Thinking About Completing a DIY Bathroom Remodel? Read This First

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated May 17, 2022
A contemporary bathroom with vanity and shower bathtub
Photo: YinYang / E+ / Getty Images

Look at you being all handy and creative—not all bathroom upgrades require a professional, but some do

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When it comes to home projects, bathroom remodels have one of the highest returns on investment. Who wouldn’t want an elegant and luxurious soaker tub to sink into after a long day? Or spacious double vanities with chrome fixtures and warm accent lighting?

It’s completely plausible to DIY your dream bathroom remodel. With labor costs making up between 40% and 65% of the total project cost, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by doing it yourself. However, bathroom renovations are notorious for exposing unexpected problems like water-soaked flooring under your previously unknown leaky shower. 

When planning your list of bathroom upgrades, it's best to tackle a few things yourself and leave the rest to a pro. Read on for a suggested plan of attack.

Things to Consider for a DIY Bathroom Remodel

Pause before you start taking a hammer to the walls. You’ll save money on labor costs by doing the work yourself, but there are trade-offs.

Time

Even experienced pros can take months to finish a bathroom remodel, so be sure you have a lot of time on your hands if you’re thinking about completing one yourself. A bathroom remodel is not a weekend job. If you’re planning to fit it in around a nine-to-five job, the remodel could take several months.

A professional can get your bathroom back to fully functional faster. Consider hiring a professional to do part or all of the remodel to save on time, especially if you only have one bathroom in the home.

Cost

Most bathroom remodels cost around $10,800, but prices can exceed $25,000 for remodels that require significant changes to the room’s plumbing and electrical systems. A large chunk of that cost goes to a contractor who oversees the project from start to finish. A licensed professional charges $50 to $110 or more per hour.

To determine if a DIY bathroom remodel is worth it, you must balance savings with the convenience of hiring the project out. Keep in mind that a professional will have all the right tools necessary to get the job done, so you can relax while they get their hands dirty.

DIY-Friendly Bathroom Remodel Projects

A man using a spirit level to check a wall of bathroom tiles
Photo: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

Some aspects of a bathroom remodel are more DIY-friendly than others. Here are a few projects you can plan to do yourself and save money.

Demolition

Demolishing your bathroom marks the beginning of your remodel project. It’s also the point of no return that renders your bathroom useless, so be sure you have a plan in place before you get started.

While swinging a sledgehammer and destroying everything in sight might be good for stress relief, we don’t recommend such a carefree approach here. Carefully and methodically remove your bathroom’s old flooring and fixtures. Remove and relocate everything in your drawers, cabinets, and other storage areas. Don’t forget to take down any decor, like hung photos, so these don’t get in the way (or damaged!) during the remodel. Be aware of home demolition risks, like accidentally puncturing a pipe.

“Bathroom demolition is labor-intensive and there’s usually an expensive refuse removal cost,” says Bob Tschudi, Expert Review Board member and a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor. “We once tried to save money by having a utility trailer at the site for demolition refuse. The sheer weight of the discarded materials and tile caused the trailer’s tires to malfunction and pop, and we realized that paying for a dumpster or /trash removal service was well worth it!”

Framing

If you’re detail-oriented and know your way around a hammer, you can likely handle framing yourself. You’ll need some basic carpentry skills (or the willingness to learn them as you go) and the ability to follow the specifications of your fixtures and cabinet carefully.

Painting

The cost to have your bathroom professionally painted ranges from $380 to $800. Save money by painting yourself. Tackle the walls before you install fixtures and cabinetry to avoid extra messes. If you’d prefer to keep some existing fixtures, paint your vanity a refreshing white. Or go bold with a navy blue or dark grey shade.

Flooring

Installing most types of bathroom flooring is fairly straightforward. Tile is a common bathroom flooring material that homeowners often hire professionals to install, but DIYers can lay flooring themselves with a little patience and practice.

Toilet Installation

Installing your toilet can save you hundreds of dollars. And good news—you don’t need a ton of experience to install most commodes. Even beginner DIYers can complete this project as long as the plumbing is already in place.

“For the DIYer, learning how to uninstall and reinstall a toilet will save you so much money,” says Tschudi. “When you realize that toilets are pottery that are engineered to efficiently remove waste, you will look at them in a new light.”

Faucet or Sink Installation

If you aren’t moving the location of your old bathroom sink, you can install your new sink without the help of a professional. Just make sure there is a supply and drain pipe already in place.

When to Call a Professional

Remodeling mistakes can be expensive and may cause damage to your bathroom over time. It’s best to hire a bathroom remodeler near you for the more intensive projects.

Shower Installation

Installing a new shower is complicated and there’s plenty of room for error. Mistakes can lead to leaks, which can lead to mold and structural problems in your bathroom. 

A plumbing pro will minimize these risks and ensure that the installation is seamless (and totally waterproof). They’ll also grade the floor to make sure your shower drains properly.

Tub Installation

While you can technically install a tub yourself, it’s not a quick job. Along with the possibility of water damage, incorrect installation of a bathtub comes with other risks, including an unlevel tub that can cost quite a bit to fix. To install a bathtub properly, you’ll need to mount it to the drywall, which means adjusting drywall, tiles, fixtures, and flooring. Hiring a professional will make this complex job more efficient (your shower tile will also be square and level).

Plumbing

Given that the plumbing system enables water flow, it’s pretty essential that you get installation right the first time. Only consider DIYing your plumbing if you have specialized experience. The fee for a licensed plumber is nothing compared to the cost to repair the water line you nicked while cutting open the floor.

Electrical

Electrical work is not a project you want to tackle on the fly. Mistakes such as improper wiring during the initial installation can lead to serious injuries or fires. The best way to keep yourself and your family safe from common electrical hazards is to hire an experienced electrician to complete your bathroom’s electrical work.

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