We remodeled our master bathroom in mid-2019. My hubby is great at painting and many other DIY jobs, but we decided early on that we needed to hire a professional remodeling company because neither of us had the time nor the expertise to remodel the entire bathroom ourselves. This 10-Step ‘how-to’ guide is based on our experience, and what we did to make the whole process more transparent and stress-free! Below, I've included detailed photos, plans, and drawings that show our master bath transformation, and the information that I shared with three prospective remodeling companies.
Many remodeling firms have their own step-by-step process for helping clients to choose the elements for their remodel. However, you are more likely to get the 'dream bathroom' that perfectly suits your needs if you can figure out what you really want ahead of time!
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Below on the left, you can see our old bathroom layout with a 'his and hers' vanity (on each side of a set of double doors), and the shower and bath tub opposite. The photo on the right shows the exact same space after the remodel. The shelves on the right were custom-built by the remodeling company that we hired. Our new shower enclosure stretches behind the shelves, and that was a perfect spot for our new shower seat and niche. There are additional photos of the shower enclosure, as well as more detailed photos of the rest of the bathroom later in this post. See the 'Product Details and Sources' section for a complete list of products used in our remodel.
Step 1. Make a List of Likes and Dislikes of Existing Bathroom
If you like your current layout but just want to update the tile and lighting, then you probably don’t need a major remodel. However, if you want a new layout, or to update existing fixtures and fittings that involve electrical or plumbing changes, then you may need to hire a professional team to help you. In that case, noting down the things that you’d like to change about your existing bathroom is a good starting point. You can see my list of desired changes in the table below, referencing the 'before' photo above (on the left). Then you can see the transformation in the photo on the right.
Enclosure is too small (elbow room only). Would prefer a larger shower with a seat and a niche for toiletries. Need a new layout.
Bath tub is too large and takes up a lot of space. Awkward to clean. Tub filler is fine, but prefer a tub filler with a hand-held shower attachment.
His and Hers Vanities
His and hers vanities on either side of the door and the floor-to-ceiling closets next to each vanity are fine but take up a lot of space. Need a double vanity with adequate storage space, and new shelving for towels etc.
Lighting and Ventilation
Need to update ceiling and vanity lights and install a more powerful extractor fan. A towel warmer would be nice!
Toilet enclosure and location are fine. Floor tile and wall color to be updated.
Floor, Shower, and Wall Tiles
All tile needs to be updated
Need new, more modern mirrors
Step 2. Research Bathroom Styles and Costs
Although our remodeled bathroom is quite contemporary in style, it has some spa-like elements (such as wood shelving) that make the space appear warmer and more inviting. Taking the wall tiles all the way to the ceiling was a key decision in determining the style of this bathroom. Floor-to-ceiling tiles create an optical illusion of space, and are an excellent way to make the same room feel much more spacious!
To get an idea of the bathroom styles that you prefer, I would highly recommend visiting a few tile showrooms and looking at master bath photos on different websites and magazines. I spent a chunk of time looking at photos on Houzz.com. The Houzz website allows you to save the photos you like in an 'Ideabook'. This is really useful when trying to narrow down your choices of bath styles, tile and wall colors, and fixtures and fittings.
This is also a good time to research the cost of bath tubs, vanities, faucets, and other items that you want to update. Start with Homedepot.com or Lowes.com to get an idea of each item, and save the information in a project folder.
Step 3. Measure Existing Space and Set a Budget
Measure your existing bathroom floors and walls, and draw an outline of your space, including windows and doors, on graph paper. This will help you to work out the exact square footage of your bathroom. At this point, if you are thinking of hiring a remodeling firm to do the work, you need to have a good idea of how much the labor will cost per square foot. There are a number of useful, fairly accurate, and up-to-date sources such as Forbes and homeguide that provide this type of information. Setting a budget will help you to decide how to apportion your overall budget between labor costs and the items you want to update.
4. Choose Vanity, Bath Tub, and Other Fixtures and Fittings
Research bathroom fixtures and fittings in the style and colors that you like. Start by looking at products that are widely available, and read reviews carefully. I must have read hundreds of reviews of different products on various websites. This 'research' prepared me for some of the issues that one may encounter, depending on the product, and brand. At this stage, try to narrow down your choices, but don't purchase anything just yet! You will need to make sure that the company you hire can install the specific fixtures that you have in mind, and that you have enough space in your layout to install them (see step 5).
