Today I’m tackling yet another difficult question: how long does a bathroom renovation take? In case you missed it, last fortnight we talked about how much a bathroom renovation costs, and I have to say, forecasting your renovation timeline is an equally complex topic.
To make it as clear as possible, I’m going to take you phase-by-phase through a bathroom renovation. We’ll talk about what happens in each phase, some different factors that can impact the timeline, along with what you can do to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. You will want to bookmark this blog post for later — it’s packed with important information!
Phase 1: Selecting Materials, Finishes & Features
What is it: Between you and me, in most cases, homeowners don’t start with this step. They start with Phase 2 (getting quotes from trades) and then realise that they can’t get accurate quotes without having their materials selected in advance… which brings them right back here to Phase 1.
Since you’re reading this you’re now wiser and will start here, right? Right.
This phase involves specifying exactly which materials will be going into your bathroom and how much of them. For example, tiles alone require several decisions: supplier, colour name, material type (porcelain, marble, ceramic), finish type (high-gloss, matte), tile size, tile layout, amount needed, grout colour, etc. Wow!
That’s not even including joinery, bench tops, hardware, sanitary ware, lighting, and all the other elements and features of your future space. (You can see why professionals need this information in advance — it tells them everything that will need to happen to get your bathroom from point A to Z.)
How long does it take: Selecting materials for your bathroom can take anywhere from a day (if you use our Designer for a Day service) to several weeks if you’re attempting this on your own. In my experience, most clients who come to us have already tried to do this step on their own and end up overwhelmed by all of the options on the market. If that’s you, fear not. We can help.
Ways to expedite this phase: First, know how you want your future bathroom to function, as design always follows function. For example, what bugs you about the space now? Are you bath people? Who is going to use it?
Put these ideas on paper, and if you would like some structure around this exercise grab my free Decorating and Design Planner. Then, share these insights with your interior designer when planning your bathroom design.
Phase 2: Getting Quotes from Professionals
What is it: Okay, now you can get quotes from professional trades, like your builder. This not only helps you compare professionals but ensures that your project stays on budget.
How long does it take: In general, it could be several weeks to get quotes, but in the current Canberra environment (Covid-related spikes in demand), some trades aren’t even entertaining quotes until 2022. If you’re reading this in late 2021, get on their calendars now! The time will pass quickly and before you know it some action is happening.
How to expedite this phase: Having your bathroom’s interior design and finish selections buttoned up will definitely speed up your process and ensure more accurate, apples-for-apples quotes. You will also want to do your research and have the hard conversations about budget in advance to avoid having to make budget-based revisions to your design. (In fact, having an honest conversation and advice around budget is one of our first steps in the design process.)
Phase 3: Ordering Products & Materials
What is it: It is essential to order products and materials before your project starts. If your builder is on-site and ready to install tiles, but there are no tiles to be found, you have just wasted valuable time… and time is money. It’s also important to know that most builders won’t even start construction (or demolition, luckily) until all materials are on-hand.
My wise builder didn’t start my job until the windows were physically here on-site — which was smart. With the window being removed and replaced early in the process, the last thing we wanted was a gaping hole in our home for the entire Canberra winter!
How long does it take: These days local suppliers are offering more choice than ever before, but the problem is they can’t keep stock of everything. There just simply isn’t enough demand from our small population. However, we can source pretty much any bathroom renovation supplies that we desire, as long as we’re willing to wait.
As a rule of thumb, importing anything typically tiles takes about 3-4 months. In your bathroom, high-quality tiles often come from Italy and Spain, or maybe even China. Windows will usually take 3 months, but mine took 5 because they came from the USA.
Other items that take time are special finishes on tapware. Generally, most suppliers carry a stock of tapware in their chrome finish, but they might offer over 40 other finishes that are made to order, like the gold-coloured finishes in my bathroom. For those, allow 3 months.
Overall, it’s difficult to predict these numbers in advance, but you can absolutely expect to exercise some patience.
How to expedite it: It is nearly impossible to expedite the delivery of these products, but having your design plan done early (Phase 1) and ordering as soon as possible does give you some measure of control. I also suggest placing orders for your project’s supplies as a batch instead of partial ordering whilst waiting on decisions. As mentioned earlier, you can have fixtures and fittings ordered to arrive before you start.
Another alternative is to hire an interior designer to do all the legwork for you. In our Classic Bathroom Design service, we manage your project from start to finish, including the design, ordering, procurement, coordinating with your builder, installation, and more. This is THE most efficient and effective way to design a bathroom — and gets you magazine-worthy results.
Phase 4: Construction & Installation
What it is: No surprises here, the last phase is the physical demolition, construction, and installation of your new bathroom.
How long does it take: It is much quicker to renovate in a brick veneer home (6-8 weeks) than in a home of solid brick. Why? Because you just never know what you are going to find in an older home that might cause delays. In our case, there were missing and broken bricks behind the render, and it took 3-4 months. And of course, the more construction required (if you’re changing the floor plan and drainage), the longer it will take.
You will also want to be mentally prepared for periods of inactivity due to drying time. During the build of your bathroom there are multiple steps that require drying time (I often wonder how on earth they do TV bathrooms). Water proofing, glues, grout, wet seal, silicon, plaster or render, and lastly paint all require drying time. Plus, if your drying time lines up with a Canberra winter, it may take a little longer.
This phase is also notorious for hiccups that add time. In my case, once the floor tiles were demolitioned and the new drain cut, it became apparent that our bathroom subfloor was thin and might not offer the longevity we hoped to gain from our bathroom renovation. Changing the subfloor added two weeks to our timeline. Even though demolition was pretty fast, there was the coordination of a new floor pour, and of course, the aforementioned drying time.
Even though I found this news a bit grim, it is completely normal in any renovation. So expect the unexpected.
How to expedite it: I personally recommend using an experienced builder. My builder says it’s not rocket science, but it does take a lot of coordination, coordination takes time, and that is all without the learning curve because he knows what he is doing. Amateurs will find their timeline doubled.
With a bit of research, you can even find builders out there who specialise in bathroom renovations. That alone is going to make getting your quote and the final process quicker. Clear documentation for your builder is also going to save on hold ups and ensure smooth communication.
NOTE: If you are already at this stage without design decisions, and your builder is telling you that he needed them yesterday, we can help you get back on track and avoid making rushed decisions you’ll regret later. Book our Designer for a Day service, and we will help you finalise beautiful selections that you love and that fit your budget.
How Long Does a Bathroom Renovation Take?
Add up these phase-by-phase estimates, and you’ll quickly see that a bathroom renovation can take upwards of 6-8 months, easily. Mine took longer than that (I waited 5 months alone for a window!)
However, it’s not all grim. While a bathroom renovation does take time, this time is an investment in your future. Not just on the ROI you will receive from doing the job right the first time, but also in how it affects your daily life. Yes, it will be annoying and inconvenient to have a construction site in your home. (We trekked to our outdoor shower for months… including during winter!) But the way we live now has transformed more than our daily routine — it’s changed how we treat ourselves.
In my new bathroom, I feel more relaxed and ready to face each day (especially in these hard times). I have a new wellness routine that inspires me to take better care of my health. I feel proud to invite guests over (in normal times) and share our home with them, which means a more rewarding and joyful social life. Not to mention the feelings of joy I get just looking at the bathroom each day. It makes me happy!
All of these things add up to living beautifully, at home and beyond my front door, and my heartfelt mission is to help you experience the same beautiful, life-giving results in your own home.
If you would like support with your bathroom renovation, the first step is to book a 15-minute chat with me. We’ll discuss your project and see how we can help you love your home at last.