Bathroom Remodel Mistakes | 36 Fails

bathroom remodel mistakes

Here are 36 bathroom remodel mistakes that you should avoid. Not doing so can cause unnecessary expense, long term frustration, dissatisfaction, and even loss of property value. 

We have grouped these mistakes in a reasonably logical order but some jumping around is inevitable, since everything is interrelated.

Some of the mistakes listed are reminders of the obvious. But others require a little explanation.

The bathroom remodel mistakes we list here are bathroom specific. You can avoid other, but related, remodel mistakes detailed on this site at: 

1: Failing to hire a professional 

Some minor bathroom remodels are well within the capabilities of a practiced DIYer. But don’t hesitate to hire a professional when necessary.

The “necessary” threshold is when permits need to be pulled. And certainly when plumbing and electrical is involved. It’s at this point that you likely need professional input with the design as well as the execution of the project.

Not hiring a professional for a bathroom remodel is one of the biggest bathroom remodel mistakes you can make. Considering all the money you intend spending on new bathroom “stuff,” a professional is cheap at the price and can actually save you  money.

2: Failing to obtain permits

Minor bathroom renovations are not generally a permitting issue. But anything that involves rough plumbing or electrical, or rearrangement of the bathroom space will likely require permits.

Don’t think of the permitting process as an imposition. Rather think of the inspections involved with the process as insurance that the job will be done safely and correctly. And that there will be no issues on resale that may need to be corrected.

If you have involved a professional, he or she will handle the permitting for you.

3: Failing to plan

Before you do any demolition, make a precise plan that will get you to the end result you desire.

The plan should account for every detail including exact measurements, and a list of materials and their costs. And it should include sketch drawings. 

This plan is essential whether you are making a DIY effort or preparing to hire a professional.

4: Failing to plan for the bathroom users

If you incorporate principles of Universal Design in your bathroom remodel, you won’t go wrong. This will ensure that users of all ages and abilities will find the bathroom and all its elements of sinks, tub, shower, vanity, and toilet easy and welcoming to use.

Universal Design principles will require that you install non-slip surfaces where appropriate, together with grab bars. 

Incorporating these principles can only help you on the eventual resale of the property. The real estate market is becoming more and more conscious of it.

By the way, Universal Design and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) have very similar underlying principles but they should not be confused..

5: Moving plumbing fixtures when you can avoid it

Moving major plumbing fixtures like the toilet, bathtub, sinks, and shower involves a lot of expensive plumbing work. If you can avoid doing this and instead focus on upgrading what you have, you will save yourself a ton of money and time.

6: Improper spatial arrangements

Plan for a properly functioning bathroom layout before you even think about the finishes. Your layout of all bathroom fixtures, including shower, bathtub, toilet, and vanity, should satisfy code requirements for minimum spacing guidelines. This will ensure the comfort and safety of your bathroom in everyday use.

And when you consider spacing, make sure that all elements of the bathroom are in scale with each other.

See our related post: How to Layout a Bathroom Remodel

7: Not including a bathtub

Not including a bathtub is a long range mistake. Not having a tub in the bathroom may seem like a good current lifestyle choice but times and needs change. 

Plus a bathroom with both tub and shower is likely high on a potential buyers list.

8: Failing to plan for towel bars and robe hooks

Towels need wall space. And robe hooks need to be placed for convenience. Think this through when imagining and planning your bathroom space.

9: Failing to allow for door clearances

You don’t want doors that won’t open fully without bumping into the sink, toilet, tub, or vanity. If space is tight, consider sliding doors, bifold doors, or doors that open inward.

10: Making the toilet the first thing you see

This may seem like a small thing. But your bathroom will feel more welcoming if the toilet is not the first thing you see when you go into it. So, if you can avoid it, don’t place the toilet opposite the door.

And related to this, avoid having your bathroom door in direct line of sight from other areas of the home.

11: Failing to provide ventilation

Bathroom extractor fans prevent the growth of mildew and mold on bathroom surfaces. And removing steam and humidity will protect paint and tile grout.

There is likely an extractor fan already present in the bathroom. Your planning may or may not require its relocation. But make sure it is sized correctly. You want at least one CFM of airflow (1 cubic foot per minute) for each square foot of bathroom space.

If your bathroom has a window, the local building code will probably not require mechanical ventilation. But, if you don’t have an extractor fan, it’s a good idea to add it anyway. After all, you are unlikely to have your window open if the central heat or aircon is running.

12: Failing to upgrade the bathroom lighting

We cover lighting in a remodeling project at this post: How to design lighting for a remodeling project

You need to layer in ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. And be careful to provide illumination for the tub, shower, toilet, and, of course, the vanity mirror. 

Incorporate dimmers and motion detector switches. And consider making provision for smart lighting control. 

13: Not bringing in natural light

Natural light is the best kind of lighting. If the bathroom is on an exterior wall, install a window.  If you already have a window, consider enlarging it. Overcome any privacy concerns by using frosted glass.

If there is no opportunity for a window, consider a solar tube or skylight.

14: Not investing in quality plumbing fixtures

Many plumbing fixtures contain plastic parts that are destined to fail early. Make inquiries of quality fixtures that will last a long time. Talk to plumbing experts about this.

15: Not incorporating touchless bathroom faucets

These faucets are not only hygienic. They can also be programmed to deliver water at a specific temperature and flow rate.

