In What Order Should I Remodel My Bathroom?

bathtub in bathroom during remodel of walls
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When asking the question, “In what order should I remodel my bathroom?” you need to make sure to encompass the entire process.

While that will look different for each remodel, take a comprehensive look at what you hope to achieve and the steps involved in getting there.

Step 1 - Create a Detailed Bathroom Remodel Plan

This is the single most important step in the process and it must happen before anything else. Planning your bathroom remodel involves several steps.

First, you need to find ideas. Scour Pinterest, Houzz, Google Images and anywhere else you can find pictures of bathrooms that fit your criteria. Also look in magazines, home improvement books, and other publications.

If you need interior design or architectural help, head to the professionals.

Start with the footprint of the room. Identify the size and location of the sink, toilet, and shower. Then add countertops, cabinetry, shelves, mirrors, storage, and towel racks to the design.

Key in on the ‘must-have’ list as your design comes together. Start with the foundational units and add in other optional pieces from there.

This is also the time to evaluate whether you will need any major system upgrades such as replacing plumbing or electrical wiring. Also, rewiring or rerouting plumbing can add time, money, and mess to the project.

Head to the building department at this stage. Take in your plans to see if they match up with building regulations and inspection requirements. Find out what permits you need and apply for them at the onset of the project.

Along with your written plan and sketches you’ll need to create a realistic budget as well as a timeline schedule. While projects like bathroom remodels rarely go exactly according to plan, it gives you a starting point and goals to work from.

contractor looking at remodeled bathroom

Step 2 - Decide Whether to Hire a Contractor

With your mostly finalized plan in place, decide if you will be hiring a contractor or doing the work yourself. Obviously an experienced contractor can make the project go smoothly and will likely pull things together much faster than if you tackle it yourself.

However, remodeling a bathroom DIY style affords you deep rewards and saves you money.

If you do decide to rope in a contractor, schedule interviews and receive bids from at least three companies. Ensure they are licensed and bonded and thoroughly review any contracts before the project begins.

Step 3 - Find and Order Supplies

With a schedule, a budget, a plan, and a contractor (if appropriate), you’re ready to get started. Start making final decisions about fixtures and flooring.

You can decide on paint or wallpaper at a later date, but you need to choose tile, shower surrounds, and vanities now. Place orders and be aware of arrival times.

Step 4 - Start Demolition

The next phase of the project is to remove any surfaces that will be replaced. This might mean pulling everything out of the room by stripping it down to the studs, or it might only entail removing the toilet and pulling up the flooring.

Either way, you’ll want to get organized for the destruction by making a plan for the waste. Renting a dumpster is an easy and efficient way to dispose of the debris. Schedule to get it installed before you begin work.

Another option is to plan a dump run. If you have a truck or trailer this might be all you need, especially if you sort out items you can dispose of another way.

You can minimize your construction waste by sorting as you go. Some materials will go straight into the dumpster, like insulation and drywall. Others can be recycled or upcycled.

Start by calling your local Habitat for Humanity to see what they will take. They might appreciate your toilet, light fixtures, usable flooring, and even your shower stall.

If items can’t be donated, ask around in your community. Join a Buy Nothing Movement, What’s Happening, Pay it Forward, or similar groups on Facebook. You can also list items on Facebook Marketplace without a Facebook account. Hit up Craigslist too.

Your old toilet or vanity might be just what a neighbor is looking for and it will save you the time, cost, and effort involved in hauling it away. Plus, it’s environmentally friendly to avoid as much waste as possible.

One more step before beginning demolition is to turn off the associated gas, water, or electricity. Avoid messes and accidents in case you mistakenly hit a pipe or line during the process.

Now you’re ready to let the demolition begin. Remove fixtures you’ll be replacing or that you simply need out of the way while you work. Then tear out wall boards and flooring. Watch for wires and pipes while you cut out framing materials.

bathroom under reconstruction

Step 5 - Frame

The rebuild begins! Now that the space is down to a starting point, if you have framing to do, this is when it will happen. Frame in doorways and new walls. If you’ve made flooring or ceiling repairs you may have some framing work to do there too.

If you’ll be putting in safety handles around the toilet, bath, or shower, now is a good time to put reinforcement behind the wall. Also consider whether you’ll need additional supports beneath the tub if you’re moving it to a new location.

Your outer walls may also need some extra attention if you plan to add windows or change the size of the window or windows you already have.

Open up your space and invite in natural lights with an additional window. If you already have a window that needs replacing, decide if you would benefit from a larger opening.

Remember to consider how window frames will affect the layout of the bathroom. For example, where is your shower located? Will you need to put in clouded glass or cover the window for privacy?

If so, maybe a window high on the wall is a better option. You could even go with a skylight to allow light in, although that option doesn’t offer much of a view.

If your window overlaps your shower space, you’ll need to address whether that works. If you’re putting in a pre-formed shower surround, it probably won’t. However, if you are tiling in a shower, you can incorporate the window into the design.