Some remodeling companies use custom cabinet suppliers to provide vanity cabinets, and stone/granite suppliers to supply the vanity top. Having researched a number of different websites for vanities, I decided that a fully-assembled double vanity (see photo below) with a marble top and under-mount sinks would not only cost a lot less, but it would also meet most of our space and storage requirements. I chose a vanity with legs because these have a little more storage room than the 'floating' variety. The 'floating' variety is better if you want more flexibility in the height of your vanity.
Product Sources: ARI Danny 72" Double Vanity | Mirrors (24" x 40") | Sink Faucets | Vanity Lights (above mirrors) | Sconce Light (between mirrors) | Gold Metal Tray | Towel Bar (on wall and vanity) | Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Classic Gray (OC-23)
Bath Tub and Tub Filler
As with vanities, there are a lot of choices in bath tubs and tub fillers. I wanted our new bath tub to be a little smaller than the original one, both in length and width. I also wanted a freestanding tub and a separate standalone tub filler with a shower attachment. The main reason for this choice is the amazing amount of visual space that you gain with a freestanding tub. When installed professionally, a freestanding tub is not only beautiful, but also space-saving, easy to get in and out of, and extremely easy to clean around.
Depending on your layout, you may need to have sliding shower doors, rather than the hinged variety. Hinged doors take up more space, but are still an option if you have the room. Personally, I like frameless sliding shower doors for ease of cleaning, and because they look great! Our remodeling firm already had a sub-contractor for this part of the project, and they did a fabulous job. All we had to do was to decide the height of the doors, the type of glass, and the style of the door handle. We chose crystal clear glass (which is slightly more expensive than regular glass), and a height of 80" (to avoid issues with spray from the rain shower).
5. Prepare a Detailed Plan on Paper
By this stage, you should have a good idea of what you’d like your new bathroom to look like. Plan your new bathroom on graph paper and (if possible) make a perspective drawing of your new bathroom from different angles. The detailed layout on graph paper and perspective drawings will help enormously when you proceed to the next step! My detailed plan included exact measurements for the new bath tub, the vanity, and the shower enclosure. It even showed the gap (in inches) between the bath tub, the surrounding walls, and shower door. Below, you can see the original layout as well as my new 'dream bath' layout.
The drawing below is one of several drawings that I prepared for the prospective remodeling firms. The photo that follows the drawing below is how the master bath turned out after the remodel. Pretty close to my drawing, wouldn't you agree?
6. Choose Floor, Shower, and Wall Tiles
Narrow down your tile choices by visiting a tile showroom. Most tile distributors have a showroom with their complete range. They also have experienced designers who will help you to make great selections that are within your budget. Show them your photos, concepts, and mood boards, and be open to their suggestions. They know a lot more about tile and design than you do! In our bathroom, I wanted our wall tile to be a 'wow' factor, and to look stunning, even from a distance. The designer I worked with helped me to choose beautiful tile that not only fit my visual criteria, but was also practical and within my budget! She made a number of suggestions that elevated the entire design to a much more professional level.
Tile pattern is another important factor in the overall look and feel of your space. Again, looking at photos on different sites will help. You can find some very useful information on tile patterns at The Tile Shop. One visual trick to expand your space is to lay your floor tile in a diamond pattern. That is exactly what we did in our remodel!
Our shower niche has a beautiful herringbone design with a smaller version of the gray tile that is on the adjacent wall. This was my designer's suggestion, and it looks amazing!
Below is another view of the shower seat and niche. You can see that the shower controls are on the opposite wall to the shower heads. This was suggested by our remodeling firm. It makes it so much easier to turn on (from just outside the shower) and for the water to reach a comfortable temperature before you step into the shower!
7. Obtain Estimates
Get estimates from at least three companies. I found our three prospective companies through a Google search. I then spent a lot of time researching reviews about their work and looking at their portfolios.
Ideally, a company representative will visit your home to see the project scope in person. Give them a copy of your detailed plans and drawings and ask each company about the products you want installed. Prepare a set of questions and ask each company the same questions, including about permits and inspections (any remodel that involves changing plumbing lines, or repositioning drains and electrical outlets will most likely require a permit). Listen carefully to their answers, noting down any issues they may raise about your proposed layout or your desired changes. Ask follow-up questions if necessary. For example, one of my questions was about repositioning the water supply lines for our vanity from the floor to the wall (so I could have a vanity with legs). I asked each company how they would tackle this. Another question was about any issues they saw in removing the existing closets and building a new wall and niche for the new shower. I also showed each company the exact vanity I was planning to purchase and asked if they foresaw any issues with installing it.
