By Meghan Wentland | Updated Apr 6, 2022 3:34 PM
Tired of aged, cracked tile and grout in a dated bathroom? A fresh remodel of the bathroom—a space where you get ready to face the day in the morning and rinse off the stresses of the world at night—can be remarkably uplifting. In addition, dated bathrooms can drive down a home’s resale value, while a well-done remodel can pull buyers in and make a higher home price seem reasonable. There are many variables in the average cost of bathroom remodel; size, shape, and number of fixtures make a difference as does the choice between sticking with an existing layout and making a change. Luxury materials and finishes also ramp up the total cost and are worth it if they’re in your budget, but a quality remodel can be done with cost-consciousness and still be beautiful. We’ve examined the basic measure of bathroom remodel costs, along with some additional costs that may be surprising, to help you decide how to tailor your vision to your budget.
“Renovation” and “remodel” are words that are often casually substituted for one another, but in terms of actual planning and construction, they’re quite different. Especially if you plan to work with a professional contractor, it’s key to know what you’re asking for in order to get the best advice. There is some overlap, and even some contractors will use the words interchangeably, but there is a distinction. As with any home project that involves plumbing or electricity, a renovation can creep into a remodel if problems or emergency repair needs are discovered in the process, so even if you’re planning a quick renovation, it’s wise to include a good chunk of your budget to allow for the possibility that it may become a full-scale remodel.
Renovation basically works within an existing space and footprint, for the most part, to freshen, modernize, and functionally or cosmetically improve the space. Repair, paint or wallpaper, tiling, replacement flooring, and new lighting all fall under this umbrella. In other words, if it already exists and you’re just changing it out or cleaning it up, you’re renovating.
Remodeling is a renovation plus construction. It involves doing most of the refresh that a renovation can offer: new paint and tile work, new lighting, perhaps a trendy mirror. But the basis of a remodel is construction. If the project involves tearing out a wall to reframe and expand the space, absorbing a nearby closet, it’s a remodel. Moving significant plumbing structures underneath the flooring to add additional sinks or moving a tub or shower to a different location are also remodels. These projects involve large-scale construction and structural changes to the space in addition to requiring significant electrical, plumbing, and building permits. It’s simply a larger project than a renovation.
One of the trickiest parts of assessing the cost to remodel bathrooms is the loose interpretation of what constitutes a remodel. Some people may view a remodel as a coat of paint, new shower head and curtain, and a new sink and vanity, while others replace the toilet, tub, and vanity, pull up the flooring and tiling, and start from scratch on all the finishing. This makes the range of total cost seem unusually wide. In addition, the variety of materials available and wild diversity of the pricing of those materials makes it hard to pin down what a reasonable budget looks like. Low cost-range products can be found at home improvement or liquidation stores, while higher-end stores and websites offer midrange materials with more customization options. High-range items can be custom made or ordered from specialty stores for a truly unique space—at a cost. These ranges can be mixed and matched: Perhaps you’ll fall in love with a beautiful high-end sink but are willing to compromise on basic stock tile. These are the factors you’ll need to consider as you begin to zero in on the math of what you want and what you can afford.
Almost all bathrooms need storage for extra shampoo, soap, towels, and cleaning products. While some bathrooms avoid cabinetry altogether, most benefit from a vanity or storage cabinet. Existing cabinetry can be refinished as a cost savings, or new cabinets can be chosen from a range of big-box and specialty stores. Expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $3,000 for cabinetry, depending on the size of the space and the selection of the style.
Many first-time remodelers are surprised to discover that a countertop doesn’t always come attached to the chosen vanity. This opens up a lot of possibilities for customization, allowing buyers to choose and install a countertop they really love that suits their needs instead of being locked into a preselected combination. Depending on the size and material of the countertop, in addition to the costs for the sink cutout or custom edges, expect to pay between $200 and $1,000 for a bathroom counter.
This cost will vary significantly depending on how recently your home was built or updated, the style and material you choose, and permit or labor costs in your area. If the in-wall plumbing isn’t that old and shut-off valves are all functioning well, the plumbing costs may be minimal, especially if you’re just replacing a sink and toilet and can DIY. Selecting the material, finish, and style of the faucets will also affect the cost, but beautiful faucets can be found in a wide range of prices.
