A bathroom remodel can be difficult, stressful, and expensive. Use this guide to prepare yourself and get the best bathroom remodel possible. From sketching out ideas to choosing the right contractor to the punch list. This page covers it all!
If you don’t have time to read this page, you can download the PDF below!
- Learn how to start gathering ideas
- Find out what bathroom remodels cost
- Learn how to set a budget before talking to contractors
- Find out how to interview and select the right contractor
- Get a complete selection checklist for your bathroom
- Understand what the design build process looks like
- Discover what a service contract should really include
- Prepare your house for a bathroom remodel
- And More!
Table of Contents
- Deciding What You Want to Do
- Setting a Budget for Your Bathroom Remodel
- Choose the Right Contractor for You
- Designing Your Space
- Building the Project on Paper
- Starting the Project
- The Completion (or Punch) List
- Your New Bathroom!
Deciding What You Want to Do
If you’re considering remodeling your bathroom, you’ve already begun the pre-pre planning phase whether or not you realize it yet! Before you rabbit trail too far into the weeds, take a moment to ask yourself some important questions to help direct your planning.
- Why do I want to remodel my bathroom?
- What inspired me to consider remodeling my bathroom?
- How long do I plan to live in my home? (Do I want to remodel for my enjoyment or for resale value?)
- What do I love about my current bathroom?
- What do I most want to change about my current bathroom?
Armed with the answers to these questions, you’re ready to start collecting ideas.
Collecting Your Ideas
We’re not talking about polished ideas of exactly what you want here, we’re talking raw materials that are going to come together in one glorious plan for your bathroom remodel. Even if the picture or idea you have isn’t directly related to bathrooms, but speaks to the style you want for your bathroom, just start collecting!
Be Inspired: Vision Boards, Photos, HGTV, and More
The ultimate vision board friend. If you subscribe to any magazine, it’s a good indicator of your personal style. Start cutting and put those babies in a manila folder or in clear sheet protectors and a binder.
Take photos of things in bathrooms that you like. At a friend’s house and digging that backsplash? Snap a photo and add it your folder!
Collecting ideas and inspiration has never been easier. Search keywords that match your style and save the pins to a new board just for your bathroom remodel.
Check out home improvement websites, such as HGTV or Houzz and save ideas from these websites to your Pinterest board!
A final thought on collecting ideas
If there are two of you involved in this bathroom remodel, get ideas from both partners and put them together in the folder or Pinterest board. Better yet, go out on a date once you’ve compiled your ideas and share them with each other!
Setting a Budget for Your Bathroom Remodel
Setting a budget for your bathroom remodel is one of the most critical steps in the entire process. It is important to note that we have placed this section before the section on interviewing and selecting your Contractor.
Knowing what you want to spend and knowing what the remodel will cost are obviously two different things. However, with a little research, various websites will be more than happy to chime in. The problem with quick online searches is that there is no context for your specific bathroom remodel.
We would like to help you give your bathroom remodel some context. This will enable you to set a budget range you are willing to work within. When we go out to look at a bathroom remodel, the question of a budget is usually broken down into one of two answers.
First Objection: “We Don’t Know What These Things Cost”
“That is why we called you.” That is the most common answer to our question “Have you considered a budget for this project?”
The issue with this logic is that Contractor’s don’t know what a given remodel will cost either. There are 1,000 different variables to any remodeling project. The primary two variables are the design or layout of your bathroom and the material you pick out. These two things will have a major effect the cost of the project (either up or down).
The Contractor should take the time to listen to your plans for your bathroom remodel. They should offer up design ideas and insight into your wants and needs. Trust me, the Contractor doesn’t “know what these things cost” any more than you do at this phase of the game. They need information, and a lot of it, in order to give you any sort of accurate cost.
Second Objection: “I’m Not Going to Give You My Budget”
This misguided statement has caused more headaches for homeowners doing a remodel than anything else. The root of the thought is that if you give the Contractor your budget, it might be too high. Then the unscrupulous Contractor takes the job and buys a jetski with all that extra money you didn’t have to spend.
This is a reasonable fear for a homeowner to have. To allay this fear, I encourage you to take a quick glance at the Cost vs Value report put out by Remodeling Magazine. This report is done every year and will give you a rough idea of what a typical project cost will be. This will help you understand if your budget is high, low, or right where it should be.
