The 15-point checklist before starting a bathroom renovation

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The 15 Point Checklist Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation
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Many people assume that a small bathroom will be much faster to renovate than a large one like this. That's not necessarily true.

A bathroom renovation is an exciting task. But before jumping to choosing the latest tile or bathtub design, there are some less exciting things to consider so your project turns out just the way you dream it. Because renovating a bathroom can be overwhelming, time-consuming and costly, we prepared a simple 15-point checklist to make sure that your project stays on track and the renovation runs smoothly.

1. Budget
If you don't know already, you should work up an idea of how much you want to spend on your bathroom renovation. Setting a budget will help guide you as you make decisions about what to include in the remodel. Once you've figured out what you can spend and subtracted the amount allocated to labor, you'll have a clearer sense of what you can spend on tile, fixtures and extras.

2. Time
Many people assume that if they are remodeling a small bathroom, it will take only a few days, or anyway it will take much less time than a larger one. This is not necessarily the case. Depending on how many items you are changing in the bathroom, your contractor will have to go through all the same steps as a larger bathroom. You'll also need to define not only the duration of the renovation work, but also certain intermediate steps such as ordering and purchasing tiles, fixtures, custom-built vanity or cabinets to make sure they can be delivered when your contractor needs them. And planning time is crucial for those with only one bathroom, as they will have to make arrangements for where to take a shower and use the toilet while the bathroom is taken apart.

3. Work sequence
By completing the job in a specific sequence, you can save yourself a lot of cleanup time and mistakes. Whether you are demolishing sheetrock or simply repainting, you always want to start at the top of the room. Remodel your ceiling first, walls second and floors third so you can prevent damage to your new components.

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4. Hidden problems
If you are doing a major upgrade to your bathroom, consider a "full gut." When done by a professional with expertise, you end up with a zero-problem bathroom that will function flawlessly and add tremendous value to your home for many years. Depending on the age of your home and how well it was built, the biggest hidden problem you may encounter is water damage, so look for structural deficiencies in the floor framing, improperly vented plumbing, old corroded plumbing, nonwaterproof tile shower/tub surrounds, etc.

5. Design style and functionality
There are many factors to consider, like paint color, tile choices, vanities, showers, tubs, faucets, etc. It can get overwhelming very quickly, so start with some research. Then you can piece together elements you like into what will become the final design of the bathroom. Alternatively, you may choose a design item you want to feature in the bathroom and then work the rest of the bathroom design around it.

Design should work hand in hand with functionality, so consider who will use the bathroom and how, consider an eventual resale of the house and also take a moment to think how the bathroom design will fit in with the rest of the house.

6. Measurements
There are three major limitations that really make size matter in bathroom renovation: the overall size of the bathroom (usually the smallest room in the house), the location of existing plumbing pipes and electrical wiring, and the standard dimensions of bathroom fixtures. Make sure you have absolutely accurate measurements and specifications when you go to the store. Otherwise you'll end up purchasing stuff that doesn't fit.

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7. Contractor
Hiring a contractor for a conceivably DIY job? Well, yes, that is a smart thing to do given the complexity of the job and difficult operations involved (electrical, tiling, plumbing, etc.). Do not overlook the advantages of hiring a contractor and save yourself a load of misery and time.

8. Plumbing fixtures and features
No renovation is complete without remodeling or repairing fixtures and features, which could very well make a separate checklist themselves: shower, bathtub, toilet, bidet, sink, faucets and shower heads. You should also update or repair your mirrors and shower doors. You can also change the look of your bathroom very easily by changing out door handles, drawer pulls, and the hardware for your shower doors. If you have the budget, a new set of shower doors can completely change the look of your room.

9. Cabinets, storage and shelving
Planning cabinets, shelving and storing solutions is a tricky problem in most cases. In small, irregularly shaped rooms like the bathroom, it is even more so. They need to be functional and accommodate all your stuff while keeping everything easily reachable, they must fit into the available space and make the most of it -- and on top of it all, they need to look stylish.

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10. Walls and flooring
Virtually any material can be used to surface walls and floors in the bathroom as long as it's waterproof, either naturally or by means of an impervious finish. Depending on your budget and style, tiles of ceramic, marble or granite make handsome and highly durable flooring and wall surfaces for baths. For flooring, additional options may include cement (painted or stained), sheet vinyl, or vinyl tiles (which are inexpensive and look better than they used to). Whatever your choice, always mind other important criteria for your bathroom flooring too: durability and slip-resistance.

11. Lighting
A bathroom can be impractical or downright dangerous without adequate lighting, so plan for lighting that is functional and also creates atmosphere. Plan for maximizing natural light first. For artificial light, you should have least 4 watts of incandescent lighting per square foot.

12. Accessories
Although apparently insignificant in the bigger picture of the overall project, no remodel is complete without new accessories. And surprisingly enough, the small items like new towels, wash clothes, soap dishes, mirrors, towel racks, bath mats do add up on the final bill. If you are on a budget, new hand towels will be better than nothing.

13. Ventilation
Ventilation is crucial in a wet room like the bathroom. It is also a tricky task that needs good planning. Choose the right fan in the right position, with the appropriate electrical wiring. Poor ventilation can leave your bathroom damp and moldy and can even harm your health. A well-ventilated bathroom, however, isn't just a healthy bathroom. Continual airflow can also prevent both the decay of any wooden trim or fixtures and the saturation of building insulation.

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14. Going green
Even if you personally don't care about going green, the market is trending toward this, so it's something to consider. And there are many budget-friendly options for adding an environmental touch to your bathroom: a low-flow toilet that uses less water and saves you money in water bills; low-VOC or no-VOC paints; vanities made from sustainably harvested wood; recycled glass tile countertops; etc.

15. Final clean
The final clean should include a thorough cleaning of all cabinetry, inside and out, ductwork, walls, floor, windows, and light fixtures. Although often overlooked in the planning phase, in the case of a major renovation you may want to consider contracting a cleaning service, which means additional costs that affect your budget. If you feel up to doing it yourself, you may need to add a day or two to your initial timing.

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