How to Start the Process of a Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodeling Process | How To With Red Cloud Contracting

We get calls all the time regarding bathroom remodels. From powder rooms to hall bathrooms, master bathrooms to the bathroom in the basement. Bathrooms are such an essential part of any home and there’s a lot to consider when thinking about redoing a bathroom. Are there layout changes? Are you converting the tub to a walk-in shower? What kinds of finishes are you going with? What color fixtures? Lighting updates, and so many more questions to answer. My goal for this blog is to help answer some of these questions and give direction regarding your next bathroom remodel. 

Things to Consider in a Bathroom

As mentioned above, there’s quite a list of items that need further planning and detailing when it comes to your next bathroom remodel.  During a Discovery Call with a potential client, I like to dive into some main key areas:

  • Layout changes
  • Style and design
  • Fixture selections (both plumbing and electrical)
  • Vanity area
  • Wet area finishes (tub or shower area)

Each of these categories breaks down even more.  When it comes to remodeling a bathroom, there are many components and there are so many options for each component.  Let’s dive a little more into each major category

How To Choose A Bathroom Layout

Many of the bathrooms we remodel don’t have any major layout changes.  Meaning, the tub and/or shower, toilet, and vanity are staying in the same place.  This certainly makes things a bit “easier” to plan as we aren’t knocking out any walls, or having to move any major plumbing rough-ins.  However, we certainly have done a lot of layout changes to many of the bathrooms we’ve remodeled. 

In many cases, our clients are looking for better utilization of space in their bathrooms.  Lots of times there’s a 20+-year-old soaker tub that’s situated in a corner and has a massive tile “deck” surrounding it.  In just about every situation, the clients don’t even use the tub as it’s sort of a burden to get in and out of and just isn’t practical to use.  Sound familiar to you?  If this is the case, typically it’s pretty easy to figure out a better spot for a tub or to completely get rid of the tub altogether. We’ve eliminated our fair share of massive tubs in the Master Bathroom.  And in some cases, it makes way for a much larger walk-in shower.

For example, we did a project in St. Charles, IL last year where a couple had just moved in from Oklahoma to be closer to family.  In their Master Bathroom, they had as described above, a large soaker tub abutting a small shower.  This was just not a practical layout for them as they never planned to use the bathtub.  So during the planning and design process, we figured out a good way to completely eliminate the bathtub, capping the PVC and copper lines supplying the tub and then extending the existing shower to make it much larger.  A pretty simple solution to make it much more practical for them and it turned out great!

Removing a tub and making a shower larger is just one layout change that’s possible depending on your existing bathroom.  On other projects, however, we’ve been able to add separate shower spaces that didn’t originally exist.  Take a project we did in Aurora recently as an example.  The Hall Bathroom had a tub (which didn’t change its location), a toilet, and a large vanity area that spanned an entire wall, taking up a ton of room.  The homeowners didn’t want to eliminate the tub, as they were planning to continue using it.  But they wanted to have a separate shower in that bathroom to make it a bit easier and accessible for a special needs family member.  Our solution here was to move the toilet over, build a partitioning wall to create a 3 wall shower alcove and install a much smaller vanity sink opposite to the shower.  This was a perfect solution for them and functions really well.  There was just enough room in the existing footprint to add the shower.  Granted, based on the space we had to work with it’s not a super large shower.  But it had enough room for a wall-mounted bench and corner-style soap caddy. 

The aforementioned situations are only a couple of the basic layout changes that you might be looking for.  There are, however, much larger scale layout changes that are possible.  Take for example a project we are currently working on where not only are we removing a massive corner-style tiled soaker tub, relocating it to the other side of the room with a freestanding jetted soaker tub thus making the adjacent shower larger, but also moving the vanity location, and also moving a couple of walls to reorient the adjacent closet to make this all work.  These types of larger changes require a lot more design work and planning – especially when moving plumbing fixtures.  There’s a lot more involved with running new PVC vents and drains as well as the copper for the water supply.  Fortunately, the basement area underneath is unfinished (the only unfinished area in the basement), making it a lot easier to run all the various mechanicals to accomplish the desired layout.  If we weren’t as fortunate to have an unfinished area beneath, it would still be possible but would require cutting into drywall and other finished areas to make it happen.  All within the scope of possibility.

