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  • Writer's pictureBill Gagne

How to Plan a Renovation

Whether you’re going to hire a contractor, do-it-yourself or do a mix of the two, a good plan makes for a happier renovation. 

A successful renovation plan starts with these 3 questions:

What do you have?

Before you can get to the sexy parts of what your bathroom is going to look like when it’s done, you have to start by figuring out what you have. This means making a floorplan of how big your bathroom is and where everything is located.

To start, you will need to get paper, pencil, a measuring tape and your eyes.

Next, measure the walls from one side to the other on each wall section.

After that comes the part that takes the most work

  • Where is the tub/shower? ?hat are its dimensions?

  • Where is the vanity? What are its dimensions?

  • Where is the toilet?

  • Where is/are the lights?

  • Where are the plugs?

  • Is there a bathroom fan?

  • Where is the door? What are its dimensions?

  • Is there a window? Where is it? What are its dimensions?

Don’t be intimidated by making a floorplan. Every room is a geometric shape like a square or a rectangle or a combination of shapes. With YouTube, you can find some simple videos (like the one I have linked here) on how to make a floorplan.

If you’re low tech, my mom had a great trick that she used for her projects back in the day. She would draw the floorplan on graph paper with a pencil and a ruler and literally cut and paste little toilets, vanities, tubs and so forth, onto the page.

If you’re a little more modern, and who isn’t these days, a really good option is an online software called It gives you one free plan or you can get 5 plans for $15 for 1 year. It is a subscription software so be sure you cancel it at the end of the year or use the settings to decline the auto-renewal option or it will bill your credit card every year.

Given that your bathroom renovation can be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000, spending $15  for a floorplan software is worth the investment because it can save you money and time.

And don’t forget to take pictures of what you have. When you are talking to contractors or the guy down at your local big box hardware store, having a floorplan and pictures of what you have can go a long way to finding what you need.

What do you want to have?

The next step is the fun part, what do you want your bathroom to look like when you are completed. The internet is a great place to exercise your pinterest fantasies about the incredible bathroom design project that you are going to create.

Budget warning: If you are planning on moving or adding things in the bathroom, be it the door, the window, the walls, the toilet, the tub or the shower, this is going to increase your cost. More complicated means more time and more money.

Using, or the graph paper version of it, take the floorplan of your existing bathroom and design your space.

After figuring out what the final bathroom renovation floorplan is, you can get into the fun stuff of picking your finishes:

  • What type of flooring you are using: Tiles, luxury vinyl tiles, vinyl plank, etc.

  • What type of tiles you are using for your shower or tub area?

  • What toilet/vanity/faucet/shower heads are you picking?

  • What colour are the walls

  • What baseboard and casing are you using for the trim?

We use this selection sheet with our clients for their projects. A selection sheet helps you keep track everything so when it comes time to start your project or hire a contractor, you’re prepared with a detailed list of items, quantities and costs.

Nothing makes me happier as a general contractor than getting an email from a prospective client that has a floorplan of what they have, pictures of what is there, a selection sheet of the products they want and a floorplan of where everything is going.

How far backwards do you have to go?

This is the less fun part; You have to figure out how much of your existing bathroom has to come out before you can start building that washroom oasis you have dreamed up.

In short, how much of your bathroom do you have to demolish to build your new bathroom? If you’re just updating your bathroom, meaning not moving doors, windows or any fixtures, it keeps your costs down. That also limits your demolition to the interior of the existing space.

You have to live through this renovation as well as pay for it. Bathroom renovations can take 3 to 5 weeks, mainly because of drying times for drywall taping, painting and tile work.If you’re pushing into other rooms, your timeline and your budget will need to increase. The more complicated your project, the more time and money has to go into it.

Parting shots

Any renovation plan is a process. You will change your mind multiple times and the number of decisions can be overwhelming. Try to keep in your head that every change is getting you closer to the bathroom or kitchen or basement you want and can afford.

Managing your own expectations will help you have a better experience for the project whether you are hiring a contractor, doing it yourself or a mix of the two.

Being organized will give you piece of mind throughout the project and keep you focused on the finish line. It will also help you navigate the potential problems because you have a plan that can be changed. With no plan or process it’s hard to find direction when problems come up.

Key points to remember:

  • Every successful renovation starts with a plan

  • Make a floorplan

  • Make a selection sheet of all your finishes (floors/tiles/toilet/fixtures/lights/etc.)

  • Remember you have to live through this and not just pay for it

  • Having a plan helps when problems occur because you can go back to it and make changes.

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