom alter your daily life during construction? Who in your family will be available should something come up? Think about how long the crew will be there and if the materials will arrive in time. Any last-minute decisions need to take top priority to ensure a smooth-running bathroom remodel that stays on budget and on time.

10. Make a Post-Completion Punch List

The National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends that you keep all receipts, contracts, warranties, and product information for every major purchase so that you understand how to care for and maintain the materials.

Nevertheless, it’s highly likely that something with your bathroom remodel will go wrong—maybe you overlooked something, materials arrived broken or scratched or not at all, there’s a dent in the wall, or the caulk was too messy. Now is the time to make a list of these things, either in an informal email or more formal document with your contractor. Get it into the hands of the person responsible for correcting the mistakes and include a date by which the fix-ups and finish work should be completed.

It’s probable that your contractor will have to return for several visits to address any post-project concerns, so don’t fret. It’s an inevitable outcome of such a complex undertaking. Try to remember that everyone makes little mistakes in a big project like a bathroom remodel, but you shouldn’t make a final payment until the problems are fixed.

The Takeaway

A bathroom remodel can be one of the more time-intensive projects on the front end due to all of the considerations like plumbing, electrical, room flow, functionality, materials, and more. If you map out your bathroom plan in advance, hire the right professionals to help, and make an effort to stick to a plan and budget, it can make for a much smoother process in the long run and upgrade one of the most used rooms in your house.

Need a way to finance your new bathroom remodel? Check out SoFi unsecured Personal Loans to see the rate you would qualify for.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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