There is yet one other example that you might be considering regarding a layout change.  And that’s installing a bathroom where one never existed.  We have a job coming up in Lombard, IL where we are planning to do this very thing.  Basic scope: we are converting an existing bedroom into a walk-through closet leading to a Master Bathroom.  Apart from an addition (new construction), this is by far the largest scope regarding a bathroom layout change.  This project in particular will be a bit more challenging as not only do we have to run all new mechanicals (plumbing & electrical) to the new Master Bathroom, we have to re-route and relocate radiators.  This home still has the existing boiler system and radiators throughout the home.  Needless to say, we will have to cut into the existing finished areas below since this project is on the 2nd floor of the home.  Not to worry though – we have spent lots of time planning the various components of this project and have a really good plan of action moving forward.

Choosing A Bathroom Style and Design

When it comes to the overall finished look of a bathroom, style, and design come to mind and are something to consider when remodeling a bathroom.  To be completely honest, I personally don’t have a background in interior design.  What I can say is that I’ve remodeled enough bathrooms to help consult the overall coordination of varying finishes, colors, etc. but I can only take it so far.  Sure, I bring samples of different finishes and share my opinion on what I think looks good together but what I really like to do is bring in an interior designer to help consult on these things.  This is one of the services we offer here at Red Cloud with our Pro and Premier pre-construction planning packages. 

It’s certainly important to have an idea of what the bathroom will look like when it is finished and the help of an interior designer is the way to go.  In addition to that, with the technology we have today and the software available, we can even turn a two-dimensional plan into a three-dimensional plan that incorporates all of the finishes so that you can see it in a virtual space.  This is included in our Premier Package and something to consider when working through the planning stages of your remodel.  Bottom line, we have your back when it comes to figuring out YOUR style and design for your next bathroom remodel.

Bathroom Fixture Selections

Depending on the style and design look that you want to accomplish with your bathroom remodel, there will be various choices when it comes to how you want to update the fixtures in the bathroom – both plumbing fixtures and electrical fixtures.  Going through these selections would be one of the tasks to be completed with the interior designer.

One trend that I’ve noticed recently with regard to fixture colors is black finishes.  Chrome and Satin Nickel are still available, but I’ve noticed an uptick in black fixture selections.  And just to be clear, when referring to “fixtures”, I’m talking about the vanity sink faucet, vanity light, tub/shower valve & trim (faucet), shower head, tub spout, tub/shower drain cover, etc.  And even door hardware and cabinet hardware.  There are so many options regarding what manufacturer you want to go with (Moen, Kohler, Grohe, Progress Lighting, etc.) and one resource I like to use when wanting to browse these selections without having to go to a showroom is  What I like about this website is that you can easily filter your searches in multiple different ways to help narrow down your options. 

One thing I want to address in terms of fixtures, other than the style and color, is the practical implications.  For example, if it’s a deck-mounted faucet, it’s important to know if it is a single-handle or two-handle style (either 4” center-set or 8-inch widespread).  This is important because it has practical implications regarding how many holes and where those holes are drilled for the vanity countertop.  Another example would be the tub/shower valve & trim.  Each manufacturer has their own rough-in mixing valve and most manufacturers have different types of valves depending on which trim kit you go with.  Additionally, if you decide to go with a shower system that has multiple shower heads and/or a handheld with a hose attachment, the installers need to know that in order to properly place the plumbing behind the wall to accommodate additional diverter valves, etc.

Fixture selections are an important aspect of any bathroom remodel and there’s a lot to consider.  We’ve only scratched the surface of the many possibilities regarding styles and colors for fixtures.  Again, when working with us here at Red Cloud, there’s always the option to have an interior designer as a part of the conversation.  It’s always a good idea to have extra help when needed.

Vanity Area

When talking about the “vanity area”, I’m referring to the area that has the cabinets, countertop, sink(s), faucets, mirrors, and in most cases, wall-mounted light fixtures.  This area probably has the greatest number of finishes that need to be selected in the bathroom. 

