Every homeowner considering a bathroom remodel knows the anxiety of facing unknown challenges. What lies behind the walls? Will the project stay within budget? Are there unexpected design features that might stall the process? For many, these challenges can be overwhelming and even deter them from beginning a bathroom remodel altogether.
At Lamont Bros. Design & Construction, we remodel dozens of bathrooms for homeowners across the Portland area every year. Our team of professional remodelers understands the intricacies of bathroom renovations and the types of challenges you’re most likely to face during your remodel.
In this article, we’ll cover the five most common challenges homeowners face during a bathroom remodel. Drawing from the real-life experiences of remodeling experts, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions, set realistic expectations, and ensure a smoother bathroom remodel experience. The 5 most common challenges you can expect during your bathroom remodel are:
1. Plumbing Surprises
When planning a bathroom remodel, plumbing often emerges as one of the most unpredictable elements. Inferior plumbing materials or improper installation can present a range of bathroom remodel challenges.
When you open up your bathroom wall, you never know what you’re going to find in terms of plumbing. Sometimes, it’s great, and you’ll only have to change a few fixtures. Other times, the entire system needs to be replaced.
One common surprise is the discovery of old galvanized or CPVC plumbing. Unlike modern PVC or copper pipes, these materials are not well suited for water supply or drainage lines.
Galvanized pipes are prone to rusting, corrosion, and mineral buildup, which can reduce water flow and lead to leaks. These pipes, often found in older homes, might need retrofitting or major upgrades.
CPVC is a plumbing material that was used commonly in the 70s due to its low cost. Originally billed as an affordable alternative to traditional plumbing materials, CPVC was discontinued due to reliability concerns. The plastic resin in the pipes can deteriorate over time, causing them to become brittle and burst.
Whether it was unscrupulous builders looking to cut corners or homeowners who did their own plumbing, incorrectly installed can be a big issue. Pipes that leak, lack proper ventilation, or don’t drain correctly can be a ticking time bomb. If not up to code, your plumbing runs a higher risk of causing water damage, mold growth, and structural rot.
If encountered, the best approach is to replace galvanized or polybutylene plumbing with more durable materials like copper or PVC. The same goes for plumbing that wasn’t installed correctly. It’s usually best to just replace it all. While this might increase the upfront cost, it will ensure longevity and better water quality in the long run.
2. Layout Changes
Bathroom remodels often entail altering the current layout to maximize space or provide a more functional design. However, changing the bathroom layout during a remodel can introduce several challenges, especially when it involves plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, or bathtubs.
Relocating bathroom fixtures, particularly the sink or toilet, might seem like a simple move on paper. In reality, it can be a complex endeavor.
The placement of fixtures in your bathroom is often governed by the plumbing stack’s location, and if you have a multi-story home, the challenge amplifies. Moving the toilet even a few inches could create complications in the framing. It can be difficult to drill a large enough hole through the floor joists to accommodate the drain line for second-story bathrooms.
Other complications arise when homeowners want to introduce new fixtures or amenities. Integrating these into the existing plumbing or electrical system can become problematic if not thought out carefully. And again, feasible locations of plumbing fixtures will depend largely on the location of the main plumbing stack.
Before making any layout changes, it’s essential to have a detailed design. Professional remodel designers possess the expertise to assess the feasibility of bathroom layout changes. They can provide invaluable insights and suggest solutions that might not be apparent to the average homeowner. Remaining flexible and open to alternative solutions can help keep the remodel on track without compromising the final design’s integrity.
3. Uneven Floors
Most people think they have a flat, smooth bathroom floor. However, the reality is that floors, especially in older homes, are rarely perfectly level. This can become glaringly obvious when embarking on a bathroom remodel and may present several challenges when installing new flooring.
When the old bathroom flooring is removed, homeowners often find that the underlying surface is uneven. This can result from various issues—natural settling of the house, previous water damage, or inadequate construction techniques.
Regardless of the reason, an uneven floor can make it difficult to lay tiles or install floating floors. Uneven surfaces can lead to premature wear and tear on the new flooring material, uneven tile placements, and potential tripping hazards.
Begin by identifying the root cause of the unevenness. Sometimes, it’s a simple fix; other times, it might require more extensive work. In many cases, adding or adjusting the subfloor can help even things out. This might involve installing plywood or using a self-leveling compound to ensure a flat base.
When it comes to flooring, especially tiles, professional installation can make a world of difference. Expert tilers can work with uneven surfaces, ensuring the final outcome looks polished and is safe.
4. Shower Door Challenges
The shower door might appear as just another feature in the bathroom, but its role in the overall aesthetics and functionality is significant. Picking the right shower door and ensuring its proper installation can become a serious challenge during a bathroom remodel.
Shower doors come in various sizes, styles, and functionalities. The real challenge lies in the selection and fitting process.
An ill-fitted shower door can cause leaks, which can damage the flooring and lower parts of the walls over time. The real challenge when incorporating a shower door into the bathroom deciding whether you need a standard size or a custom door.
Customized doors offer flexibility in design but can cost several thousand dollars more than standard sizes. Pre-made doors, although more affordable, may not fit the intended space or style perfectly.
If you have a shower-tub combo insert, a standard shower door should fit into your space just fine. The same goes for showers built using a standard-size shower pan. However, many custom tile showers, especially those built in non-standard shapes or sizes, may require a custom shower door.
Before selecting a shower door, ensure that you have accurate measurements of the space and a clearly defined design plan. This minimizes the risk of picking a door that doesn’t fit or requires adjustments.
5. Dry Rot Discoveries
Dry rot is one of those unforeseen challenges that can turn a straightforward bathroom remodel into a complex endeavor. It’s an issue that lurks behind tiles, beneath tubs, or around fixtures, often going unnoticed until renovation begins.
Dry rot, contrary to its name, begins in areas of moisture buildup. It’s a fungal decay that affects wood, causing it to become crumbled and weak. In a bathroom, frequent exposure to water and steam means there’s a higher chance of wood getting wet, especially if there’s inadequate ventilation or sealing.
Dry rot is an especially serious problem if it reaches the structural members of your home. If this happens, the home itself can become structurally compromised and, in major cases, collapse.
When embarking on a bathroom remodel, homeowners may unexpectedly stumble upon patches of dry rot, especially around plumbing fixtures or areas that have previously leaked.
The discovery of dry rot can be alarming, as it often implies that there have been ongoing moisture problems. This not only indicates the need for dry rot repairs but also suggests that your plumbing or ventilation systems may be faulty, as well.
The first step is to determine the extent of the dry rot. Small areas might require removing and replacing only the affected wood. More extensive damage might necessitate a broader replacement of structural elements. To prevent additional dry rot, inspect the plumbing for leaks and ensure that the bathroom has adequate ventilation to minimize future moisture buildup.
Want to Learn More About Bathroom Remodeling?
After reading this article, you should now have a better understanding of some of the common challenges of bathroom remodeling and how you can solve them. Now, take the next step in your research by downloading our free “Bathroom Remodel Buyer’s Guide.” This free resource covers everything you need to know before embarking on a bathroom remodel, including financing, timeline, and cost.
Ready to talk directly with a professional about your bathroom remodeling? Click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help guide you through the process of your bathroom remodel so you never face the challenges alone.