Bathroom Remodeling: 11 things to know before you begin

The Mrs. clued you in a month or so ago about the completion of the 'Great Bathroom Overhaul'. She was excited and rightfully so. This was our only full bathroom in the house. We were pleased to see that so many others were interested in this overhaul and how exactly we managed to do this. Knowing my task, I pounded out a post and had the Mrs. look it over.

Fail. She had lived through this too and had not a clue as to what my post was about, thus necessitating a rewrite. But as I went to do that, I came up with so many other things I wanted to add - so not to leave anything out.

So to get things started - and buy myself more time on my rewrite - here are 11 things you should know before starting a full bathroom remodeling project like this.

  1. Harbor no delusions - You will not get this done in a weekend. You will not get this done in a week. You will be lucky to get this done in a month. Now maybe you, humble reader, are more skilled, more diligent, better equipped than us. Good for you. Let me assure you, that for the average DIYer(s), this is twice the work you think it is.
  2. This is a '5 hammers out of 5' on the difficulty scale - But fear not, it is also a '5 kisses out of 5' on the reward scale. You will use all of your skills, favors and know-how on this one - and then some. Be prepared to sweat pipe, mud drywall, grout tile, pull wires, plumb fixtures, and set a toilet - and that's just the installation.
  3. This is an instruction-less job - Sure, the sink, the tub/drain/overflow, the tub filler, the shower surround, the grout, the thin set, the flooring, the adhesive, and the toilet all come with instructions. And they are all cryptic, incomplete and/or incorrect in their own byzantine way. The grout, for example, had instructions in illustrations only - no text. The shower fixtures practically came with a novella, showing how to install all 6 different types of fixtures that company offers, and in 3 languages. But which one is ours? "But does the flooring go down first and the tub over the top? Or do you install the tub and then cut the flooring to fit?" There are no instructions for questions like this. (BTW, the tub goes in first)
  4. Know your local Pros - One day, and this day may never come, but you may find yourself worn-out, broken-down, at your wits-end, and cleaning up a small flood in the basement. When you are in over your head, be ready to call a professional. There is no need to struggle with something for days on end when a pro could come in and solve it in an hour for a few bucks. Be sure to budget for some of this.
  5. The right tool for the job - I've wasted enough time struggling to 'make do' with what I already had to know how important the right tools are. A flat bar for demo work is worth every single penny and then some. Putty knives and scrapers - also invaluable. It doesn't take a tool collection like Norm Abrahm's, just the right ones.
  6. This can be expensive - Vanity tops for less than $500? Faucets for less than $300? A lot of this stuff is not cheap, especially at retail. Expect to spend a fair amount of time just hunting down good prices on stuff. You can do this on a budget, but it will require effort.
  7. This is worth it - The time, the sweat, the blood, the tears - the end result made ours all worth it. Looking to add value to your home? This will do it. I'm not sure why, but few things are more impressive in a home than a fancy bathroom.
  8. Cooking, cleaning, and watching the kids is helping - You don't have to be knee deep in dry wall to be considered a part of the project. Especially in a bathroom where there is rarely room for two to work. Keeping the budget in check, finding items for the right price, tracking down products and samples - no small task, and not to be taken for granted.
  9. No off-gassing required - If you have health and environmental concerns, then fear not - so did we. There's lots of ways to go 'green' and not break the bank. Availability can be an issue sometimes.
  10. When in doubt (and you will be), ask - I very nearly installed shut-off valves on the shower that would have reduced the flow by half or more. A quick query of the salesman at Lowes clued me in to the small, but vital info I needed. Don't assume you can make sense of the plumbing isles all by yourself.
  11. No debt required - Don't think this kind of project requires a wallet packed with credit cards and a home equity loan. Complete nonsense. With bit of seed money, some allocation in the budget, and some keen bargain hunting skill, you can totally do this sans debt.
Read. Review. Internalize. There's more to come.

Anything here surprise you?


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