The top 5 ways bathroom remodels get off-track

You won’t have to live in a construction site forever. Here’s how to avoid the most common mistakes that stretch out a bathroom remodel timeline.

“A bathroom remodel will always take longer than an HGTV episode [would have you believe],” says top-rated Thumbtack pro Michael Big of Big Brothers Development. But luckily, pros say most jobs are completed anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks. So hiring a contractor doesn’t have to mean surrendering your sanity (and personal space) for months on end.

Here are the five biggest reasons bathroom remodels get derailed, according to top-rated remodeling contractors.

Reason #1: Not having a clear budget

Know what you want and research the cost of materials and labor before you hire a contractor, recommends Brian Ernest with Ready to Sell Renovations. Realistically outlining your budget before looking for a contractor also protects you from being taken advantage of, explains James Tapia of Global Housing Contractors. Research approximate costs for where you live, so you can make a budget that works.

Related: Where to spend (and save) on your bathroom remodel

Reason #2: Putting off bathroom design decisions

“Not having a solid idea of style before your project starts is generally the biggest derailment to a bathroom remodel,” says Forest Ponder of Beyond Boundaries Construction.

“As soon as we’re hired I set every customer up with a designer to make their selections,” says Ponder. “Then I tell them that a week prior to the materials coming in, that’s when we break ground.”

Reason #3: Starting without materials confirmed

24 percent of bathroom remodeling professionals say selecting and buying materials is a top factor in slowing down a project, according to a Thumbtack survey.

Having materials on-site before the project starts is key to staying on schedule, says Big. “One thing people overlook is that special-order items and custom cabinets can take many weeks to deliver, or that the tile shop can sell out of the tiles you want unexpectedly.”

Avoid hiccups by choosing materials that are in stock, says Ernest. “Go to the store and make sure it’s on the shelf. Check online and make sure there is ample quantity of what you need.” If you’re using special order items like custom cabinets, wait until all materials have arrived before breaking ground.

Related: Pro survey: the best bathroom brands, value boosters, and cost-saving tips

Reason #4: Not having a Plan B

Expect the unexpected. When remodeling a bathroom, there may be surprises behind the walls once demolition starts (water-damaged studs, leaking pipes, rusted drains). Schedule grace time for these potential surprises, says Big.

“Have a Plan A and Plan B for the cost of your tiling and fixtures,” agrees Tapia. “Plan A means everything went according to plan and you can have your ideal materials. Plan B means shifting your tile budget from $10 per square foot to $5 per square foot so you can afford repairs. Or instead of a double sink in marble, opt for a single sink in granite. Or spend $200 on the sink instead of $400.”

Reason #5: Not having the right team

A contractor who specializes in bathroom remodels keeps you on budget and on schedule. Make sure the scale of the team matches your expectations and fits within their schedule, recommends Big. “If the team is too large, they might finish in a week, but you’ll pay more than necessary. If it’s a one-man show, the price will be conveniently lower, but it will take three times longer than normal.”

A crew of 2-3 workers should hit both the pricing and scheduling sweet spots — as long as they stay focused on your project, says Big. Good communication is also key. “Before we start any project, I discuss a tentative timeline and give the client an overview of what to expect throughout the entire remodel,” says Michael.

Bottom line

Know what you want and define your budget. Then make sure you have materials on hand, are financially prepared for repair work, and are working with the right team for the project. Online research is a great way to start finding bathroom remodeling ideas, but once you’ve got a rough sense of your plan, consider finding a contractor near you who can offer a tailored on-site consultation.