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Renovating a bathroom can be overwhelming. You have to decide how much you can spend, select the right products, and determine if you're going to change the layout.
And that's often before you call a contractor.
To ensure that your bathroom renovation runs smoothly, here's a checklist to keep your project on track. Remember: A successful renovation is all about smart timing.
6 MONTHS OUT
Get inspired. To figure out what you want your new bathroom to look like, tear pages out of magazines and catalogs, and make a scrapbook or inspiration board. Designer Holly Rickert tells clients to use Post-Its to note why they like each bathroom. Later, she recommends flipping through the photos to find commonalities, and select similar tiles and fixtures.
Ask around for contractor recommendations. While it's not necessary to talk to a contractor yet, it's a good time to start poking around for recommendations from local hardware stores, friends, and professional business associations. Then, when you're ready to make the call, you'll have a ready list of names.
Start sketching. It's essential to consider layout early on. Spend time thinking about what works about your bathroom's layout—and what doesn't. Consider storage needs: Could a closet be turned into a custom cabinet offering lots of stash spots?
Lastly, would you like to move the toilet, sink, or bathtub, and if so, what is feasible plumbing-wise? Are you going to expand the size of the bathroom or simply improve its aesthetic?
Keep in mind that the most expensive thing to move in a bathroom is the toilet. Also, if you plan to install multiple body sprays in the shower, it's likely that your bathroom will require more rough plumbing work, so the cost will be higher.
3 MONTHS OUT
Finalize your budget. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association , the average person will spend about $11,000 renovating a bathroom. Once you've figured out what you can spend, you should count on spending about two-thirds of your budget on labor. Then you'll have a clearer sense of what you can spend on tile, fixtures, and extras, like a glass shower door.
If the remaining amount seems low, don't fret: Thanks to a wide range of tile and fittings options, you can often replicate a high-end luxury look for less. For example, a tile that costs $10 per square foot can substitute for $100-per-square foot tile.
Hire a contractor. With a few months to go before demolition, it's a good time to bring in a licensed contractor. Ask a few to look at your drawings and make sure your plan—adding two shower heads, installing a Jacuzzi tub, etc.—is possible. (See Elle Decor's interview with a New York contractor who gives his opinion on the latest options.)
Review estimates, check references thoroughly, and sign contracts. At this point, the contractor should commit to a start date, create a timeline of when he needs materials, and estimate when the project will be complete. Most bathroom renovations take about six weeks from start to finish. Don't let any work begin without a signed contract.
Be sure to talk up front about the pay schedule: Often, you'll pay a third up front, a third at the halfway point, and a third when the project is complete to your satisfaction.
Find out exactly how many days you'll be without a shower, especially if you're renovating your home's only full bath. Make alternate plans in advance.
2 MONTHS OUT
Purchase tile and fixtures. While some tile orders can be fulfilled in two to three days, handmade or hand-painted tiles could take 12 weeks. Play it safe and make sure your tile orders are placed at least eight weeks before your demo date.
Fixtures should also be purchased early. Even big-name manufacturers can take three to four weeks to deliver products. High-end products often take as long as six to eight weeks to arrive.
If you're ordering custom-built vanity or cabinets, check with the manufacturer to make sure that they'll be there when the contractor needs them. Light fixtures can also take several weeks to arrive, so give yourself plenty of leeway when ordering.
1 MONTH OUT
Prep for contractor's arrival. Clear out medicine cabinets and bathroom closets, and set up a temporary grooming space where you can get ready out of sight of contractors.
Shop for accessories. With most of the hard planning over, have fun shopping for towel bars, towel hooks, a toilet paper holder, and the perfect soap dish. If you have a new color scheme, pick out your new shower curtain or towels.
Select a paint color. Once the tile is up and the flooring is down, you'll be able to get a sense of what color to paint the walls. It's difficult to pick anything before that.
Check in with your contractor often. Every day, when the contractor arrives, ask what will be done that day and mention any project hiccups and concerns you might have. Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure he knows where to store materials and how to get into the house if you're not there. Keep pets and children away from the work site.
Be flexible. If a project runs a few days over, try not to get frustrated. If that's the biggest problem you've had, you got off easy.
Inspect the contractor's work. Chances are you'll do this every day, but if anything seems amiss, try to address it before the job is completed.
Celebrate. Throw down your new bath mats, unpack your toiletries, and sip a glass of Champagne.