March 13, 2022

How To Plan a Bathroom Renovation

Bathroom renovations can increase a home’s value by as much as 64% of the project’s cost. While the end result is worth it, remodeling can be a huge undertaking. It’s important to know how to plan a bathroom renovation and to consider every detail of your project. 

From scope to budget and timelines, there are several things to consider when planning a bathroom renovation. Here's how to get started.

Outline the Details of Your Remodel

One of the first steps to planning a bathroom remodel is to determine the project's scope. Is it a refresh, or will this be a major remodel? Outlining the details will help you establish a budget and determine your next steps.


With a refresh, you’re updating the look of your bathroom, but you aren’t doing any major demolition work or changing the layout of the space.

If you’re happy with the layout of your bathroom, an update may be all that’s needed. Focus on materials and aesthetics to refresh your space.

A bathroom update may include:


A fresh coat of paint can transform the entire look and feel of a bathroom. For a more modern look, consider some of the following colors:

  • Taupe
  • Light gray
  • Charcoal
  • Pale blue
  • Light green
  • Cream
  • Beige

When choosing a color, think about how you will use your space. For example, do you want to create a relaxing spa-like experience? Or do you find yourself rushing through your mornings to get out the door? Your use of the space will play a role in the colors you choose, so consider the mood you want to set.

Wainscoting or Beadboard

Wainscoting and beadboard are both popular options for bathroom updates. Along with helping protect the walls, these wood panels add interest and texture to the space. Both are designed to cover the bottom third of the wall and come in a variety of styles.

Updating Faucets and Showerheads

Another simple way to refresh your space is to update your bathroom’s faucets and showerheads. Again, both are relatively simple, inexpensive jobs that homeowners can do themselves. 

Brushed stainless steel, brass, copper and gold are all popular options for modern bathrooms. Matching fixtures will tie the room together. Dark-colored fixtures can add some nice contrast to a light bathroom.

Compare your styles and options online or at your local home improvement store.

Installing Bidets

Bidets are a quick and simple upgrade that can add new function and comfort to your space. Many DIY options are available that don’t require the installation of a new fixture. However, you may need to install a new toilet seat. 

Lighting Fixtures

If you’re updating your faucets and showerhead, it’s a good idea to consider updating your lighting fixtures as well. Choose a color and style that matches the other elements in your space. Make sure that your new fixtures can easily be swapped in. Otherwise, you may need to have an electrician come in to install your new lights.

These are just a few of the many things you may want to update in your bathroom. Create a list of what you want to accomplish with your refresh. Cover as many details as possible to avoid budget surprises or last-minute planning.

Minor or Major Remodel

If you want to change the layout of the bathroom or expand your space, a minor or major remodel is in order.

Layout/Floor Plan Changes

Changes to your bathroom’s layout or floor plan will typically require major renovations. For example, if you want to move the toilet from one area of the room to another, pipes may need to be added or removed. 

Major renovations such as these will add time and expense to your renovation, so keep this in mind.

If you decide to change the layout or floor plan, think beyond your current space. Do you want to add a dressing area or more cabinetry? You may be able to tap into closet space to bring your vision to life. 

Because layout and floor plan changes can be a lot of work, it’s crucial to write down every detail of your vision. Doing so will help you better plan out your budget and ensure you don’t leave anything important out.

Storage Space

Do you want to add storage space? If you’re changing the room's layout, consider your storage needs, too. It’s much easier to incorporate this into your design plans now than to try and find space to squeeze in more storage later on.

Consider placements of cabinetry and closets and ensure they’re adequate enough to meet your storage needs. 

Shower and Bathtub

Do your renovation plans include a new shower and/or bathtub? Maybe you want to install a new standup shower and a separate soaking or jacuzzi tub. 

Standup showers are more elegant and, in many cases, much easier to get in and out of. If you have a family member with mobility issues who lives with you or visits often, the ease of a standup shower is something to consider. 

Grab bars and lower steps are other options to consider if accessibility is a concern. 

Weigh your options carefully. Consider how you want to use your space. For a relaxing, spa-like experience, you may wish for that separate soaking tub. If that’s not in the budget or you don’t have enough space, a shower bench may be another option that allows you to relax.

If your plans include a bathtub, you’ll find that you have just as many options here as you do with showers. 

  • Do you want a freestanding tub, corner tub, or a shower/tub combo?
  • Do you want your tub to have a whirlpool function?
  • Do you want to install lighting and speakers to create a more relaxing experience?

Knowing what you want will help you better plan out your space. For example, if you want to add ambient lighting and wired speakers near the tub, you’ll need to ensure you have enough wall space. Do you want to look out the window while you relax? If so, you may need to install a window or if you have one already, you may need to move your tub to that wall. 

Materials are another consideration. Certain types of stone, like marble, may need additional reinforcement, which will complicate the project and add to the overall cost. 

Showers and tubs are big investments, so make sure that you’re getting exactly what you want. Take the time to plan out all of your details and ideas so you know what you’re up against.


Installing a new toilet may seem like a simple task, but you have lots of options here, too. 

  • Low or tall heights
  • Rounded or elongated bowls
  • Single or two-piece
  • Dual-flushing or regular
  • Modern or traditional
  • Wall-hung or freestanding

Before you get swept up in the details, decide where you want your toilet to sit. Form here, you can determine how much space you have and find an option that meets your budget and desires. 


