Written by Bernadette Baczynski
Thinking about remodeling your bathroom? Remember the golden rule of any home-improvement project: The more planning you do up front, the happier you’ll be with the final result. Use this checklist to get yourself started and keep yourself on track.
Three to Six Months Ahead
- Set up a file to keep track of ideas, products and business cards. Tag photos in books and magazines. Make careful notes of manufacturers’ names, product ID numbers and where you saw the item.
- Keep notes of must-haves and wish-list items, so you know where you will and won’t compromise. Keep in mind what’s working and not working in your present bathroom, including storage and the placement of fixtures and windows.
- Visit model homes and friends’ remodeling projects, again noting what will and won’t work for you and your home. Bring along a camera to record ideas that you like.
- Begin researching contractors by checking with local professional associations, asking friends for referrals, noting yard signs of remodeling work in progress. Many home improvement stores also offer full-service design and remodeling help.
- Go with a pro if your project involves major structural changes. It’s important to have an architect or bathroom designer involved; the contractor may make some referrals. Even a straightforward face-lift can benefit from professional design input.
- Visit your banker or mortgage lender to discuss financing options and how much you can afford, and your financial planner to discuss tax advantages. Whatever your upper range, figure on spending about 10 percent more.
One to Three Months Ahead
- Narrow down the field of contractors to three, reviewing credentials, license and insurance status and professional affiliations; check the Better Business Bureau for complaints. Ask for references and, if possible, visit an in-progress project, noting the site’s neatness and the atmosphere, to get a sense of what you’ll be living with.
- Settle on a contractor, making sure expectations are clear. Get everything in writing, perhaps having contracts checked over by an attorney before they’re signed. Also be sure you understand and are comfortable with how money will be distributed. There’s generally a start-up payment, several interim disbursements and a balance due upon completion.
- Be clear on who should order what; generally, the contractor will handle orders and schedule deliveries. If you choose to buy fixtures on your own, bear in mind that the contractor may not be contractually obligated to install what he doesn’t provide.
- Do all your bath renovations at once since it’s more cost efficient, and contractors will work with you to keep at least one fixture operable. Depending upon the size of the project and the level of detail, a full bathroom renovation requires about four to six weeks, start to finish. Why go through it twice?
Weeks Before and During
- Let the neighbors in on your plans, including things like daily construction schedules and major deliveries. Your courtesy will likely make them more willing to endure any temporary inconveniences.
- Talk with the contractor about day-to-day routines, including where deliveries will be stored, where work areas will be set up, which bathroom workers will use. Keep pets away from the site.
- Clear out linens and toiletries and set up a temporary grooming space that’s out of the way of the workers. Fix individual totes for family members to keep personal items portable and organized.
- Arrange a few sleepovers for the kids, if possible. Besides everyone enjoying the break, it will help keep chaos to a minimum. Have a family meeting about the process, emphasizing patience and cooperation.
- Keep communication open so everyone knows what to expect and what is expected of them. Be available for questions, either on-site or by phone. Often, contractors will run into snags that require homeowner input or approval; if they are unable to reach you quickly, it can cause expensive delays.
- Note items to be finished; you and the contractor will have a final walk-through, making a punch list of to-dos before you sign off.
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