Let’s be honest: bathroom remodels are full of surprises, delays, disappointments, blown budgets, and extended deadlines.
No matter how much you prepare, you’ll always look back at some “I wish I knew” aspects afterward.
Thankfully, you can avoid most of these pitfalls simply with smart planning and not rushing into it.
Without further ado, here are 10 things most people wish they knew before remodeling their bathroom.
1 – Create a Detailed Plan From the Very Beginning
Whatever you do, don’t think you can get away with “figuring it out as you go.” You need to have a comprehensive and thought out plan from the very beginning.
Never underestimate the process or just how many details come along with it. Otherwise, you might get stuck halfway through. Things like an electrical swap may seem simple, but in almost all cases they aren’t.
With enough careful planning ahead of time, you won’t be left having to start over or with mismatched items that look beautiful on their own but hideous together.
Remember, start with the end goal in mind and work your way backward. Have a diagram, or at least a rough sketch, of everything down to the very last detail before you embark on the project.
2 – It’s Incredibly Easy to Go Over Your Budget
Before beginning to remodel your bathroom, do yourself a favor and have plan to spend at least $5,000 over your budget. That’s right, $5,000. Ideally, have that $5,000 tucked away in savings earmarked for this job and nothing else.
Believe me, you never know what can happen. The sink will be more than you expected, you’ll need more tile than anticipated, the countertop that you wanted to keep will have to be replaced, the plumbing will need to be completely redone, and the list goes on and on. Trust me: something unexpected will happen, and it will end up costing more than you budgeted.
Undoubtedly, the bathroom design you choose will have a huge impact on the cost of the job. If you need to relocate a bathtub or sink within the bathroom, extensive plumbing is usually required – which increases the cost of the work significantly. Budget generously.
3 – Picking the Wrong Grout is a Disaster
You’d be surprised just how crucial something like this is. Grout can actually make or break the look of your bathroom.
Picking the wrong color for your grout can destroy the entire look and feel of an otherwise beautiful bathroom remodel. For instance, if you have a mosaic floor, you should never opt for bright white grout. It will look fresh for maybe the first hour, but then it turns dirty relatively quickly.
It’s worth noting that white grout is going to stain over time, especially if the bathroom you’re remodeling is one that has a lot of people coming and going.
Most of us place a lot of emphasis on getting the bathroom tile right, but we tend to overlook the grout. Make sure your grout matches and looks really good with the flooring you love. Black contrasts beautifully with tiles of all patterns, sizes, and shapes. It will help you achieve a contemporary look and everything in between.
Greys, beige, tans, and creams are universally appealing and are less likely to fade. Those are my personal favorites.
4 – You Might Want to Stay Elsewhere During the Remodeling
It’s no secret that a bathroom remodeling project can be really messy and noisy.
Some folks think that one small room isn’t going to bring much disturbance to their regular routine, but if you’re not going the DIY route you might want to have the family crash at a friend’s house or hotel. Contractors and workers tend to come whenever the feel like and – unfortunately – care very little about the actual living space they are working in.
Although you may want to monitor the progress of the work, you should probably stay clear during the demolition phase. Whatever was in that bathroom that you’re planning on getting rid of and replacing has to come out. This brings dust, dirt, debris, and a whole lot of mess traipsing from the bathroom to the front door of your home (even if the workers are relatively clean and careful.)
If you have small children or toddlers, it’s also a good idea to spend as much time outside of the house since workers may leave dangerous tools around and building materials might be more exposed.
Lastly, the layout of your house will help determine whether you should stay or crash elsewhere. If you only have one bathroom, this is a no-brainer, especially for those who don’t want to use a porta potty!
Similarly, if the project is very involved, it might be difficult to endure the noise and occasional power outages that could come from any electrical work you want done.
5 – Work With Your Existing Bathroom Footprint
If you want to save money in your bathroom remodel, try to get a handle on the footprint of your bathroom. Look at your plumbing fixtures, lighting, cabinets, and the overall look. Sometimes, the remodeling process can be complicated because of tight spaces. Try to consider everything, even specifics like making the cuts needed to accommodate nooks and laying the tiles in awkward spaces. Don’t forget that technology changes everything. You may want to install warming drawers for towels or a toilet that conserves water.
You might be thinking that you’d really like to switch the tub with the shower. Although this might be good idea in theory, you should never ignore the existing footprint. If you want to increase space, decide whether you need to move a wall. Sometimes, working within the existing space may not be ideal, but it will definitely help you save money. Even if you do choose to change your bathroom’s layout, make sure to take great measurements and to base your design off of them.
6 – Functionality Must Come Before Beauty
Every homeowner wants to create a bathroom that boasts of style and functionality. However, functionality must come before aesthetics when remodeling your bathroom. Remember to think about efficiency and how you can use the available space. Despite being the smallest room in the house, a bathroom is where you jump start your day and you want everything to work smoothly and easily – especially before your morning coffee.
