Renovating Your Bathroom - You or a Contractor?

bathroom with glass enclosed shower and dark cabinetry.

Renovating your bathroom is a great way to add value and extra enjoyment to your home. Most realtors agree you will see a return on investment for the money you spend on a bathroom renovation. Renovating can be a smart financial move, even if you don't plan to sell.

Before you jump into your car and rush to the home store to buy new fixtures, you’ve got a few decisions to make. In addition to how much money can you afford to spend, you need to decide if it’s a job you can do yourself or if you should hire a contractor.

DIY Homeowners Save Money

house built from money sitting on a blueprint

There’s a major financial appeal to taking on the renovation job yourself. You can save up to 50% of the cost of a contractor renovation by doing the work yourself. Start by doing some serious planning. Ask yourself how big a change you want to make.

If you want to upgrade your old room rather than complete a total renovation, you can make some major changes with minor and inexpensive modifications. Paint the walls a new color, replace light and plumbing fixtures, or add upgrades like a tub liner or an electric towel warmer to make your old bathroom feel new again.

A major renovation usually involves significant changes to your existing bathroom, such as new floors, a new tub, or new fixtures. A jetted tub and separate dressing area sound great, but if you’re starting with a standard North American bathroom, you’ve only got 40-square feet to work with. Those features just won’t fit into your limited space.

Doing those kinds of modifications usually means you will have to expand your bathroom, either by stealing some space from an adjoining room or closet, or by combining two small bathrooms into a larger one. Doing so involves opening walls, reframing, rerouting the electricity and plumbing, installing insulation, and providing adequate ventilation.

Some Other Considerations

modern grey and white bathroom

Large renovations require permits and inspections, which in turn require architects and designer drawings. You'll also need electrical and plumbing permits, as well as inspections to ensure that the work has been completed according to local building codes. These details are normally part of a contractor’s job, but if you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need to get the permits before you begin work and arrange for the inspections.

Keep in mind that most building inspectors are civil servants and work days, not evenings and weekends. This can mean you’d need to take time off work so that you can be present for the inspections. A bathroom renovation isn’t a weekend project, it takes lots of time. After putting in a full day at your regular job, are you really going to be interested about working 5 or 6 more hours on your bathroom for the next few months?

Perhaps a Middle Road

There’s an obvious appeal to taking on a bathroom renovation yourself. Besides the money savings, there’s the satisfaction of doing the job yourself. To combine cost efficiency and satisfaction find a contractor who will take on the tasks you aren’t qualified to perform. You can contribute to the project based on your skill set and availability. For example, painting, installing light fixtures, and decorating are all vital parts of a bathroom renovation that any homeowner can complete while the contractor can handle the heavy lifting and administrative aspects of the job.