3 Bathroom Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid in 2019!

by Matt Morton| 2/4/2019

Let’s be honest – 2019 or 2035 or 1990 – it really doesn’t matter what year it is! There are many mistakes when remodeling any part of your home that are easy to make if you don’t know what you are looking for.  Now, here are some ideas how to avoid them! I have chosen to highlight 3 of the worst mistakes I have seen over the last 20 years working in the industry that are either the costliest to fix and/or the easiest to avoid! Remember, nobody is perfect! Mistakes happen to the best of us every day, but some due diligence along with planning, researching, qualifying, and organizing the space, materials, contractors and remodeling process itself, we can avoid most of them!

1) Hiring Inexpensive Labor! 

This is by far one of the most common issues we hear about in the industry. Whether we are called in to fix a previous repair or the previous contractor has been fired, we are often called to fix the mistakes that were made. Please don’t let this one happen to you! If you think you can get a high quality remodel on your bathroom at an unbelievably low cost, you are wrong! There are only two reasons that a company can provide you with a dramatically inexpensive cost compared to others:

  • Their estimate is not inclusive and will result in thousands of dollars in change orders or “extras”; or
  • They are extremely inexperienced in the industry and lack the knowledge necessary to accurately estimate the amount/cost of qualified labor and materials it takes to remodel a bathroom while maintaining a high level of quality.

One of our recent blogs touched on the topic of selecting the right company for your remodeling project – let’s take a more detailed look at the subject. If the following process is followed to select the right contractor, then your due diligence has been completed, and the mistake of hiring “cheap labor” will be avoided as much as possible.

  1. Ask your contractor for their state license, and their liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance certifications. Not all contractors will carry workman’s compensation, and that’s okay as long as they perform the work being completed or they present to you their subcontractors’ individual insurance certifications.
  2. When looking for a contractor, reviews and social media are everything. Search for the Google reviews and check Facebook and other social media platforms for additional reviews, and to see what the company has been up to.
  3. References mean nothing.  Anyone can give you the contact information for a few people who will give glowing references. Instead, ask them for the names and contacts of projects they are currently working on. This will provide you with the best reference possible with little room to “fluff the reference.
  4. Check for the details in their estimate or proposal! This should clearly describe what is being done, with what materials, and to what level. For instance, if plumbing is being moved, it should detail what plumbing is moving, what materials are being used for the new plumbing, and where the new fixtures are being moved to.  If your bathroom remodeling estimate fits on one sheet, then it’s probably worth paying especially close attention to this one!
  5. More than likely, if you select three to four contractors based on the criteria discussed above, and they are local to you (within 15 miles), then their costs should be similar to one another – one may be a few thousand more or less, and that variance is fine. At this stage in the process, they are all clearly qualified at what they do, and the company that you feel most comfortable with in your home should be your choice. Not the one that is the cheapest, and not necessarily the one that is the most expensive, but rather the one that your gut tells you is the right fit for you!

2) Not moving plumbing fixtures:

This must be one of the most misconstrued elements to planning, designing, and remodeling your bathroom. Many times, in a common hall bathroom, this is not part of the initial plan as space is limited and, therefore the possible movement of fixtures is restricted. However, in master bathrooms, it should never be overlooked!

It is common to find poor layouts in master bathrooms built 30 to 50 years ago because many were originally designed around the materials and tools available at that time. Nowadays, water lines and drain lines can be as simple to install as wire! If the space is being demolished down to the studs, it essentially becomes a blank pallet. The remodeling project may require that some subfloor be pulled up or other modifications, but it likely does not involve days and days of work or thousands of dollars in extra cost.

All plumbing systems are different, and knowing what we will find is impossible.  But, many times it’s just similar to the last 10 bathrooms we have completed, and we can plan accordingly. Newer building materials like PEX water lines, and (although not new) PVC drain lines can turn moving plumbing into no big deal at all!

Here is the one hiccup – moving your toilet! While it’s not impossible (and many times may be the exact opposite), it can be very difficult and sometimes may be restricted by building codes as well. For instance, the size of the drain line cannot structurally be located in the center of most floor joists, therefore requiring sistering of the floor joist or other structural upgrades. Also, many times the distance from the toilet to the main plumbing stack in the wall can also create a building code issue.

The point of all this is to ensure that you do not limit the possibilities of design, function, and layout with the mindset that moving plumbing will cost you too much. If it’s a sink, shower, or tub it’s as easy as 1 2 3, literally! If it’s a toilet, it may require some extra planning, and yes, may increase cost to some degree, but probably not so much that it will be a deal breaker!

3) Last, but certainly not least – Agreeing to contract at 100% of your maximum budget!

This mistake can be devastating to any remodeling project, but especially to your bathroom. Regardless of what your contractor suggests, a bathroom remodel poses the most risk for overages in cost, due to unforeseen issues that cannot be seen on the surface! Mold or rot in the walls and floor; plumbing that is faulty and not originally included in the scope; insulation that is insufficient; subfloor that is rotted; electrical issues that need to be corrected to meet building code requirements; and so many more!  Any one of these situations can result in hundreds if not thousands of dollars in extra costs that you may not be prepared for – forcing you to shut down a project right in the middle!

Be sure to set aside a contingency of about 10 to 15 percent of the overall cost of the project so that when situations like these arise, you are better prepared to deal with them. Also, make sure to do your research on some of most common “extras” that arise during bathroom renovations. And be sure to ask your contractor about them in advance, in case there is a possibility to see them sooner rather than later – by cutting a hole in the wall, looking underneath, or other minimally invasive technique.

When we are planning to remodel a bathroom, it is impossible to dodge every mistake, but with experience in the industry and extensive research, we have learned how to minimize most of them, and completely mitigate many of them. You can do the same if you follow the above criteria, and research even more ways to be prepared by finding other credible sources!