Part of buying a house in your mid-20s means that you are probably getting yourself into something that is going to need some work. This was definitely the case for me. Going into the adventure of home ownership, I knew that the bathroom was high on my hit-list of updates. Grimy, crumbling grout, a big box store vanity and a bathbar from the 1980s–all swathed in the most banal shade of brown you could imagine–did not make for the spa-like retreat I desired.
So the time finally came. I decided that I was going to do this and, with the help of my forever patient father, I embarked on my quest for the bath of my dreams. While I have worked on many a project in my home, my bathroom remodel was to be my biggest project yet. But after months of grout, sweat and tears, I finally have a bathroom that I am proud to call my own.
Though I was no novice at DIY, this project still taught me a lot. I have collected some of my mantras, lessons and advice for anyone who wants to take on their own bathroom remodel:
Do Your Homework
While the urge to make changes may be immediate, do not jump right in, especially if the home is new to you. If the space is livable, live in it and take notes. Using a space you don’t like helps guide your plans for what to change. I knew going into my project that, in addition to fresh and clean finishes, I needed lots more storage. So that went high on my list of priorities.
Look around. The web is a great place to find inspiration, but also check out real spaces around you. Friends’ houses, restaurants, museums and retail spaces can all be great places to find inspiration and test ideas. Like a color or a finish? See if you can find it in a space to see how it looks in real life. Worried about wear? Look at public spaces to see what materials are used to combat high traffic areas. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled and track your ideas.
Once you have some ideas, start putting them together. Mood boards may seem silly, but they work great for streamlining your ideas and helping you to fully visualize your concept. While there are many styles out there, they may not all go together. Make sure that you are not trying to do too many things at once, and eliminate what will not work, even if you love it. Some finishes are just not practical, and some designs just don’t work on a small scale. Design for the space you have, even if it’s not the space of your dreams. You will be much happier in the long run.
Make a Plan, Check it Twice
Once you have your ideas, start getting some numbers attached. This is the step where you may need to reevaluate your design. While your idea to use Carrara marble on every surface might be gorgeous, is it really in your budget? Start building a schedule for materials needed, and get a total going. Also, look at your time-frame. How long is this going to take you? What steps need to be done? Think it out first to make sure that you don’t miss a step.
While staying motivated is important, be honest with yourself. Make sure to sit down and take stock of the skills you have and what the planned project needs. If there is something outside your current skill set, go and learn about it. Online tutorials can be a great jumping-off point. Home improvement stores often have classes, and you can always ask your friends and family. Know the scope of work that you are taking on and be comfortable with it.
Measure Twice (or Trice), Cut Once
I cannot stress the need for measuring. Get a few good measuring tapes and another set of hands to make sure you are getting the most accurate measurements. Then when you have those numbers, write them down. You might be able to keep them in your head for the short term, but when you walk into that hardware store, who knows if it will stick? While notes and sketches are great, your phone or tablet can be a great asset, too. You can even create spreadsheets on the Cloud, so you can access your notes wherever you need them.
Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst
There will always be roadblocks and delays. Combat that with preparedness. Time, money, materials: buy extra and plan for contingencies. Once you know the parts you need, order early to make sure that they will arrive on time. Evaluate the space; if something seems suspicious, there may be a bigger problem lurking. Look for signs like cracked tiles, lingering damp, uneven, or flexing floors, as these can all be indicators of unseen structural issues.
Do it Right
There will be times that you mess up. It is okay. But make sure that you fix it. While it may be heartbreaking to undo your precious work now think about how bad it might looks or potentially damaging it might be in the long run. Just breathe deep and do it again.
Embarking on a bathroom remodel is a huge commitment. You are sinking your time, money and sanity into something that will take a whole lot of work. But with patience, perseverance and a lot of elbow grease you can can walk away with your head held high…and a beautiful new bath.