Tips for a Successful Bathroom Remodel


Aside from kitchens, bathrooms are the most frequently remodeled rooms in modern homes. There are good reasons for that trend. Today’s homeowners and their families expect more luxury and convenience than ever, and old, outdated bathrooms just won’t cut it anymore. Remodels can get expensive, though, so homeowners should make the most of them by getting every detail right. Read on to find some tips for how to successfully redesign and remodel any bathroom to get started off on the right foot.

Develop a Space-Conscious Layout

Older bathrooms tend to be small, which can place serious limitations on homeowners interested in bathroom remodeling. It’s important to be realistic about space concerns from the get-go. The idea here isn’t just to make sure all the fixtures and furniture will fit without impeding mobility. It’s to implement design ideas that can make even a cramped bathroom feel more comfortable.

The first step is always to nail down the floor layout. Homeowners who are working with a tight budget may want to leave the pipes where they are, but if money’s not an issue, now’s the time to make necessary changes.

The smaller the bathroom is, the fewer layout options will be available. Homeowners working with very small footprints may want to consult a bathroom designer who can help or look into space-saving ideas like recessed light fixtures, built-in storage, and standing showers instead of full-sized tubs.

Stick to a Budget

Bathroom remodels aren’t cheap. The average cost of hiring a professional to help with creating a design and installing all the new fixtures and features ranges from $21,377 for mid-range remodels to $67,103 for high-end remodels. Keep in mind, homeowners can recoup a good deal of those costs when they sell their properties as long as they’re smart about layout and design.

Handy homeowners may be able to order and install some of the fixtures and materials themselves. Taking a DIY approach may eliminate some labor costs, but it’s still important to budget for high-quality materials and tasks that require skilled labor such as moving plumbing lines and electrical fixtures.

To create a budget, make a list of necessities versus would-be-nice features and compare it to the amount of money available to invest in the remodel. If the numbers are way off, it might be time to rethink the scale of the remodel or look into less expensive materials. While a bathroom remodel can provide a decent return on investment, it’s not worth breaking the bank to finance it.

Don’t Neglect Ventilation

Bathroom ventilation is not the most glamorous aspect of remodeling, so it tends not to receive the attention it deserves. Without adequate ventilation, even the most beautiful bathroom can turn into a moist, mildewed mess. It makes little sense to install expensive upgrades without installing the ventilation system required to keep them looking their best, so this is not the place to cut corners.

There are two options for ensuring proper ventilation. Homeowners can either install centralized systems or put fans in their windows. Make sure to locate the fan far enough away from shower doors, cabinets, and panels to leave enough space for proper air circulation, and consider putting it on a timer. Some ventilation systems can also be set to turn on and off automatically using a wired-in humidistat.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good Lighting Plan

Adequate lighting is important everywhere in modern homes, but there are few rooms that suffer more as a result of poor lighting than bathrooms. Residents and guests getting ready for big days want to be able to see what they’re doing, and one overhead light just isn’t going to fit the bill.

Natural lighting is always best, but not all homeowners are lucky enough to have the right placement to take advantage of it in any meaningful way. That’s where effective, layered artificial lighting plans come in. Recessed LED fixtures can provide plenty of ambient light, but it also casts shadows, which can be a problem when residents are trying to get ready for work or school. Layering soft lighting at head level around the vanity is a great way to avoid this problem.

Keep in mind that some vanities have built-in lighting that’s designed to provide pure, broad-spectrum light. Homeowners who don’t want to go that route should avoid harsh light sources, and especially bare bulbs, which can create unnaturally washed-out reflections.

Finally, don’t forget to incorporate adequate lighting in the shower or bathtub. Think about residents’ typical uses for the area. Those who enjoy relaxing and reading in the tub may want spotlighting, and a bit of mood lighting can go a long way toward improving the ambiance in any shower.

Add Some Luxury

Homeowners with large enough budgets may want to consider taking their remodels to the next level by adding touches of luxury like heated flooring or towel racks. It’s much more cost-effective to make these kinds of large upgrades during a full remodel than it is to go back and install them later.

Don’t like the idea of heated flooring? Even simpler upgrades like installing wall-mounted features can add a touch of luxury and elegance to the bathroom, while simultaneously opening up some extra floor space. Bathrooms with wall-mounted cabinets, toilets, and vanities feel more modern, and these features don’t cost much more than their traditional, floor-mounted counterparts.

Go for Durable Materials

When choosing materials for flooring, countertops, and features, durability is just as important as aesthetics. Remember: everything in the bathroom will be subject to frequent humidity changes, temperature swings, and even occasional full-on water exposure. The materials also need to be able to stand up to frequent cleaning and harsh chemicals.

Avoid cheap materials like particleboard, MDF, fiberglass, and acrylic. It’s worth spending the money on non-porous tile, high-quality flooring, cast-iron tubs, and porcelain sinks. You can even make a statement with a modern freestanding tub. These materials can all withstand the test of time and constant exposure to moisture without losing their aesthetic value or, even worse, becoming water-logged and prone to mold.

When it comes to fixtures, most experts recommend brass over cheaper plastic alternatives. Brass faucets and other fixtures can last a lifetime, while plastic ones tend to fail within just a few years. Stainless steel is also a good option for homeowners who want to go for a more modern, industrial look.

Protect the Walls

A few splashes here and there are pretty much inevitable, but drywall isn’t designed to handle that amount of water exposure. Using waterproof paint can help, but it’s still a good idea to consider adding wainscot to the bottom 40-48 inches of all the walls. If wainscot doesn’t provide a good stylistic fit, both beadboard and tile are also good options. Beadboard looks best in traditional bathrooms, while tile walls are far more versatile and provide an almost infinite range of possibilities.

Remember That Mirrors Can Be Design Elements

A lot of homeowners think of bathroom mirrors in strictly practical terms. They place a mirror over the vanity or sink so that residents can check their makeup, do their hair, and otherwise prepare for the days ahead. Well-placed mirrors can add visual appeal, make small bathrooms look larger, and allow designers to take more advantage of natural light from windows or skylights.

There’s no need to cover every wall in mirrors, and they don’t even need to be exceptionally large. It’s best to keep primary mirrors above vanities reasonably small and follow experts’ advice about how to place and hang them. However, homeowners have far more leeway when it comes to choosing and placing secondary mirrors. Just try to capture as much light as possible and remember that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to making a small room look larger.

Plan for Accessibility Upgrades

More Americans than ever are planning to age at home, which often requires making some changes in the bathroom. Most people don’t want to consider the possibility that they or their loved ones may experience mobility issues or outright disabilities, but that’s a mistake that can lead to the need to completely redesign the bathroom again before the current remodel has outlived its usefulness.

The good news is, there’s no need to go installing grab bars and walk-in tubs now if everyone in the family is healthy, young, and mobile. Just plan for potential accessibility upgrades by taking steps like adding blocking behind the drywall that can support grab bars or leaving enough space in the floor plan to accommodate mobility-impaired users in the future. Installing slip-resistant tiles now can also help residents avoid injuries that could hamper their mobility.

Final Thoughts

Creating the perfect bathroom design requires a lot of work. That’s why most homeowners hire specialized remodeling contractors or interior designers to help them figure out their options. However, with the right experience and plenty of background research, those with a more DIY bent can still create fabulous new bathroom designs that take full advantage of available space, withstand the test of time, and create a luxurious, enjoyable experience for everyone who uses them.

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