1. How Far Do You Want to Go?
- Surface Alterations. At the easy end of the scale, you may like the general layout and size of the bathroom and the structure supporting the bathroom (joists, walls, etc.) are sound. The mantra of the surface-level bathroom remodeler is "cover, not replace." There is no shame at all in wanting to do a surface-level bathroom remodel.
- Change Layout. More difficult: the structural elements are still fine and you want to make surface alterations, but you also want to change the layout around.
- Complete Tear-Out/Remodel. Now we're at the end of the difficult scale. You want to do all of the above, but 50 years of accumulated moisture has rotted away the joists and wall studs, and the window is falling out.
At this point, too, consider the general timetable for bathroom remodeling and decide if this is something you think you want to go through.
2. Finance Your Bathroom Remodel
Bathroom remodeling is expensive. Bathroom remodeling costs typically range from $15,000 to $18,000 just for a basic, functional remodel.
Even though most bathrooms are small, the cost comes from the intensive amount of sub-contracting you may have to do (i.e., plumbers, electricians) and the expensive elements involved (fixtures, cabinetry, etc.). Of the many methods of funding your bathroom renovation, perhaps the most common way is with a home equity loan. While looking at financing, you may wish to also think about ways to save on your bathroom remodeling costs.
3. Remodel Bathroom Yourself or Hire a Contractor?
At this point, you need to talk a good hard look at the project and decide if you want to do it yourself or hire a pro. Safe to say, if you are motivated and are merely performing surface alterations, you should be able to remodel the bathroom yourself. Not all tasks are created equal. Installing a new toilet is simple; building a new tiled shower should be left to the pros. Assess which projects to do yourself and which to leave to the professionals.
- Contractor Licenses. If you do intend to hire a contractor, one of the first things you'll want to do is make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Licensure is not a mark of quality workmanship, though. It just means that they have fulfilled the basic minimum requirements of the licensing agency.
- Permits. Electrical, building, and other permits may be required. Apply for permits early.
4. Changing the Layout of Your BathroomIf you're remodeling a bedroom and wish to change the layout, it's not so bad. You move a closet here, push back a wall there. But with bathrooms, you're not just dealing with the visible elements, you're dealing with the underlying structure of plumbing and electrical system. Layout changes, such as switching toilet and shower, drive up the cost of bathroom remodeling in a big hurry, so consider this carefully.
5. New Bathroom Walls, Joists, and Other Structural ElementsSince bathrooms collect moisture, there is a good chance you may have to replace drywall. In the case of bathrooms, you'll be using special moisture-resistent drywall commonly called "green board" and in the very wet areas like showers and baths you'll be using moisture-proof backer board. Hopefully, you don't need to replace anything beyond the wallboard. But if you do--that is, if the wall stud and joists are bad--they may need to be sistered or completely replaced.
6. Shower and Tub Repair, Refinishing, or ReplacementThe shower, tub, or shower/tub combination is the heart of the bathroom. For many people, this may be the entire reason for the bathroom remodel.
If the worst thing is a few cracks, it is possible to self-repair your acrylic or fiberglass shower/tub for very little money. For many homeowners, though, the surface might be stained and discolored, so tub refinishing would be in order.
Got problems that go beyond repair and refinishing? It is possible to install a bathtub liner - sort of like an "overcoat" for your icky tub. Should those methods prove ineffective, you will need to go all the way and build a tiled shower. Alternatively and with a bit less fuss, you can install a pre-fabricated acrylic or fiberglass shower/tub. Pre-fab shower/tubs need no on-site building, because they have been fabricated in the factory - though make sure that you do not buy any unit too big to fit through your doorways.