Advice on Planning a Bathroom Renovation

A bathroom.

Bathrooms have come a long way from the tiny, cramped water closets of yesteryear. Today bathrooms can be as beautiful and elegant as a high priced spa with all kinds of luxurious features such as whirlpool tubs, steam showers, and heated floors.

It’s easy to get carried away imagining yourself relaxing in your new bathroom; however, the world has some harsh realities. You need to answer some questions before you even start thinking about colors, fixtures, and appliances. You must plan for the budget, efficiency cost-savings, length of time to stay in your home, and labor.


Let’s start with the big one, which is money. The average bathroom in a North American home is 40 square feet, while the average cost to update a bathroom ranges between $7,000 and $12,000. This is for a fairly basic upgrade that includes a new tub, sink, toilet, wall tiles, flooring, and lighting. More extensive changes, specialized fixtures, or increasing the size of the room will obviously cost more.

Knowledgeable contractors will tell you that if your home is more than 30 years old, you will quite likely find out that you need more work than you planned. The old drywall will have absorbed moisture, and you may not realize it. When you open the walls. you may find structural work needs to be done, adding to your renovation costs. Make sure your budget contains an extra 15% contingency provision to deal with unforeseen obstacles.


Lots of real estate agents will tell you that a re-done bathroom will literally pay for itself, since you’ll get all your money back when you sell your home. If your renovations turn your home into the most expensive house on the block, however, potential buyers just might opt for the slightly less expensive home down the street, rather than paying a premium to buy yours.

You don’t want to end with the most expensive home on the street if you plan to sell. If you’re planning on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, by all means, renovate and enjoy it, just don’t consider an expensive renovation to be a guaranteed money maker.

Understand the Process

Renovating a bathroom isn’t just about drywalling, tiling, plumbing, and electrical work. It is also about dealing with bureaucracy. You must obtain permits and arrange for inspections to ensure that your new bathroom is finished according to local building codes. In some cases, you may also need to get permission from a Homeowner’s or Community Association.

Don’t assume that permission is a nicety that you don’t need to worry about since non-compliance could mean your new bathroom would need to be torn apart. Take the time to talk to your city’s planning department to find out what permits and inspections are required to ensure your renovation will conform to local building codes.

Some dishonest contractors will tell you that permits are just a waste of time and unnecessary paperwork. Don’t believe them. Permits and inspections are your guarantee that the work has been done according to code. They are protection for you as a homeowner.

DIY Versus Hiring a Contractor

Doing the job yourself will obviously cost less than if you hire a professional; however, you won’t be saving any money if you're taking on a job that is beyond your skill level and you end up botching the whole thing.

If you do choose a professional, check him or her out carefully. It’s unfortunate, but the home contracting and renovation business has a number of unqualified contractors who don’t do quality work. Get at least three quotes from contractors and check their references.

Don't just ask them if they’ve done this kind of work before. Make sure they have adequate insurance to protect you from liability and workman’s compensation coverage so that you won’t get sued for an accident to a worker in your home. Ask to see the certificates.

A new bathroom can truly change a home. Just don’t get carried away by the pretty pictures in a brochure and jump right in. Take the time to do your homework so that your new bathroom is never a source of aggravation and bad memories.