How to be my own bathroom project manager?

princessmoxieAugust 20, 2014

Since I have professionals I like in each area needed for a bathroom reno, I am considering hiring myself to be my own contractor, and hiring each professional separately. My thought is that because I'm not in a rush, this might be most cost-effective. Any thoughts on this proposal? I am a light-moderate DIY-er but Mike Holmes is my hero!

Here are the steps I imagine, but in what order should I have them completed, and have I left anything out?

1. order new fixtures, tub/shower, vanity, new bathroom door
2. demo/ gut existing floor, walls, fixtures
3. move plumbing (sink and toilet only)
4. install new fixtures
5. install tub
6. drywall all around
7. tile tub surround
8. install in-floor heating
9. tile floor

  1. install mirror wall (top half of one entire wall to make bathroom look bigger)
  2. rearrange linen closet so that door is actually in hallway rather than in bathroom
  3. paint
  4. install exhaust fan
  5. replace rotting window frame for existing (new) window
  6. install wall sconces

Thanks very much for any advice!


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Just remember, you may have a signed contract with a sub, but you still have little leverage compared to a GC that gives a sub many thousands of dollars of work a year.

The very subs you want are the ones being kept busy by the big GCs.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:25PM
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My thoughts based on our experience:
1. order new fixtures, tub/shower, vanity, new bathroom door
2. demo/ gut existing floor, walls, fixtures
3. move plumbing (sink and toilet only)

  1. replace rotting window frame for existing (new) window
    5. install tub

  2. install exhaust fan
    6. drywall all around
    7. tile tub surround
    8. install in-floor heating (rough-in electrical before drywall)
    9. tile floor

  3. paint

  4. install mirror wall (top half of one entire wall to make bathroom look bigger)
    4. install new fixtures

  5. install wall sconces

  6. rearrange linen closet so that door is actually in hallway rather than in bathroom

Not sure what is happening with linen closet; if it's currently 'in' the bathroom and you're walling it off from bathroom, do during window replacement. I put ordering stuff at the start in order to understand lead times (can delay demo if the tub is going to be 3 weeks and you are using the bathroom)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:34PM
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How much is "not in a hurry"?

I am doing this on a series of bath remodels because I can't afford the GC I like for three baths and a kitchen.

I am using the same carpenter and tilesetter they use, and a plumber and electrician they no longer use because they charge the GC too much and the GC doesn't make enough off them.

The first bathroom in the sequence took one year.

I am fine with that, but between the very busy carpenter who can only moonlight on off times and scheduling the others around him, this is what it took.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:34PM
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I'd rearrange like this:

1. order new fixtures, tub/shower, vanity, new bathroom door
2. demo/ gut existing floor, walls, fixtures

  1. replace rotting window frame for existing (new) window
  2. rearrange linen closet so that door is actually in hallway rather than in bathroom
    3. move plumbing (sink and toilet only)
  3. install exhaust fan
    15a. install rough electrical for sconces and heated floors
    5. install tub & rough plumbing
    6. drywall all around including cement board/waterproofing in tub area
  4. paint
    7. tile tub surround
    5b. install tub fixtures
    8. install in-floor heating
    9. tile floor
    4. install new fixtures
  5. install mirror wall (top half of one entire wall to make bathroom look bigger)
  6. install wall sconces
  7. install trim: baseboards, window and door casings
    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:35PM
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Many, many thanks to all for the help. Treb, I appreciate the point about who the GC's hire- you are spot on. IF I go ahead with the self-contracting part, this might still be a fun learning experience in case I want to take on bigger, partially DIY jobs in the future.

Glad I have this new info to take into consideration!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 8:39AM
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Some other things to know if acting as your own GC. My new plumber was highly recommended and has zero bad reviews anywhere that I could find. He is not cheap but not ripping me off. He does not recommend many people but did recommend the tile /shower floor revamp guys. I felt very comfortable with the tillers except when the estimate came in. If you are going to be your own GC you need to somewhat know pricing in your area. My wall tile, floor tile (including bedroom) and fixing the shower floor estimate came in almost twelve hundred more than a high-end price. I am willing to pay a close to top or top price as the area was done so badly before but IâÂÂm not paying way over. I took that amount off and they still agreed to do the work. People will get away with just as much as you let them. Contractors have to go through the same thing with subs so donâÂÂt take it personalâ¦move on with the best you can get with a price within normal for your area.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 2:35PM
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"People will get away with just as much as you let them."

Yep. I charge as much as the market will bear. I'm running a business, not a charity, although I consider myself a charitable person.

If I don't get an occasional "Yer outta yer mind!" after submitting a price every once in a while, my rates are too low.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 11:31PM
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I've done extensive remodeling to several homes we've owned.

This approach will take longer, but you will avoid making assumptions, that may be incorrect - later down the line.

Don't just start buying the fixtures.

First, take accurate measurements and make drawings (you can get 11 x 17 graph paper).

Preliminarily, select the fixtures: toilet, bath, vanity, etc, and make paper templates.

Using these make a preliminary layout.

Next decide on the placement of the lights.

At this point, demo the bathroom.