Understanding Budget Ranges
If the Contractor you are interviewing is able to provide a budget range for your project, that’s a great sign. You should understand that the budget range may be wide. But it will give both you and your Contractor a place to start the design process. A Contractor will only be able to give you an accurate budget range if they listen carefully to you. Do they ask questions and do they understand the full scope of the project you want to do?
If so, they will sit down with you and help you set a budget. A good Contractor will give you a “ballpark” of what the remodel will cost. A great Contractor will sit down and help you set a budget for the project based on what you want to do.
You may find that the budget is too high. If this is the case, then the Contractor should be able to help you make a few changes to your plans to get the cost down. The alternative is that you really want this dream bathroom: you need to wait until you have the correct budget available or get the project financed.
Alternatively, what if you discover that the budget range is below what you want to spend? You can either pocket the difference or upgrade your choices!
Budget Ranges for Different Bathroom Types
The table below outlines what budget ranges you can expect for the different types of bathrooms in your home. These numbers are not gospel. They are starting points to give you an idea of what you can expect to spend on a bathroom remodel.
Small powder bathrooms are a great place to start if you haven’t remodeled before. The space is small so the project will move quickly. Since there are only a few options you need to choose, the cost will stay relatively low as well. Powder bathrooms typically have a pedestal sink or vanity and a toilet. Check out our article to learn more about remodeling a small powder bathroom.
Example budget ranges for a remodel of this small bathroom:
A full bathroom is typical of most houses. Usually a galley style room with a larger (3ft – 5ft) vanity and a bathtub. These bathrooms are going to cost more to remodel due to the added amenities. Keep your existing bathtub and swap out the fiberglass surround for tile for an easy upgrade. You could also paint your vanity and put a new countertop on for a new feel to the room. If you want to start over completely, then read this article on remodeling a medium full bathroom.
Here are the budget ranges to consider for a full bathroom remodel:
The master bathroom in a home is a place to unwind. Enjoy a soak in an extra deep freestanding tub. Step out onto heated tile floors lit by a classic light fixture. Depending on how extensive the remodel and how large the space, a master bathroom’s cost can vary widely. Many master bathrooms are variations of a full bathroom, while others can be 100 square feet and up.
The budget ranges given below are predicated on a roughly 100+ square foot bathroom.
Choose the Right Contractor for You
You have the pre-work complete. Now it is time to choose a remodeling Contractor to take on your bathroom project. This can be a stressful process, but use the tools below to get started on the right track!
Before the Appointment: Research
Researching different remodel Contractors has become much easier than it used to be. You can now get on Facebook and view recommendations and reviews. There are online local forums, such as Nextdoor where people will post what they think. Check out what their Google Business rating is. There are seemingly endless options to get good recommendations from other people.
There are a few methods that people often overlook though. And they are critical to protecting yourself from the bad apples.
- WA State Department of Labor & Industry: you can verify a Contractor here. This tool allows you to check out if a Contractor has a current license, bond, and insurance. You will be able to see what type of work that they are licensed to do. This website will also show you if a Contractor has had any lawsuits filed against their bond.
- WA State Department of Revenue: This website offers tools to show you if a business is registered with the Department of Revenue. You will also see if they business is current with the Secretary of State (you can’t go after business that doesn’t exist!). It will be easiest to search by UBI number, which you can get from the L&I website in step 1.
What Do You Want From a Contractor?
What do you want from a Contractor?
Now that you have the research complete, it’s time to start making phone calls, right? Not quite.
Before you start interviewing, you need to know what you are interviewing for. There are hundreds of Contractors that will be willing to come out and look at your project. You need to decide what you want from a Contractor before you have anyone look at your bathroom. What matters the most to you when you think about your bathroom remodel? You know that your life is going to be disrupted by the remodel process. How do you expect your Contractor to minimize this disruption?
Things to look for and ask each Contractor you interview:
- Will your Contractor return phone calls the same day or by 9:00 the next morning?
- Will your Contractor be on-time for every appointment?
- Will your Contractor have all the necessary licenses, bond, and insurance?
- Will your Contractor use licensed, bonded, and insured subcontractors?
- Will the Contractor have a plan to keep your home clean during the remodel?
- Will your Contractor offer you financing options if necessary?
