What to Know When Remodeling Your Bathroom in Los Angeles

Your contractor will guide you through the process but here’s a brief overview including Title 24 and finding your renovation team.

bathroom in a home and ADU remodel in Los Angeles

There are so many fixtures packed into one of the smallest rooms in the house that sometimes you wonder how it will all work. And then it does—with a lot of planning and the right team of experts. To provide some clarity, we break down how to remodel a bathroom in Los Angeles.

In addition to the features you want in your new bathroom, there’s a process required to obtain them. That process includes working around building code requirements, permits, architects, and contractors. It’s all pretty straightforward when you’ve done it once or twice, but may seem complicated the first time. Many first-time and repeat renovators have gone on to successfully complete their bathroom projects with a Sweeten contractor.

Keeping up with Title 24

Your project will have to conform to the California Building Standards Code, and also the state’s energy efficiency code, which is known as Title 24. California has some of the most robust building energy efficiency standards in the US. Title 24 can impact nearly any type of project in your home—whether it’s a single room or a whole home

For a bathroom project, it’s most likely to be applicable with a gut remodel where you’re moving walls and changing the layout. These are considered “alterations.” A “rip-and-replace” project maintains the existing footprint of the bathroom. It may not trigger Title 24 requirements if the project doesn’t change the energy usage in the home. 

However, changing the size of windows and doors does fall under Title 24, as does changing the water heater and the rest of the plumbing system. Any change to the HVAC system will also need to meet the current standards.

As you can see, the components listed above make up many parts of a bathroom remodel. They may or may not be located within the bathroom space, so your remodeling team will ensure that you meet the Title 24 requirements from the start. Not doing so will result in delays, at best. Make sure you’re reviewing the most current version when you’re doing your research.

Prepare your plan check and permits

You will need a permit for your bathroom project, and a plan check/review if you intend to make structural changes. If there are no structural changes, you may be able to skip the plan check/review and get an express permit for your gut remodel or rip-and-replace bathroom remodel. If that’s your path, you just get your permit and you can get to work.

The point of a plan check/review is having a building inspector or code reviewer look over your plan to ensure compliance with the state building code and the city’s ordinances. If your plan meets the standards, your permit will be issued, and you’ll be able to start work.

You can see a flow chart of the process at the LA Department of Building and Safety’s website. You can get an express permit for some projects, read information on what contractors are required to do and provide, and much more. There’s a page about the construction process with copious links, and a helpful timeline. 

You can also look up your address so you’ll know which municipality has jurisdiction for your home.

Cost factors for your project

Three main factors determine the final cost of remodeling your bathroom project: size, scope, and finish level. Here’s more information on each of those.

Size

The room’s square footage determines the capacity and function, from a basic powder room with 1–2 fixtures to a larger primary bathroom with 5+ fixtures.

Scope

This factor refers to rip-and-replace vs. gut remodel we mentioned earlier. It could also be even simpler, with just replacing some existing fixtures and updating paint and trim, for example. 

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Finish level

Here you can choose to go with budget finishes, i.e.) off the shelf at the home center, to mid-grade to high-end to luxury. It’s a wide range and has a huge impact on the budget. Luxury implies custom work and those costs are wide open.

As an example, let’s look at the costs for a full rip-and-replace renovation of a full bathroom without layout changes. These prices reflect your costs for a tear out and new construction with fixtures, paint, and so on, but not the design work.

  • Budget full bathroom renovation: starting at $18,000
  • Mid-grade full bathroom renovation costs: starting at $28,500
  • High-end full bathroom renovation costs: starting at $40,500

Choosing remodeling services

On a project like this, you’ll have some choices about who does which tasks. For design work, you can hire an architect/interior designer along with a general contractor to fill out your team. You can also consider working with just a general contractor or builder, or a design-build firm.

Collaborate with architect/interior designer and contractor

Architects and interior designers can both consult with you on the aesthetics of the room. They may also be knowledgeable in Title 24 and can guide you through those complexities. If you’re looking at a gut remodel, that guidance will be required. Sweeten contractors can often recommend architects and interior designers with whom they have a working relationship.

