How to Renovate a Bathroom – Key Steps

a white bathroom with textured wall tiles, wooden vanity cabinet with a sink and a customized tub

Are you wondering how to renovate a bathroom? Bathrooms are not just about bathrooms anymore.

Renovating a bathroom can be as simple as changing out towel rods and faucets for new ones, or as complex as knocking down walls and rearranging tubs and toilet. However, one of the most used fixtures and the primer decorative item in your bathroom or ensuite is the vanity.

Before you can begin your DIY bathroom renovation, you will need to plan it out. The more work you do at the planning stage, the easier it will be to carry out your plans once you move on to the next step.

Plan the Design and layout

Decide how you want the bathroom to look like. The design of your bathroom renovation is one of the most important elements of the project.

Think about what mood, theme, and colour scheme you want. The design you choose for your renovation should be based on your personal preferences, what aesthetic and design elements you think will look best in the space, and the budget.

As bathrooms are generally small rooms, it's important to design a layout that maximises the space available. Start by collating the essential information, and get your quotes: measure up your bathroom and design a floor plan, then find the tradies you’ll need; like tilers, carpenters, and plumbers etc.

The most common design elements you should definitely decide upon before you start your bathroom renovation are:

  • Colour scheme: what colours will you use for your bathroom renovation? Make sure that all of the elements of your design work together in terms of the colour scheme. If your bathroom is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, this simple upgrade will revitalise the space and give the impression of a fresh bathroom makeover.
  • Theme: such as modern, contemporary or coastal. Write down things that might go with that theme, such as rustic wood, lighthouses, others.
  • Fixtures: will you need completely new fixtures in your new bathroom, such as showers, sinks and tubs? If so, how many fixtures do you plan on replacing? Knowing this will play a large part in creating your budget as well as helping you decide on other aspects of your budget.
  • Storage: will you be adding storage space during your renovation? You will also need to find replacements for any areas of the bathroom that you’ve renovated by removing storage options, such as removing bathroom closets.
  • Lighting: make sure you have adequate lighting in your bathroom. Review how much natural light your bathroom windows are currently providing, then decide the type of lighting you require.
  • Heating and ventilation: there are several heating options in bathrooms, but the main heating solutions are heated towel rails and underfloor heating.
  • Utility: Where are the utilities in your bathroom located? Specifically, where are the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes in your bathroom located?

Define how much work needs to be done

Determine the scope of your ideal bathroom renovation. There are different types of renovations, and each requires a different amount of work, money and time. Some renovations may also require the aid of a trained professional, for which you will need to hire a contractor. You could choose between three main types of renovations:

  1. Basic Bathroom Renovation
  2. Mid-Range Bathroom Renovation
  3. High-End Bathroom Renovation

Consider this short list of things for your bathroom renovation:

  • Floor tile, tile bed, and grout
  • Shower/bath tile, tile bed and grout
  • Sink faucet
  • Showerhead and fixtures
  • Paint
  • Vanity Unit or Mirror Cabinet
  • Mirror
  • Towel bars and hooks

Remodels accrue unexpected costs along the way. You will plan for this. So deduct 10% from the number you wrote on the paper. This is the dollar amount you can actually spend.

Define a budget

The more you plan on doing to your bathroom, the more money you will have to spend. After your floor plan is done, then comes research, and getting all the important quotes. Highlighting a single focal point in your bathroom to feature your style takes the pressure off the budget, as you put your money into a small area. This might be a floating vanity and splashback tiles and a coloured vessel basin, or mosaic on a shelf wall.

A complete bathroom renovation can involve a number of different trade specialists from plumbers, tilers, electricians, plasterers, painters, waterproofing specialists and more.

One of the most common ways to blow out your budget is by choosing everything separately. It also makes keeping track of your overall budget harder, and you end up spending far more than you intended.

The cost of a complete bathroom renovation will depend on several factors, including:

  • The size of the bathroom
  • The fittings selected (toilet, bath, sink etc.)
  • The materials, the quality of materials and products used (tiles, paint, etc.). Choose moisture and mildew-resistant paint.
  • The scope of plumbing, electrical work and other installations
  • The addition of luxury elements such as heated flooring or heated towel racks
  • If there will be new or moved ventilation systems such as an exhaust fan

Plan Your Bathroom Remodel Project Timeline

Timing your bathroom renovation can significantly affect the level of inconvenience you experience. If you are using a contractor, they will likely be able to give you a better idea of how long it will take.

But timelines in renovation can be off because of delays in supplies, unexpected conditions behind the walls, delays from subcontractors or even unexpected conditions.

Removal of your old bathroom

The demolition of your existing bathroom will happen pretty quickly once your tradies start ripping in. Demolition generally only takes 1 to 2 days, time can vary depending though if you come across asbestos which will need to be professionally removed. This can add an additional 1-2 days of work.

Cover anything that isn't getting renovated with plastic or paper to protect it. . If you are painting your bathroom, you will want to cover the counters, floors, sinks, toilets, and light switches so that they don't get dirty.

Get rid of anything that you will be replacing. This includes faucets, towel rods, and toilets. The less clutter you have in your bathroom, the easier your renovation will be.

Bathroom installation


The final step in the bathroom renovation order of work process is the actual installation.

The usual bathroom installation stages are:

Measure out the new layout and make sure the products you have researched and ordered will fit the space.

Re-frame bathroom to a new plan

First fix:

The first fix consists of any plumbing and electrical requirements. Have a plumber move piping and drainage (if moving) and an electrician install new wiring (if moving).

Tear out old plaster walls & lath:

Walls are covered with your choice of tile or wallboards. Sheet walls using blue board/fibro cement sheeting to walls and prep to waterproofing. The waterproof wet area will need time to dry, usually takes 24 hours between coats. Once the plumbing and electrical systems are in, and the wall and floor substrates are complete, waterproofing is the next essential stage – even if the bathroom isn't a complete wet room.

  • Lay underground heating.
  • Install shower tile.

Tear up old vinyl floors:

Floors are covered with your choice of tile or vinyl flooring. When choosing tiles, think about durability, maintenance and cleaning.

  • Make any updates to the tub & vanity fixtures that require a wall or floor access
  • Prime and paints walls

Finishing touches:

Sanitary ware and furniture installation. Install your cabinetry, vanity, toilet, wall-mounted tapware and mixer taps will make a bathroom look streamlined shelving (if using).

How to renovate a bathroom on a budget

Renovating a bathroom can be a big outlay of money. How much you spend on your bathroom renovation will vary depending on your individual needs, the overall value of the property, the style of your home and the bathroom space.

If you are looking to renovate your bathroom on a tight budget, here are some ideas on jobs you can do to get the renovated look you’re after without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

  • Inspect the ceiling and walls
  • Paint portions of the interior by yourself (for example, the tiles)
  • Replace the shower screen, taps, toilet suite and floor gate
  • Refinish the bathroom bathtub instead of replacing it
  • Install a new sink faucet
  • Update the blinds
  • Replace the light with a modern pendant and bathroom fittings