- Will your Contractor offer design ideas and assistance?
- Will your Contractor provide fair pricing?
- Will your Contractor offer a comprehensive contract to perform the work?
- Will your Contractor be considerate of your neighbors?
- Will your Contractor have a good relationship with the best suppliers to provide material for your bathroom remodel?
- Will your Contractor cover and protect your home during the remodel?
- Will your Contractor respect your privacy while they are working in your home?
- Will your Contractor provide a portable bathroom for crews to use during the remodel?
- Will your Contractor have top-quality craftsmen performing the work?
Now you have a general idea of your bathroom design. You also have a budget in mind. The criteria for your ideal Contractor has been discussed and decided on. It is time to start calling Contractors.
When you call a Contractor you should expect to talk to somebody who is courteous and professional. This means they will listen to you and ask questions about your project. They should not reply in monosyllables (“yes…” “no…”). Many Contractors spend their time on the road checking on projects. This means you may hear a faint saw or drill running in the background. Don’t take this as the Contractor not being courteous: it is a sign that they take care of business.
On the same note, if the Contractor is on the road and asks to call you back, this means they want to listen to you. When they come to a stop and can take notes, you’ll get a call. A good Contractor will usually call back within 30-60 minutes.
After you talk with the Contractor, you will probably set an appointment for them to come see your project. When the Contractor shows up at your house, walk them through your project. If they ask questions and listen carefully, you should start to ask about the criteria you decided on above. Find out if this is the right Contractor to remodel your bathroom. Take notes after the appointment so that you can compare each Contractor that you interview.
Selecting Your Bathroom Remodel Contractor
Once you have interviewed all your potential Contractors, it is time to make a decision. Review your notes and double-check the references for each one. Go over the budget and timelines that each Contractor gave you. You must decide which Contractor offers the most value for the price they are proposing.
Most importantly: go with your instincts. You know which Contractor you like the best.
Designing Your Space
If your decision is a Design Build Contractor, then you have a lot to look forward to! The design process is fast-paced and full of decisions. Luckily you will have a Designer along the way to help you. Let’s dive into how a Designer will help to create the best space for you.
You have already talked through what you want to do with your bathroom remodel with your Contractor. Now you are going to work with the Contractor’s Designer. They will help you pick out everything you need to make your dream bathroom a reality. A great Designer will have a complete checklist of everything you need to pick out. They will take you to showrooms and show you the best options to fit your vision for your bathroom as well as your budget. They will also work closely with the Contractor to build an accurate cost for the project. The also helps the Contractor provide information that the subcontractors will need (such as spec sheets on plumbing fixtures, for example).
Typical bathroom selections you will be making:
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Lighting Fixtures
- Bathroom Cabinets
- Tile Shower
- Shower Enclosure
- Outlets & Switches
- Wood Trim
- Windows & Doors
- Paint Colors
- Bathroom Accessories
Visualizing Your Space
A good Designer will use technology to help you visualize your space. They may develop simple floor plans, or even more complex 3D renderings to help you understand where everything will go. This is especially helpful in determining if you have enough room for a special tub or extra large shower.
A great Designer will go one step further and walk you through the room (with floor plan in hand) and show you where things will be. We have had our Designer tape off a cabinet layout so that the homeowner could “see” exactly what the kitchen would feel like in terms of space.
Building the Project on Paper
Building out your bathroom remodel on paper is just as important as building it with a hammer and nails. If everyone involved does not have a clear picture of what work is to be done, you are asking for trouble. Make sure to take care of the preliminary work as meticulously as the manual work!
Drawings and Working Plans
In order to build exactly what you want, your Contractor will need to have drawings and/or plans to work off of. Depending on the scope of your project they may even need structural plans (if you plan on moving walls, for example). These drawings will go through a few iterations before the final working set is ready. You may decide that you want extra lighting in your bathroom. Or say you want to move the toilet over after all. These considerations need to be taken into account in both time and cost during the design build phase.
Some Contractors will offer 3D renderings of the proposed space. This can be helpful for you in understanding what you are designing. It can also be helpful to the Contractor in grasping the scope of the finished project.
Site Visits with Subcontractors
Once the Contractor has a preliminary set of working plans, he will start calling subcontractors. In a typical bathroom remodel the electrician and the plumber will want to see the space before committing to a cost or schedule. These things will be affected by the age of the house, the shape of the room, and access to the work area (crawl space and attic access).