Use tape, and mark the location of the fixtures and lights. See if your design will work with the current bathroom framing.

Having the bathroom demoed - it will be much easier to communicate with the subs - as to the work that needs to be done.

I think you will get more accurate prices.

I would also read up on tile, waterproofing, thinset (not adhesive), cement board, shower building, etc - and get the tile specs in writing! And supervise - not micro-manage. Be sure of the installation sequence and that the proper materials are being used according to contract. Further check that the tiles (check a box or two) are free of defects. Also check the final grout color - verify the color on the bag. I'd inspect the tile job everyday.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Just be prepared for this project to take a long, long time. For example, when YOU are ready for the plumber, HE may not be available for you, especially since you are lower on the totem pole than the GC who gives him lots of work. If your sheetrock guy's truck breaks down and adds a day then that will throw off everything else. Then if your new fixtures don't work properly when hooked up, you need to have replacements shipped. Those subs need to be rescheduled etc, etc, etc

After awhile you will long for the day that there are no strangers in your house, or decisions that have to be made, and then you say "just do it" and later you have regrets with just "settling" with "good enough".

That will be after you get a divorce. All that stress.

We paid our GC probably way too much to do our master bathroom, but any problems that occurred during the project (and there always are, because humans make mistakes sometimes) were his to deal with. He finished the bathroom in 6 weeks...then came back 3 months later to install our light fixtures. (That is a whole nother story)

Best wishes to you...for PATIENCE.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Babka, I feel like you have been in my head and reading all my thoughts! Your comments in the above post are spot on. I am on the very, very end stages of my bathroom remodel (total gut job), in which I have served as my own GC. It has taken way too long due to various issues all of which to me seem like nonsense. I have a great builder who has done all the demo/construction/cabinet building, etc, but he is doing this on the "side" of his regular full time job. I'm getting great detailed professional work from him, but it is sloooooooow because he fits me in when he can (and sometimes at his leisure). I hired professional tile folks for laying the tile, and although I think they also do great work, there was some conflict between them and my builder that I was caught in-between. They both had valid points, but I believe some egos were bruised and some "male posturing" was going on, which left a bad awkwardness for me trying to handle the situation. ugh. Meanwhile all the delays have caused the rest of my family to complain to me about why the bathroom is still unfinished. PATIENCE is the key. I am at that stage you described.....I want strangers out of my house! Now!

Good luck to the OP!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 9:33AM
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Sometime G contracting can go alone very well. It doesnâÂÂt always take forever long but does take longer. Most of my guys are great to work with. I get more stressed by the disorganization of my home with âÂÂstuffâ from the master, bath and master closet stashed in every nook and cranny. Most of the slow downs are our fault this time as it was decided late (and with tillers urging) that the two bathroom windows be replaced. The peak of hurricane season is not a good time to order hurricane windows as the waiting list is endless. Also, as I thought there would be a wait on the plumber and tiller I took my time measuring (about 2,900,000 times) for my RTA cabinet design. As it turns out I didnâÂÂt have to wait at all for them to start. They are on it! I am behind on my end. The plumber and tillers are ok with that as they can still get the larger jobs out of the way. I have remodeled so many homes that I know any stresses will soon be forgotten once itâÂÂs all done. And, as with any large remodel there will be at least one big husband and wife blow-up. I told this story before but one time my husband had enough nerve to use my joint compound, my sanding paper and my paint and primerâ¦he did so badly! I then had to go on a rampage in the garage and draw the poison X skull head with a black sharpie on all of my stuff with a warning of DO NOT TOUCH.

Oh, and you will be exhausted for several months! Also, for your own sanity know that no matter how much you know you NEVER know everything. This will keep you humble and asking questions. More questions = fewer mistakes.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 7:15PM
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I am getting ready to do exactly the same thing and this is the my plan. I am not changing the location of any of the fixtures and I am not changing out the bathtub, so my list is straightforward. If you have major changes, the sequence might change.

1. Gather together all of the things you want to install - I have the vanity, toilet, plumbing fixtures (came today! yay!) and I am still waiting on the floor and wall tile.

2. When you have everything gathered, you are ready to start. Demo the old vanity and the wall mirror (if the mirror is big like mine you might have to hire glass people to remove it and haul it away). (I will remove the vanity and break it down).

3. Next get the plumber in to do the plumbing rough for the shower fixtures. He will cut into your old tile to get to the pipes, but doesn't do the tile demo.

4. Tile guy comes next. He will demo the shower and floor and put up the moisture barriers, cement board, tile, etc. He removes old toilet. You might consider timing your demo to coincide with trash pickup day (our trash guys will haul away the debris for a $20 gratuity). Depending on the size of bath, tiling could take 3-4 days.

5. Paint behind the toilet and the vanity wall.

6. The plumber comes back to finish the shower fixture installation and to install the toilet.

7. Immediately after the tile is done, get the glass people in to measure for the shower door (if that is what you are doing). It takes a couple of weeks to make the door so have them come as soon as the tile is set.

8. The carpenter comes next to install the vanity, medicine cabinet, etc.

9. As soon as the vanity is installed, you need to call the counter top people to template. It might take a week or two to get your counter top.

