Have Everything On Hand First
Big items like the vanity top and special-order tile can take several weeks to arrive. So be patient: Before you take a hammer or Sawzall to you bathroom, make sure everything you’re going to need— including the vanity, plumbing fixtures, any new lighting, the tub, and tile—is on hand. You might get frustrated waiting around for parts to arrive, but it’s better than tearing up your fixtures and having an unusable bathroom until the components arrive. Plus, when your new products are on hand, you’ll know if you need to do extra work, such as moving the plumbing lines for the sink location or running new cable for your lights, before you rip up and then patch the walls.
Consider All Your Options
Home centers have a limited selection of vanities and tops in the store, and special orders can take four to six weeks for delivery, so take a look at other sources. Local independent suppliers who specialize in natural stone have a wide selection of tops in a range of colors and sizes. They can also custom-cut tops to fit unusual spaces and shapes. You may be surprised at how affordable the tops can be.
Or do what I did—shop online. I admit being apprehensive about buying the centerpiece to our bathroom based on pictures and a written description, but I liked what I saw, including the price. I saved several hundred dollars compared with what home centers were charging and got attractive, top-quality products. A 48-inch-wide vanity, marble top, undermount sink, and framed mirror cost us $1300.
Plan for Shower Storage
An even better solution is to build in-the-wall shelving. Once you tear out the old shower, add framing between the studs in the walls for the shelves. The finished shelving, especially if tiled, looks attractive and doesn’t protrude into the shower, so you don’t have to worry about knocking off the shampoo bottles with your elbows when you’re singing karaoke into the showerhead.
Rip Up the Underlayment
Removing old flooring tile or vinyl can be time-consuming, difficult, and still leave behind stubborn pieces that refuse to come off. A faster, simpler way is to rip up the underlayment along with the floor covering. Cutting the underlayment into small sections makes removal easier. Set the circular saw blade just deep enough to cut through the thin plywood underlayment without cutting into the underlying subfloor.
You’ll have to install a new underlayment, but 1/4-inch plywood or cementboard is cheap and lets you start with a clean surface. Starting from scratch also lets you get rid of underlayment that may be water damaged, which is common around the toilet.
Use Accent Tiles
Mosaic or glass tile is expensive (mine cost $5 per 12-inch-square sheet). But you don’t need a lot of it to add some pizzazz to the bathroom. I only used a dozen sheets, yet it made a big impact. Using the special tiles as a border or sporadically in the tile pattern gives the design a punch of color and character.
Get a Curved Shower Rod
Add a Spacer to the Toilet Flange
Update the Lighting
Think of this as part of the remodel. You don’t want to end up with a new bathroom but outdated light fixtures. Plan your lighting early on so you’ll know if you need to run new cable. Consider recessed lighting over the shower for better illumination while you’re bathing. Just make sure the lights are rated for bathrooms.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call a Pro
If any part of the project takes you out of your comfort zone, call in a professional. You may need an electrician to help run cable for in-floor heating controls, or you might need a plumber’s help if the water or drain lines need to be moved. When you’re dealing with electrical or plumbing, DIY mistakes can be catastrophic.
During my remodel, I had to move the water-supply lines and the waste line in my wall to accommodate my new, wider vanity, which had a different sink location than my old vanity. I hired a plumber to handle that part of the job, and it cost me more than $500. Tradespeople aren’t cheap, but if they solve a problem, they’re worth the expense.
Splurge on Something
I splurged in two areas—one big and one small. I upgraded my plumbing fixtures, and I also spent about $180 on a custom shower curtain from photoshowercurtain.com. It’s the first thing people comment on when they see our bathroom.