16: Mismatching fixtures

Uniformity of plumbing fixture metals makes for a finished look. If they clash or differ, it makes one of them seem like an afterthought or a mistake.

17: Choosing floating, cantilever, or vessel sinks

We cover this in our section on trends. Floating sinks or pedestal sinks may work as a design statement in a powder room to wow your guests. But they are useless in a bathroom that needs maximum storage. 

And don’t get me started on vessel sinks!

18: Failing to upgrade the toilet

Take advantage of your remodel to install a new comfort height toilet. 

19: Failing to install a bidet

Combine your new toilet with a bidet type toilet seat or install a toilet-bidet combo. We discuss the bidet at this post: Why include bidets in a remodel project

20: Failing to install grab bars in association with the toilet

21: Failing to make sure that toilet paper is within easy reach

22: Failing to make a zero threshold shower

This is one of the Universal Design applications. A shower with no threshold is easier to access. And you can do it in a wheelchair.

23: Failing to place the shower controls within easy reach

No one likes to get wet before getting into the shower. So, make sure that you can reach the controls of your new shower before getting in. 

The shower controls do not have to be directly under the shower head. Place them within easy reach of the entrance to the shower. 

But, obviously, at the same time place them where you can adjust the controls while you are standing or sitting in the shower.

24: Failing to include a hand shower wand

A hand held shower wand is not only great to shower with. It is also an important tool for keeping the shower itself clean. Once you have cleaned the shower walls, the shower wand makes rinsing them off a breeze.

25: Failing to install a shower seat

The shower seat is part of the application of Universal Design principles. It makes the shower experience welcoming to all ages. Besides, even younger people like to sit when shaving their legs.

26: Failing to include storage niches or shelves within the shower enclosure

When you are in the shower, you want to have your soaps and shampoos within easy reach.

27: Installing a freestanding tub

The free standing bathtub makes a dramatic design statement but it is impractical for a number of reasons. For example:

  • There is nowhere handy to put your soap.
  • There is no insulation around it. So forget the long, hot soak.
  • It takes up a lot of space.
  • It is hard to clean around.
  • It’s hard to get in and out of.
  • The plumbing is intrusive.
  • It’s next to impossible to incorporate a shower without making the floor wet.

28: Failing to plan for adequate storage

Make sure that your choice of vanity and other cabinetry provides for maximum storage. Don’t fall for the trendy vanity that looks great but is entirely impractical when it comes to stashing your bathroom stuff.

Before you select a vanity or other storage cabinet, a good practical exercise is to lay out all of the things you need for your daily hygiene and beauty routines. See if they need to be stored vertically or horizontally. Can they be accessed easily if you put them on a Lazy Susan? Or should they be in a drawer?

And then add in the linen and toilet paper supplies you need to have on hand in the bathroom.

And don’t forget the medicine cabinet. The medicine cabinet is not considered very chic these days. But don’t turn your nose up at it. You can’t beat it for practicality, especially in a small bathroom.

29: Failing to provide adequate electrical outlets 

Consider all the electrical appliances you need in the bathroom. These can include hairdryers, curlers, electric toothbrushes, and mobile devices. And even if these devices are cordless, they need somewhere to charge.

Aside from wall outlets in the vanity backsplash, consider incorporating power outlets inside the vanity drawers or in the medicine cabinet.

30: Failing to provide a GFCI

A ground fault circuit interrupter is a basic and essential safety device used in bathrooms, kitchens, and the exterior, where water fixtures are to be found.

If you are using a remodeling professional or going through a permitting process, you can be sure this will be installed correctly. It is typically incorporated into one or more of the electrical receptacles.

31: Going trendy

Avoid the faddy and overly trendy in the design of your bathroom and your choice of finishes. We have covered this subject in some detail in these posts:

32: Choosing the wrong tile

Don’t choose a tile that requires a large amount of grout. This is hard to keep clean. So minimize grout lines and choose tried and true tile types like porcelain and stone. Avoid mosaic tile.

33: Choosing the wrong countertop material

  • Don’t use tile on your countertop. The finish is uneven and the grout is a cleaning problem.
  • Don’t use marble anywhere in the bathroom – it’s a staining and cleaning nightmare.
  • Do use continuous materials like Corian or granite.
  • Or use an integrated sink and countertop.

34: Laying carpet in the bathroom

Any kind of fabric flooring in the bathroom is a no-no. It is unhygienic and prone to staining.

35: Using the wrong tile on the floor

Don’t use wall tile on the bathroom floor, even though you love it. Wall tile is generally not rated for the kind of impact foot traffic delivers. There are exceptions but you need to inquire closely.

Also you want to be sure that your floor tile delivers the kind of friction that can prevent you slipping on it.

36: Using hardwood or laminate on the bathroom floor

Wood flooring in the bathroom is hard to maintain. But if you like the look of wood there are ceramic tiles that simulate wood amazingly well.

Laminate flooring can allow water to seep between the laminate sheets and they will eventually come detached from the subfloor.

Bathroom remodel mistakes wrap up

We have covered 36 bathroom remodel mistakes. Most of these are inarguable. And, while we might agree that some may be just our opinion, this is an opinion backed by a lot of experience.

The point is that, with any remodeling project, attention to detail is vital. And no detail is too small to consider.

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