13 Steps to Complete Your Bathroom Remodel

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated January 12, 2022
A beige colored modern bathroom
Photo: CreativaStudio / E+ / Getty Images

Organize your bathroom remodel project with this comprehensive checklist that includes everything from plumbing to flooring

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Remodeling your bathroom adds quality and pleasure to your daily life—and boosts the value of your home. You'll have a smoother reno process if you know which steps to take and what supplies you need. The average cost to remodel a bathroom is $10,800 but with this bathroom remodel checklist, you can better stick to a budget, achieve your ideal design, and ensure the project timeline stays on track to help save you as much money as possible.

Even if you’ve never remodeled before, you’ll be prepared every step of the way. Whether you envision a spa-like bathtub or a walk-in shower, follow our bathroom design checklist to achieve the bathroom of your dreams.

1. Decide on Your Overall Design and Function

Focus on the main functions of your bathroom as you determine what design elements are most important.

  • Gather inspirational bathroom photos and layouts and save them in one place. Note any details and designs you particularly like, such as shower styles, floor layouts, wall colors, and vanities that catch your eye. 

  • As you form your design, consider the function of your space. 

    • Do you need lots of storage for linens and personal products? 

    • A larger bathtub for kids?

    • A relaxing shower for guests?

Hire a bathroom designer or sketch a detailed plan for your bathroom remodel to help guide your project.

2. Determine Your Budget and Scope

Homeowners typically spend between $6,589 and $16,363, depending on the size of the bathroom and scope of the remodeling project. Keep in mind that on average, homeowners recoup approximately 66% of their bathroom remodel cost in their home’s resale value. Before you remove your tiling or rip out the shower, it’s important to understand what it is you’re willing and able to spend on a bathroom remodel. 

  • As you account for each element and the labor associated, create a spreadsheet of what each item—and the total project—will cost you. 

  • Consider what pieces are must-haves, such as: 

    • Do you want a new faucet or a whole new vanity and sink?

    • Are you adding a bathtub or overhauling the shower?

    • Which bathroom accessories and hardware needs to be replaced?

    • Are you installing new lighting fixtures or outlets?

3. Plan Each Element

There are dozens of components to consider when tackling a bathroom renovation. Here's a full bathroom remodel checklist that includes each element. Mark which ones you'd like to upgrade, add, or remodel.

Layout

  • Floor plan: Will you change the footprint or keep it the same?

Flooring

A clean modern bathroom with black tiles
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images
  • Flooring type: Which materials would you like to use? Tile, laminate, vinyl, linoleum, stone, and concrete are all durable options for bathroom floors.

  • Do you want your new floor to have radiant heat?

  • Does the subfloor need to be replaced?

  • Will your project require baseboards and shoe molding? Or underlayment, adhesive, or grout required for a tiling project?

Walls and Ceiling

  • Are you updating paint, wallpaper, or tile?

  • Will you be adding or replacing any windows?

  • Do the doors and hardware need updating?

  • Are you adding insulation?

  • Will the ceiling height change?

  • Are you resurfacing the ceiling (adding drywall or knockdown)?

Vanity

  • Are you planning to replace the vanity and countertop?

  • Sink: One sink or two? What type of sink?

  • Are you adding storage (drawers, cabinets, shelves)?

  • Do hardware or bathroom accessories need to be updated? This could include a faucet. Hand towel ring or bar, soap ledge or dispenser, or handles and pulls.

  • Are you planning to update any mirrors (above the sink, magnifying or makeup mirror)?

Toilet

  • Are you upgrading or adding a toilet or bidet?

  • Toilet paper holder: Freestanding or wall-mounted?

  • Do you need accessible features like a grab bar?

Bath and Shower

  • Shower: Do you want a tub and shower combination or just a shower?

  • If you’re adding or upgrading a bathtub, what style and function do you want (jet, freestanding, etc.)?

  • Do you need to hang up a new shower curtain rod?

  • Would it be helpful to add in a shower seat or chair?

  • Does the new tub or shower format require tiling? Or do you want to add in fresh floor and wall tile?

  • Do tub and shower drains need to be moved or added?

  • Showerheads: Do you want a wall or ceiling-mounted shower head?

  • Towel bars: Do you want them heated? How many do you want?

  • Are there any other accessories like a robe hook or grab bar near the shower that would make life easier?

Electrical

  • Lighting: Are you opting for functional lighting and dimmers throughout the space? These could include:

    • Recessed lighting

    • Sconces by your mirror

    • Lighted medicine cabinets and mirrors

    • Hanging lights

  • Outlets: Consider where you use outlets the most, such as for a hair dryer or electric toothbrush. What will offer you the most convenience and function?

  • Can existing wiring be used or does new wiring need to be ran to accommodate lighting or outlet updates?

Plumbing

  • Can you use existing lines for your project or do plumbing elements need to be rerouted or added to accommodate your design?

Storage

A stylish bathroom cabinet in warm colors
Photo: FollowTheFlow / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
  • Linen and toiletry storage:  Do you want to add any recessed shelving?

  • Would you like more cabinets or shelves?

Ventilation

  • Does your bathroom require more ventilation?

  • What is the most functional and cost-effective approach for upgrading the ventilation?

4. Select Your Materials and Finishes

Once you know what items to include in your bathroom renovation, choose the model, styles, and finishes for each piece—from your flooring to your vanity.

  • Make a list of all the items you need(mark each one off as you purchase it).

  • Check on the availability of materials and shipping time.

  • Order as much as possible in advance, before your project begins.

Some items you can order right away, like your new vanity, while others may need to wait (such as measuring for your solid surface countertop until after the vanity has been installed).

