bathroom renovation oakville

The Ultimate Guide on How to Renovate a Bathroom

June 14, 2024
Sol Farahmand

Bathroom renovations can be an exciting yet daunting endeavor. Whether you’re aiming for a simple facelift or a complete overhaul, a well-planned and executed bathroom remodel can breathe new life into one of the most functional spaces in your home. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process, from determining the scope of your project to selecting the perfect materials and fixtures.

Key Takeaway Summary: Proper planning, budgeting, and understanding the different levels of remodeling are crucial for a successful bathroom renovation. This guide covers everything from surface-level updates to full structural changes, ensuring you have the knowledge to make informed decisions and achieve your desired outcome.

Remodeling Levels

Bathroom remodels can range from simple cosmetic updates to extensive structural changes. Understanding the different levels of remodeling will help you set realistic expectations and plan accordingly.

Surface-Level Remodel

A surface-level remodel involves cosmetic changes that don’t require major construction or plumbing work. This level of remodeling is ideal for budget-conscious homeowners looking to refresh the appearance of their bathroom without breaking the bank. Common surface-level updates include:

  • Painting walls and ceilings
  • Retiling floors or shower/tub surrounds
  • Replacing fixtures like faucets, showerheads, and lighting
  • Installing new vanities or mirrors

While surface-level remodels are relatively low-cost and can be completed quickly, they may not address underlying functional issues or significantly improve the layout of your bathroom.

Gut and Replace Remodel

A gut and replace remodel involves removing all existing fixtures, finishes, and materials, and replacing them with new ones. This level of remodeling is more extensive than a surface-level update but typically doesn’t involve altering the bathroom’s layout or plumbing configuration.

A gut and replace remodel can be an excellent option if your bathroom is outdated, has worn-out fixtures, or if you want to achieve a completely new look and feel. This type of remodel typically includes:

  • Removing and replacing the bathtub, shower, toilet, vanity, and flooring
  • Installing new drywall, tile, and paint
  • Upgrading lighting and ventilation systems

While more expensive than a surface-level remodel, a gut and replace project can significantly improve the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your bathroom without the added complexity and cost of reconfiguring the layout.

Layout Changes

If your current bathroom layout is inefficient or doesn’t meet your needs, a remodel involving layout changes may be necessary. This level of remodeling involves relocating fixtures like the toilet, shower, or bathtub, which can have significant implications for plumbing and electrical work.

Layout changes are often required when:

  • Improving accessibility for individuals with mobility issues
  • Optimizing space utilization in a small or awkwardly designed bathroom
  • Accommodating specific needs, such as adding a larger bathtub or walk-in shower

While layout changes can greatly enhance the functionality and flow of your bathroom, they can also be invasive and costly due to the extensive plumbing and electrical work required.

Full Structural Changes

The most extensive and expensive level of bathroom remodeling involves structural changes to the room itself. This may include:

  • Expanding the bathroom’s footprint by knocking down walls or borrowing space from adjacent rooms
  • Relocating load-bearing walls or altering the ceiling height
  • Adding or removing windows or exterior walls

Full structural changes are typically reserved for major renovations or when significant expansions or alterations are desired. These projects require careful planning, permitting, and the expertise of licensed contractors and engineers to ensure the structural integrity of your home is maintained.

Planning and Budgeting

Proper planning and budgeting are essential for a successful bathroom remodel, regardless of the level of work involved. Here are some key considerations:

Determining the Level of Remodel

Before you begin planning, assess the current state of your bathroom and determine your desired outcome. Do you simply want to update the aesthetics, or do you need to address functional issues or layout concerns? Understanding your goals will help you decide whether a surface-level remodel, gut and replace, layout changes, or full structural changes are necessary.

Setting a Budget

Once you’ve determined the level of remodel, you can begin estimating costs. Here are some general guidelines for budgeting:

  • Surface-Level Remodel: Expect to spend several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the updates.
  • Gut and Replace Remodel: Budget for $15,000 to $18,000 on average, although costs can vary significantly based on the size of your bathroom and the quality of materials and fixtures you choose.
  • Layout Changes: Anticipate costs ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the plumbing and electrical work required.
  • Full Structural Changes: Prepare for high-end expenses, typically starting at $30,000 and potentially exceeding $50,000 or more for extensive renovations.

It’s also crucial to allocate an additional 10-20% of your total budget for unexpected expenses or contingencies that may arise during the remodeling process.

