3 Tips for Planning a Bathroom Remodel

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Bathroom Remodel: How to Plan Ahead

I know I do a lot of “3 Tips” posts. I’ll be honest, they’re easy. Easy for me to write, but even easier for you to read. This one isn’t so much a “3 Tips” post as it is a “3 Questions” post. There are three really important questions you should ask yourself before you start a bathroom remodel. I know! I have lived through TWO of my own major bathroom renovations and helped clients through bathroom design challenges and renovations. Right now I am preparing to do a bathroom remodel for the One Room Challenge, so bathrooms have really been on my mind lately. I wanted to take some time to share three questions that I think are important to ask yourself, and your family, before you embark on a bathroom renovation project.

Question 1: What do you want to accomplish?

Besides determining a budget, this is probably the most important question to ask yourself before embarking on a bathroom remodel. This question is all about the “why” of the remodeling project.  Do you want to change the functionality of the space? Create more storage space? Make a larger bathroom? Create a barrier free shower? Or just update the look of the space? There are as many different answers as there are bathrooms and remodelers.

This question is probably more important than the budget question because you have to know the “why” before you can even create a budget. For example, if you want to create a larger bathroom, get rid of a bath tub, create a barrier free shower, AND make a more attractive and updated space, then you will need to plan a much higher budget. However, if you just want to update your look a little, then you might be able to plan a smaller budget.

We updated the look of this bathroom by adding a new vanity, counter top, and backsplash. We kept the original floor tile and shower surround to reduce waste and save money.

Question 2: Does everything need to go?

This is really important. I am a waste not want not kind of gal. A bona fide tree hugger. I really do believe in the reduce, reuse, recycle ethos.  Beyond saving the environment, reduce, reuse, recycle can save you money. So, how can you use these concepts to help mind your bathroom remodel budget?

Bath tubs

Do you have a tub shower combo? Or even a separate tub that has seen better days? You may think the only solution is to remove the tub and replace it with a new one, but it’s not! You can reglaze and old tub and make it look new again. The process is inexpensive, usually under $300, and takes just a few hours. There are some unpleasant fumes associated with the process, so you will want to get any pets or children out of the house for the day, but otherwise it is a safe process. Your tub will be out of commission about 24-48 hours total.

Let’s compare that to replacing a tub. To replace a tub you will need pay for someone, probably  plumber or other contractor, for a few hours of work, let’s say a minimum of  $300. You need to dispose of the tub, which likely means it will go to a landfill, and you will need to replace it with a new tub. Depending on where you live you will probably have to pay for the disposal of the tub. You will also need a new tub, which at first glance may seem relatively inexpensive, but when you add all the nickel-and-dime costs above you’re coming close to $1000 for a fairly basic tub. Plus you’re adding more garbage in your local landfill.


I’m talking about all types of tile here – shower surround, backsplash, floor – all tile IS difficult and costly to remove. A flooring contractor will charge $2-3 a square foot to remove floor tile, which may not amount to much in a small bathroom, but adds up in a larger space. You can DIY tile removal, and while I would personally categorize wall-tile removal as “fun”, most people would not. Floor tile removal, on the other hand, is NEVER fun, it’s always a pain!

Then, there’s the waste and costs associated with disposing of the old tile and replacing it with the new tile.  The cost of new tile can range from a couple of dollars per square foot and upward to over $100/square foot. Cost is dependent on many factors including material (what the tile is made of), popularity and fashionability, and manufacturer. The more popular and fashion-oriented the tile the higher the price will be.  Floor tile is typically less expensive to install than backsplash and shower surround tile, but all three applications depend on the type of tile being used. Thinner tiles, tiles in specialty shapes, tiles made from exotic materials, and complicated patterns will cost more per square foot to install.

With all that being said, if you can work existing tile into your plan, do it! Tile, particularly floor tile, is meant to last forever! Like bath tubs, shower tile can be re-glazed and given new life. This can be a time and money saver for bathrooms covered in odd colors like the types of tiles found in mid-century homes.  The downside to glazing is that it can really only be done in white, but you can re-glaze a 50 square foot bathroom for around $500.


What condition is the vanity in? Is it high quality cabinetry? Does it provide adequate storage? If it’s in good condition, the quality is good, and you have the storage you need, think about keeping it. High quality cabinets are meant to last for decades.  Adding a new counter top and a beautiful backsplash can really change the look of your bathroom without changing your cabinetry.

This vanity provided the owners with more storage space and was a better quality than the 1970’s particle board and laminate vanity that was in the bathroom before.

Question 3: How long do you plan to use the space?

The answer to this question will have a huge impact on your budget planning. Are you planning on staying in your home beyond retirement age? Or are you getting your home ready to sell in a year or less? If you’re planning on living in your home for another 20+ years, then a renovation can be viewed as an investment and you should plan for longevity. You will want to select materials that have a classic look, that are high quality, and that will withstand the test of time. If you are planning on selling your home in the next year or so, you won’t want to spend tens of thousands on a bathroom remodel. You will want to make small, inexpensive cosmetic changes that will get you a lot of bang for your buck.

This is the before and after of a bathroom designed for a couple wanting a barrier free shower. The job was a complete gut, but they are planning to live in their home for at least 20 years.

Do you think these questions will help you plan your next project? Ready to start planning your bathroom and want help from a professional? Set up your complimentary Design Style consultation and we’ll help you get your questions answered!


12 thoughts on “3 Tips for Planning a Bathroom Remodel”

  1. Darla Powell says:

    All great questions. Having done some DIY remodeling, I will NEVER remove my own tile again. That’s for the tile birds for sure.

    1. julielampe says:

      We’ve removed floor tile twice, wall tile twice. I’m not sure if I’d rather pay someone the money to do it or do it myself. It would be painful either way. The wall tile was MUCH easier than the floor tile. Thank goodness those days are behind me for a while.

  2. Wendy says:

    Great tips! There’s so much to think about. It can be overwhelming.

    1. julielampe says:

      yes it can and most kitchen and bath places won’t ask these questions.

  3. Good questions for ANY remodel project! Nice post, Julie!

    1. julielampe says:

      Very true! Thank you!

  4. Chanda says:

    You’ve included some really great information, especially budget factors!

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you Chanda! This week I’ll be posting on budget! Then, next week starts the One Room Challenge!

  5. An amazing article. It is very informative post. It’s nice to read a quality blog post. I really appreciate sharing this great post. I want to thank you for this informative post.

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. Having a little extra for the budget in bathroom remodeling because there can be unexpected problems that can affect the cost of the project. My husband and I are interested to remodel our bathroom to give it a newer look. We’ve been talking about the factors that we should consider in setting a budget for it since we want everything planned accordingly. With that being said, I’ll make sure to consider having a little extra for the budget. Thanks!

    1. julielampe says:

      Glad you liked the post! It’s always great to have discretionary funds built into the budget. If you don’t need them, you can splurge a little on the finishes!

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