This process usually takes only a day or two and usually one site visit from each subcontractor. It is a critical part of the puzzle though in developing an accurate price for your bathroom remodel.
Permits and Home Owner Associations (HOA)
After they get a final set of drawings and a commitment from the subcontractors, the Contractor will apply for permits. This means going down to the county office, plans-in-hand to find out what they need permitting. Some permits are more expensive than others. On the other hand, many bathrooms only require 1 or 2 simple permits. It depends on the scope of your project.
At the same time, the Contractor will submit your project to your Home Owners Association (if you have one). This process is usually the more difficult as HOAs can be notoriously fickle. Any information you can give to your Contractor that will help them deal with your HOA will speed up the process significantly.
The Final Proposal
Once your Contractor has put all the pieces together, he will compile it all into the final Proposal.
The Proposal will have the following key components:
- The final drawings/plans for the project
- The final drawings/plans for the project
- A list of selections (choices) made by you: tile, trim, paint color, etc.
- A final fixed figure price for the work to be completed (beware cost-plus contracts)
- A preliminary work schedule showing each phase and duration
- Any allowance items you may have yet to pick out
- A comprehensive service contract
Starting the Project
You have the final Proposal in-hand and you are ready to sign on the dotted line!
This is an exciting part of the process because it means that all the preparation will turn into reality. Here is what you can expect during this “startup” phase of your bathroom remodel.
The Service Contract
The Service Contract is the most important piece of paper (or digital paper, depending on your Contractor) you have regarding your remodel. This is the actual binding agreement between you and your Contractor detailing the work to be done, the warranty offered, payment plans, and more. A great contract will include the following items, at minimum:
Make sure that your Service Contract contains a complete scope of work. All of the selections you chose, the drawings that were made, everything. You should be able to hand that scope of work to anybody and they would know exactly what you want to build.
While most Contractors will offer a verbal warranty, it’s imperative to include their warranty in the contract. It should cover what the Contractor will warranty and for how long.
Unclear payment schedules are the cause of more lawsuits than you could imagine. Be sure that the contract you receive has a very clear payment schedule including down payment, progress payments, and final payment.
Beginning with an approximate start and end date, and ending with a general outline of how the project will progress. This schedule will not (and should not) be extremely granular. However, it should give you an idea of what to expect and when during your project.
Changes during the project are almost inevitable. Whether due to unforeseen circumstances or an upgrade you decided on. The contract should spell out exactly how changes to the work are dealt with: cost, schedule, signature!
This page should have signature lines for you (and your spouse, if applicable) and anybody else with decision-making power on the project. The Contractor should sign as well, and you should BOTH receive a copy.
The Turnover Meeting
The Turnover Meeting is a simple, yet often overlooked aspect of the Design Build remodeling process. Many Contractors don’t actually spend their days swinging a hammer, they have hired (incredibly) skilled craftsmen to build the job you have so meticulously designed. So the purpose of the Turnover Meeting is to literally turn the project over to the Project Manager who will be building and running everything. This meeting gives you a chance to meet with the Project Manager and gives them a chance to view the space before he or she starts the actual remodeling.
There are a few questions that the Project Manager is going to ask, so you should be prepared with the following:
Show the Project Manager around the house, from the access door to the work area. This will give them a chance to plan for any protection and isolation that they will need to do when they start work.
Also, discuss how the Project Manager will access the site daily. Do you have a garage keypad or will the Contractor provide a lockbox for the front door?
Some days on the project will get a little hectic, with multiple trades in multiple vehicles showing up to work. Be sure that the Project Manager knows where people can and cannot park their vehicles while work is happening.
You should also plan on making a short-term space for a dumpster or dump trailer. Taking your bathroom apart is going to create a lot of garbage!
In order to minimize disruption of your life during your project, have an area set aside for the Project Manager to store and stage materials. This shouldn’t be an area for garbage storage. They should be moving garbage and unused/overage material off the job site daily.
Going into Remodel Mode
- TAKE A DEEP BREATH – This remodel is going to be a disruptor to life as you know it. Stop and take a deep breath. Remember that you have done everything you can to ensure a smooth process. And you have a beautiful new bathroom to look forward to!