Planning for Permits and Materials

Depending on the scope of your bathroom remodel, you may need to obtain permits from your local building authority. Consult with a contractor or your local permitting office to understand the requirements for your specific project.

Additionally, you’ll need to plan for the sourcing and delivery of materials like tiles, paint, fixtures, and cabinetry. Coordinating the timely delivery of these materials can help ensure your project stays on track and minimize delays.

Order of Tasks

To ensure a smooth and efficient bathroom remodel, it’s essential to follow a logical order of tasks. Here’s a general sequence to consider:


The first step in any bathroom remodel is the safe removal of old fixtures, finishes, and materials. This may involve:

  • Removing the toilet, vanity, bathtub, and shower enclosure
  • Carefully demolishing tile, drywall, and flooring
  • Managing waste and debris disposal

During the demolition phase, it’s also a good idea to conduct an initial inspection for any unexpected issues, such as mold, structural damage, or outdated plumbing or electrical systems that may need to be addressed.

Plumbing and Electrical Work

If your remodel involves relocating fixtures or upgrading plumbing or electrical systems, this work should be completed next. This may include:

  • Relocating or installing new water supply lines and drain pipes
  • Upgrading or installing new electrical wiring for lighting, outlets, and ventilation fans
  • Ensuring compliance with local building codes and safety standards

It’s essential to involve licensed and experienced plumbers and electricians for this phase of the project to ensure the work is completed safely and up to code.

Drywall Installation

Once the plumbing and electrical work is complete, it’s time to install new drywall. In bathroom remodels, it’s recommended to use moisture-resistant drywall, also known as “green board,” to prevent water damage and mold growth.

During this phase, ensure that the walls are level and properly prepared for finishing work, such as tiling or painting.


After the drywall is installed, you can begin painting the walls and ceilings. When selecting paint for a bathroom, it’s essential to choose a moisture-resistant variety specifically designed for high-humidity environments.

Proper surface preparation and application techniques are crucial for achieving a smooth, professional-looking finish that will withstand the moisture and humidity of a bathroom.

Fixture Installation

With the walls and floors prepared, the final step is to install the new bathroom fixtures, such as the toilet, vanity, bathtub, shower enclosure, and lighting. This phase also includes the installation of any additional features like grab bars, towel racks, or storage solutions.

Ensuring proper alignment and functionality of these fixtures is essential for creating a cohesive and user-friendly bathroom space.

Design and Materials

In addition to the practical considerations of a bathroom remodel, design and material selection play a crucial role in achieving your desired aesthetic and functional goals.

Choosing Tile, Paint, and Cabinetry

One of the most significant design decisions you’ll make during a bathroom remodel is the selection of tiles, paint colors, and cabinetry. Here are some factors to consider:


  • Material Options: Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles offer varying levels of durability, water resistance, and visual appeal. Consider the intended use (floors, walls, or shower surrounds) when selecting the appropriate tile material.
  • Style and Color: Tiles come in a wide range of styles, from classic subway tiles to modern geometric patterns. Choose colors and designs that complement the overall aesthetic you’re aiming for in your bathroom.
  • Slip Resistance: For floor tiles, prioritize slip-resistant options to ensure safety in wet areas.


  • Moisture Resistance: As mentioned earlier, choose paints specifically designed for high-humidity environments to prevent peeling, bubbling, or mold growth.
  • Color and Finish: Consider the desired ambiance and lighting conditions when selecting paint colors and finishes (e.g., matte, satin, or semi-gloss).


  • Storage Solutions: Evaluate your storage needs and consider cabinetry options that maximize space utilization, such as vanities with drawers or built-in shelving units.
  • Style and Finish: From traditional wood finishes to sleek, modern laminates, choose cabinetry that complements the overall design aesthetic of your bathroom.

Considering Functional Needs

While aesthetics are important, it’s equally crucial to consider the functional needs of your bathroom during the design and material selection process. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

Accessibility Features:

If you or a family member has mobility challenges, consider incorporating accessibility features like grab bars, non-slip flooring, and a curbless shower or walk-in tub.

Efficient Use of Space:

Maximize the available space in your bathroom by incorporating dual-purpose fixtures, such as a combined bathtub and shower, or by utilizing vertical storage solutions like tall cabinets or shelving units.

Ventilation and Lighting:

Proper ventilation is essential for preventing moisture buildup and mold growth in bathrooms. Consider installing an exhaust fan or operable window, and ensure adequate lighting for tasks like grooming and applying makeup.