While a shower gives you more square feet to play with than a tub, you should consider who will be using it. If you have older folks living in your home, a simple shower-to-tub-conversion can be practical.
Another way of improving functionality would be to add more storage spaces. Keep your towels, toiletries, and other daily essentials tucked away. Consider how you use your bathroom space every day and then remodel accordingly. If you struggle to bend down, consider placing your storage on shelves or in reachable cabinets. Also, adding a few shower caddies and elegant towel hooks is a simple and effective way to make your bathroom both functional and beautiful.
If design and functionality don’t work together, you’ll end up with a bathroom that is inconvenient to get in and out of. Think of the areas that aren’t working for you now, and determine how you can remedy the problem in your remodel.
7 – Lighting Matters
Lighting requires careful thought. You can’t just install a few light fixtures in a small bathroom and call it a day. Even the most gorgeous remodel will look incomplete when you don’t have the proper lighting in place. The simplest way to brighten your bathroom is by diffusing the light from the center of the ceiling. If you’re a gal who spends a lot of time applying makeup in the bathroom your remodeling, install vertical fluorescent light fixtures. You’ll thank me later.
Another lighting idea involves the use of layers. Layered lighting can enhance the beauty of the space and will distribute the light evenly for you. You should aim for a combination of light in the form of pendants, chandeliers, and flush mounts. Your second layer should highlight the architectural features and the third should be designed for grooming activities. If you want to control the room’s mood and ambiance, think about installing a dimmer. Each lighting element will create the mood you want.
Finally, if you really want to be fancy, putting in a skylight can provide natural light even in the dimmest bathroom.
8 – Never Assume Anything
A golden rule of any successful remodeling project, and especially with a bathroom, is to never assume anything. Make sure that every single detail is addressed without leaving any room for error.
This might sound obvious, but bee sure to estimate out how long you expect the project to take from start to finish. Also, remember to keep in the back of your mind that it will likely take longer than you think. The completion time will depend on several different factors. For instance, how long will it take to order everything and any equipment you need?
Also, don’t assume to know what is behind your walls or under your floor. It might actually shock you and you might be in for a rude awakening if the original builder cut corners.
Many people assume that a contractor who has a lot of experience is the best one around. In reality, he or she might simply have a lot of experience at doing a terrible job and covering it up well with flare. If you don’t feel comfortable DIYing this, make sure to go with a contractor’s contractor – someone who is trustworthy and highly recommended by those who know a thing or two about home renovations.
9 – Splurge on a Few High-End Materials
If you want to increase the value of your home, use the right materials. Splurging on a few materials and finishes can really make your space incredibly luxurious.
Before you start the project, think of two or three items that you would absolutely fall in love with if you had in your bathroom. It might be a special tub or shower or a particular kind of tile for the floor. If you’re on a very tight budget, think of one or two.
Not all materials are going to improve the value of your home, so strike a balance between aesthetics and home value. Natural stone is easy to install and offers unmatched beauty even if it won’t improve the value of your home. Likewise, for your bathroom countertops, you might want to make a statement with materials like granite or marble even if you’re certain it won’t improve the value of your home. Why? Because they look awesome and you’ll love being in your bathroom.
When it comes to fixtures, this almost always comes down to personal taste. Instead of plastic, you can go for for stainless steel materials. Believe it or not, installing a high-end shower head might at first seem expensive, you’ll be surprised by just how little they really do cost in comparison to the return on investment you’ll get (both in terms of enjoying a better shower and when it comes time to sell your house).
If you’re going to splurge on your bathroom floor, make sure to go for porcelain tile. While you’re likely to fall in love with most natural stones, porcelain is probably a better option. It comes in different colors, textures, and is almost indestructible. It’s also very hard (if not impossible) to stain. Also, keep in mind that most porcelain mimics natural stone varieties like limestone and granite.
10 – The DIY Route is Worth It
Let’s get real for a moment. Remodeling a bathroom can be stressful, time-consuming, and inconvenient. But when you get to be in charge of the entire project, it can become incredibly rewarding. You get to order everything from the stores and install them your way. At the end of the day, it will be something you can look back on with pride and say that you did. Obviously don’t attempt this without knowing a thing or two at first about plumbing and electrical work, but it can be one of the most incredible feelings in the world to step inside the luxury bathroom that you personally made for your family.
Just about everyone who sets out to remodel their bathroom has at least one part of the project that they regret or are frustrated to some degree about. It’s my hope that this article has helped you avoid that frustration up front and before you even got started on the project.
As always, wishing you tremendous success, and I’m looking forward to hearing how it went!
If you’re serious about remodeling your home, check out my post: Must-Have Tools of the Trade for Home Improvement DIYers.