You’ll end up with a plan and materials list that you can take to the county for the plan check and to contractors to get their bids for the work. You can expect to pay an architect/designer 10–20% of your project budget, depending on how much work they do for you. Going on site visits during construction, also, might help you through the process and so may be worth a bump in their fee.

Build with a contractor

Some remodeling contractors in Los Angeles are skilled with creative approaches and even handle some designing. Other firms work strictly with plans that design professionals have created. Whichever route you choose, going with a contractor with whom you have rapport is a key factor. These projects tend to run into some snags, and they’re not always in the contractor’s control. Having site visits with 3–5 contractors about the project, ideally when you have a finished design, is a great way to see how you get along.

Contract with a design-build firm

This type of firm can take your project from start to finish, and should be fully knowledgeable about Title 24, other codes, and permitting, as well. Here again, with good rapport you’ll enjoy a smooth process and a successful result. You’ll get a plan done in-house, and then the construction work done by the crew familiar with that designer’s work. This type of integration has a lot of built-in advantages. You may or may not see any cost or schedule advantages, but it is worth asking when you’re interviewing firms.

Bathroom remodel order of operations

While your contractor will be the one managing the whole process, it’s helpful to understand the order of a bathroom remodel. It will follow a predictable order of tasks, so let’s go over those. First, your contractor will shut off the water valves to the fixtures in the bathroom. Then it’s the demolition phase. All the fixtures must come out of the bathroom. The vanity/sink, toilet, tub, shower, mirrors, door trim, and towel bars will be disposed of if it’s not being reused.

At this point, you’re looking at a bare room, ready for the next phase, which is both cleanup and assessment of the existing room. What needs minor repair that wasn’t apparent before demo? The old flooring may get ripped out at this point, but that task may wait until the time when the new flooring will be installed.

The order of a rip-and-replace

If you’re doing a rip-and-replace project, it’s a good time to assess the need for small tasks like wall repair or adding a few electrical boxes. Then the crew moves on to wall finish and flooring. 

Typically, the finished floor goes in after the bathtub and shower pan, and before the bathroom sink/cabinetry and toilet. The toilet flange and toilet connection need to be set up properly, including leveling, and that usually happens on the finished floor.

From this point, it’s finish work for the rest of the room, with light fixtures, fans, towel bars, and door trim to be ready for completion.

The order for a gut remodel

If you’re doing a gut remodel, your contractor takes the walls down to the studs and the floor down to the plywood subfloor. Subcontractors thoroughly assess the plumbing and electrical while everything is visible. This is the time when the plumber and electrician will make site visits to confer with the GC for the in-depth consultations over the approved plan.

The next step is usually for one of those two subcontractors—the plumber or the electrician—to start work, but it is common for both crews to be on site simultaneously. They get their work done, then the GC crew gets back to work with any re-framing needs, such as new walls for the bathtub or toilet, and so on.

With this type of project, the GC crew will typically do much of their work, and then the plumber and electrician will need to return to finish up more projects, such as finishing more switch wiring, or setting the bathtub. It’s a sequence and good contractors communicate well with each other, as they respect each other’s time. 

Eventually the GC returns for the finishing tasks, such as the towel bars and door trim. The punch list gets checked off. Your bathroom is done!

Other factors to consider

Some other factors may or may not play a role in how your project goes. 

  • How is access for the crew and for materials and waste hauling? 
  • Where does the crew park? 
  • Is your home a single-family residence or in a multi-family building? 
  • Is it in a homeowner’s association? If so, what hours can the crew work on your project according to the HOA? 
  • What other restrictions does the HOA put on construction?

Finally, it’s fundamental when planning on a remodel to work with a contractor that is insured and licensed. We can connect you with vetted Sweeten bathroom remodeling contractors in Los Angeles. They’ll have experience with a project like yours in scope, familiarity of your neighborhood, and budget.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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