How to Plan Your Next Bathroom Remodel

Planning a bathroom remodel is one of the most important steps of remodeling a bathroom. As a First Equity Funding article points out, “The most challenging rooms to renovate are also the ones that sell a home,” and bathrooms are right up there with kitchens.

Bathrooms are complex because of the types of plumbing and wastewater involved as well as the need for electrical service in a relatively small space focused on the constant use of water. Bathrooms are also notable as being the most dangerous room in the house due to slips and falls related to tubs, showers and toilets. So, whatever you’re thinking of creating, it’s a great time to make sure that the finished result will be not only more beautiful and relaxing but also safer too! Here are the key initial planning steps to get you started:

1. Determine the scale of your project.

The starting point of determining scale is establishing your objective for your bathroom remodel. What exactly do you want to do? Depending on what is already in existence versus what you want to create, scale can vary widely.

Upgrading the toilets in all three bathrooms in your home with a remove-and-replace strategy is fairly simple versus adding a toilet to a laundry room over a slab, for example, that didn’t have one before.

Redoing a shower, replacing a shower with a freestanding tub or exchanging a bathtub for a walk-in shower is fairly straightforward if you can use existing water supplies and drain outlets, but moving or adding a location affects plumbing, flooring and underlying structures — all which may require more time, effort and money to complete.

In general, changes that are cosmetic or that are easily incorporated into the current design keep project scale smaller. Changes that require alterations to infrastructure like major plumbing or electrical service, structural features like load-bearing walls or doorways, or changes to water sourcing and waste pathways expand scale.

2. Calculate your budgetary expectations and limitations.

While scale determines the budget needed, your actual budget determines the scale of your project from beginning to end. Calculating a realistic budget for a bathroom remodel involves not only estimating price ranges for each change but also establishing how you’re going to actually pay for it. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you have cash set aside and readily available?
  • Can you use a home equity line of credit or home refinance loan with a cash out option, for example?
  • Will you be able to use credit cards that carry promotional perks or advantages for some or all expenditures?
  • Do you have an emergency fund or other fallback option for unforeseen circumstances?

Another aspect to consider is how the material suppliers and contractors you’ll be working with prefer to be paid. If you’re doing a large project through a contractor, for example, the contract may specify a series of payments set to a certain timeline — or you may need a large sum up front.

3. Find real-life products that match your inspiration.

Powerful search engines and supplier websites make online wish-listing both easy and potentially overwhelming. You can explore options, evaluate and compare product features, and get a sense of actual material expenses and availability. Some details may be less exciting to research but are essential to your project’s success:

Measurements: Even “standard” measurements can vary, so you need to measure and read carefully. Will it fit the space correctly with the proper hookups and clearances? Will it fit through your doorways and passageways? Will it meet or match adjacent materials correctly or will adjustments need to be made?

Weights: Porcelain, stone, tile and other common bath materials can be both heavy and awkward to handle. If you’re considering doing it yourself, will you need assistance? Will your current floor, for example, support the weight?

Installation: Understand exactly what prerequisites and preparation a certain product’s installation will require prior to the actual installation itself. Some products may require extra steps or expertise.

Availability: Products may be limited in color selections, materials, textures or sizes. They may be available only through certain suppliers or in certain geographical regions. Some manufacturers maintain an inventory of best sellers, making them more readily available than a custom product, for example.

4. Speak with professional contractors, and collect written estimates.

Even if you’re considering doing a project yourself, speaking with a seasoned contractor may be a wise decision. Their experience might lead them to point out something that you hadn’t noticed or realized that you’d have to do. You also have to consider the potential consequences of DIY-ing into an unanticipated problem that forces an emergency call.

If you do decide to hire a contractor, you want to know that you’re hiring someone who is as experienced, skilled and professional as they claim they are.

  • Ask for references, and follow up on them. Clients usually share experiences readily.
  • Ask to see samples of prior projects. Most contractors who are proud of their work take pictures.
  • Ask for proof of licensing, bonding and insurance. You need to be certain that the contractor will complete the job to your satisfaction and that if anything goes wrong, the contractor has insurance coverage.
  • Ask about subcontractors. Especially for larger jobs, a contractor may hire tradespeople of varying skill levels for different tasks.
  • Request a detailed written estimate. Detailed lists of tasks and materials make estimates and costs easier to compare and keep everyone on track.

5. Place orders for materials and fixtures.

Timing is critical to a smooth bathroom remodel. You don’t want to order items piecemeal because the unavailability of a coordinating item, for example, may force a change in plans later. Yet, you need to order all of your fixtures, appliances, tile and other materials so that you or your contractor will have each item when you need it. To make the process as easy as possible, keep a few things in mind:

  • Special orders and custom orders typically require more lead time.
  • Measure, measure, and measure again to ensure you order for the correct sizes, heights, orientations, alignments, thicknesses, fits and clearances that you need.
  • Your contractor or consultant may have suppliers that they are used to working with to coordinate deliveries in sync with the remodel timeline.
  • Carefully check each item you receive to ensure it is the correct item and is free of damage or flaws. Then, restore the protective coverings until you’re ready for installation.
  • Shipping costs add up, and so can return restocking fees.
  • You’ll probably need a clean, dry, secure area to store items where they won’t be bumped, won’t have to be stacked atop each other, and will be readily accessible in the order in which you’ll want to use them.

6. Prepare the bathroom and associated areas for the remodel.

Once you’ve received all of the supplies you need for your remodel, you’ll be able to clear the room, clean as needed and begin removing all of the things you’re planning on replacing. This is a critical step because this is when you not only discover any underlying issues but also confirm how extensive the repair or remediation will be. Many contractors will include this step in an estimate or contract as additional costs to be determined due to unforeseen circumstances. You may have to purchase or order additional materials, and the additional repairs will take additional time and labor.

Ideally, your removal or demolition can begin carefully and conservatively so that you can continue to use your bathroom as long as possible regardless of what you may find. However, you probably will eventually need access to another bathroom you can use until your remodel is complete.

Bring Your Vision to Life 

A bathroom remodel can be complex because, while bathrooms are often the smallest rooms in a house, they tend to be highly utilitarian ones that get constant use. Plus, we also want them to be beautiful, durable and safe.

If you’re looking for bathroom remodel ideas or want some help planning a bathroom remodel, Coburn’s is a great place to start. Our experienced showroom consultants are used to working with clients who want it all—beautiful choices, clean functionality and the quickest turnaround possible. Explore our website, and you’ll find we have all the product lines you want deliverable for the perfect installation.




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