Bathroom renovations: Where to start and what you should know

Home renovation projects can seem overwhelming at times, especially when it comes to a bathroom. You wouldn’t think there are so many decisions to be made in a relatively small space (and ones that can add up quickly). There are so many considerations that go into any project, but if you take a step back and prepare in advance, it can minimize the stress you may be feeling. Plus, it will help you prioritize what’s important to you so that when your renovation is done, you won’t have any regrets.

There are many things to think about when renovating a bathroom and what to do first — flooring, shower, bathtubs, walls, decor, vanities — but planning it all out in advance is a major key to success. Picking out colors and materials is the fun part, but you may be setting yourself up for a big (and expensive) headache if you skip the following steps.

bathroom renovation
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Six critical steps

  • Budget: Depending on your skill and confidence level (and where you live), renovation projects can cost $10 to $60 per square foot, or even up to $150 per square foot. If you’re completely gutting your bathroom or just replacing countertops or tile, writing down a complete list of the work that needs to be done and the material/items you want to replace them with is critical. If possible, set aside emergency funds in the very likely event you go over budget.
  • Plan: If you have it in your budget, hiring experts to complete some or all of your bathroom renovations is a good idea. Depending on the size of the renovation project, there are myriad considerations, and each has its own set of designs and planning involved. Demolition, windows, ductwork, electrical, plumbing, drywall, painting, flooring, tile — the list goes on and on. The more an expert can weigh in on what works and what doesn’t, the better. This includes what materials are best and what will hold up to water and steam.
  • Important considerations for bathrooms: There are a few specific items you want to research heavily for bathroom renovations. First, you need strong lighting, as it’s the place you get ready, put on makeup, style your hair, shave, etc. If there’s not much natural light coming in from a window, make sure your vanity light gives off enough brightness. All bathrooms need excellent ventilation to prevent mold from growing. Make sure you’ve accounted for an exhaust fan and window vents.
  • Research contractors: If you’ve got a contractor in your budget, enlist the help of friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations on ones they’ve used in the past who they feel are trustworthy, responsive, and did great work. Get multiple bids for any home renovation project. Bathrooms have a lot of piping, ductwork, and design that need consideration (especially if you’re changing where your toilet will be or wondering how to remodel a shower), so you’ll want to check references on anyone before you hire them.
  • Organize: This includes packing up anything in your bathroom that may get in the way and establishing a new routine for how and where you will get ready during the renovation project, especially if you only have one bathroom. Make sure any personal items, prescriptions, and other items you don’t want on display are out of the room. Whatever amount of time you believe the project will go, add a week to it, as there will inevitably be problems that come up that can take time to resolve, items on backorder, or some measurement you got wrong that needs to be addressed.
bathroom after remodel
Clara Doti/Shutterstock

Have some fun

The bathroom is a perfect room to add some of your own personality and a few “wow” statement pieces. Add patterned wallpaper to one feature wall. Invest in heated tile. Find a uniquely shaped or colored vanity. Add a vintage rug instead of a bath mat. Spend money on fixtures. Your bathroom should be a tranquil, inviting place to spend time in, especially before (or after) you face the day.

You can’t go wrong by taking a bit of time and walking through the steps above as far in advance as possible. Chances are that you’ll change your mind at least a dozen times before the renovation kicks off, so give yourself some grace and space. It will pay off in the end.

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