Bathroom Remodeling Basics – The Essential Checklist

So, you have decided to remodel your bathroom but you aren’t sure where to start? As one of the most used rooms in the home, a bathroom remodel is an important project. The options may seem endless and overwhelming but completing this checklist will guide you along the right path!

1. What type of bathroom are you remodeling or adding? half bath? family/shared bath? master/spa bath? children’s bath?

*Tip: Unlike other types of bathrooms, a half-bath permits the use of materials that would not otherwise be used in bathrooms with showers and tubs due to excessive steam and splashing. For example, some half-bath options include wood, bamboo or cork flooring.

2. How many people will be using the bathroom regularly?

3. Is this a master bath or family/shared bath? Will more than one person be using the bathroom at the same time?

*Tip: If you install dual sinks, a vanity with two sinks provides the most storage but two pedestal or wall-hung sinks will make the room seem larger.

*Tip: If privacy is a consideration but you don’t have the space to add a separate room for the toilet, consider adding a partial dividing wall between the toilet and the tub or sink and installing frosted glass doors. For a less expensive option use an opaque shower curtain.

4. Are there any children? Are any regular users disabled or elderly? Any other special considerations?

*Tip: Even if the answer is no, there is no harm in thinking ahead. Certain features, particularly helpful for the disabled or children, can be useful for everyone- some items to consider: non-slip flooring, handheld shower heads, rocker light switches, rounded edges for towel bars, hooks and countertops.

*Tip: Consider asking your contractor to add plywood reinforcement and bracing between the wall studs so that if necessary in the future, grab bars can be installed easily.

*Tip: If necessary, consult the ADA Standards for Accessible Design for information about standards and clearances for individuals in wheelchairs.

5. What kind of storage will you need? Do you plan to store linens and towels in your bathroom? What about extra toiletries, cleaning supplies and appliances, such as hairdryers? Will you need a medicine cabinet? Will you be keeping a hamper in the bathroom?

*Tip: Large or small, with a combination of cabinets, built-in drawers, adjustable shelves, wall niches, baskets, bins, and hooks, your contractor can help you make the most of your space.

*Tip: Don’t overlook cabinet insert storage systems commonly used in kitchens, such as stainless steel baskets on drawer glides or pull out units that can be used for garbage or as a hamper or even a pull out towel rack.

*Tip: Wall niches recede into the wall and can be used to hold small toiletries or to add a few inches to shelves. If you have a partial wall separating the toilet, consider cutting space for storage out of the wall or installing a medicine cabinet within the wall.

6. What features do you like in your existing bathroom? What features do you dislike in your existing bathroom?

*Tip: Although seemingly an obvious place to start, this is often overlooked. Start paying attention to family and friends’ bathrooms, as well as bathrooms on home remodeling websites or in magazines. Focus on fixtures, floors, and lighting but don’t overlook the general layout- try to imagine performing your morning routine while conducting your bathroom tours!

7. Do you like the layout of your bathroom? Is there enough space between fixtures? Do you like the location of your toilet? shower? sink? How is the traffic flow?

*Tip: When reviewing your existing layout or mapping out a new layout, traffic flow is very important to your ultimate comfort. Do your doors block any access to fixtures or storage space? Is there a logical pathway inside your bathroom that doesn’t require you to retrace your steps throughout your morning ritual?

8. How is the lighting in your existing bathroom? Do you have any windows in the bathroom?

*Tip: If possible, consider installing windows to allow for natural light- possibilities include skylights and glass block windows or high windows, that will let in light but still provide privacy.

*Tip: If windows are not an option, ambient lighting can be used as a substitute. A surface-mounted ceiling light is a common option but also consider cove lighting. For task lighting, if the vanity mirror is not too large, vertical fixtures or sconces mounted on either side of the mirror are best for casting an even light or, for large mirrors, choose a lighting fixture spread over the top of the mirror for even lighting.

*Tip: Dimmer switches should always be used to provide a range of lighting depending on your mood and needs. Your contractor can help to design a lighting plan to include a combination of ambient, task, accent and decorative light sources.

9. Is the floor strong enough for the fixtures that you are considering?

*Tip: Your contractor should be able to assist in this determination and possibly add joists to the subfloor, but before purchasing that antique claw-foot tub or soaking tub, make sure your floor is strong enough to withstand the extra weight. Another note on tubs: standard water heaters may not be sufficient for large tubs; consider purchasing a tankless water heater if you will be installing a large tub.

10. Do you have galvanized or copper water supply pipes? How is the water pressure in your existing bathroom? Do you have any leaking pipes? Have you had many clogs or backups?

*Tip: Be sure to discuss all of these issues with your contractor.

11. Is the heating adequate in your bathroom?

*Tip: Options range from forced air systems, heat lamps, toe-kick heaters, or radiant heat that comes up through the finished floor. Electric radiant-heat maps that are mortared over the sub-floor are inexpensive to install but can be expensive to run if you leave them on all the time.

12. Review the ventilation in your existing bathroom? Is it adequate after a hot shower?

*Tip: Although windows and skylights will help, a fan should also be considered. The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) ( ) is a nonprofit association of the manufacturers of residential ventilating products and provides a certified rating program to test fans. Check the hvi symbol before you purchase a fan.

13. Consider the electrical appliances you will be using in your bathroom? Will you need to add any electrical circuits in your bathroom? What is the amp rating of your electrical service? Is it sufficient for your appliances?

14. Are you considering adding any luxuries to your bathroom? Electronic controls, televisions, speakers?

Once you have answered these questions, sketch a rough draft of a layout. This will help you to narrow down your ideas. Then, the fun begins as you consider your options for flooring, countertops, showers, tubs, toilets, window treatments, lighting and other fixtures!

Mary J. Gibson

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