How to Plan Your Bathroom Renovation Project

12 May 2020

Bathroom renovation project either fills you with thoughts of clean, gleaming white surfaces or a half-assembled disaster. And at some point in every project, maybe both images are true. In any case, the best way to prevent disasters is to think through the project carefully before you break ground (or break tile). Asking yourself some key planning questions will help you define the scope of your project so you know what to expect before you get started. Below is an overview of how to plan your bathroom renovation project.

Assess Bathroom Renovation Project Size

The first question to consider is more or less the big picture; that is, what size of project do you have in mind? Bathroom remodels can be grouped into three basic levels. Once you’ve settled on a general strategy, consider the timetable for the bathroom renovation project and decide if this is something you think you want to go through.

Surface Alterations

At the easy end of the scale, you may like the general layout and size of the bathroom, and the surfaces (walls, ceiling, floor) are sound. The mantra of the surface-level bathroom remodeler is “cover, not replace.” There is no shame at all in wanting to do a surface-level bathroom remodel.

Gut and Replace

With this level of remodelling, you keep the same layout and fixture locations of your old bathroom, but you pretty much gut the space down to the bare walls and floor and install all new plumbing fixtures, vanity, flooring, and lighting. You might also update the wiring somewhat, but nothing major.

Change the Layout

This level can be quite a bit more involved than a makeover or even a fixture replacement because it includes moving fixtures, like the tub/shower, the toilet, or the sink. Layout changes also usually include wiring alterations and full fixture replacement.

Change the Room

Altering the bathroom footprint goes beyond gutting the space or even moving fixtures around. The largest-scale remodels include structural changes, such as moving or removing walls, bumping out an exterior wall, or altering the ceiling or roof. Usually, the goal is to make the bathroom bigger or to convert a common bathroom into a master bath.

Cost Estimate

Bathroom renovations costs vary widely, but it is always expensive. A simple makeover of the surfaces and accessories can easily cost several thousand dollars, while a typical mid-level remodel with full fixture replacement can cost more. Even though most bathrooms are small, the high cost comes from the intensive amount of sub-contracting you may have to do (i.e., plumbers and electricians) and the expensive elements involved (fixtures, cabinetry, etc.). Of the many financial tools for funding a bathroom renovation, perhaps the most common is a home equity loan. While looking at financing, you may wish to also think about ways to save on your bathroom renovation costs.

If you decide to hire a contractor, one of the first things you’ll want to do is make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Licensure is not a mark of quality workmanship, though. It just means that the license holder has fulfilled the basic minimum requirements of the licensing agency. You’ll also want to be aware of permit requirements for electrical, plumbing, and general construction work. It’s a good idea to apply for permits early to avoid delays.