Step 6 - Plumb the Space

Before covering up the wall framing you’ll need to finish the rough-in plumbing. This is anything that happens behind the surface of the wall.

Change plumbing routes, install new pipes, or make replacements. Ensure your sink, toilet, shower, and tub are all plumbed and ready for hookup.

This might also be a good time to change to an on-demand water heating system.

man installing bathroom plumbing in bath

Step 7 - Rough in Electrical

You may need to upgrade wiring or provide new lines for additional fixtures and fans. This is also when you’ll install boxes for light switches, fans, and outlets.

Step 8 - Schedule Inspections

During your initial visit to the planning department, ask about any required inspections. Based on your plans, the inspector may need to sign off on work at various stages.

While you are coordinating the work of the plumber and electrician, also schedule a date for the inspection once their work is done.

This will need to be done before adding the wall materials. If the inspector wants to see the rough in electrical and plumbing, he or she can require you to rip out work so they can see it. Don’t make the mistake of covering it up before they can take a look.

Step 9 - Put up Wall Materials

The room will start to come together once the wall material is on. Most commonly this is drywall, which requires nailing in place followed by taping and mudding the seams. Don’t underestimate the time and technique required to do a good job on drywall. It’s an art.

If you’re doing the remodel yourself, you might consider hiring out this portion. If you’re up for the challenge, watch some videos that offer some tips so you can achieve the finish you want.

bathroom remodel in wall phase

Step 10 - Texture

It’s an optional step, but if you plan to add texture to the walls or ceiling, now is the time. There are many styles to choose from.

You can use a knockdown method where you apply material and ‘knock’ some of it back off. Similarly, you can use spray texture that is applied via rattle can.

Step 11 - Paint or Wallpaper

Once the texture is dry, you can apply your wall finishes. Apply a primer if needed before adding paint. You can also apply faux paint if you’re looking for some depth in your paint finish.

Another option that is regaining popularity is wallpaper. There are countless patterns to choose from, so there is something for every budget and interior design style.

Step 12 - Install Light Fixtures and Fans

With the wiring and wall finishes done, you can easily install your light fixtures and exhaust fans. Although you can install these earlier in the process, if you use alternate lighting up to this point it will be easier to paint without having to work around them.

Turn the power back on to ensure everything is functional, watching out for any wires that may still be exposed.

Tip: For a tight budget, try painting your light fixtures instead of replacing them.

Step 13 - Install Flooring

Before moving on to installation of your shower, tub, toilet, and vanity, get your floor in place. This can be any number of products. Common options are vinyl, linoleum, and tile.

Step 14 - Install Tub and Shower

Whether you’re using a tub or shower surround, situating a claw-foot tub, splurging on a jetted bath, or tiling in a shower, it’s ready for installation. Then you can hook up your faucets and showerheads.

Step 15 - Put in Toilet

Next, place your toilet and/or bidet. Set them into place and hook up the water lines. Make sure each fixture is well seated so it doesn’t wobble.

Caulk around the bottom of the toilet where it meets the flooring.

hands installing toilet

Step 16 - Set Vanity and Sink

There are countless options for vanity and sink setups. You can build your own vanity, DIY style. Another popular option is to purchase a pre-built vanity, complete with your choice of sinks, countertops, and cabinetry.

Install your vanity by putting it into place and hooking up the appropriate plumbing.

If you don’t want to replace your current vanity, you can refinish the cabinets, replace the countertop, or swap out the sinks for a different look. Even updating the hardware can bring a fresh appeal to the space.

You can also raise your existing vanity to bring it to a higher level without major changes.

Step 17 - Mount Mirrors

With all your systems operational, you can turn on water, gas, and electrical outlets to test everything out. Then it’s time for the finishing touches.

Decide where you want your primary mirror or mirrors to hang first since it will be a focal point of the vanity area and perhaps the entire room.

Make sure your mirrors are securely mounted, using the proper hardware. In addition to mirrors above the sink, consider adding an additional mirror or two for tasks such as applying makeup or coordinating outfits.

This could be on an adjacent wall or in another section of the bathroom.

Step 18 - Hang Accessories

When considering additional mirrors, remember to leave space for the other bathroom essentials.

You’ll need at least one towel rack near the shower or bath. If you don’t have space for a traditional towel rack you can mount hooks instead. In addition, you’ll need a place to hang hand towels someplace close to the sink.

If you have two sinks, you’ll ideally want one towel rack on each end of the vanity.

Also plan for storage of your commonly used items. If you’re hanging a medicine cabinet, it could also double as a mirror. You could also mount a rack to hold curling irons and a hair dryer.

If wall space isn’t ideal, use shelving above the toilet or beneath the sink in the vanity for baskets or totes that can hold your necessities.

Get some design ideas in our articles Bathroom Vanity Overview, Eco Friendly Bathroom Remodels, and Tips on Bathroom Remodeling.