Learn the 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Renovating Your Bathroom

Renovations of any kind are a difficult task. However, when it comes to the bathroom—a space that must be both hyper-functional and tranquil, practical and, ideally, a little bit luxe—the stakes seem to be higher.


A million decisions are to be made along the route, from the mirror to the grout—and the cost can be unexpected. So what should you know before you start? Follow our advice:

Don’t presume that you and your contractor are on the same page.

Above: A refurbished black-and-white bathroom in Soho; more on the project can be found in Nordic Design Ambassador: Camilla Vest, a model and entrepreneur, is home in SoHo. Matthew Williams shot the photos for Remodelista, and Alexa Hotz styled them.

“When you’re acting as a general contractor—or even working with a general contractor—you have to explain out every component of the plan, and never assume everyone is on the same page,” the mother-daughter pair behind Matriarchy Build writes in How to Avoid Rookie Remodeling Mistakes. “A contractor we knew demoed the wrong bath,” they add.

Consider renovations to be surgery: to avoid getting the wrong knee replaced, make sure—then double-check, then triple-check, then once more—that the proper knee (or toilet) is identified and agreed upon.


How much does it cost to redesign a bathroom? More than you realize.

Think you can spruce up your bathroom from head to toe for a few thousand dollars? According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the average cost of a bathroom makeover in 2016 was $11,364. (NKBA). A basic, low-cost restoration with less expensive materials or smaller swaps may cost between $1,500 and $5,000, while a top-of-the-line, top-to-bottom remodel could cost up to $23,000.

According to the NKBA, the majority of this expense is attributed to fixtures and plumbing (approximately 29 percent), followed by counters and surfaces (21 percent), labor (20 percent), and cabinetry and hardware (10 percent) (16 percent). Keep in mind that your bathroom remodel should not cost more than 5 to 10% of the value of your home.

You might want to reconsider that eye-catching bathtub.

You might be tempted to add a stunning freestanding bath to your bathroom. However, it may not be the most practical option in the future, especially if you are petite, dislike cleaning, live in a shaky old house, enjoy long baths, or take more showers than baths. More on the advantages of built-in baths (and showers) over freestanding options may be found in 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Clawfoot Bathtubs and Remodeling 101: Romance in the Bath: Built-In vs. Freestanding Bathtubs.

Planning is required for flattering lighting.

Don’t believe installing a few lights will suffice: because bathrooms are sometimes small, gloomy, and loaded with mirrors (which complicates how light bounces around), lighting takes careful planning and placement. A single diffuse light in the center of the ceiling is the most basic technique to illuminate a bath. Do you have a bathroom that is already quite bright? A couple of wall sconces should be enough. Are you considering ceiling-inset downlights? Avoid installing directly over bright-colored countertops (which will reflect the lights), and install near the wall above a vanity to optimize light when staring in the mirror. If you spend a lot of time doing cosmetics, think about installing vertical fluorescent lights on either side of the mirror.

Don’t forget to include outlets that are easily accessible.

You don’t want to conclude a renovation and realize you didn’t think about the outlets. Consider this: you have to plug your hairdryer in across the room, and you can’t see yourself in the mirror from there. Or perhaps you’d like to keep your electric toothbrush charged at all times but forgot to place an outlet in the medicine cabinet. Or perhaps you and your spouse share a bathroom but only have an outlet on one side of the vanity.