By the end of this step, you should have three estimates. If the companies are reputable and reliable, their estimates will not be that different from each other. This is where your meeting or 'interview' with the representative comes into play, and how they answered your various questions and addressed any concerns.
8. Hire Company and Purchase Fixtures and Fittings
Hire your chosen firm and agree a starting date and payment schedule. At this point, you should be ready to purchase all your fixtures and fittings. Before you go ahead, double-check each item with the remodeling company so that you don't end up with an item that will be difficult to return. As I explained earlier, many firms can help you with selecting the fixtures and fittings, and will build that into their price.
When the remodeling project starts, note the progress at the end of each day (if possible), and discuss any issues with the team leader the following morning. Sometimes, even the clearest plans or details can be misunderstood or overlooked. Good companies will always make corrections, but you need to point out issues as they crop up, and not at the very end!
9. Expect the Unexpected
Changes to the plan, even small ones, are to be expected. Don’t be shocked if you have to pay extra for any unexpected issues. Be open to suggestions as the work progresses. Remember that the team who are working on your project have done this before and have far greater insights and experience than you, and that can make a big difference to the final outcome.
10. Test Everything and Ask for Repairs
After the project is completed, expect minor issues or repairs in the first year. Make sure that your remodeling company will cover these.
Product Details and Sources
Wall and Floor Tiles
All of the the tile used in the above bathroom remodel is from a trusted local tile distributor. Although there may be a few online outlets that sell directly to the public, most tile specified below is not generally available in the big box stores.
Floor Tile: Elegant Stone Series by Opulenza Calacatta Oro 13"x 13" Porcelain Tile - installed diagonally. Available from tile distributors
Shower Floor: Elegant Stone Series by Opulenza Calacatta Oro 2"x 2", 1.18sf/sheet - installed diagonally. Available from tile distributors
Wall Tile Behind Tub: Elegant Stone Series by Opulenza Calacatta Oro 10"x 22" Glossy. Installed in brick pattern up to ceiling. Available from tile distributors
Long Wall and Wall Adjacent to Niche in Shower: Anatolia Marlow Collection Watercolor Smoke 3"x 12" Glossy. Installed in brick pattern up to ceiling. Available from tile distributors
Shower Niche: Anatolia Marlow Collection Watercolor Smoke 3"x 6" Glossy. Installed diagonally in herringbone pattern. Available from tile distributors
Grout: TEC Powergrout Sterling #909
Shower Fixtures and Control Valves
The following list is for a shower with two wall-mounted rain showers and two handheld showers (as seen in the photos above). If you are planning to have one rain shower or handheld shower, then please adjust your quantities accordingly. All links provided below are directly to the product pages, rather than the Home Page of each company. We bought almost every item for the shower from Ferguson. The main reason for this was so that we would have the ability to replace or return items if they were faulty, damaged or unsuitable at the install stage.
Hansgrohe Unica H27617000 Shower Slider Bar with hose (Quantity = 2). Available from Ferguson.com
Hansgrohe H28514001 Raindance S120 Air 3 Jet Handheld shower (Quantity = 2). Available from Build.com. This item is discontinued at Ferguson, and there may be newer versions available. Please check with your local Ferguson Distributor.
Freestanding Bath Tub and Tub Filler
72" Vanity and Vanity Sink Faucets
The vanity in this project is very well made, and absolutely gorgeous, even after three years of continuous use. However, it is also very heavy, and it took two very strong guys to move the vanity from the garage to our bathroom upstairs. I would strongly recommend contacting the seller of this vanity, or any large vanity that is pre-assembled, to find out their quality assurance process. They should check any item for defects, particularly the marble top, before it is shipped to you. Also, check with your installer about how they will tackle such a heavy piece.
Danze D304087 Chrome South Shore Double Handle Bathroom Faucet - This exact product is currently unavailable at Amazon but you can see similar products by clicking on this link at Amazon.com
Towel Warmer, Vanity Lighting, and Mirrors
Amba RWHL-CP Radiant 42" Tall Hardwired Towel Warmer (Curved Bar) - Available from HomeDepot.com and Houzz.com. I asked our remodeling company to add a timer for the towel warmer during installation. We set the timer to turn on the towel warmer for 45 minutes around the time that we usually take a shower.
Effimero Vanity Light Fixture – Chrome w/ Clear Cylinder - Linea di Liara LL-WL31- Available from Amazon.com
Savina Modern & Contemporary Metal Mirror 24" x 40" (Color = Brass, Quantity = 2). Available from Wayfair.com. Tall mirrors are a great way to make even the smallest room appear more spacious!