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14 Design Tips to Know Before Remodeling Your Bathroom

Learn a few tried and true design tricks to prevent headaches during your next bathroom project

Pop quiz: What’s the average amount of space required for a toilet? How much does a basic bathroom remodel cost? And how do you pick out the right vanity? If your answers to these questions are some combination of “What?” “Huh?” and “Um … ,” don’t worry. You’re not alone. 

There’s so much that goes into a bathroom remodeling project that unless you’re a professional who does it every day — or a homeowner who’s been through the process numerous times — then all the nitty-gritty details, processes, options and decisions are going to sound like they’re in a foreign language. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the test.

If you’re tackling a bathroom remodel project, having a working knowledge of what to expect and what to consider can make the difference between a months-long waking nightmare ending in a bathroom that you settle for or a near-pleasant experience resulting in the room of your dreams. Consider the following collection of tips your cheat sheet for finals week. You’ll be happy you prepared.

1. Know What a Bathroom Remodel Costs

Before you begin any project, it’s important to put your expectations into perspective when it comes to how much money you’re willing to invest. The size of your bathroom, the quality of materials you want to include and whether you’re planning to do some of the labor yourself all can affect the cost of a remodel.

2. Don’t Make the Toilet the First Thing You See When You Open the Door

Ask a bathroom designer what his or her best tried and true tip is, and this is what you’re likely to hear. The reasoning is simple. Oftentimes bathroom doors get left open, meaning that you or any guest in your home walking by will see the toilet — which, come on, isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing thing to look at. If you’re hoping for a spa-like vibe, putting the john front and center in the design can sort of kill the mood as you’re transitioning into the room. So, what should you make the focal point? Anything but the toilet.

3. Consider Leaving Those Vintage Finishes

The point of your bathroom remodel might be a fresh, new look, but some things are easier to replace than others. For example, in older homes, wall tiles may have several coats of concrete and maybe wire lath. The difficulty in removing these can cause labor costs to skyrocket. Instead, you might want to keep the vintage tiles and spend your time and money elsewhere. Besides, vintage finishes such as tile can be a cool feature.

4. Plan a Lighting Scheme

The best approach to a well-lit space is to incorporate layers of task, accent, ambient and decorative lighting. Consult with your bathroom designer or lighting specialist about getting your lighting right. 

5. Understand Standard Bathroom Dimension

Knowing a few key measurements, like the size of a typical bathtub and how much space is needed for a toilet, will help you plan your remodel more efficiently. 

6. Plan the Right Height for Your Sink

Typical countertops are 32 to 34 inches off the floor. But you need to consider how your sink will add to or take away from the countertop’s height. If you have an above-counter vessel sink, for example, you’ll want to make your counter height lower so you can wash your hands or brush your teeth comfortably. 

7. Consider a Corner Sink 

If you’ve got a tight space with potential traffic-flow problems due to how the entry door or shower door swings open, then consider putting your sink in the corner to free up space.

8. Or a Tiny Tub

If you’ve got a small bathroom, you may think that a bathtub is not an option. But many companies are shrinking their models down to accommodate chic little spaces.

9. Pick the Right Vanity 

Vanities aren’t just for looks. Get one too big and you could mess up your bathroom’s traffic routes. Too small and you’ll be scrambling for more countertop space and storage. Pick the wrong material and you could have maintenance issues on your hands. 

10. Splurge on a Few High-End Materials

A little designer secret is that because bathrooms are usually smaller spaces, splurging on a few higher-end materials and finishes can be a good investment that can make your space seem incredibly luxurious. So before you issue a mandate that your bathroom will feature only the most basic, affordable materials, look at materials for wall and floor coverings, countertops and more on the higher end of the spectrum. You might find that adding one or more of these materials to a small portion of your bathroom is within your budget.

11. Double Check Your Tile Size

Surprisingly, that 12-inch by 24-inch tile you bought might not be exactly what it claims to be. That’s because most tile is sold in European sizes (millimeters), and the quoted size might also factor in a grout joint, putting your fancy new tile at 11⅜, which can affect your tile layout, niches and plumbing.

12. Think About Converting Your Tub to a Shower

If you don’t take baths but have a bathtub, that’s basically a 5-foot by 2½-foot area that’s going to waste. Converting it to a shower would be cost effective, because it would make use of the space that’s already there and you wouldn’t have to reroute the plumbing.

13. Have More Than One Way of Drying Out Your Bathroom

Reducing mold and mildew begins with removing moisture. To do that it’s best to have a multifaceted approach: a great fan that vents to the outside (not into an attic) and an operable window.

14. Pay Attention to How Hardwood Meets a Tile Floor

Chances are, your bathroom will have a tile floor, but the hallway or room it’s connected to will have something totally different, like hardwood. The transition between these two spaces and materials is something that’s tough to get right. As in most cases, planning ahead will give you results that meet your expectations. 


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1 reply »

  1. I like how you said that putting a sink in the corner of the bathroom will create more overall space. My wife and I want to remodel our son’s bathroom and we were wondering how we can make it look like the room has more space than it does. I’ll be sure to see if putting the sink in the corner would look good in his bathroom.

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