The Single Worst Mistake to Make During Your Bathroom Renovation

The perfect bath starts with an inspiration starting point like this mirror.

When Jan and I were business partners, we renovated a few kitchens together, so when I managed the renovation of my kitchen five years ago when we bought the house we’re in, I was comfortable, I felt like I knew what I was doing.

I have NEVER managed a bathroom renovation. I don’t do this for clients.  I specify colour, I style, I decorate, but I am NOT a renovator, so I was scared when it came to renovating my bathrooms.

Since everything I do goes on this blog, it has to be pretty close to perfect.  Which is the biggest reason I was afraid. I can’t afford to make the cliched mistakes that many people make when they DIY a project and really have no idea what they are doing.

It’s the reason why there are so few perfect bathrooms and kitchens in the average home. Because most people think “I got this, how hard can it be?” well, I’m here to tell you, there is almost NOTHING as detailed as interior design and renovations. If you have a measurement that is 1/4″ wrong or even less, guess what? You’re re-doing it. Or you live with it.

And if you don’t check and double check EVERYTHING? Something will go wrong, guaranteed.

Or, you have a trade on your job that does something wrong because he made an assumption, didn’t ask anyone and you weren’t there to notice? Nine time out of 10, you’re paying to have it fixed. Or, you just live with it.

Jan Romanuk (She always dresses so elegantly)

Jan has been designing bathrooms and kitchens for 30 years along with project managing renovations, and I am lucky to know her. If she wasn’t one of my best friends, I still wouldn’t have new bathrooms.

I’ve been talking to her about my bathrooms for a few years now, ever since she helped me with my kitchen 5 years ago when we moved in.

So this year she said “Maria, I have someone who can install all your tile, and–by the way–your plumbing needs to be ordered at least 4 weeks in advance”. Let’s set a date in the summer when you’ll be home.” So we did.

When I started writing this weeks post, I asked her what the worst mistake was, that homeowners make with bathrooms (obviously this applies to all renos too) and she said, the number one biggest mistake is NOT planning the entire renovation before it begins. In other words, there is no COMPLETE PLAN prior to the start of the renovation.

For example, most people assume that lighting is the last decision you need to make because it’s the last thing that will be installed.

This back plate is above the light, and the light is close to the middle of the mirror, where it should be. (source)

NOT TRUE. If you want to install decorative lighting, which is wall sconces on either side of your mirror,  it needs to be your FIRST decision.

Here the back plate is lower than the first image so that the light is still positioned close to the middle of the mirror (source)

I made the same assumption. When Jan came over to help me measure where the electrician was going to move the wires she said “Where are the specs?”, eeeeek, I had to actually finalize my lighting right then and there.

Most people put off making the decision because they don’t know, I procrastinate because I might find something better tomorrow. I need to feel like I’ve seen every single possible light fixture out there before I can make a decision. And I’m busy, I don’t have time to trawl websites for hours on end.

Anyway here’s the list, IN ORDER of what will happen during your bathroom renovation:


For demolition day.

Usually it will arrive on the day of your demolition, then you call for pick up when you’re done (in this case we only needed it for one day) and then they take it away and send you the bill.


Maria’s Kitchen inside Style at Home (photography by Tracey Ayton)

When my kitchen (above) was demolished, I saved some money because I posted it on Craigslist and someone came and took it away, I was not so lucky with my bathrooms. However, the demolition of both my bathrooms including removing the lino floor in one bathroom and the tile floor in the other which included the layer of plywood, (so that I would have an even transition) took two guys, ONE DAY.

Oh my land did they charge a fortune for the demolition!! Real estate where I live is still going crazy, so many people in our little town are selling and cashing in, and renovations are in full swing. And the trades are cashing in as well. It’s rare that anyone does anything by the hour. Everything is ‘by the job’, for example, “I’ll remove your vanity for X”, “I’ll tile your bathrooms for X”.  And the problem is, if you hire someone who doesn’t know what they are doing (for less) they might do more damage that will need to be repaired before you can continue.


The only framing required in my bathroom was the continuation of a bump out that covered the fireplace pipe (below) from my family room which is on the other side of my master bath (above).

Also, in Terreeia’s bathroom, boxes needed to be framed inside the wall to hold hair products in the shower.

We continued the bulkhead and added three little puck lights for artwork to make it look intentional (above).


After any new framing has been done, the electrician arrives to install your recessed lights, wiring for new lights includes new switches. Most older bathrooms have bad, inadequate lighting so you’ll need new switches too, because you’ll want your sconces or bar lights on a different switch than your recessed lighting for example.


Usually the rough-ins get shipped first so that the plumber can do all the behind-the-walls work, installing pipes, moving the drain (which is what needed to happen in my master where the tub was), etc. All this needs to be done before the drywall gets patched back up.










Then the cabinets get installed.


The countertops get measured and a week later they arrive.


Faucets, shower heads, toilets.


During a new build, the first coat goes up before the cabinets are installed but usually during a renovation the painting gets done at the end.


Lighting gets Installed – bar light location is usually obvious, however, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post decorative lighting (sconces) MUST BE chosen FIRST before anything happens.

And that’s the list. Let me know if I missed anything! The more planning you’ve done in advance. the more perfect your bath will be.

My cabinets are in, this week the countertops will be measured and will go in the following week!

If you need help choosing tile, lighting and colours for your bathrooms, take advantage of our eDesign services here.

Who has attended the BOLD Summit? I will be on a panel about building your business on-line with other experts this September in Chicago!

Find out what it’s all about here.

You can get $200 off your registration fee by using the promo code; Maria.

We’re launching a new eDesign product to help you get your new bathroom finishes just right! Check out our “Create a Classic Bathroom” package here.

Also we are hiring a Director of Content and Partnerships! If you are a writer, decorator and stylist, and you live in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland,  click here to find out more.

Related posts:

Is your Bath Perfect? Or Perfectly Nice?

Maria’s Main Bathroom; Before and During

Maria’s Bathroom Renovation Plans; Lighting and Vanity Design




leave aREPLY

  1. Hi Maria! I am hopeful that you or one of your peeps responds to my question! I’m pretty sure that you’re installing the Thomas O’Brien Bryant 1-Light Wall Light sconces in your bathroom (I did vote “yes” for those : ) If so, I bought the same sconces a year ago for our main bath remodel (not our master) and we are finally getting ready to install them (yes, we’re slow DIYers), but I am really struggling with how high they should be (my husband thinks I’m totally nuts to be so concerned about this.) Based on what I’ve read, I “think” that the bottom of the shade should be about eye level (I am 5’5″, he is 5’10.) Like you’ve mentioned, the internet hasn’t been very helpful because many people have them installed way too high. With that said, can you PLEASE tell me how high you are mounting the center of the back plate?? This is a windowless bathroom, in addition to the sconces we will be installing a ceiling light as well as a fan/recessed light over the tub. Sconces and ceiling light will be on dimmers (I am all about the dimmers, another reason that he thinks I’m crazy.) My husband does not understand the importance of good lighting, however, his contractor price is right so I put up with him : )

    • I changed my mind on the sconces (shocker) there is no ‘standard measurement’ overall the middle of the sconce should be alongside the middle of the mirror. yes dimmers are absolutely necessary but maybe just on the sconces because they would be on all the time where the ceiling light would be on only for a shower.