If you’re one of the many homeowners who are planning on remodeling their bathroom this fall, you have an important choice in front of you. Should you take the do-it-yourself route to try to cut your overall costs, or should you bring in a professional contractor to make sure your remodel is done right? In this article, we’ll review some of the specific areas of your project that require the work of a professional, as well as some of the dangers of DIY bathroom remodeling and what you need to know before getting started.
Plumbing, Electrical, and Structural Changes
There’s no substitute for—or shortcut to—true expertise. Even with the wide variety of home remodeling guides and how-to videos out there, the average homeowner just does not have the experience, training, or intuition of a professional contractor.
One of the major risks associated with DIY remodeling is that you are essentially choosing to hire a non-professional with very little hands-on experience: yourself. This can lead to serious issues. Here are the four major projects in a bathroom remodel that you should leave to a licensed contractor.
Demolition or structural changes
Any structural alterations to the bathroom’s layout—including changing the location of the toilet, sinks, shower, or bathtub—should be handled by an experienced contractor. An experienced local contractor will start by advising you on the feasibility of such changes: even if moving things around and changing the structure of the bathroom is technically possible, it may not be within your planned budget. Structural changes are the most expensive component of a bathroom remodel.
If you continue to move forward with the planned structural changes, you’ll need a contractor to pull the necessary permits and arrange for an inspection. Most structural changes to a bathroom require both. Permits and inspections play a critical role in both the safety and resale value of your home. Skipping this step could cause serious problems for you down the road.
Other bathroom upgrades
Beyond structural changes, plumbing alterations, and electrical work, a professional can help with other areas of your bathroom remodel, including:
- Sloping the shower drain
- Laying floor tile
- Installing a bathroom vanity
- Adding shower tile
- Installing faucets and fixtures
As with plumbing and electrical work, every aspect of a bathroom remodel requires incredible precision and accurate measurements. Even being off a fraction of a degree or an eighth of an inch can be disastrous, leading to the need for major rework and ballooning your remodeling costs. Incorrect measurements can lead to the bathroom remodel looking shoddy and unprofessional. At worst, a lack of precision can cause even more serious issues, such as a shower that floods instead of draining or a bathtub with improperly fitted, leaking pipes.
Installing new pipes and plumbing
As with major structural changes, installing or moving pipes would be best left to a licensed plumbing professional. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Avoid mistakes: In any situation where pipes are being moved or worked with, there is a risk of something going wrong that could lead to a hidden leak down the road. A licensed professional will know how to avoid making these errors.
- Diagnose issues: During a bathroom remodel—especially for an older home—it’s not unheard of for pre-existing water damage to be discovered around pipes. A professional can identify signs of water damage and make the necessary repairs before the remodel is completed.
- Lower project costs: As noted earlier, moving pipes can balloon the costs of your bathroom remodel. An experienced contractor can advise you on whether moving the pipes is absolutely necessary before you start your project.
Along with your kitchen, your bathroom is the place in your home where both water and electrical wiring come into close proximity. Doing your own bathroom rewiring not only requires the aforementioned permit and inspection process but can also be extremely dangerous for any homeowner to try to handle themselves. DIY outlet installation or rewiring greatly increases the risk of:
- a home fire started by faulty or ungrounded wiring
- electrocution at the time of installation
- electrocution at any time after installation is completed
An experienced bathroom remodeling contractor will bring a licensed electrician in to complete any rewiring work and ensure that the project conforms to local codes and permits. As a homeowner, you get the peace of mind that comes with a bathroom that continues to be safe to use.
What are the benefits of working with an expert?
A bathroom remodeling professional has the tools and experience needed to get the job done right. Even more than that, they have something else that many DIY remodelers lack: time. Many measurement mistakes occur because the homeowner is rushing to complete a part of the remodel in the evening after a long day at work. Unlike a contractor who lives and breathes remodeling work, the remodeling project is not the homeowner’s sole focus. In many cases, mixing life’s distractions with something as complex and technical as sloping a shower floor can result in a subpar remodel.
There’s no shortage of reasons why you should hire a professional for your bathroom remodeling project. Our recommendation is that you start talking with local contractors about your remodeling plans. Get multiple bids, and be sure to ask about their references and prior work. The very best contractors should be able to provide you with dozens of highly satisfied homeowners who have worked with them before.