Not long ago, I wrote an article about why bathroom remodels cost more than other room remodels per square foot. It's easy to underestimate the budget of a bathroom remodel for several reasons—decreased returns, an abundance of materials, and limited space, to name a few. However, there is an approach to bathroom projects that will extract the best value per square foot, and it centers on creating a smooth project process.

First, it’s important to understand why bathroom costs can add up. There’s a lot of architectural, product, and managerial complexity that goes into a small bathroom space. Below, I have identified a few items that can cause problems and potential cost increases within an otherwise smooth project flow:

  • Lack of attention to:
    • Architectural aesthetic
    • Product choices
  • Unforeseen existing building barriers (like the location of utilities)
  • Project management inefficiencies
  • Product delays
  • Communication delays

If any of these issues arise, they can easily amplify the project cost and affect the project flow. With larger projects, inefficiencies, delays, or changes are much more easily absorbed— most likely, there are other areas of the job that still need work, and the project marches on. In a smaller project like a bathroom remodel, one mishap can hold up the flow of the entire job.

Project preplanning

To make a project go smoothly, the architect, contractor, and client need to be able to work well together. It’s a team effort. A detail-oriented homeowner who preplans with the architect and works with the contractor during design is perhaps the most important factor in eliminating inefficiencies for any remodel, but especially with small bathroom remodels. 

Here are some items to discuss in preplanning that will aid with efficient project management:

  • A detailed blueprint, including elevations
  • A product specifications catalogue
  • Specific fixture locations
  • Project space inspections to verify if building cavities can accommodate desired design
  • Budgetary consultations that reflect the project

The architect and contractor should work together to complete this list before work begins. The key to a successful project is designing working efficiency long before the project starts.

Project management preplanning

Once the project is ready to start, the contractor needs to be on top of their project management and hands-on execution methods. It’s best to have the architect involved to help with any snags in the project, too—remember, it’s all about teamwork. The contractors, as well as project and task management, should remain proactive until the project is completed. Below are some items to help keep project management on task.

  • Verify, preorder, and store products before the project starts
  • Create a calendar schedule for all project phases
  • Communicate with subcontractors about timing before the project starts
  • Create a real-time communication method with the client and architect

Following the to-do list above will help you plan ahead and complete preparatory tasks before getting into construction work. Remember, at this point, there’s a print, specification sheet, and product sheet in place for the project. With product preordered, a project schedule, and a communication program set, the construction phase is set up to go as smoothly as possible.

Proactive working methods for construction

Once the construction of the project starts, it’s important for the contractor to continue on the project path that was created above. Having all the prints, specifications, communications, and schedules organized and easily available is key for project efficiency. For example, if the contractor’s carpenter lead needs a layout, it should be easily read on the print or laptop on-site. Keeping accurate pictures as the project moves along and communicating with everyone without delay is crucial. Lastly, here are a few tasks to be performed during construction to keep things flowing:

  • Keep construction area clean and organized
  • Work on one thing at a time
  • Have the project ready for subcontractors and know what they need prior to their work
  • Refer to products in storage and their specs for fit and finish during framing stage

If you’re looking for the best value out of a remodel project, it’s important to find an architect and contractor that will work with the homeowner from the beginning of the process. Finding more value in your project isn’t about securing the least expensive pricing—the best dollar value, for a small bathroom remodel, is in the details of planning ahead. 

For more of Daniel’s remodeling tips, check out Why Fit-and-Finish Layout is Important in a Remodel Project and How to Effectively Project Manage a Home Remodel. Then, take a deeper look into how professional designers play into your remodeling project.