- SCHEDULE A “MOVING DAY” – Set aside a dedicated time to get all of your things out of the workspace. This also gives you a chance to get rid of things you no longer want. Pack things you won’t need during the remodel, and move things you will need to their temporary spaces.
- CREATE TEMPORARY SPACES – Use a dresser or table in your bedroom to set up a short-term “vanity” to get ready at. Additionally, set up a toothbrushing and face washing station by the kitchen sink. Having a quiet space at the other end of the house where you can decompress is a bonus!
- MAKE ALTERNATE SHOWERING PLANS – There is a chance that this is your only bathroom. If so put together a travel bag and get ready to make alternate plans during the remodel. A gym membership is handy and friends or family will always be willing to let you use their facilities.
- GO WITH THE FLOW – Remodeling will be a lot more enjoyable if you are able to take things as they come. Remember that your family is probably a little stressed out too. The crews working on your project want to get done as much as you do! Give a little grace.
Isolating the Work Area
There is one thing that really sets any Contractor apart from the rest of the pack: how they and their crews treat your home and your belongings. A good Contractor will put down cloth runners and sweep up after themselves. A great Contractor will isolate the work area completely and ensure total surface protection for the duration of the project.
Use this checklist to make sure that your Contractor is treating your home with the respect it deserves.
- A heavy-duty floor board should be securely taped down on any high-traffic hard surface leading to the work area.
- If you have carpet between the work area and the door then a carpet shield should be used as well.
- A heavy-duty board should also be used to shield cabinets from traffic, tool belts, materials, etc.
- The same goes for the countertops. No matter how large or small, workers will always set tools on an empty surface.
- Remodeling work is dusty. You would be surprised just how many places that dust gathers! A good Contractor will make sure to cover up walls, fixtures, and windows with plastic or temporary walls.
- Doorways in-and-out of the workspace should be self-sealing to prevent dust and debris from escaping.
- HVAC is possibly the most overlooked area of site isolation. It also potentially has the highest effect on the spread of dust.
- A simple filter or solid cover for any vents or intakes in the work area will solve this issue.
The Completion (or Punch) List
Your Contractor should have a plan in place to wrap up your bathroom remodel quickly and efficiently. This seldom includes the Blue Tape left by homeowners after the crews have left. This is an inefficient way to note any flaws and it will irritate the project lead. Instead, do a scheduled walk-through together so that the Contractor can address each item correctly. This will result in a quicker closeout process and make for a better experience all around.
Things to Check For
- Paint touch-ups
- Caulking around tile areas
- Nail holes in wood trim
- Leaks under vanity sinks
- All light switches work correctly
- Hot/cold water taps are correct
- Toilet doesn’t run perpetually
- Holes in tile grout
- Permits signed off
- Door hinges don’t squeak
Your New Bathroom!
After you’ve moved through the Completion List and your Contractor has finished up everything, you’re ready to move in, right?
There is one thing left to do that your Contractor will be very grateful for: give them a chance to capture their work.
Photos of totally completed work are difficult for Contractors. They often feel the pressure to get out the door so that you are happy at the end of the day. Then, days or weeks later they realize they forgot something: the all-important finished project photos! The post-completion list is the best time for your Contractor to get their photos (or even a video!) of the project they worked so hard on.
Think about it: you probably saw some of your Contractor’s finished work on their website or on Facebook. A particular photo may be what drove you to call that Contractor in the first place. Please give them the chance to get nice clean pictures to use in the future.
Move Back In
Now you can officially move into your new bathroom! The Contractor has taken his photos and packed up his tools. It’s just you and your beautiful, newly remodeled bathroom. The next time you have guests over, you can show them that you are an expert.
You followed this guide and worked through the steps of the bathroom remodel process. The end result was a bathroom that you love!
Don’t Forget to Leave a Review
There is just one thing left to do: leave your Contractor a review online. Whether it’s Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, or the Contractor’s website. Be sure to let both the Contractor AND their potential customers know how you felt about the remodeling process.
This is almost as important to the Contractor as photos. However, most Contractors want their work to speak for itself. Unfortunately, it seldom does that in a private area like the bathroom. Take a few minutes and fill out the review box, you’ll probably get a big thank-you from your Contractor!
Download the Free Bathroom Remodel Guide Today!