So you want to remodel your bathroom? Then congratulations and a fair warning are both in order. Because whether you’re simply upgrading your sink or ripping out every last tile, it takes tons of research to get a successful bathroom renovation right.
But help is here! In our new weekly series, Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide, we’ll guide you through every last step of a Pinterest-worthy bathroom remodel. Bonus: A bathroom renovation recoups upward of 60% of your costs if you ever sell, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report.
Before you obsess over faucets, the first step is to ask yourself some basic questions, to assess your wants and needs. Here’s a guide to help in your decisions.
1. How much can you spend?
The average bathroom remodel will cost $20,420, but that will vary widely, based on what you do. Even a simple toilet can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. “On average, you should budget $10,000 to $30,000,” says Paloma Contreras, a Houston-based interior designer behind La Dolce Vita.
“Learning how much you have to spend also eliminates falling in love with items that don’t fit your budget,” says Rick Johnson of STL Remodeling and General Contracting in Groton, MA. And don’t worry, having a minuscule budget doesn’t mean limiting your options that much, there are great deals out there in every price range.
2. Who will be using the bathroom?
Consider who will be using the bathroom to help you whittle down your choices. For instance, if kids will be using the bathroom, you’ll definitely want a tub, or tub/shower combo. A tub is also key feature when it comes time to resell—at least for buyers with families.
However, if it is mainly adults who will be using the bathroom, and if you already have a tub elsewhere, “I always recommend installing a walk-in shower in one,” says Harder. The reason: Showers generally get more use than tubs, and open shower designs are a hot trend right now. They also take up less room, at 12 square feet, whereas a standard tub takes up 15 square feet.
You also need to consider who will be using the bathroom when you’re choosing the flooring. “While a polished floor may look amazing, it can be an incredibly dangerous slip hazard,” says Jennifer Harder, founder and CEO of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers, who has worked on numerous bathroom remodels. Slippery floors are particularly dangerous for the old and for the young. Then, it’s best to avoid carpeting and wood, which can develop mold or warp. The sensible choice is usually between tile and laminate, so you might want to limit your search to those materials.
3. Do you want a bigger bathroom or one the same size?
The average bathroom is 40 square feet, which may be cramped if you dream of an expansive oasis. If you want to expand, you probably can. But it will mean moving walls, downsizing adjoining rooms, or carving out space from closets.
The upside of expanding is obvious: more room to relax! Additionally, fantastic bathrooms do help sell homes. The downside? Such renovations are pricy and will extend the time you’ll need. An upscale remodel, meanwhile, won’t bring the same return on investment as a low to mid-range one.
4. Are you changing fixtures and/or location?
Where you want everything located is important—and moving things can cost a pretty penny. “Many clients wish to change a fixture location, such as possibly moving a toilet to a new area in the room,” says Johnson. These choices all have a significant impact on both the cost and duration of the project, so decide on this upfront.
5. How much will the bathroom remodel impact your home life?
On average, a bathroom remodel will take about 25 days. If you only have one bathroom, that will leave you without that toilet, sink, tub, and shower for up to five weeks, assuming that work isn’t done on weekends.
While most homes have more than one full bathroom, many do not. If you don’t have an extra shower or tub, schedule the remodel during a time when you can easily shower at the gym. And if you only have one toilet? Time to install a Porta Potty in your yard or make other arrangements!
6. Will the design allow you to age in place?
If you plan to stay in your home well into old age, Mike Saunders, an architectural designer at Durham Drafting & Design, advocates utilizing principles like universal design—a space that’s accessible to those with impaired mobility or vision. In other words, consider installing grab bars near the shower and toilet to help avoid slips and falls. And even if you plan to move, universal design is great for resale. “For example, a curbless, glass-enclosed shower is popular, and walker- or wheelchair-accessible,” adds Johnson.
7. Do you need a lot of storage?
In terms of square footage, a bathroom is typically the smallest room in the house. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have storage requirements. “Brushes, blow-dryers, and cleaning supplies all take up space,” says Harder. When you remodel, you will want to consider what you need handy, and plan accordingly when it comes to your counter and cabinet choices.
8. What lies beneath your existing bathroom?
Before you renovate, you should find out what underlying materials you’ll encounter. “If your home was built prior to 1978, lead and asbestos could be disturbed,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. These materials are a serious health hazard if they are not handled properly. So schedule a lead or asbestos inspection if you suspect your bathroom is harboring these materials. If you come across them unexpectedly, it will derail your entire remodel.
9. What bells and whistles do you want?
A remodel is a great time to think about luxe extras that you’ve always dreamed of. A clawfoot tub, a double vanity, premium fixtures, heated floors, and towel racks all fall into this category.
Any extras can add up fast, and should be worked out in the planning stage. “If you want heated floors, for instance, they need to be installed under whatever flooring you choose,” says Johnson.