Like showers and toilets, you have many options when installing new sinks. Consider your style preferences and the type of sink you want to install. Both will greatly influence the cost and extent of this upgrade. 

  • Will your new sink add or take away from your cabinet storage? 
  • Will you need to add or remove plumbing?

For example, pedestals and wall-mounted sinks open up more space, but they offer very little workspace and no storage. If you prefer either of these styles, you may need to incorporate additional storage elsewhere.

When choosing a sink, make sure that you consider your faucet options as well. The color and style should match your sink and other bathroom fixtures.

Countertops and Cabinets

Will your project include new cabinets and countertops? If so, there are several things that you’ll need to consider, including:

  • Location
  • Material 
  • Size
  • Style

Do you want built-in cabinets, or freestanding? Built-in cabinets come at a higher cost, but they are typically combined with countertops. Freestanding is a simpler solution but is better suited for smaller spaces. 

Countertop materials will likely be your biggest concern because they will have a major impact on your budget.

Granite and marble are popular choices for bathroom countertops because they’re naturally beautiful, durable and relatively easy to maintain. However, they come at a higher cost compared to tile or other materials. Granite will also require occasional sealing, so that’s something to keep in mind. 


If you’re planning a complete overhaul, you’ll likely be installing new flooring. Like cabinetry, this can be a costly area of a bathroom remodel, so make your choices wisely and make sure it’s what you truly love.

Tile and stone are the most common options for bathroom flooring, but you can also install vinyl, linoleum, wood, or even concrete. 

Vinyl, linoleum and glazed tile are easy to clean and maintain. However, some types of stone and wood will need to be sealed regularly to prevent staining or warping. In addition, floor coverings with textured, non-slip surfaces can help create a safer bathroom for children and/or users with mobility issues.

When planning your new flooring, consider other options like radiant heating. Because you’re limiting this feature to just one room, it may be more affordable than you think. Having little luxuries like this can make your bathroom more enjoyable to use.

Vents and Fans

If you’re changing the layout of your bathroom and adding or changing the positioning of your fixtures, you’ll need to consider ventilation and fans. Ideally, you want to install fans that vent to the outdoors rather than the attic. If you have the budget and space, consider installing an operable window for quick and easy removal of moisture. 

New Pipes

Moving the locations of toilets, sinks, showers and other fixtures will likely require you to install new pipes. Depending on the extent of your renovation, this can be a major and costly undertaking. It’s also one that requires professional help. 

When planning your renovation, consider how your choices will affect your current plumbing layout and whether it’s a feasible option for you.

Establish a Budget

Once you have the details of your renovation fleshed out, it’s time to establish a budget. 

Some people prefer to create a budget first and work within that budget's confines. You can go that route, but if you’re investing in a major renovation, it may be better to outline everything you want, figure out how much it will cost, and save up additional funds if necessary.

It’s worth the wait to save up for the renovation of your dreams than to settle for less than what you want (within reason, of course).

According to Lowe’s, bathroom renovations average:

  • $200-$5,000 for a refresh
  • $5,000-$15,000 for a minor renovation
  • $15,000+ for a major renovation

The cost of your renovation will depend entirely on your individual plans, but these estimates will give you a general idea of what you’re up against.

If you want a more accurate estimate, consider having a few contractors come out to look at your plans. Even if you decide to do the work yourself, you’ll have an idea of how much it will cost. 

Additionally, you can price individual materials and come up with your own estimate. Keep in mind that this will only include the cost of materials. It will not factor in labor and other costs that can quickly add up.

Consider how you’ll fund your renovation. Are you going to pay for this yourself, or take out a home equity loan? If you’re planning to take out a loan, consider how much you can afford to spend on monthly payments and how much equity you have in your home.

DIY or Contractor? Which Should You Choose?

Once you have the details hashed out and a budget in mind, consider whether you’ll need a contractor. Most homeowners can handle a refresh or minor renovation. However, if you have big plans for renovating your bathroom, it’s best to leave the work to the pros.

It’s easy to install a new toilet or sink. Installing a new shower or knocking down walls is something that may be out of your area of expertise.

If you go the contractor route, make sure they are:

  • Properly licensed and insured
  • Well-rated by customers
  • Willing to provide references 

Generally, the bigger the project, the more likely you’ll need a contractor. 

What to Expect

Whether you’re going the DIY route or hiring a professional, here are some things that may be encountered during your renovation.

  • You May Need Permits: If your plans include plumbing or electrical work, you will likely need to obtain a permit. 
  • There May Be Surprises Hidden in Your Walls: If you live in an older home, you may find some hidden surprises behind your walls if you’re doing renovation work. Do your best to plan for these or expect them. For example, you may find mold or mildew when you remove your shower. You may find that you need to replace your pipes, etc.
  • Remodeling Can Be Loud and Messy: Consider whether it would be best to stay somewhere else while renovations are taking place. 
  • It Will Take Time – Plan Ahead: If you’re expecting guests or want to be finished with your renovations by a certain date, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time. Bathroom renovations take time, especially if it’s a big project or you encounter unexpected roadblocks.

Planning a bathroom renovation will take time and patience. However, covering as many details as possible will make the entire process easier and less stressful.

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An interior design professional with a Master's degree in Architecture and 14 years of practical experience.
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