Creative bath remodel: DIY or hire a pro?

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | April 27, 2015

DIY or contractor? That's the big question that plagues homeowners as they contemplate remodels. You might know exactly what you want, and you think you can do it on your own -- but what if you can't?

Fortunately, choosing how to implement your bathroom remodel ideas can be easier than you think. It's all a matter of understanding your abilities and limitations, and being willing to let go of the reins when it's time for a professional to step in. Here's what you should be able to handle, and what necessitates a call to the contractor.

Bathroom jobs perfect for DIY

Creating a gorgeous bathroom doesn't have to require working with a contractor. There are many small projects a homeowner can do to completely transform the bathroom, and most of them take only a weekend or two of solid work. If you are handy with basic tools and have a strong vision of what you want, you can make these things happen all by yourself.

  1. Switch out the faucets. If you are tired of looking at that same old sink faucet or that ancient showerhead, a few hours of work can remedy that problem. Home improvement stores offer easy do-it-yourself faucets with all the necessary parts, and all you need to add are the proper tools and a bit of elbow grease.
  2. Paint or wallpaper the room. Changing the walls is the gold standard of DIY projects. Any homeowner can paint the bathroom, and with a bit more knowledge, can put up gorgeous wallpaper. The key is to prep everything well before you begin, stay patient, and work in a methodical fashion. Want to get fancy? Try painting techniques that create a unique look, such as sponging or stripes.
  3. Go for brighter lighting. Brightening things up a bit in the bathroom can be done with a new light fixture, and you can do this on your own -- just be sure to follow the directions that are included with your new light kit. Don't forget to cut the electricity before you start the work, to keep the job safe.
  4. Install new flooring. Feeling adventurous? Flooring used to be something only contractors could do, but today many flooring options are DIY-friendly. If you want to tackle this job, do plenty of homework first. Make sure you have the proper tools, choose the right flooring, and understand how to handle removal of the flooring you already have. A little knowledge goes a very long way with this particular project!
  5. Replace that old toilet. This seems like a huge project, but you might be surprised by how simple it really is. Take a rudimentary understanding of plumbing, add in a little heavy lifting, and you can likely do this all on your own in an afternoon. As with flooring, always do a bit of homework before you start.

When to call a contractor

There are some times when even the most handy homeowner needs a little help. Larger projects that require cutting into walls, moving things around, and reconfiguring the bathroom are a few of those times when a contractor should be called. Here are some of the specific changes you might want to make in a creative bath remodel that require a professional's touch.

  1. Moving things around. Would there be a lot more space if you moved the sink over there, and put the toilet over here? That means some rerouting of the pipes in the walls, and that definitely requires a contractor's expertise. If you have bathroom remodel ideas that involve changing the configuration of the room, make your plans, then make the call.
  2. Refinishing the tub or shower. Maybe you want to change the shower tile, or your bathtub has seen better days. Sprucing them up can be tough to do on your own, especially with the threat of water damage down the road if you make the slightest mistake. Turning the work over to a professional can give you peace of mind.
  3. Adding in new light fixtures. You can change out existing light fixtures yourself, but if the new lighting requires cutting a hole in the wall or ceiling and running new electrical wires, call someone who is very familiar with that kind of work. It will be a quick job for them, and you can rest easier knowing that all the work is up to code.
  4. Installing a walk-in tub. More homeowners are turning to universal design to allow them to live more comfortably, and walk-in tubs are part of that trend. Though a walk-in tub can fit right where the old tub is, installing it requires serious lifting and possibly a few plumbing changes. Let the pros handle it.
  5. Creating the ultimate spa. What if you want to gut the whole bathroom and recreate it? From installing a shower/sauna combo to adding a handy bidet, a contractor can take on the job and free you up to dream about how you will decorate the new bathroom once it's complete.

If you have a tight budget but some extra time, why not go with bathroom remodel ideas you can handle yourself? But if you really want something more impressive, calling in a contractor is the way to go. Either way, you will wind up with something fresh and new, and that's something to shout about, no matter who completed the work.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.