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How to Remodel a Bathroom in 7 Easy Stages

How to remodel a bathroom
Remodeling your bathroom
is something within reach of most Home Owners. Knowing how to remodel a bathroom is not some secret process. The necessary information can be found in many different places. To help you make the best choices and ensure your bathroom remodel comes out perfectly we put together this step by step guide.

Stage 1: Initial Planning

This stage is where you try to think of everything you need, and everything that can go wrong. Just like in any sort of construction project, planning is vital to a successful outcome. Tasks to complete in the preparation phase include:

  • Come up with a design for your remodel, this design will drive all other considerations as you go forward
  • Preparing a budget, and consider which of your plans fit within your budget.
    • Make sure to give yourself 10%-15% over your total costs for any unexpected expenses, more if your bathroom is older.
  • Researching costs
    • Look for wholesaler’s, online deals, and fixtures available in reuse stores
  • Selecting materials
    • Splurge and spend more money on the things you will use the most, toilets and showers are good candidates
  • Planning the layout
    • It’s a good idea to use tape to plan out your layout “full size” in your garage on the floor, or your driveway

Stage 2: Final Planning

To show how vitally important planning is when considering how to remodel a bathroom, I have put two stages of planning in this guide. There is simply no more important factor in a successful remodel than preparation. In this second stage of preparation you should accomplish the following:

  • Go over all of your preparation outlined in step 1
  • Decide what parts of your remodel are DIY and what require bathroom contractors
    • Make an honest evaluation of your ability and availability to do DIY type projects
  • Ensure that you know the DIY skills necessary to finish the remodel
    • There are several websites and many books that can walk you step by step through a chosen project
  • Test the layout you have selected
    • Do the physical test again if possible
  • Research the necessary permits and required inspections needed for your remodel
    • Contact the building or code enforcement division of your local government to obtain this information
      • Often there are significant costs involved with permits and inspections and this needs to be in your budget

Stage 3: Preparation

Tired of doing prep work yet? Well there is more preparation needed before you begin. To ensure that you have a successful remodel complete the following preparations before you begin day one of your remodel. Your bathroom has the unique situation of being exposed to moisture constantly, both in humid air, and water spilled on the floor. Always keep this in mind when purchasing items, consider waterproof flooring, and wall coverings that resist humidity.

  • Purchase all necessary materials (including fixtures, bathroom flooring options, wall treatments)
    • By making sure you purchase all necessary materials before you begin you ensure you are not delayed
      • You can often get better deals if you are willing to have items shipped, waiting makes sure you actually get what you need
  • Hire individual contractors or hire a general contractor
    • A general contractor is the best choice unless you have experience juggling contractors and applying for permits and inspections
      • Use a good resource like Angies List or look for yelp reviews to ensure your contractor is worth your money
    • Electrical and Plumbing renovations almost always require contractors to ensure you comply with building codes
      • If hiring individual contractors ensure they are inspected properly before you pay them
  • Request AND WAIT for approval of all required permits
    • The permitting process is individual to your location. Wait for all permits to be approved before beginning your remodel.
  • Make any arrangements or changes for not having the bathroom working
    • If remodeling your only bathroom, this is a major consideration that must be addressed.
      • Your remodel can take weeks or even months if you are doing it on your own. Plan for this length of time
  • Consider ways to minimize damage to rest of the house during remodel
    • Put paper runner/drop cloths down on flooring near the bathroom and the path to and from the bathroom
    • Move furniture out of the way and take delicate items off of walls

Stage 4: Demolition

You have all your planning and preparation done. You are ready to roll, your new bathroom awaits. First, you need to get rid of the old in the demolition process. In this stage you remove everything that you need to in order to get your bathroom remodel completed.