  1. Once the counter top is installed, the plumber returns to install the sink faucet.

  2. This is the time I would paint the rest of the room and install the mirror.

  3. I am likely doing a tile backsplash so I will need to get the tile guy back once the countertop is installed.

  4. Last thing that gets installed is the shower door and that will be in a few weeks from when you called them.

As soon as the tile comes, I will start setting up the appointments. I will call the tile person first because he will be the busiest. Once I know when he's coming, I will call the plumber to do the rough the day before the tile guy is due. If everything is scheduled properly, I am expecting my bathroom remodel to take around 2 weeks. I am not installing or changing lighting - but you could have the electrician come at any time (but before the painting).

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:22PM
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We are currently going thru a remodel where we are the GC and doing as much DIY as we can. It's coming close to a year since it started. Maybe if I'm lucky we will finish by the end of the year. Please wish me luck.

A lot of the delays are due to us having limited time to work on our parts of the remodel. But there have been tons of delays from the plumber, electrician, cabinet maker, granite guys. Then on top of that there has been material delays. Sourced material was out of stock or no longer available, wrong material ordered, not enough material ordered.

I'm at the point where I want to kick myself out of the house for it taking so long. LOL

But I've had the satisfaction of seeing my design come to life under my hands. And the ooohs and aahhhs we are getting from friends who've been over to peek have helped keep us going.

My remodel has been extensive. We went to the studs (walls and ceiling) and moved plumbing. I've told DH that I'd rather do 10 kitchen remodels to 1 bath remodel. This is our 3rd. I'm a glutton.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:43AM
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jerzeegirl, couldn't you move the vanity installation up a few spaces in your plan to save an extra trip for the plumber and the tile guy?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 4:30PM
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jelly: The vanity can definitely go in right after the floor. In my case since I am going to try to float the vanity (or put it on legs that the carpenter will make), I am not exactly sure of its placement so I can't do that. But with a regular vanity, most certainly the carpenter can come earlier. However, I would hesitate to do the backsplash without the countertop in place.

My plumber and tile guy don't charge for making the trip so it really doesn't make to much a difference cost-wise if they have to make multiple trips.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 9:05PM
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Good luck if you take that route!

While my DH drives me absolutely bonkers because he has no sense of design but is convinced he does, I am in awe of his ability to line up tradesmen when they need to be here. With less than a weeks notice, our bathroom was totally gutted to the studs and initial subfloor on Tuesday; by Friday the new plumbing locations for toilet, angled shower, and double vanity have been stubbed in along with replacing and repairing ductwork. Today, the men working on the ductwork discovered that a fixture was illegally wired through a heating duct right where my fiberglass tub/shower combo had leaked for a long time...Yikes! Within 15 minutes my DH was walking through the door with an electrician on the Friday before Labor Day weekend at 2:00 in the afternoon to remove the code violation...unbelievable!

I wish I knew what gets him results so tradesmen are willing to "work us in," once they are here, he makes sure they know he appreciates their efforts and expertise. He just has a great way of dealing with tradesmen.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 1:06AM
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Ranton- I know this isn't the most politically correct thing to say in this day and age, but I'm convinced men get better results with tradesman because they share the same anatomy. And at least in this part of the country it's somewhat cultural. I'm generally the remodeling planner in the house. I'm more detailed oriented, do the research and by the time we're ready to start have the whole thing laid out. My boyfriend is in charge of the design and aesthetics and things always look great when we're finished. But I just accept that guys in this area of the country guys want to talk to guys.

It cracked me up one time- we'd had a hard time getting one of the subs out and he was really getting frustrated. Me, I just assume it's going to take forever and am pleasantly surprised when it doesn't. So I heard him on the phone saying "Man, she's all over me to get you to come out here. I'm really in the doghouse." The guy was out here the next day.

Whatever works- Lisa

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 6:23AM
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A man who didn't listen to women wouldn't last an hour in the countertop business.

I do not allow married men to pick where faucet and other holes in tops go.

In my fabrication days, I'd let women close the sale for me. If I got her, game over no matter what he said.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 11:27AM
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Great story! You are spot on! I think.

Once in a while, I can get results that DH cannot but not very often. Because I do a ton of research and was around construction because my father worked in the trades, I usually know more about issues with a project than my husband. The day I asked a plumber if code allowed us to use the old stack if we moved the toilet, both men looked at me funny. My DH because he did not know what a stack was and the plumber because???

If it helps, DH can use me as a foil anytime he wants. He does it all the time if something bugs HIM, and he wants it redone. In man-speak...I guess it is okay for a woman to be fussy but not a man.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 6:08PM
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Trebuchet- I'm going to take a shot in the dark here - you're north of the Mason-Dixon Line? I'm not now but my boyfriend and I are originally from the Midwest.

They do things a little different down here.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 8:14PM
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Great info, everyone. Two more things to add- but at what points.....?

1.HVAC. There is one vent that I'd want to shift over a few feet.
2. Inspections!! Argh. Thinking I may be in over my head now.

Also thinking we could re-surface existing tub rather than replace.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 2:26PM
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