How to Plan a Bathroom Renovation

Renovations and home improvement can be a daunting task. This step-by-step guide will help begin the bathroom design process.

Any type of home improvement should be approached carefully. While there are times when it seems so simple; just purchase some tile and plumbing fixtures and either put them in yourself or hire someone to do it, things can quickly get out of hand if you don’t take the time to properly orient yourself to the task.

Begin With Some Research

While most people who want to undergo a bathroom renovation may have an idea of what they want the bathroom to look like, many have no idea what it will cost, or exactly what is involved. Beginning the process by doing some research is always a great way to start.

Begin by looking at styles of bathrooms to get renovation ideas. Go to your local library and check out the home improvement magazines. When you see a design that you like, set it aside. Don’t worry if there don’t seem to be any commonalities between the designs that are appealing; there may be something there that the untrained eye is unable to see. Once you have your designs in hand, begin to visit some showrooms to see what’s available for the product you need to select.

Always call ahead to the showrooms (tile or plumbing) and make an appointment. This will ensure that the sales staff has the time to properly acquaint themselves with the job and that you have the time set aside to get a thorough understanding of what’s available.

When going to the appointment, bring along any of the magazine images that reflect what the end design should be, as well as measurements or pictures of the current space. The product won’t necessarily be selected on these trips; getting a handle on what’s out there, what’s appealing, what will work for the room, and what this is going to cost is a more appropriate expectation to have.

Learning what the lead time, or time that it takes for the products to arrive, it should also be accomplished. Some items can take up to 12 weeks to come in, so finding this out ahead of time will allow you to adjust.

When you find a showroom that works well with the project at hand, and that has the product and pricing that meets your needs, set up a follow-up appointment to come back to get the real work started.

Showrooms can often give contractor recommendations, as well. These contractors will be familiar with the products being chosen, and can, therefore, give an accurate idea of the time and cost of the install.

Pick Your Counter or Sink

The next step to take will be to pick out the sink or countertop. If using a pedestal sink, the style can be followed by the style of the toilet, and, if needed, the style of the tub. The faucet style will also follow from here; high spout, widespread, or single lever, these decisions will be best made by holding the faucet choices up to the sink that’s been chosen. You can find out how to replace an old bathroom faucet here.

If using a vanity and a countertop, choose the countertop first (an article about replacing an old countertop can be found here). When using a natural stone, choosing the exact slab is crucial, since the coloration and veining will vary from piece to piece. Whether using a natural material, or a man-made one, getting a piece from the exact slab being used is the next step.

This is important since this will be the jumping off point for the rest of the colors and materials in the bathroom. Is there a vein or a fleck in the material that might be able to be picked up on as an accent? Is this a recycled glass counter that will work well with a recycled glass backsplash or border? If marble has been chosen, are their marble tiles available that match it to achieve a seamless look?

When you return for your next appointment with a showroom, be sure to bring your counter sample, or sink style with you; it will help narrow down the number of choices for you quickly.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of The Shower(head)

Who doesn’t start or end every day with a hot, relaxing shower? Why not make the space a sanctuary? Candles and bath salts surely enhance the ambiance, but a shower head that caters to individual penchant is priceless – well, about $20-$100, anyway. Changing the heads is as easy as unscrewing the current piece and replacing with the new unit’s attachment (usually just a screw-on neck).

Create a rainforest effect with a large, single-spray-pattern head that produces rain-like drops in the shower. (Go the extra mile with this effect by hanging this shower head from the ceiling of the shower, if the plumbing – and self-capabilities – allow.)

For a shared space, consider a multi-spray pattern head that easily fits everyone’s needs with the turn of a dial. These types usually also include a massage option (high-intensity sprays) which works wonders for athletes or anyone else prone to muscle injuries. These types of massaging heads can also correct a low-pressure problem in the shower or bath.

Spaces that include a significant other? Consider a dual-head by adding a splitter or diverter, available at many local and online hardware retailers. They’re just as simple to install as changing the original shower head.

A Turn for the Better: Changing Door Handles

Sometimes it’s obvious when a look has been established in a space; other times, existing elements in the home clash with the new vibe, creating a hodge-podge sort of effect with no cohesive style. After giving a new, elegant vibe to the bathroom, those old, clear door-handles can sure kill a mood. Changing out a door handle is a little trickier than, say, changing the shower head, but it is definitely something that every home renovator can do!

One tip for beginners: make sure to purchase TWO handles (inside and out) and make sure that the screw patterns match the existing door. Take along an existing handle when choosing when looking for new styles to make sure the new handles are cohesive. To really keep the home decor flowing in each room, consider two types of handles, one for either side of the door. That way, the bathroom keeps its charming feel, while the style of the hallway or bedroom on the other side isn’t affected.