  • Rent a dumpster
    • Make sure it is large enough to hold your remodel trash including showers, sinks, toilets, drywall and flooring
  • Wear personal protective clothing for safety
    • Use masks, gloves, and other clothing necessary to be safe
  • Be sure you can physically remove the items without injury
    • It might sound strange, but ask your physician before doing any heavy lifting or construction work to be sure it is safe for you to do so
  • Turn off breaker to the bathroom, place tape over the breaker for safety
  • Disconnect all electrical fixtures and remove them
  • Remove all electrical face plates, flashing, and put in a safe storage area if being reused
  • Remove lighting fixtures, shower heads, faucets
  • Turn off water to house or bathroom if there is a common shutoff available
    • This may require submitting a request to your utility, plan for this delay if necessary
  • The following items are then removed, the order is not set in stone, and the items should be removed from nearest to those furthest away. This will give you the necessary room for the larger elements.
    • Remove sink and cabinets
    • Remove toilet
    • Remove bathtub
    • Remove Shower enclosure
    • Take off wall coverings/drywall (carefully if you are trying to not replace the drywall)
    • Remove flooring (carefully if you are trying to keep the subflooring)
      • Take baseboards and moldings off carefully if you plan to reuse them, label or number them so you know their locations
    • Remove any wiring or plumbing that will be changed out
      • Have existing wiring and plumbing inspected to ensure it is up to code, replace what is necessary.
    • Remove subflooring if it is being replaced.
      • Often this is the best option due to water damage and to avoid having to scrape the surface perfectly flat from glue and nails
  • Ensure to cap all drains to avoid noxious fumes
    • Sewer gas is toxic and noxious, your drains must be capped to prevent it coming into your house
  • Ensure to cap all water lines to avoid leaks
    *Water can be turned on to the house at any point as long as all lines are capped*

Stage 5: Renovation

In this stage you are going to do everything in reverse and rebuild your bathroom. This is the stage where it may take a general contractor, or if you are doing that role yourself it may be several sub-contractors. Inspections on completed work are often necessary before you can proceed with another part of the renovation. Contact your local building or code enforcement department and ensure you arrange for appropriate inspections.

  • Complete any structural work required, frame new walls etc…
  • Fix/Replace any plumbing under the subfloor
  • Put subflooring into place
    • Radiant heating options are put into place as you put your subfloor into place
    • Make sure to put a moisture proof membrane between your subflooring and the flooring option you select
  • Fix/Replace any plumbing within the walls
  • Fix/Replace wiring and ensure it is up to code
  • Place/replace ventilation system
    • A good general rule is to have a ventilation system that is rated for the total cubic foot volume of your bathroom
    • Remember a noisy fan turns your bathroom retreat into a noisy closet
  • Fix/Hang drywall
    • Consider upgrading to a waterproof drywall option for long term durability
  • Test fit cabinets, toilet, shower fixtures to ensure spacing works
    • Placing things where you expect them to end up ensures the space actually works as you intend
    • Shower heads, faucets, even towel racks can need to be moved a few inches for best effect
  • Paint/Tile ceiling and walls
    • Reminder… wall paper is a very poor choice due to the moisture issues of a bathroom.
  • Put flooring into place
    • This step may be done later if you need to tile around cabinetry, pedestal sinks, and your toilet
  • Place and connect tub/prefab enclosure (if being used)
  • Place and connect toilet
  • Place cabinetry
  • Place and connect sink(s)
  • Connect new light fixtures

Stage 6: Cleanup

The bathroom remodel is now in place. In the cleanup phase is also the time to ensure everything was done properly. Do a very thorough cleaning of the bathroom itself to remove any residue from installation or manufacturing residues.

  • Test all fixtures to ensure they work properly, that no leaks have occurred.
  • Test all lighting, and sockets to make sure they work
  • Remove all leftover building materials
    • Arrange for donation of any leftover materials, or still useable fixtures
  • Dispose of any toxic/harmful chemicals properly
  • Have dumpster removed

Stage 7: Accessories

Now that the bathroom is complete, your building materials are cleaned up, and all work is done it is time to accessorize. Whatever remains of your budget should be used to purchase new towels, soap dispensers, waste bins, wash cloths and other finishing touches.
Often these finishing touches can have a larger impact than you may think. If you have a newly remodeled bathroom with a modern style, and all the small touches are seashell mermaids, you lose the look you are trying for. Pay attention to these small details and your bathroom remodel will give you a long lasting look.