Estimating the time required to remodel a bathroom can be a maddening task. Once you think you've got the timetable set, it all changes. Workers get sick, materials don't show up on time, your payment doesn't show up, or unexpected structural issues happen.
And nowhere is accurate estimating more important than here, since most homeowners find it essential to have their bathrooms up and running as soon as possible. Unless you're lucky enough to have several bathrooms, leaving the only bathroom incapacitated during remodeling is a major inconvenience.
How Long a Bathroom Remodel Takes
On average, a small complete bathroom remodel can be done in about 23 days under ideal circumstances. Assuming that no work is done on weekends, this translates to about 4 1/2 weeks—slightly more than one month—if the work proceeds uniformly with no breaks. In the real world, where downtime or unexpected circumstances invariably arise, it could be about double that—46 days, or about 9 weeks.
Factors Affecting Bathroom Remodel Time
The reality is that it is very rare a bathroom remodeling project goes exactly as planned, and a variety of factors can change your best efforts at scheduling:
- Is the project a cosmetic remodel or a strip-to-the-studs rebuild? Depending on the nature of the remodel, the work can take as little as a few days or as much as many months.
- Are you doing the work yourself or are you hiring a contractor? More than one good-intentioned homeowner has found that doing all the work yourself, squeezing in work time when you can, leads to a project that can take as much as a year or more to complete.
- If you're hiring out the work, is the contractor an owner-operator, or is that contractor subcontracting electricians, plumbers, and carpenters? Working with a single owner-operator remodeler can be the cheapest way to go. But that person will likely be juggling your job with several other jobs as they try to do all the work by themselves. This means that a job that requires 10 or 15 actual workdays can take two or three months to see completion.
- Are all materials readily available or are they special-order goods that may cause you to wait for delivery? Waiting on imported ceramic tile to arrive, for example, can delay a project by several weeks.
That said, it's usually easy enough to come up with a ballpark estimate of how long a complete remodel of a small bathroom will take if you are working with a competent general contractor who is working with equally competent subcontractors.
Prepare for the Unexpected
The timetable below assumes the work is being done by a good general contractor working with competent subcontractors, that all tradespeople show up on time, that no one gets sick, materials are readily available. Slowdowns can also happen on the client side. You, the homeowner, must issue payments on time and not issue any unnecessary change orders that slow down the progress.
More importantly, this is an idealized timetable. Dead days have been removed and all workdays have been pushed together so that no gaps remain. It assumes that the minute one worker is finished, the next person steps in immediately. Again, don't be surprised if the reality is about double this idealized schedule.
|TASK||ALLOTTED TIME (DAYS)||NOTES|
|Demolition||2||Tedious work that may take longer if the bathroom is on a second story or otherwise difficult to remove refuse.|
|Rough Carpentry||2||Optional: You may not need any carpentry if the underlying structure is in good shape.|
|Plumbing Rough-In||1–2||Plan on the full 2 days or more if you are moving services such as tub and toilet.|
|Electrical Rough-In||1–2||A good professional electrician can move swiftly, so it would be unusual for this to go more than a day. The term rough-in means to run the electrical lines but stops short of hooking up the final connections.|
|First Inspection||1||The first inspection prior to buttoning up the work with drywall goes fast and should only add one day to the total timetable. However, since scheduling inspectors can be a problem, this may slow down the remodel by a week or two.|
|Insulation||.5||Insulating a bathroom should go very fast, as usually only one or two walls are involved. Keep in mind that in some locales an insulation inspection is required which will slow down this step.|
|Hang Drywall||1||Drywall may be begun the minute insulation is up. It is fast work for a contractor.|
|Finish Drywall||2||Finishing means applying joint compound, letting dry, sanding, and sometimes repeating.|
|Paint||1||Painting a bathroom while it is still in its bare state is relatively simple and fast. Except for the ceiling, no masking is required.|
|Final Inspection||1||Like the first inspection, the final inspection itself does not take very long—perhaps less than 20 minutes for each inspector. However, scheduling the inspector may slow down your work.|
|Tile Work||2||Optional: you may not be doing tile work, but like drywall, there is the applying/drying cycle that takes time.|
|Cabinetry and Trim||1||There tends to be minimal cabinetwork in bathrooms, so this should go quickly. Cabinets are often stock or semi-custom cabinets that are already assembled.|
|Flooring||2||Plain vinyl floor could go down in a morning; tile, engineered wood or other flooring will take longer.|
|Hookups, Fixtures, Etc.||2||Hooking up toilet, sink, etc.|
|Miscellaneous||1.5||Allow time for contingencies.|
3 Ways to Expedite a Bathroom Remodel
As the bathroom remodel client, you can't control the uncontrollable. But you can control factors on your end. If you've done all of these things, the bathroom remodel timetable is back in the hands of the contractor:
- Make all payments on time or early: Contractors depend on your payments because they, in turn, need to pay other people.
- Be available: Return every call, text, and e-mail from the contractor as soon as possible. If you wait an extra day to get back to the contractor, you've set the entire timetable back by one day.
- Avoid unnecessary changes: Prior to signing that initial contract, ask yourself if you're good with this. Will you be satisfied if you see the project completed exactly to these specifications?