Let There Be Light…Fixtures

The industry-standard glass-doily light fixtures in many older bathrooms are an eyesore, to say the least. They do as much to ruin a renovator’s hard work as a cheap door handle, if not more. While changing the lighting style (for example, track lighting versus pendant lighting) is not advised unless one carries a contractor’s license, changing out the glass decorations is a no-brainer. Anyone who has changed a light bulb in one of these fixture types can easily change the decorative glass.

Unscrew the glass, as you would change the light bulb, and replace with the new glass, metal, or plastic style of your choice. Use these accents to add a burst of color, enhance the theme, or even change the color of light (much like a red lamp shade casts a red light, these pieces can have the same effect) to create a mood. If a relaxing atmosphere is desired, try sandy or earth tone hues to cast a gentle glow. If the powder room is making a bolder statement, try a metallic fixture with an interesting shape. Just like the faucets, online retailers will have the best selection of lighting fixtures to add a tailored touch to any style.

Some Other Cool Trends to Consider

The current trends in bathroom renovations are designed to create a more comfortable personal space for people to relax and get away from all the daily stresses. Warm colors, the latest high-tech devices, green considerations, and the use of modern stylish fixtures are all part of the newest tendencies in bathroom remodeling. So here are some of the things you could consider:

  • Personal Shower System – this system allows the shower head to move up or down, as much as 24 inches, to accommodate tall and short bathers.
  • Self-Serve Toilets – these toilets have heated seats, automatically open and close, are self-cleaning, and flush when lid is closed.
  • Multimedia Systems – these systems include televisions, radio, or MP3 players to provide bathers with enjoyable and relaxing experience.
  • Shower Massage Systems – these systems turn a shower into a personal spa through the installation of wall-mounted, top-mounted, handheld, and shower panels.
  • Dual-Purpose Television Mirror – a television mirror offers a person the opportunity to apply makeup or brush their teeth as they check the weather, news, or catch last night’s sports scores on a LCD television. Options include recessed or surface-mounted models which integrate cable or satellite television.
  • Soaking Tubs – these tubs include water agitation for massaging, aromatherapy for relieving stress through scents, and integration of warm colors to create a feeling of well-being.
  • Stylish Vanities – are replacing the traditional bathroom cabinets. They offer more space saving features with pull-out drawers, deep cabinets, and extra towel racks. Options include sleek, stylish modern bathroom vanities in beautiful glass, wood, and porcelain designs.
  • Stylish Sinks – these include vessel sinks which set on top a vanity instead of beneath. Other options include undermounted, self-rimming, wall-mounted, or pedestal sinks. Styles include round or square and made from glass, wood, natural and man-made stone, or porcelain materials. You can read more about sinks here.
  • Cabinets and Vanities – the use of natural and renewable materials such as bamboo and wheat board is part of the new trends.
  • Lighting – the use of florescent lights with electronic ballasts or halogen lights save energy and reduce the electric bill.
  • Natural Lighting – the use of as much natural lighting as possible not only opens the bathroom, it brings as sense of calm. Sometimes the use of skylights is the only option for adding natural light, especially popular is the use of tubular of round skylights.
  • Tub or Shower – the green trend is to select recycled glass, ceramic, or porcelain tile for the tub or shower and surrounding area. This includes the use of epoxy grout which is less prone to mold and mildew, along with giving off volatile chemicals.
  • Ventilation – if the bathroom does not have a vent fan, renovating is the time for installation. Venting removes airborne contaminants, irritants, and moisture. If a vent fan is already installed, this is a good time to upgrade to a more energy efficient and quieter model.

Hire Your Contractor

At this point, you should have an idea of what the materials are, the style of the bathroom being created, and a timeline for when these materials are going to be available and ready for install. You may have also had an opportunity to speak with some installers that work with the products at the showroom you’ve selected. Be sure to speak with at least three contractors. Using the recommendations of the showroom, friends or family that have completed jobs in the past, or even the Yellow Pages are all options for gathering bids.

Be sure to ask to see pictures or examples of previous work, so that a feel for their craftsmanship can be achieved. Show them what has been chosen, and ask if they’ve worked with this product before. Ask them how they intend to install it, if they hesitate or look unsure. Try to avoid waiting 12 weeks for some custom mosaic to arrive, only to have a contractor install it improperly due to inexperience.

Ask for a price quote from each one. If someone seems particularly high, it may be because they don’t want the job; not because they are the most experienced. If all the figures come out within a small range of each other, go with the contractor who seems most knowledgeable about the products chosen.

Be sure to leave yourself some room when scheduling the construction to begin for all the materials to arrive, and to be inspected. If something has arrived wrong or broken, an extra week or two to try to get it corrected before the work has begun can be helpful in avoiding the problem of paying someone to wait for material to arrive.