7 bathroom remodel mistakes homeowners always come to regret – according to experts

For a bathroom refurb you won't regret, take heed of these common renovation mistakes

a modern bathroom with no splashback behind vanity
(Image credit: Ollie Hammick. Design: Amos Goldreich Architecture)

Renovating a bathroom is no mean feat. The project will take weeks to complete, cost you several thousand dollars (at the very least), and you'll have lots of difficult decisions to make along the way. Even once you've factored in all the various challenges, costs, and commitments, there are inevitably a few things that go wrong. 

Even if you're an experienced home builder, remodeling a space is the sort of task where you learn more on the job than you do through research alone. Your elementary school teacher wasn't wrong when they said we all learn best from our mistakes, but if you're extra savvy you also learn from the mistakes of others, saving yourself from making the same rookie errors. 

With that in mind, we've compiled some of the biggest bathroom renovation mistakes that homeowners and designers want you to know before you go ahead and redesign your space. For a modern bathroom refurb that's free from regrets, here's what you need to know. 

1. Changing the layout

bathroom project by Clare Cousins

(Image credit: Future / Armelle Habib)

While it might be tempting to use this opportunity to completely rehaul the layout of your bathroom, moving the likes of your sink, shower, and toilet won't be an easy (or cheap) task. 

'You can minimize the damage to your home and your wallet by leaving the plumbing where it is and simply replacing the fixtures,' suggests Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors. 'If the layout is good and the plumbing isn't leaking or damaged, there's no reason to replace all the pipes in your floors.'

If you do want to replan the space to open up the floorplan or to fit in a new feature like a bath, it's worth sparing a thought to the plumbing fixtures that are easiest and most affordable to move. This will depend on the age of your home, the existing plumbing, whether it's fixed to an interior or exterior wall, and so on. 

'When you are working through your bathroom layout, know that the most expensive bit of plumbing to move is the waste line to the toilet,' says interior designer Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors. 'If you're trying to keep the budget on track, avoid making a move to the toilet and plan the space around it.'

2. Tiling after fitting appliances

A shower with blue tiles walls and mosaic tiles floor

(Image credit: Nicole Dianna Photography)

When it comes to how to remodel a bathroom, you should always do any tiling work before you fit your appliances. Not only does this mean your fixtures and appliances sit on top without having to awkwardly tile around them, but it minimizes the mess that inevitably comes with fitting tiles yourself. Trust us, accidental grout transfers onto your walls, sink, or new taps will certainly be something you live to regret. 

'When shopping for bathroom tiles, make sure to also ask about the trim pieces that are available to coordinate before you buy,' says Ashley. 'Not all tile comes with trim, so you will have to think through how you are going to finish the tiles around the edges of the shower and around the niche. There are some alternatives, like metal schluter pieces, but our favorite trim alternative is to ask the tile setter to miter the corners. It costs between $500-$800 more per bathroom, but the finish looks far more sophisticated and clean.' 

3. Cutting corners during a gut renovation

Bathroom with green ribbed vanity unit, brass wall light and brass mirror

(Image credit: Nathan Schroder. Design by Maestri Studio)

If you are going to commit to a full-blown gut renovation, you may as well go the whole hog and update any old wiring or pumping behind the wall while you're at it. A proper bathroom renovation should last you a good couple of decades, and you don't want the next one to be premature just because you cut corners last time.

'When doing a full gut renovation it makes sense to update everything behind the walls including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC while you have the chance,' Bethany says. 'You won't only be buying yourself peace of mind, but updating these systems can actually make your home insurance premium go down, especially if you live in an historic home.' 

4. Marble countertops 

Concrete basin with large gold mirrors

(Image credit: Squire & Partners)

When it comes to bathroom materials it's easy to be tempted by the luxurious look of marble on your vanity countertops, but this showstopping stone isn't the most practical option out there. 

As Mor Krisher, Head of Product Design at Caesarstone, explains: 'Natural stones such as marble are highly susceptible to staining and damage.' Etching and scratching are also common problems when it comes to using the likes of marble in the bathroom whereas engineered stones require very little maintenance.

'While you would have to seal your marble countertops at least annually to avoid extensive staining, quartz surfaces like Caesarstone require no sealing,' says Mor. 'These worktops are non-absorbent, non-porous, and extremely easy to clean, making them an ideal choice for high traffic areas such as bathrooms.' 

5. Insufficient ventilation 

white attic bathroom with skylights

(Image credit: En Masse Design and Architecture)

In our quest to find out the biggest bathroom renovation mistakes, we also took to Threads to ask readers for their first-hand experiences of what went wrong in their renovations, and ventilation was one of them. 

'A perfect vapor barrier and more ventilation than the builder recommends is more important than anything,' wrote Randall Todd. 'I pined for two sleek ones from Lumens [but] went for a higher capacity Air King. The new vent had a 6” tube. Silent, works perfectly, but [the] grill [is] not as cool. Next bathroom we’ll spend less on stone and more on Schluter steam pressure grade barrier.'

Ventilation is often bottom of the priority list when renovating a bathroom, especially when it comes to budgets. Whatever you opt for, make sure you choose a good quality ventilation system or extractor fan and include it when planning out finances. That goes for small bathrooms or large ones. 

6. Choosing the wrong paint 

a bathroom with an accent wall

(Image credit: Vawdrey House)

It's easy to forget that our bathroom walls need a little extra treatment when it comes to applying our paint ideas. Make sure the brand you're using is suitable for use in these humid spaces where damp conditions can otherwise lead to peeling or chipping. 

'It’s important to use a bathroom paint that is hard-wearing, easy to keep clean, and able to endure in an area of high use,’ says paint expert Ben Sturges of Graphenstone. You don't necessarily need to buy specialty mold and mildew-inhibiting bathroom paint, but a satin or eggshell finish is always best since they help to repel moisture.

7. Not including enough storage 

Marble tiled bathroom with built in shelving

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Last but not least, don't let bathroom storage be an afterthought. Remodeling a space offers the perfect opportunity to reconsider your existing storage options and upgrade them. 

Make sure you factor hidden storage into your renovation by opting for a bathroom vanity with plenty of space for all your cosmetics or choose smart, space-saving options such as recessed cabinets. If your budget permits, setting vanity medicine cabinets into the wall itself or incorporating bathroom shelving into niches can really help to maximize space. 

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.