Estimating the time required to remodel a bathroom is a maddening task, prone to error. And nowhere is estimating more important, since most families find it essential to have their bathrooms up and running as soon as possible. Unless you're lucky enough to have several bathrooms, leaving one incapacitated during remodeling is a major inconvenience.
Factors Affecting Remodel Time
The reality is that it is a very rare bathroom remodeling project that goes exactly as planned, and a variety of factors can wreak havoc with 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 to complete.
- If you're hiring the work out, is the contractor an owner-operator, or is he subcontracting electricians, plumbers, and carpenters? Working with a single owner-operator remodeler can be the cheapest way to go, but they'll likely be juggling your job with several others as they try to do all the work 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 ball-park 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.
On average, a small complete bathroom remodel can be done in about 23 days under ideal circumstances. Assuming 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.
Prepare for the Unexpected
The timetable below assumes the work is being done by a good general contractor working with competent subcontractors, that all tradesmen show up on time, that no one gets sick, materials are readily available, and that you, the homeowner, do not issue any change orders that slow down the progress.
More importantly, this is an idealized timetable. In other words, 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. "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, 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.|
|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.|