5-Star Advice: Bathroom tips from HomeAdvisor pros

by The Contractor Files

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What are common misconceptions or pitfalls to be aware of when starting a bathroom remodel, and what are tips for a successful remodel?

Daniel Mihoc
World of Color, Inc.
Fredericksburg, VA

Have a firm grasp of your wants and needs before starting your project. Decide whether to repair or replace: repairs are usually more economical but not a long fix, and replacing will extend the warranty life. If your bathroom cabinets are old and not constructed well, it might make sense to install new ones. Get a free estimate to make sure you have a good handle on the cost, and calculate a fully loaded budget with all material and labor costs including any accessories and hardware that might be required. And don't go at the limit of your budget; unexpected expenses can occur.

When selecting a contractor, remember we all have strengths and weaknesses. Choose the best fit for you. You must feel comfortable working with your contractor and be willing to trust his judgment when those unforeseen things occur. This is why you hired him.

Another common pitfall is failing to understand what designs will work in the space you have in the room. Many people try to do too much for the space allowed. Keep it functional. And don't be afraid of color: beige is not the only color available.

Being a tile setter by trade, I like to install tile with pattern in mind. When doing showers, combining traditional square lay with diagonal lay separated by a listello strip breaks up the feeling of a big square wall as does the addition of a shampoo niche. Multi-sized tile in different colors in a hop scotch pattern is also visually interesting. When a person looks at my work I want them to like the quality of design and well as the quality of the work. To me, they are one and the same.

Stan J Ross
"AE Architecture" & "AE Interiors"
Apple Valley, MN

Homeowners often don't dream enough about what they want. A Master Plan can be designed and using phased construction over time, the entire design can be eventually finished. Be confident you are hiring a professional that is licensed, insured and able to give you a good design that works for you. Communication is no. 1. The contractor should always be in communication about budget and schedule. Be patient but inform the contractor of concerns early, and make sure the design is what you want and what is best for you. When beginning a bathroom remodel remember to research newest products, use master plan technique so you are not redoing items of construction, and keep track of the budget and schedule.

Luz Marina Selles
Allure Designs, LLC
Gilbert, AZ

Design with your budget in mind. Homeowners are often reluctant to disclose their budget, thinking this leads to increased project fees. This results in unrealistic bathroom project designs outside of the budget. Some design elements have substantial price ranges - sink faucets vary from $125 to $700 or more. Last minute changes result in additional time and costs, so give careful consideration to mid-project revisions.

Work with your space availability. Select a custom shower versus a tub. The emphasis has switched from tubs to sophisticated showers- steam showers, body spas,and multi-jet showerheads. Some clients would like to extend their bathroom size, but load-bearing walls need beam headers to support the roof, which results in additional costs.

Define your style. Do you like an elaborate, traditional look or a sleek- simple contemporary style? Natural stone provides texture, pattern and warmth for traditional bathrooms, while glass and metal elements are a must for contemporary designs. And what about colors? They have an enormous influence on our emotions. Plumbing fixtures are the jewels of the bathroom: choosing the right style and finish will create a dramatic effect in the bathroom.

Get a written contract. Read it step by step and ask questions if you don't understand something. It should look professional and include an estimate and a clause allowing changes during construction.

Matt Kuehn
Equity Construction Services, LLC
Minneapolis, MN

One common misconception is timing - even more so when the home is really old. However, any remodeling project has some unexpected hurdle. My advice is to stick with a quality contractor; they are more apt to stick with the original estimate. I often hear about homeowners that shopped by price and then have change orders and pay more anyway. Place special order material in advance to make sure it is correct and in good condition - in my experience materials are often incorrect or damaged. Remember quality takes a little more time and is worth the investment when you see the end result. If your project is sold to you by a sales person then request a project manager to review before you start. They know the nuts and bolts of the project and can help avoid surprises. Ask questions; most quality contractors have a lot of pride. They like to share their knowledge and will be happy to explain every step of the project. Good communication is no. 1 - the contractor has to build your vision. The best way for them to accomplish this is through constant communication.

Matthew Fournier
Elite Construction & Design, Inc.
Townsend, MA

Before seeking a professional, set your budget. A solid floor plan and stylish design does not always exceed the budget. However, common pitfalls can include hidden mold, mildew, water damage and other unforeseen circumstances. These issues can lead to a higher remodeling cost. Research and select a professional, knowledgeable and licensed contractor w/references and referrals. Keep a constant line of communication with your contractor during the bathroom remodel. Don't be afraid to ask questions and/or call your contractor with concerns. A good contractor does not mind answering questions or explaining the details. Make sure your contractor understands your budget, needs and wants for the project. Understand the amount of time it will take to complete a quality bathroom remodel. A common misconception is believing that due to the smaller amount of space their will be less planning, work and take less time needed to properly complete the project scope. Shop around for various fixtures and materials to customize your bathroom. Don't be afraid to implement color and design into your space - keep an open mind.

Bathroom Remodeling Project Guide
If you enjoyed this article, check out our free Bathroom Remodeling Guide, which features expert advice, design & material comparisons, and custom price estimates for your remodeling project.