5. Set Up a Project Timeline

Plan the step-by-step order of your project along with estimated time frames to help your remodel run smoothly. Be sure to add buffer time for unforeseen issues, such as discovering corroded plumbing or mold behind a wall. 

  • Follow this general sequence of events for a smooth project:

  1. Design and plan

  2. Demo

  3. Framing

  4. Plumbing rough-in (including the toilet rough-in measurement)

  5. Electrical rough-in

  6. Drywall

  7. Tile, vanity, shower, bath, and countertop installation (depending on design) 

  8. Flooring

  9. Paint

  10. Final fixture installation (toilet, faucets, electrical outlets, etc.)

  • Install new flooring before you paint, depending on the finishes.

  • Backsplash tiling should be done after the counters are installed. 

  • Place final fixtures like toilets, outlets, lights, and faucets.

6. Decide What You’ll Do Yourself and What You’ll Hire Out

Electrical and plumbing work is best left to the pros to avoid personal injury and damage to your home. If you develop a leak while plumbing, your bathroom could experience water damage—resulting in more repairs and having to hire a plumber anyway. If you wire an outlet incorrectly, someone could get hurt. Working with a contractor can save you money and prevent issues in the long run. Not to mention, they’ll handle the permits for your project. 

  • Determine what you can do yourself and where you should lean on the experts.

  • Consider the time it takes to learn or do the task yourself and any issues you might run into.

  • Partner with a professional contractor to ensure your bathroom’s plumbing, ventilation, and more are up to code and in well-working order.

  • Save on costs by helping the contractor with prep work and clean-up.

7. Book Your Contractors

A professional installing a tiled border for the shower wall
Photo: JodiJacobson / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Not all contractors are available right away, so be sure to contact them early in your process. Here’s a list of the contractors to consider:

8. Take “Before” Photos

Capture a few photos from different angles of your current bathroom, so you can see the full fruits of your labor and investment once the project is done.

9. Apply for Permits and Tests

Your bathroom remodel may require a permit, depending on how extensive the work is.

  • Check with your municipal building department to determine if you’ll need a building, electrical, or plumbing permit. If you hire a contractor, they may take care of the permit process for you. 

  • If your home was built before 1980 and you plan to demo walls or the ceiling, have lead and asbestos tests performed.

10. Ensure You Have the Tools and Supplies

While the full list of things you need for a bathroom remodel depends on your exact plans, here are the basic tools you need to tackle the project yourself. 

Remember, it’s best to leave the plumbing and electrical work to the pros—along with any other pieces you’re not confident in. While handling the whole remodel yourself can seem exciting, damaging your space or injuring yourself isn’t worth it. Plus, by hiring out difficult tasks, you can find comfort in knowing your shower won’t spring a leak and your light fixtures work flawlessly.

Demolition

  • Gloves

  • Dust mask

  • Safety goggles

  • Putty knife

  • Drop cloths

  • Pliers

  • Hammer

  • Reciprocating saw

  • Utility knife

  • Shop-vac

  • Plastic bags

Framing

  • Ear muffs

  • Circular saw

  • Hand saw

  • Nail gun and nails

  • Level

  • Pencil

  • Tape measure

  • Combination square

  • Lumber

Plumbing

  • Water pump pliers

  • Pipe wrench

  • Basin wrench

  • Strap wrench

  • Closet auger

  • Toilet

  • P-trap

  • Shower or bathtub

  • Sink and faucet

Electrical

  • Screwdriver

  • Power driver

  • Wire crimpers

  • Fish tape and poles

  • Tape measure

  • Flashlight

  • Pliers

  • GFCI outlets

  • 12-2 gauge wiring (for outlets)

  • 14-2 gauge wiring (lights)

  • Junction boxes

  • Electrical tape

  • Wire nuts

  • Light switches

  • Light fixtures

  • Vent and tubing

Flooring

  • Level

  • Utility knife

  • Saw (chop, miter, wet, tile, or jig)

  • Chalk line

  • Grout or caulk

  • Laminate, tile, linoleum, vinyl, stone, or concrete

Drywall

  • Drywall knife

  • Utility knife

  • Drywall t-square

  • Drill

  • Jab saw

  • Sander

  • Puddy

  • Drywall

  • Drywall tape

  • Joint compound (mud)

Paint

  • Painter’s tape

  • Drop cloths

  • Paint stirrer

  • Paint key

  • Hammer

  • Paintbrushes

  • Roller

  • Roller extender

  • Sandpaper

  • Primer

  • Paint

Baseboards and shoe molding

  • Nail gun

  • Sander

  • Caulk

  • Nails

11. Remodel Step by Step

Tackle each piece of the project in a logical order, avoiding rework and damage. Coordinate with your contractors and communicate progress along the way. Make adjustments to your plan as needed, and enjoy the process of adding beauty and function to your space.

12. Add Your Decor and Accessories

A white toned bathroom with a bathtub
Photo: jimkruger / E+ / Getty Images

Put the final touch on your bathroom remodel with your decor and bathroom basics.

  • Shower curtain

  • Bath mat

  • Hand towels

  • Bath towels

  • Washcloths

  • Washcloths

  • Soapdish or dispenser

  • Toothbrush holder

  • Window treatments

  • Plants (indoor or faux)

  • Wall art

  • Shelving

  • Organizer bins and baskets

  • Mirrors

  • Bathtub tray

  • Stool

  • Wastebasket

  • Plunger

  • Toilet bowl brush

  • Bathroom spray

  • Miscellaneous decor

13. Take “After” Photos

Snap several photos of your newly renovated bathroom to showcase the final results of your hard work and investment. Share your before and after photos with family, friends, and social media to help celebrate your success. Toasting your bathroom remodel can offer you motivation for your next home renovation project.

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