Must-Know Bathroom Renovation Tips

When is the right time to remodel your bathroom? Any time. If you plan to stay in your home, why suffer with outdated decor, an awkward layout, or inefficient fixtures? If you plan to move soon, a remodel might pay off in a higher listing price or a quicker sale. Here are five things to keep in mind when tackling a bathroom remodel.

1. Start a wish list. Evaluate your existing bathroom -- what you like and what you want to change. List features you've always wanted. Group them according to must-haves and nice-to-haves, and number them by importance. Tour model homes and showrooms, and scan magazines and websites to gather inspiration.

2. Establish a budget. Whether you want to gut your bathroom and start from scratch or just make cosmetic changes, it's important to know how much you want to spend before you start. Also set money aside for the unexpected, such as water or mold problems.

3. Call an expert. Even if you're planning a small-scale makeover or tackling some of the remodel yourself, consult a professional. Pros know what your budget can buy, and they provide solid advice on how to save and where to splurge. They can also help you avoid costly mistakes. Be sure to call in experts for plumbing and wiring, and always get more than one estimate for a job.

4. Get the biggest bang for your buck. Whatever the size of your bath, keep in mind that the more walls containing plumbing pipes, the higher the price tag. Working within a room's existing footprint might not offer the ideal design solution, but it almost always saves money. Moving the toilet or the drain for the shower or tub can be expensive. However, if electrical or plumbing systems are outdated, it can be cheaper in the long run to gut the room and start from scratch. "The most important thing is to have high-quality installers," says Linda Welch, a certified master kitchen and bath designer from Monroe, Michigan. Welch recommends spending more on installation than on products. Also, invest in items that can't be changed easily, such as flooring, the tub, and shower, and don't overlook practical features such as good lighting and storage.

5. Make smart choices. Design with resale in mind if you're planning to stay in your home five years or fewer, says Kathie Maughan Francis, principal and founder of Maughan Design, Inc. in Portland, Oregon. "And if you're planning to stay more than seven years, design your room for yourself, because the look will be considered dated by the time you put the home on the market," she says.

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