Follow These Steps For The Best Bathroom Remodeling Results
Why do you need this information?
To help you:
- Avoid confusion and frustration.
- Make great decisions.
- Create a safe, functional, and beautiful area for you, your family, and/or your guests.
- Stay within a reasonable budget.
There’s so much that you can include in your remodeled master or guest bathroom, so many details to think about. It can be confusing and frustrating! Do you know that remodeling a master bathroom can be a higher investment per square foot than remodeling a kitchen? That’s why it’s important to follow my suggestions, so you make informed decisions about everything, and avoid expensive mistakes!
The goals of all remodeling are to improve — your home and your life. You’ve probably been thinking about this project for a long time. The average is 3 – 5 years. During the pandemic, though, it’s possible that you delayed remodeling. You are not alone! When everything settles down and you’re confident about proceeding, I’ve developed these steps to help you finish your project in a reasonable time, within a reasonable budget. Without unwanted hassles and frustrations. You deserve to get what you want and you deserve to be happy during and after your bathroom remodeling.
A standard bathroom is 5 feet by 8 feet and requires many decisions, many opportunities to make mistakes.
What’s the first mistake that homeowners often make?
Homeowners’ first inclination is to look at countertop materials and tile immediately. This is okay, but it may lead to confusion and it may delay other more important decisions like plumbing, cabinetry, and lighting.
Where do you start? Why?
If you want to achieve all of the four goals I listed above, your first and most important decision is to hire a professional specializing in designing bathrooms. The National Kitchen and Bath Association has a great article about the importance of hiring a design specialist. It’s important because s/he will help you make important decisions that a contractor needs to give you a reliable estimate. It’s okay to call contractors, but you’ll probably hear that they need a set of plans and specifications to provide you information about your investment.
Years ago, I was at a plumbing showroom to check on a client’s order. The manager acknowledged me although he was helping another designer and her client. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I was close enough to hear the gist of their conversation. They were looking at a sketch that the manager had drawn of the bathroom, and they were talking about the whirlpool tub that the homeowner wanted. There was a long silence after the manager asked, “Where do you intend to put the pump access?” The designer asked, “Where would you recommend it? We don’t want it to get in the way of the front that’s going to be decorative tile.” Later, the manager confided that he’d prefer to work with experienced bath designers any day. I felt sorry for him, and for the homeowner.
Step #2: Hire a remodeling contractor
If you don’t have a contractor, it’s possible that your designer can refer you to someone who’s worked on her/his projects. There are several resources available to you to find a qualified, experienced local contractor. Local building/remodeling organizations affiliated with national organizations that have excellent websites:
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
- National Organization of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)
- National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
I’ve included a link to an e-book at the bottom of this blog that will help you ask the right questions before hiring a designer or a contractor.
Deciding your style is Step #3
This step helps you answer this question: What style of bathroom do you want? Houzz.com has over 1.5 million pictures! You can select which style appeals to you:
Contemporary * Modern * Traditional * Mid-century Modern * Farmhouse * Transitional * Industrial * Scandinavian * Coastal
There are other filters, too, besides style:
- Vanity color
- Shower type
- Shower enclosure
- Wall tile color
The great thing about Houzz is that you can easily share everything with your designer by setting up a project folder on the Houzz website.
Step #4: Determine a realistic bathroom remodeling budget
With help from your designer and contractor, establish a realistic budget. There’s an excellent resource to help you, the Cost vs. Value Report, where you can obtain up-to-date, local information for a bathroom remodeling project to help you decide how much you want to invest. They list the typical materials used for the size and project investment as a guideline.
Step #5: Select ALL your plumbing!
Your designer may send links to plumbing manufacturers’ sites so you can pre-select what appeals to you. Next, visit a local plumbing supply showroom, not a “big box” store* with your designer to see (and feel) everything. There, you’ll see:
- Lavatory sinks
- Tubs and/or shower bases
- Lavatory faucets
- Tub/shower plumbing
- Valves and diverters
- Tub fillers
- Towel bars
- Grab bars (they’re crucial for safety!)
- Vanity lighting
- Exhaust fans
- Tub/shower enclosures
Get an estimate for all the plumbing you’ve selected and see how it fits into your budget. You may have to make adjustments to what you’ve selected, but the good news is that you’re making tradeoffs before it becomes an emergency. Your designer and contractor will have recommendations to help you choose good-quality products that won’t break your budget.
*Why not a “big box” store?
♦ The employees may or may not have all the knowledge to really help you; they’re just there to take your order.
♦ The quality and selection of products are more limited than a specialty showroom; they show and sell only what’s most popular and profitable, known for making “deals” with manufacturers to keep the price low and their profit margin high.
Bathroom cabinet decisions: Step #6
Your designer can help you define how you will store all of your personal-care equipment and products, towels, and toiletries. S/he should help you make final decisions about the style and color using Virtual Reality Perspectives. Your designer and contractor will also help find the right cabinet manufacturer to supply what you want.
Step #7: Finally (!) select your bathroom surface finishes
Visit a showroom with your designer, not a “big box” store* to select everything that will make your remodeled bathroom special:
- Wall tile
- Decorative tile
- Shampoo/soap niches
- Backsplash (it may be tile or the same material as your countertop)
- Floor tile — think about radiant heating as a necessity, not a luxury.
- Engineered stone countertop**
** If you prefer natural stone, visit a showroom that specializes in this material
Get an estimate for all the products you’ve selected and see how the numbers fit into your established budget. Make adjustments to what you’ve selected, if necessary, keeping your #1 priority items at the top of your “wish list.” It’s human nature to forget low-priority choices. We feel cheated if we have to give up something we really want.
Step #8: Tie up your remodeling details
The last step before you actually start construction is several steps:
- Verify all information on the plans that your designer has prepared, especially all of your product decisions
- Obtain a preliminary-final estimate from the contractor that includes:
- All products
- All labor
- Fees and expenses
Compare the estimate to your budget, and make final adjustments to your choices, as needed, especially if you’ve got a limited budget. Homeowners who use a spreadsheet to help them define and maintain their budget have the greatest chance for success without regrets.
Step #9: Get your remodeling construction started!
You’ve made it this far! In twelve weeks (or less), you’ll be able to enjoy your newly-remodeled bathroom! Congratulations!
There’s much more to bathroom remodeling than most people realize. Hope you haven’t found this blog too boring. Most of us dislike the process, especially when we want to leap ahead to the results. In a normal working relationship with my clients, I walk them through each step without making a big deal about it. When I write articles like this, I’m trying to protect everyone who wants to remodel a bathroom. Yes, that’s unrealistic. But if I help only one person — you — then I’ve been successful! Wishing you the best of luck with your bathroom remodeling project. I’m here, rooting for your success!