Whenever I meet someone for the first time to discuss their kitchen or bathroom remodel this question is at the top of the list. So how long will it take? Unfortunately there is no one answer, as there are many factors involved. Discussing and compiling these together during our complimentary consultation will start to gather the right idea, but ultimately it will need detailed focus from your contractor to have a schedule written out as part of your construction agreement.
As with anything, planning is the best way to keep control on a schedule and in remodeling, that starts with Design. For me, we begin with an initial phone call and a complimentary consultation in my office. If it makes sense we can sign a schematic design agreement inviting me into your home to measure and take preliminary photographs so I can remodel your home in the computer with 2-3 preliminary schematic design floor plans and photorealistic perspectives. Generally this takes 2-3 weeks to complete. When we review the Schematic Designs it is good to meet with you for your feedback on the designs as well as with your contractor or potential contractors to discuss ballpark costs and timing.
The next phase in planning for a remodel is Design Development. This is when we actually go shopping and select the materials that will be installed in your home. Occasionally, I have clients who can take a full day to go to showrooms to make their selections, but more often than not we need to break these trips up into 3-4 smaller chunks of 2-3 hours, over a couple of weeks. Once this is done it also takes me a few weeks to do the back-end research of specifying in detail what the item is, where it is being purchased from, who is providing it, receiving and checking quotes, and incorporating the decisions into the drawings for a more realistic conversation with your general contractor and their team. Often the waiting in this phase is the toughest. It is very exciting to make decisions and it feels really good when we're done, but often my clients forget that it takes time to pull together all the details and checking for accuracy and they call or email me within a couple of days for a progress check. As much as I would love to say, "okay, here it all is," I've found that it's simply not possible as there are many different people involved in gathering the correct information and preparing the quotes. It's that phase in the three-legged stool where accuracy is the leading factor and sometimes it takes a little more time to accomplish this.
So far this has all been simply to provide your contractor with enough information to work out his conversations with the trade contractors, like the electrician, plumber, painter, etc. In the pre-construction portion there are a few weeks for these conversations to take place, to meet in your home, to pull together their estimates and to write a detailed construction agreement.
Construction timing varies by contractor, as well as scope of work. Start dates are usually affected by materials that take a little longer to arrive, like cabinets, plumbing fixtures, appliances and sometimes tile. These can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to arrive once your order has been placed, approved and processed. Occasionally there are strikes that hinder transportation, such as the recent one at the Port of Oakland. Sometimes I have clients that fall in love with a tile or a faucet that comes from Germany or Italy and can take as much as 12 weeks to ship overseas, even when the ports have been running as expected. I generally recommend that all materials are ordered and that all or at least the majority, especially anything that is in the walls like recessed lighting or plumbing valves, are onsite and checked for damage in your garage or another room before starting construction. This may delay the start time but it can speed up the construction time and help prevent lapses where no work can be done.
While a bathroom is typically the smallest room in a home (not including closets) they are also the most complex. Homeowners are often deceived by their size and think that it should be "simple" and only take a week or two. While home remodeling TV shows only take 45 minutes, there is much that is cut out of the weeks that actually go into the detail and installer's labor. The biggest factor in time is actually affected by its size. It's not possible to have the plumber and the electrician in the same space to accurately install what they're responsible for.
One part of remodeling that adds to the schedule is the "waiting time". Often it may feel that "nothing" has been done or that "no one" showed up. A good general contractor will have this time built into their schedule and discuss it with you before it happens in their weekly meetings. Why do these gaps take place? They can actually take place throughout the project for various reasons and they can be planned for. Once the plumber and the electrician have completed their "rough" work of wiring and recessed lighting, which hides behind the drywall, an inspector must come out to inspect that everything is compliant with current building, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing codes. Unfortunately, they give a window of time when they will arrive and they can often come to a project near the end of that scheduling window, leaving no room for installers to come in for the next step. When drywall is going in it also requires an inspection or two, plus there is time for coats of "mud" to dry before they can put on another coat to close up the seams between the drywall panels. Materials that need to be measured and templated, such as countertops and shower doors, also add time. These times are pretty noticeable because often it feels like everything else is done except that, or maybe the electrician or tile installer can't complete their work until the countertop is in. Remodeler's remorse usually sets in here; it's when you can see the finish line, but not how far you actually are from it.
The long and short of it is that it is not possible to write out a fixed schedule for any remodeling project until the true scope of the work is spelled out, and to do that also takes a reasonable amount of time to, as Paul Winans Says, "do it once, right, the first time".