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  • Writer's pictureGail Jacobson

Five Key Steps to Prepare for Your Successful Bathroom Remodel

Twenty years of designing successful remodels has taught me that although great design, excellent communication, skilled labor, and quality products are crucial for success, the most important ingredients are truly your preparation for the journey.

Well before a design or construction contract is signed, there are five key steps that will give you the knowledge and confidence to support you through the remodeling process.

Like any process, preparing for a remodel isn’t linear. As you progress through these steps and your clarity grows, you can expect to circle back, refine your thoughts, ask new questions and discover more answers. I hope you will find the steps an inspiring guide for your journey!


1. Establish Your Goals: What Experience Are you Seeking From Changing Your Space?

What “wants” and “needs” driving your project? List and rank them by

importance. Your list will likely change as you continue through the discovery process, so don’t worry about getting this “perfect”.

What isn't working in your space? What frustrates you? What do you want more of?

Is there a “bucket list” item that would bring you joy?

What is your timeline for this project? Is it this year, next spring, by Thanksgiving, a

school graduation?


2. Establish the Project Scope: How much Change is Enough?

The “scope” is really the “what” and “how much” of the project. It is a unique

amalgamation of your wants, needs, and desired financial investment. As a next step,

think through the categories below. They are loosely in order from lowest to highest


Decorative Changes

Do I just want/need new accessories, paint colors, window treatments, a new

shower curtain, mirror, cabinet hardware, and/or towels?

Do I need to add a non-permanent storage or seating item, such as a

shower seat, linen shelf or cabinet?

Fixture Changes, Including Upgrades for "Aging in Place"

Would updating one or more of my fixtures - my bathtub, toilet, sink, and/or faucets -

give me the “lift” I’m seeking? Are are my countertops outdated? Do I need more

permanent storage, such as a new linen cabinet or closet? Do I want a new shower

door? A walk-in tub? Safety bars? An accessible vanity?


Before considering other changes, do I need to remediate a poorly-constructed

former remodel, fix a leak, or replace my drains, piping or exhaust system?


Do I want to explore a complete redesign - possibly stealing space from an adjacent

room to increase function or flow? Am I open to wall, door and window changes?

In short, can the problems with my space only be solved with a complete "gut" and

re-do? Are there other changes I’ve been dreaming about making in other areas of my

home that I want to add onto this project?

I suggest exploring a few options with your designer and remodeler. This will help you get clearer on your needs and wants, establish a realistic low to high budget range, and help you establish the right timing for the project.

Hall and Owners' Bath, As-Built Hall and Owners' Bath, Redesigned


3. Understand Cost and Explore Financing Your Project

“General” pricing is the “average” cost range of projects similar to yours, in your

geographical area. “Actual” pricing is the price of “your” unique project, including the

design, the current cost of materials and labor and the pricing structure of the

professionals you hire. It is helpful to understand both. Without this knowledge, you

can just as easily overspend as underspend!

Fees for an experienced bath designer vary. Some charge by the hour,

some charge a project fee, and others charge a percentage of construction cost.

This article may provide some clarity:

To gain a realistic idea of general pricing, I recommend the following guide:

Ask yourself how long you plan to live in your home? Is this a short-term fix or a

long-term investment? Check here for some ideas:

How do you plan to finance the project? This is important to explore before

you finalize the project scope or sign a construction agreement. Here are some


4. Choose a Delivery Method and Remodeling Team

As mentioned above, the “Actual” price of your project is defined by 1) the project

you decide you want, and 2) the team members you choose. You won't know this

price until you have selected your team and put them to work.

Choose the Right Delivery Method for You

There are three basic delivery methods. Each has advantages and drawbacks.

I suggest doing a bit of research to find out which method is best for you.

Option 1: Engage an independent designer and a separate contractor/remodeler.

This will offer you more choice and more control over your budget

Option 2: Hire a full-service design build firm to take you from start to finish: this is a

“one-stop shop” approach.

Option 3: Hire a designer, and then do the work and manage the project yourself. This will require more time and expertise. Having a solid plan from an

experienced designer will help minimize mistakes, which can lead to

expensive delays and over-runs .

Research and Select your Team

No matter the delivery method you opt for, you will need great people with

whom to collaborate. Here are some tips for how to find them:

1. Consult with friends, family, and co-workers for referrals. Ask them the following

questions about their remodeling experience:

- What was your team good at and where was there need for improvement?

- Did the final price deviate from their proposal, and why?

- Did they meet their project milestones and finish when promised? If not, what

affected that?

- How was communication? Were they reliably accessible, or did you have to

leave message after message to get a response?

- How did they handle problems and conflicts?

- Did the quality of their work meet your standards?

2. Peruse Houzz, NARI, ASID, Yelp, Next Door, neighborhood newspapers, and

individual company websites for independent designers, design-build firms, and

contractors. Review their process, team members and project photos,

Read testimonials and reviews.

3. Narrow down your list to a few with whom you resonate. Then:

- Email or call to start a conversation.

- Set up 15-minute telephone calls or virtual web meetings

- Use the questions above and add your own. Take notes!

- Make a spreadsheet with pros and cons, the facts and you “gut” reactions


5. Start Dreaming about Aesthetics: How do you want your space to look?

Explore Houzz, Pinterest, and other sources. Screen capture and/or print images,

noting what you like and/or don’t like in each image. You will see themes


Identify colors, materials, and personal objects that have meaning for you - that could

act as a “springboard” for the design.

Gather your materials in a notebook or collage them onto a vision board.

Sharing them with your Designer will help them see and support your vision.


Congratulations! You've just learned five key steps that will give you the clarity, confidence, and knowledge you need to get started on transforming your space!

You may be ready to jump into the design process, or you might need more time. Whenever you are ready, these tools will make it fun, exciting and successful!

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