Starting with the cabinets, just like anything else, there are a million options for the cabinet color & style and a million more when it comes to cabinet hardware.  However, in terms of cabinet style and color, one of the more popular styles that I’ve seen as of late is the painted shaker-style cabinets.  7 out of 10 times, the cabinet color will be either white or gray.  The style is timeless and is either a white or gray color, you have tons of other options with everything else in the bathroom such as flooring, wall colors, and finishes in the tub/shower area.  Depending on how much space you have to work with, your vanity area might be able to fit two sinks, and a center cabinet with drawers.  Or if you have a lot of space, you might be able to fit all that and a tall cabinet for linens, etc.  Again, it all depends on how much space you have to work with.

The next thing would be countertops.  Just like anything else, there are plenty of options: quartz, granite, marble, laminate, Onyx, etc.  The most popular vanity tops that we install are quartz.  There are lots of different color options yet there’s quite a price range per square foot as well.  Most vendors we work with have offerings of $60 per square foot up to $100 per square foot for quartz.  Depending on budget and style, there are usually a couple of options that work for most people.  There is, however, one other material that we use quite a bit of and that’s Onyx.  Onyx is similar to quartz in that it is a man-made resin-based solid surface material.  It just has a different formulation and manufacturing process that makes it a little bit different.  We’ll talk more about Onyx when looking at the wet area finishes.

In terms of the other types of countertop material selections, I’ll be honest and say that in the last five years, we’ve only done granite once, laminate twice, and haven’t installed marble.  In my opinion, with the surge of quartz options, granite is a thing of the past.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t have many clients asking for granite.  Laminate can be an economical option but that’s best suited for commercial spaces, like in a break room or something.  You know something “cheap”.  Marble on the other hand can get incredibly expensive.  Sure, it’s a really nice material and looks beautiful but again, with as many quartz options that are out there now, marble just hasn’t been requested by any of my clients.

In conjunction with the countertops would be the vanity sinks.  In most cases, my clients are looking for a rectangular white undermount sink that’s offered through my countertop vendor.  I have gotten requests for outsourced vanity sinks, and that’s when I can easily browse to find something that will work.  For example, in the job we are currently working on in Bartlett, IL – the client wanted the sinks to match the tub which was a Biscuit color (sort of an off-white).  No problem there – we just needed to have the sinks on site when the countertop people came to measure.  Then there is the deck-mounted “bowl” style sinks which look really nice.  But in my opinion aren’t really the greatest option.  It’s sort of the opposite of an under-mount and takes up quite a bit of room on the countertop itself.  Plus, there’s always the possibility of bumping the sink enough times to the point where it loses up, thus breaking the seal at the drain and causing water leaks.  Don’t get too many requests for those.

We’ve already discussed the considerations for vanity faucets and light fixtures.  Mirrors would be another thing to look at.  Depending on what you like, you can go with a frameless mirror that gets glued to the wall.  It offers a clean look and is quite functional.  Then there are the framed options which are nice if you want to add a bit more design to the mirror.  On top of that, you can go with a lighted mirror.  We’ve done a couple of these, and they are really cool.  What I can say is that they’re not cheap and it would require additional electrical work to make it happen but adds a quite unique design element to the bathroom, not to mention the practicality of having additional lighting when using the mirror. 

Wet Area Finishes

One of the last major considerations when doing a bathroom remodel is the “wet area”.  And by wet area, I’m referring to the tub, shower, or tub/shower portion of the bathroom.  As previously talked about regarding the overall bathroom layout, you might have a separate area for a tub and another area for a shower.  Let’s go that route since many of the bathrooms we do are set up this way.

When it comes to the tub, just like anything else, there are lots of options.  It could be a drop-in tub that sits inside a tiled deck.  Or it could be an alcove style that’s positioned between 3 walls.  Then there’s the free-standing tub option.  On top of these options, you could have a simple soaker style, or you could have various therapeutic options built in as well. 

