Project Planning

Bathroom Remodel Checklist

Written by

Christie Dixon

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Sink in vanity

Remodeling a bathroom is a big project. If you have a bathroom in your home that feels old and out-of-date, a bathroom renovation might be on the agenda. But how do you get started? Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the job, take a step back and break the process down into manageable steps. Our bathroom remodel checklist (downloadable PDF below) will help you make sure everything is in order before the first hammer is swung.

Our checklist can help you plan for what’s ahead. But before jumping into the checklist, I want to provide some explanation and guidance about what you can expect during your bathroom remodel.

Evaluate the Current Space

Start by asking yourself what elements you like, and what should be replaced or redesigned. Every bathroom remodel starts with an evaluation of the current state of your bathroom. The key question here is this: What don’t you like about your current bathroom? Also, consider if there is a spectacular view from your current bathroom you want to preserve (or one you want to eliminate for privacy reasons)? There might be one specific thing about your current bathroom that you really want to change, or it might be a long list. Grab a pen and paper and start writing down your pain points, as well as anything you like about your current bathroom. This exercise will help you gain clarity on what the new version should look like.

Select a Designer

For all but the simplest bathroom renovation projects, you will need a professional interior designer to draw up the building plans. Look for a designer with specific bathroom experience, such as one with the Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer designation from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. While it is possible to hire a standalone interior designer for your bathroom renovation and then hire a general contractor for the construction phase, I recommend that you consider hiring a single design-build firm, which will handle both the design and construction phases. Whoever you hire, be sure to do your due dilligence: check reviews, talk to references, and make sure the company is properly licensed in your area and doesn’t have a history of consumer complaints.

Plan Your Budget

How much will your bathroom remodel cost? It’s easy to dream of things like more storage space, a walk-in shower, designer bathroom fixtures, a heated tile floor, and on and on, but those are just dreams unless they fit comfortably into your budget. Make it a point to establish a dollar amount for your bathroom makeover from the start and then use that budget to inform your decisions along the way. Try to choose a remodeling firm that has an estimator on staff, who can provide accurate running estimates of construction costs as the design of your project evolves. Should your initial design prove more expensive than you had hoped, an experienced remodeling firm—especially one with a dedicated design and estimating team in house—will be able to make helpful suggestions for modifying your plans to bring the pricing back down to a comfortable range, a process called “value engineering.”

Are Any Layout Changes Required?

Are you considering relocating windows, doors, walls, or plumbing fixtures? Sometimes, a bathroom renovation project only requires changes to things like the bathroom vanity, the shower door, window treatments, etc.. In other words, you don’t have to knock down any walls or move any plumbing to make it happen. For most projects, however, more substantive changes will be required, and with them will come a higher price tag. Figure out if your bathroom remodel project is going to involve those kinds of big changes so you can plan accordingly. If you are trying to keep your budget under control, the most basic way you can do this is to keep your major plumbing fixtures (your toilet, sink, and shower) where they are rather than rearranging the room. If your new design involves moving load-bearing walls or other major structural changes, your team may enlist the services of an architect or structural engineer, which will likely add cost.

Consider Accessibility

While going through bathroom remodels, it’s always a good idea to think about the physical limitations of anyone who lives in the home. Does someone in the house need features that are designed with accessibility in mind? Or, if they don’t need such features yet, might they in the near future? Perhaps a relative has limited mobility and you want to design the guest bathroom with their needs in mind. Or maybe you just want to follow best practices to future-proof your space. In many cases, following the accessibility conventions can make your bathroom safer and more usable for anyone.

Do You Want to Add New Features?

Another point to consider for bathroom remodels is whether or not any additional elements are going to be added to the space. For example, if a bathroom currently has a tub, do you want to find a way to incorporate a walk-in shower into the new design? Or maybe you want some additional storage space? Is your bathroom remodeling goal to have a space that is easier to clean, has better lighting, or incorporates a makeup area? Are there any secondary activities that you want your new bathroom to accommodate, such as laundry, meditation, sauna, or steam showering? It might take some creativity to make everything fit, but now is the time to weigh these ideas and see which ones will work.

Finalize Your Plans

The last step in the design process is to finalize your plans. This means approving a final set of drawings and making as many of your materials selections as you can. My advice to you is to pick out every fixture, paint color, and surface material before you start building. While it is possible to have your remodeling contractor factor in “allowances” for any TBD items, it can lead to budgetary surprises and could even slow down construction if you aren’t able to make your final selections in time. Once all your plans are final, your design-build firm (or general contractor) will give you a bid for construction. I recommend you work with a firm that will give you a fixed bid so you know exactly how much the project will cost. While you can also choose to work with a “cost-plus” or “time-and-materials” contractor, you won’t know what the final price of construction will be until the job is completed.

Build Your Bathroom

The next step is constructing your new bathroom according to the plans you approved. While many homeowners think of the construction phase as the most important part of the bathroom renovation process—and it is important—it’s actually just one step. Much of the work goes into the planning, which helps ensure that the execution (the building) is a smooth and efficient process. During this phase, you will want to plan for regular meetings with your building team and make yourself available to make any spur-of-the-moment decisions that might come up. If you planned for everything ahead of time and hired an experienced firm, the construction phase should go smoothly and stay on schedule.

A Note About Change Orders

Even with the most careful planning, there are often a few extras or changes that come up during the course of construction. These can be unforeseen conditions, like hidden rot behind the walls that your contractor didn’t anticipate, or they can be items you may want to add or change at the last minute. Changes to the original design often add cost, and they are handled with change orders, a sort of mini-addendum to your construction agreement that clearly states what’s changing and the price of the change.

Enjoy Your New Bathroom

The last phase is the best one—enjoying your new bathroom, custom designed for your unique needs. Your builder will likely schedule a final walk-through meeting, where you can carefully inspect the work and discuss any finishing touches or corrections that need to be made. Again, if you chose an experienced remodeler, your final punch-list will likely be very short.

Connect With the Right Team

If you live in the Ithaca, NY, area, Upscale Remodeling would be able to guide you smoothly through the bathroom remodeling process from start to finish. Whether you have taken on a bathroom renovation before or this is your first time, our team is here to answer your questions and assist. Take a moment to reach out today and get started.

Download Your Bathroom Remodel Checklist

Our bathroom remodel checklist breaks down all the major steps for bathroom remodeling success. You can download a printable PDF version to help you with your planning.


Person holding a bathroom remodel checklist on a table

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