A Beginner’s Guide to Bathroom Renovation & Dealing with Contractors

For the majority of my adult life, I lived in apartments (or dorm rooms). These places were temporary where the most I could do was to MAYBE put a nail in a wall to hang something, and that was only if I patched the holes before I left. When I bought my house back in 2019, I had all of these grand plans of making it mine. I have done some work to the outside and bought some furniture, but it still felt a bit like I was living in someone else’s house. Then, my mom helped talk me into a bathroom renovation.

The impetus for the entire bathroom renovation was my vanity. Somehow, it was installed crooked, so it never drained. It mildewed super quickly because the water was just sitting there, and it drove me bananas. In addition to that, the tile on the floor was large and tan with dark and gold accents. It just wasn’t my style. I kept trying to match a new vanity or new shower curtain with all of the dark accents and tan-ness, and I just wasn’t happy. That’s when my mom mentioned just starting fresh with new floors and making the bathrooms how I wanted them to be.

This was my first renovation project ever. My parents were very handy as I was growing up, so we did a few things ourselves around the house. They did some new tiles and bathroom things after my sister and I left for college. I learned a lot, and want to impart my wisdom on you (and share the final results).

Phase 0: The Before

Phase 1: The Research

I did A LOT of research before going into this project. I think I decided in June that I would do it, bought a lot of my accents on Prime Day, started talking to contractors in July, and the job started in August.

Things to Research:

  • Flooring – Look at places like Floor & Decor, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and then look at any local stores you may have as well. In my extensive research, I did find that Floor & Decor had the best prices, but they were AWFUL to work with (I’ll share more later). Also, don’t forget about the grout (AND GROUT COLOR).
  • Vanities – Measure your vanity! There are 30″ and 36″. Most that are bigger than that will be double vanities. I was replacing a builder’s grade vanity, which means that it was pretty short and stocky. Do you want a center sink or a one-sided sink?
  • Faucet, mirrors, accents, etc. – This is kind of the fun stuff! For me, most of my bathroom came from a faucet that I fell in love with on Amazon. You will also want to check your faucet with your vanity to make sure everything fits.

Now, it’s entirely possible that you will work with a contractor who will be able to advise you on whether or not all that you’ve picked out works together. I did not.

You also need to research contractors! See if they have any photos of their work online. Do they have any reviews? Do they have a legitimate website? Did you get a good “feel” from them when they gave you a FREE estimate? Seriously, don’t pay for estimates. How was their communication? These people will be in your home for DAYS, so you want to make sure that they don’t give you the heebie jeebies.

Things to Ask:

  • Are you licensed and insured? Can you send this information to me?
  • What is the guarantee on the work that you do? – I would say this is ESPECIALLY important for things like plumbing and electricity.
  • When can you start work?
  • Will you provide a materials list or purchase your own materials?

Phase 2: The Buying

Spoiler alert: This will cost quite a bit of money. There are all of the materials that you need to buy, and then you also need to pay contractors (unless you’re doing it yourself…Good for you. You still need to buy materials though.)

My number one recommendation is to over-buy. I thought I had over-purchased enough, but I was apparently wrong. (If I’m being 100% honest, I don’t think I was wrong. I think my contractors took advantage of me.) If you plan your purchases properly, you should have plenty of time to return everything that wasn’t used. In the end, I got about $250+ back in returns from unused products. Pro Tip: You can return individual pieces of tile to Floor & Decor.

I also tried to purchase things over time a bit to spread out the financial burden. If you’re good with credit cards, put everything on a credit card! You’ll get the points back (or cash back or however your card works).

Phase 3: The Bathroom Renovation

I did not listen to my mother (really) when she told me that the contractor’s 2-3 day estimate would become a week. Well, the original 2-3 day estimate became 24 days. TWENTY-FOUR DAYS. Now, the contractors did not work all of those days, but the project was in progress for three weeks.

I have the blessing of being able to work from home, so it was a bit of a challenge working around the contractors. It’s really uncomfortable to have to use the bathroom when there are strangers in your house. I wasn’t ever sure if I should feed them (I didn’t) or watch them (I didn’t).

It’s a good rule of thumb to poke your head in to a job every hour or so. Just let them know that you’re around and you’re watching them.

There will be dust everywhere. I’m still finding dust around. If you stay on top of cleaning after they leave at the end of each day, it might not be so bad.

Phase 4: The Aftermath

Overall, I’m pleased that I went through with the renovation. It’s aesthetically what I was looking for, and now I’ve put my stamp on the house!

However, I am not pleased with the work that was done. I can feel that the floor is not level. They pulled out one threshold in a bathroom and not the other, so it’s a weird discrepancy. Some grout lines are thicker than others. There were handprints left on my freshly painted walls. They ruined a few towels (after they dragged a toilet through my house and didn’t put anything down). I’ve kept their name out of it, but I’m more than happy to tell anyone who NOT to use if you’re in the metro-Atlanta area.

I still have some more decor to do, but I’m very happy with the bathroom renovation. This setup also warranted that I needed different organization in my vanity. And, yes, that is a sign that says “wiz palace.” #iykyk


This entire bathroom renovation was inspired by the floor tile. I found it first, and everything essentially fell into place from there.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, so I may receive a small commission from sales generated (at no cost to you).

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