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How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel

Bath trends

Bathroom Remodeling

Many people do not know how to plan a bathroom remodel.  As a restoration contractor I have seen many situations where homeowners have spend thousands of dollars in restorations that commence with no planning, no idea of a budget and unrealistic expectations.  

Planning A Stress-free Bathroom Remodel Project

Many a folk hastily jump into a bath remodel project and unknowingly throw away money by not taking the proper steps to organize their project.

Whether you’re a contractor or a homeowner doing your own work, the remodel planning process is the same.  The whole premise of this article is to explain the planning process and help you develop a detailed scope of work that is written in clear and concise terms.   

Educate yourself:

Ask questions, look at other projects and research your products and materials before starting. There is a ton of “product” at supply stores and on the internet to compare and contrast.

This is also the time to reach out for help on your design, if needed.  For example, if your moving walls do you need an architect to prepare detailed drawings?   Having a drawing helps folks visualize the final product.

For the contractor, the goal of detailed drawings is work out spatial issues and for you to anticipate design issues and to eliminate surprises; as well as provide a picture to you and the contractor of what the finished product will look like. 

Decisions are better streamlined with a drawing, which helps prevent subcontractors and workers from being hit with any unexpected problems.  Drawings help make decisions anticipate next steps and identify products requiring additional labor and/or materials to install.

Consider using a checklist for manufacturers of fixtures, appliances, hardware, etc.  I always try to suggest quality manufacturers for products that I have installed in the past with proven track records.   Manufacturers such as American Standard, WarmlyYours or Basco consistently provide quality products and customer service. 

Plan, Plan, Plan!

Having a plan doesn’t not mean picking out tile and paint colors and then smashing out the walls. It means thinking the whole process through, writing it down and trying to anticipate problems, time sinks and construction road blocks.

Prior to starting the project, take the time and effort to thoroughly inspect the home and come up with a plan of approach.  Hire an architect or general contractor to inspect and work up a scope of work or drawing.   Plan for and try to think in a way that allows you to always plan for that “next step.”

Many people assume that the contractor will make logical decisions in scheduling and planning the project.  The fact of the matter is that a bathroom project involves numerous different contractors and each and every one of them has their own schedule and agenda.  Getting these folks to physically see the site, submit a proposal and commit to a schedule can be a task but is imperative to do.

Your bathroom and part of your home is about to become a construction area.   Discuss and establish ground rules with your contractor; where workers can drop lumber, store materials, cleaning up after themselves, dump trash, use the toilet, and park their vehicles. This also the time to discuss and plan for debris removal and dust containment. 

Remember, a clean job eliminates safety hazards and helps to keep the clients at ease, it also presents a more professional appearance for the contractor. 

Hidden Conditions: The Monkey Wrench Gang!

When learning how to plan a bathroom remodel prepare yourself for more expense, more time, more disruption, and more problems than you planned on.  Surprises of one kind or another are common and predictable when remodeling a bathroom.  The key is to plan for and expect for them before hand to avoid the stress.

Many people have no clue about “the hidden costs” of remodeling and a lot of contractor’s do not advise their clients of them either.   Hidden conditions are things like finding and then needing to repair termite damage, improper wiring, outdated plumbing, abating asbestos or repairing foundation damage.  Any or all of these can stop a remodel process mid point and add time and money to the project.

Plan for these conditions by allocating and setting aside at least 10-percent of your budget to them.  Whatever your project is estimated at I promise you that you will most likely spend additional money on hidden conditions.

Prepare A Budget:

Proceeding with no budget is just plain stupid unless you have access to limitless cash.  Take the time to define and work up a scope of work with your contractor to arrive at a professional, accurate and performable budget. 

Unrealistic budgets are very common among homeowners that have not researched costs or do not understand what is really involved in a bathroom remodel.

Many people have no clue what things cost and when they try to get a contractor to make an unrealistic budget a reality the end result is corners get cut and extras appear more that they should. 

At a minimum you will need a well detailed proposal for your bathroom remodel.

In my opinion, vague proposals and plans encourage low bidding and invite many hidden and sometimes costly “extras” later on.  Not having a detailed plan and then submitting that plan to your contractors is a recipe for a bidding disaster.

Not submitting all of the bidding contractors the same WRITTEN scope of work will guarantee that  that two different contractors bidding on the same project will NEVER arrive at the same conclusions and will ALWAYS make assumptions to fill missing voids.  This will result in that all to often “apples to oranges comparison.”

