Surviving a Bathroom Remodel

Get tips on minimizing stress when living with a bath under construction.
Tile Project Tips

Tile Project in Bathroom

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Photo by: Polka Dot Images

Polka Dot Images

By: Kristen Hampshire

Count on dust, noise and traffic from trades that you'll probably get to know quite well as they become part of your daily grind. Remodeling gets messy. And then there's the inconvenience of construction encroaching on your most personal space—the bathroom.

Of course, the inconvenience of renovating a bathroom depends on how many of them you have in the home. If you're overhauling your one and only, this project is one you'll want to start and finish as fast as possible. (And be sure that the tile layer doesn't leave you without a toilet over night while grout dries!) "You need to find a neighbor, stay with a family member or take a vacation," says Rick Miller of Miller's Fancy Bath in Louisville, Ky., referring mainly to households with a single bath under constructio."

There are surprises in any remodeling project, but you can prepare mentally (and physically, on site) by considering these pointers:

Dealing with dust. Sanding drywall is a dusty job, and so is cutting and removing a tub. Ripping out old tile? Expect some flying shards and, yes, more dust. "Weather permitting, we put a fan in the window and create a backdraft the bathroom to draw the dust-filled air and pump it outside," Miller describes.

Cover floors leading from the exit to your bathroom. "Make sure contractors are walking on drop clothes," Miller advises, noting that foot traffic will carry bathroom demolition dust all over the house if you're not careful.

Collect all materials. Before you dig into the project, be sure all materials are on site, from fixtures to hardware, tile—everything. Otherwise, you can plan on installation delays and scheduling challenges with various tradespeople. Just because your tile finally came in (six weeks late) doesn't mean the tile layer is available then to install it. (He had your job slated for way back when, and now he's booked.) See how this can get sticky? "Minimize the invasiveness of a [project] like this by having everything there and ready before you start," says Ellen Rady, designer/president, Ellen Rady Designs, Cleveland, Ohio. "Have all your pieces and parts laid out so when you do begin, you're not stalling."

Set up a makeshift bath. If you depend on the bathroom that's under construction for daily use (or if it's your only bath), be sure to ask the designer/builder to set up a temporary bath. This can be accomplished by setting up a temporary fiberglass shower unit in the basement that drains into the utility tub floor drain, describes Ken Perrin, president, Artistic Renovations, Cleveland, Ohio. "We can also set up a toilet in the basement," he says. "Then at least they have those two fixtures." A temporary shower/toilet setup might cost $500, "but in the long-run, it's worth it because the homeowner doesn't have to call the neighbors to use the bathroom."

Plan on delays. Despite a careful plan, detailed schedule and having all materials on site, you can bet on a remodeling project running longer than you expected. And if you plan on doing a lot of the project yourself, expect a learning curve. "Whatever time you think it will take, double that," says Cameron Snyder, president, Roomscapes Luxury Design Center, Boston, Mass., and past-president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). "Timing is critical in a bathroom project because you can't do A until B is done, and so on."

That said, allow leeway, because with the level of complexity involved in an all-out bathroom renovation, you must count on "surprises" along the way. So don't plan to entertain overnight guests the weekend after your bathroom project is slated for completion. Have that birthday party at a restaurant so you don't have to deal with two messes in your house.

Have fun with it. Embrace the process and take plenty of before and work-in-progress photos. Keep your eyes on the prize—that dream bathroom, the updates you've been wanting for years, the features that will clinch a higher home sale price. Remember during all this dust and through all of the delays why you are doing this.

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