The Essential Bathroom Renovation Checklist

Bathroom renovation

Starting off your bathroom renovation on the right foot helps to avoid costly mistakes, rush decisions and scheduling delays. Read through this handy checklist and find out how to plan your bathroom remodeling project.

1 - Make a Budget

Begin in the best place by having a look at what you can afford and what your dream bathroom will likely cost. Preliminary budgets help to identify gaps between reality and imagination, but they also serve to hammer out priorities and allow your family to decide exactly what type of bathroom renovation is required.

Use a simple spreadsheet to record your estimated budget, including costs for materials, labor and all of the incidentals that come along with home improvement projects. Cross things off the list when your costs go above the projected spending limit and feel free to add items and features where possible.

2 - Get Ready for the Disturbance

Think about how long this project will take. Do you have another bathroom to use during that time period? Can you handle having contractors in and out of your home over the course of a week or more?

The time required depends on the scope of work and the competence of your contractor (or you, in case you are undertaking the renovation yourself). Demolition and construction projects obviously take longer than simple redecorating tasks, and a small powder room can be renovated in a fraction of the time it takes to rebuild a large three-piece bath. Consider the length of time required for your renovation and plan your life accordingly.

3 - Assess the Condition of Your Bathroom

As noted above, you may need to upgrade electrical or plumbing elements during your bathroom remodel in order to meet current building codes. Assess the condition of your bathroom by examining the wiring and plumbing. Are you using older style switches and non-GFCI outlets? Can you find PVC pipes, connectors and valves? Upgrade now to meet code and provide better durability.

Inspect the room for mold and mildew growth as well. Any drywall, window or door framing, furniture and built-in pieces with visible mold or mildew need to be completely removed. Framing, flooring and ceiling tiles may also have mold growth. A quick inspection now allows you to anticipate potential problems, but be aware that many issues hide behind the existing walls, flooring and ceiling.

4 - Focus on Function

Consider function as your highest priority during the design phase. Will this new bathroom be used by the entire family, guests or just a few members? Will it also be used as a dressing room or for other functions (such as laundry, etc.)? Think about who will use the room and what they will use it for, and then design for those functions.

Beauty and appearance are important, but function trumps everything. A poorly designed bathroom can look as good as a well designed space, but it lacks value and detracts from your quality of daily living.

5 - Measure and Record

Take some preliminary measurements of your space and record them in a handy location. Room dimensions, including the length and width of the room, ceiling height and window locations, help to provide measurements for drywall, framing, and flooring.

Remember to record the measurements for existing tub and showers, as well as the vanity size and length of lighting strips or fixtures. These figures help to assess costs accurately and allow you to choose plumbing fixtures and features that work for the space.

6 - Research Ideas and Products

The web provides plenty of information about the bathroom design and the products you may need for bathroom renovation. The project photos in our bathroom remodeling section can give you plenty of design ideas.

After you've selected a particular design, research different manufacturers for your bathtub, shower, plumbing fixtures and vanity. Have a look at the various styles and trends available. Today's market offers everything from classic forms to modern shapes, but quality, warranty, price and availability are sure to influence your decision.

Clip pictures, start an online scrapbook on Pinterest or simply bookmark various images during the brainstorm stage. Use your budget and the measurements collected earlier to narrow down choices. Remember to inquire about availability, as a long lead time could affect your scheduling.

7 - Read About Building Codes

Find out the basics on your local building codes, including what type of plumbing is needed. In Canada, you should follow the building codes for your specific province in addition to the National Building Codes. You may need to ensure your bathroom has a certain style of lighting or electrical work, and window sizing and location may be dictated by fire code.

Many homeowners wait to discuss these details with their contractor, but it helps to have a rough idea during the planning stage. Be informed and you can expect fewer surprises later on.

8 - Let there be Light

Lighting plays a pivotal role in bathroom design, and a bathroom remodel provides the ideal time to replace or upgrade your existing lighting. Research the available styles on the market and consider what type of lighting you need. Keep in mind the natural light and consider enlarging or adding windows to maximize the power of the sun.

Functional lighting illuminates a space with the proper amount of light. Go back to the function of this room and choose lights that work. Think about using features like dimmer switches to enhance function and be sure to install lighting fixtures designed for use in a bathroom.

9 - Ventilation is Critical

While the look and feel of your bathroom are vital to the value of this renovation, small details like proper ventilation cannot be overlooked. Have you included an exhaust fan in your design? Do you need to upgrade or move the existing exhaust fan?

For safety and performance, all bathroom ventilation should be vented directly to the outdoors, not into an attic or dead space in the house. Be sure your new bathroom has optimum air quality by including proper ventilation, based on the size and location of the room.

10 - Consider the Environment

Home improvement projects involve many different building materials. Your bathroom will add value to your home and the planet when you opt for eco-friendly products and construction methods. Even choosing something small like CFL light bulbs makes a difference over time.

Find out about environmentally friendly products for the floor, furniture, and finishings. Look for those made from renewable resources (such as bamboo) or from recycled products (such as glass counters or sinks). Talk to retailers about the various benefits involved in using these products and consider the overall value of your space.


Tackling a bathroom renovation can be hard work. Use this checklist to get a handle on planning, from the budget to scheduling, measurements, product research and building code. This bathroom renovation checklist guides you through the initial process, so you won't have a problem later on.

Got questions? Read our Bathroom Remodeling FAQs or post your question to our forum and get answers directly from pros.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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