Remember… Not having a well detailed or drawn out plan means that the contractors bid only on what “they gleaned” from your verbal communication.  Some, unprofessional contractors will take this as an opportunity bid low and hit you later with extras.

By being informed, expecting the unexpected, careful planning and using common sense, will allow you to you can minimize stress, costly errors and maximize your budget to arrive at a spectacular bath remodel project.

Arriving At Your Budget:

Once the budget is prepared, factor in and plan to spend at least ten percent more as a contingency allowance for hidden and unforeseen conditions! 

Getting Started:  Coordination

Coordination is commonly the job of a general contractor or architect, without a schedule and proper coordination the individual trade people are segregated, disjointed and will not communicate.

For example: Adding a simple whirlpool tub to a bathroom remodel also means that you need to install a 20 amp circuit.  This involves installing a wire from the main electrical service to that tub.  A step that can be easily overlooked by a homeowner or contractor if coordination and communication does not occur between the plumber and electrician.  Everyone needs to work together.

Part of this coordination is to bring your sub-contractors in early to look at the space as well as look at your fixture selection, schematics, and installation requirements.

Making Plumbing Fixture Selections:

A bathroom remodel requires fixtures, cabinets and counters.  Prior to starting your bathroom remodel take the time to identify a quality bathroom fixture manufacturer and make your selections early.

Early selections in writing, ensures that your contractors know what you want installed and can price accurately.  It also gives them the opportunity to work out any structural, electrical or plumbing issues or determine if that fixture is going to work in the bath space or not. 

Order Your Fixtures:  Get them onsite!

Once you have made your choices you then need to get these items ordered and on site PRIOR to the job starting.  I have seen far to many times a special order toilet or tub arrive damaged or lost in transit, and the entire bathroom project comes to a stop for three weeks while we waited for another one.

The BEST ADVICE I give my clients is to choose your fixtures and get them on site where they can be inspected and stored for the project.  Once everything is on site let the sledge hammers fly!!!

By making you’re plumbing fixtures, recessed mirrors and lighting decisions early you will help your project stay on schedule, save time, money and last minute aggravations.

Communication Is Key:

Once you start your bathroom project it is important to maintain regular communications with your contractor.  That usually means a daily meeting or phone call.  Avoid emails as they can be misleading and not contain enough information.  It’s  BEST to meet in person to discuss and then summarize that meeting in an email.

Inevitably, the unexpected will happen, but good communication will allow you to handle these issues quickly, make timely decisions and move forward.  By communicating effectively you project will proceed with minimal time and financial impacts.

Job site tool testing


Good contractors hire good subcontractors.  

You should have a discussion with your contractor about ground rules while at the work site.   Discuss issues such as a smoking policy, playing of music, music volume, toilet location /use, dust containment, use of profanity, and private or restricted areas.

One thing a lot of folks overlook is that subcontractors are specialists in their field and can offer a lot of industry training and experience to resolve issues and solve problems.  Make sure you utilize their expertise. 


Proper planning prevents unnecessary roadblocks and helps you realize your vision by defining your space.

When you need to stop and rethink every step, planning and drafting in the field, you’re bound to miss some things, and those curve balls will slow you down and probably cost you in time and labor.

The ounce of prevention here is making decisions prior to cutting lumber. Realistic schedules need to be produced.  A proper sequence of events should be spelled out clearly so that the necessary materials are on hand at the right time: Don’t gut the bathroom until the plumbing fixtures and vanity cabinet are on site and ready to install.

Watch our video series on bathroom remodeling . . .

How To Remodel A Bathroom – Episode 1  Demo


How To Remodel A Bathroom  – Episode 2 Rough Framing and Plumbing

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel  – Episode 3:  Framing, insulation and a copper shower pan install

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 4: supporting a shower half wall.

How To Remodel A Bathroom – Episode 5: coordination of effort and contractors in a bath remodel

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 6:  Shower mud floor, Silestone tub surround install and electric radiant floor heat

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 7:Framing Openings in floor joists

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 8: Waterproofing a shower [liquid waterproofing]

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 9: Installing cement backer-board underlayment under tile floor

How To Plan A Bathroom Remodel – Episode 10: Choosing and installing electric radiant heat under tile

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