Going back to the job in Bartlett, IL – the client went with a free-standing acrylic tub that has whirlpool jets (click HERE to take a look).  A very nice yet expensive tub.  When working through the design phase of this job, we also decided to go with porcelain tile surrounding the walls near the tub to help with keeping that area accepting to some water AND adding to the overall design and look of the bathroom.  It will be a nice addition to this bathroom and something the client is really looking forward to using since it has the whirlpool option.

Let’s head over to the shower area.  Tons of options here as well.  When it comes to the parts of a shower, you have the shower base, shower walls, various accessories, the shower valve and trim as previously talked about, and the shower door.  Most people like to start with the floor and wall finishes. 

The floor finish depends on the look that you want.  In some cases, we go with a pre-fabricated fiberglass insert.  Not a bad option but fairly limited in its design.  If the customer wants to go with tile, we could do a Schluter system or custom-poured shower pan that will then accept different types of tile.  This is usually what we go with when we are installing a tiled shower floor.  There is another option we briefly touched on and that’s going with Onyx.  Onyx is an incredibly durable product that comes in many different colors and curbs heights.  Click HERE to check out the vendor I use for this product.  What I really like about Onyx is that it’s all made to order, and they can basically make any size and shape that I want with just about any drain location that can be used in a retrofit application.  Surely a consideration when thinking about how to finish your shower floor.

The shower walls are like the floors.  You can go with an insert style (not my recommendation), tile, or Onyx.  Tile is a great option and provides many different combinations, colors, patterns, etc.  I will say that tile work is more expensive that just about any other kind of shower wall finish.  Compared to Onyx, the install burden is at least 4 times greater.  What I really like about Onyx is that in addition to their multiple colors, there are multiple wall textures as well.  Additionally, Onyx comes in sheets and is glued onto the wall in one shot, unlike tile that must be set piece by piece.  Plus, it’s easier to clean and has a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty. 

With either tile or Onyx, there are different kinds of “accessories” you could go with.  Having a recessed niche for soap and shampoo products is a nice option or you could have surface-mounted glass shelves.  Onyx makes a corner caddy and other types of soap holders and dishes.  Additionally, you could have a tiled bench (there are a few ways we could make that happen) or with Onyx you could do a floating seat or a built-in as well.  In either case, you could do a foldable teak bench which we’ve done a few times.  Regarding making the shower area safer, we’ve installed grab bars in order to have something to hold on to.  There are so many different options to make the shower area comfortable, and safe and give you the design and style that fits your budget and your liking.

One of the last things to consider in the shower area would be a glass door, or if you don’t want a glass door, a shower rod & curtain.  Most times we are installing a glass door.  What’s nice about glass is that it comes in multiple styles (framed or frameless), and different glass finishes (frost, rain, obscure, etc.), and it can be cut and made to fit just about any application.  Lots of shower areas we do are pretty simple and just require a standard-size door to fit the opening.  In other cases, like the job we have going in Bartlett, the glass company will come out and measure the shower space and custom-cut the glass to fit.  There’s a portion of the back wall that’s only a half wall and will need glass on top of that.  Again, lots of options when it comes to tub slider doors, or custom-made shower doors.

What To Do Now?

As you can see, there are many things to consider regarding a bathroom remodel as it has an unlimited amount of options.  Unless you work in the construction industry, the process may be confusing and scary.  However, here at Red Cloud Contracting, we have a process that helps solve this problem of not knowing what to do or how to move forward.  It’s called the 3D Experience, and it’s something to get excited about.

The 3D Experience stands for Dream, Design, Deliver.  Each step intentionally walks you through the process – considering your dream for the space, your budget, all the considerations mentioned above, and more.  The main goal is to make it easy for you and lays out a path to move forward. 

Since there’s a lot of planning and design work required for a basement finishing project, we do charge a pre-construction fee.  Based on your overall needs for planning and designing the project, there are 3 different options ranging from $500 – $8,000.  Take a look at our Bookings page for more information.  The first call is always free.  We’d love to help walk you through your next basement project!

So, how do I start the process of a bathroom remodel?  The answer is: Start with a conversation with us!  Here at Red Cloud, we are committed to walking you through the process so that you can discover the best ways to get the most value for your budget and make your dream become a reality.