Case Studies and Personal Experiences

To better understand the practical aspects of bathroom remodeling, let’s explore some real-life case studies and personal experiences.

Examples of Successful Bathroom Remodels

Surface-Level Remodel Success Story:

The Johnsons wanted to refresh their outdated guest bathroom without breaking the bank. They opted for a surface-level remodel, which included painting the walls a fresh, neutral color, retiling the floor with sleek, gray porcelain tiles, and replacing the vanity and mirror. The result was a modern, inviting space that added value to their home without the need for extensive construction.

Gut and Replace Remodel Transformation:

The Smiths decided to completely gut and replace their master bathroom, which had outdated fixtures and a cramped layout. They worked with a contractor to remove everything down to the studs and reconfigure the layout to include a larger, walk-in shower and a double vanity. The end result was a luxurious, spa-like retreat that perfectly suited their needs and lifestyle.

Layout Change Success Story:

The Wilsons had a small, awkwardly designed bathroom that didn’t meet their accessibility needs. They worked with a designer to reconfigure the layout, moving the toilet and shower to create a more open, accessible space. The project involved extensive plumbing and electrical work but ultimately provided a functional and comfortable bathroom that accommodated their mobility requirements.

Lessons Learned from Personal Experiences

Throughout the bathroom remodeling process, homeowners and contractors often encounter challenges and learn valuable lessons. Here are some insights from personal experiences:

The Importance of Planning and Flexibility:

“One of the biggest lessons I learned during my bathroom remodel was the importance of thorough planning and being flexible when unexpected issues arose. Despite our best efforts, we encountered a few surprises, like outdated plumbing that needed to be replaced. Having a contingency budget and being open to adjustments helped us navigate these challenges without derailing the entire project.” – Sarah, homeowner

Contractor Collaboration and Communication:

“Choosing the right contractor and maintaining open communication throughout the process was crucial. Our contractor kept us informed every step of the way, and their expertise helped us make informed decisions when we encountered unforeseen challenges. Their attention to detail and commitment to quality workmanship made all the difference.” – Michael, homeowner

Managing Expectations and Timelines:

“One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to manage my expectations regarding timelines and budgets. Bathroom remodels, especially those involving layout changes or structural work, can often take longer and cost more than initially anticipated. Being patient and understanding that delays or additional expenses may occur helped me navigate the process with less stress.” – Jessica, contractor


Renovating a bathroom can be a rewarding and transformative experience, but it requires careful planning, budgeting, and execution. By understanding the different levels of remodeling, following a logical order of tasks, and considering design and material selections that meet both aesthetic and functional needs, you can create a bathroom space that not only looks beautiful but also enhances the functionality and value of your home.

Recap of Key Points

  • Determine the Level of Remodel: Assess your goals and decide whether a surface-level remodel, gut and replace, layout changes, or full structural changes are necessary.
  • Set a Realistic Budget: Factor in the costs associated with your chosen level of remodeling, including materials, labor, and contingencies.
  • Plan for Permits and Materials: Obtain necessary permits and coordinate the timely delivery of materials to keep your project on track.
  • Follow a Logical Order of Tasks: Begin with demolition, followed by plumbing and electrical work, drywall installation, painting, and finally, fixture installation.
  • Choose Design and Materials Wisely: Select tiles, paint, cabinetry, and fixtures that align with your desired aesthetic and functional needs.
  • Learn from Case Studies and Personal Experiences: Gain insights from successful remodels and lessons learned by others to help navigate challenges and make informed decisions.

Final Tips for a Successful Bathroom Remodel

  • Thorough Planning: Invest time in detailed planning and research to ensure you’ve considered all aspects of your remodel, from budgeting to material selections.
  • Allocate Time and Budget Buffers: Build in contingencies for both time and budget to account for unexpected delays or additional expenses that may arise.
  • Stay Adaptable and Patient: Bathroom remodels can be unpredictable, so remain flexible and patient throughout the process, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
  • Communicate Effectively: Maintain open communication with your contractor, designer, or any other professionals involved to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards your desired outcome.
  • Enjoy the Process: While bathroom remodels can be challenging, embrace the journey and look forward to the rewarding feeling of transforming a space into your dream bathroom.

By following the guidance outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the bathroom remodeling process with confidence, creating a functional and beautiful space that meets your needs and enhances the value of your home.

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