Preparing for bathroom remodeling isn’t something you’re born knowing how to do. For most people, it’s not until after they’ve renovated a bathroom or two that they really know what to expect.
As a restoration contractor, I’ve seen many situations where homeowners have spent thousands of dollars on projects that commence with no planning, no idea of a budget, and unrealistic expectations. Having a plan doesn’t 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 roadblocks.
And yet remodeling a bathroom is one of the best ways to add value to your home, not to mention improve your own experience of living there.
Whether you are preparing to remodel your bathroom so that you can sell your home, age in place, or improve on outdated fixtures and décor, here’s what you need to know about the bathroom-remodeling process to develop a realistic budget and detailed scope of work.
Knowing what you’re getting into will reduce a lot of the stress involved, and can even save you money:
When Preparing for bathroom remodeling, lots of people start by looking at magazines, Pinterest, Houzz, or design books. That’s not a bad way to start, but it won’t give you an idea of what’s truly realistic and available in your area. Before you get too far along or too excited about a photo of someone else’s bathroom, visit local supply stores and research the products and materials that are actually available. Figure out what they cost and what the tradeoffs are. (Some materials photograph beautifully but might stain easily, or cost more than your budget allows.)
Consider using a checklist for manufacturers of fixtures, appliances, hardware, etc. Most people get excited about things like tile and vanities, but tend to leave until later the necessary-but-less decorative aspects like bathroom fans. Your project will go smoother if you think through all these aspects up-front.
I always try to suggest quality manufacturers for products that I have installed in the past with proven track records, such as American Standard fixtures, Warmup radiant heat floors, or Basco glass shower doors. Brands like these consistently provide quality products and customer service.
Create a Drawing:
Make a detailed sketch of your bathroom design. Graph paper can be helpful for this.
A drawing will help both you and your contractor and tradesmen visualize the final product. For the homeowner, a drawing will “paint a picture” for you to work out spatial issues, make decisions, and get a feel of what the finished product will look like. For the contractor, a detailed drawing will help him understand what you want better and eliminate surprises.
When bidding a project out to different contractors for pricing, a drawing and a detailed scope of materials will ensure an “apples to apples” comparison.
Prepare a Budget:
Once you’ve figured out what you want for style, finish, and function, and sketched out where everything should go, you should have a good idea of what the materials will cost. But you’ll still need to get estimates for the work itself.
It’s essential to do the up-front work of coming up with a detailed checklist and sketch if you want to get accurate estimates. 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 also means that two different contractors bidding on the same project will NEVER arrive at the same conclusions and will ALWAYS make different assumptions about filling in the gaps. Some unprofessional contractors will take this as an opportunity bid low and hit you later with extras.
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/estimate, and commit to a schedule can be a task, but is imperative to do.
Your bathroom – a part of your home you use multiple times a day — is about to become a construction zone. Discuss with your contractor where workers can drop lumber, store materials, dump trash, use the toilet, and park their vehicles. Establish ground rules for how the team will clean up after themselves; this is also the time to discuss and plan for debris removal and dust containment. For a contractor, a clean job eliminates safety hazards and helps to keep clients at ease. It also presents a more professional appearance.
Expect the Unexpected:
Expect more expense, time, disruption, and problems than you planned on , when preparing for bathroom remodeling.
Surprises of one kind or another are common – so common that they’re actually predictable. When you expect the unexpected, however, you can reduce a lot of stress.
Many people have no clue about the hidden costs of remodeling and a lot of contractors do not advise their clients of them either. (You can scare away a lot of business that way!) Hidden conditions are things like finding and then needing to repair termite damage, improper wiring, outdated plumbing, abating asbestos, or repairing floor joist damage.
Any or all of these can stop a remodel process midway and add time and money to the project. Plan for these situations by setting aside 10-20 percent of your budget to them.
It can be tough to remember, in the depths of a bathroom remodel, that there will be a light (and a sink, and a shower!) at the end of the tunnel. But remodeling your bathroom is a great way to improve the experience of living in your home, and upgrade to money-saving features like water-conserving fixtures, and add value to your home.