Older-home plumbing can be complicated, and often the discovery of problems with the plumbing, such as leaky or rotted pipes, can throw a remodel into a renovation and drive up the costs considerably. If you’ll need the help of a professional, this cost can be as much as $1,000 higher. The average cost range for faucets and plumbing is between $250 and $1,450.
Updating the toilet, sink, and tub or tub/shower enclosure can make a huge difference in the appearance of a bathroom, especially if the existing fixtures were particularly dated. Fixtures can be purchased in home stores, specialty stores, or online, but if you’re not planning to replace the flooring it’s important to choose a new fixture with the same or a slightly larger footprint than the old one. You’ll also want to pay attention to the placement and height of plumbing connections, as changing the location of the plumbing hookups will press the budget significantly. Fixtures range in cost from $200 to as much as $1,800 for specialty options.
Remodeling a bathroom floor can be as simple as adding peel-and-stick tiles (you may be surprised to see the modern options!) on top of the existing floor or as intricate as laying down mesh mosaic tile and grout. Bathrooms are usually smaller spaces, so this may be a DIY job, but they are also spaces with a lot of odd angles and cuts. Depending on the size of your bathroom and the number of necessary cuts and amount of waste, materials for flooring will make up 10 percent to 15 percent of the budget, or $200 to $1,350.
Replacing the door on a bathroom is fairly straightforward and will depend on the cost of the door you select. Walls and ceilings, on the other hand, are tough to pin down. That’s because uncovering the walls and ceilings in a bathroom, which is a damp space, can lead to unexpected surprises, so this part of the budget needs to allow for some contingencies. A simple, uncomplicated replacement of the walls (especially if old tile has been removed and new tile will be installed) with green board or other specialty drywall will not only freshen the space and make for easier tile installation, it will also restart the clock on any mold that has started to grow in the existing walls. That mold, however, is often the harbinger of the unexpected costs that can occur when replacing bathroom walls and ceilings. Small pipe or grout leaks can go undetected for a long time, especially if the wallboard is helpfully absorbing the liquid and growing a bumper crop of mold. You may find that you need a mold abatement contractor, more plumbing work, and more wall removal than you originally planned. Of course, it’s better to remove the mold than to pretend it’s not there, but it’s important to be aware of this possibility and leave some space in the budget just in case. Some homeowners insurance may assist with the costs of mold abatement—if this is your situation, it’s worth an inquiry.
The cost of finishing the walls with paint, wallpaper, or tile will depend on the cost of the finish you select. Painting costs run between $150 and $550, depending on the paint and the size of the room. For this damp area, you’ll want to think about a bathroom-specific paint that inhibits mold and mildew growth and prevents drips. Tile and wallpaper options will cost more, depending on your selections.
Updating light fixtures and replacing a rusty, corroded bathroom fan can brighten the appearance of any bathroom. Light fixtures are available at home stores and online, but lighting stores often offer pricing that beats both big-box stores and internet prices (plus, their employees can assist you in determining what you need). Check the position and placement of the existing wiring and choose accordingly; replacement light fixtures will often cost between $100 and $400. Choosing a new fixture that requires moving the wiring will add to the overall cost, as the electrical supply will need to be moved and wall patching will be necessary.
Replacing a ventilation fan is a relatively simple job—unless the new one is significantly larger or smaller than the existing fan, in which case demo or patching may be necessary—but it’s worth it, because ventilation fans significantly impede the development of mold and mildew. Depending on the size and whether a light or timer is included, ventilation fans cost between $50 and $300.
Once you’ve made the decisions about materials, you’ll need to scale them to the size of the bathroom as you begin to calculate overall costs. Smaller bathrooms require less material and therefore are usually less costly to remodel—but because they are smaller spaces that require many cuts and trims of materials, sometimes they cost more than you might expect because of cut-off material waste. Multiply the width times the length of the floor space to get the approximate square footage: a 3-foot by 5-foot powder room will cost about $1,500 to $2,250 to renovate, while a relatively palatial 9-foot by 10-foot bathroom can cost as much as $13,500 to renovate. If you have a larger bathroom and a smaller budget, you’ll need to decide where to splurge and where to compromise.
On average, labor to remodel a bathroom works out to $50 to $75 per hour, and it can make up between 40 percent and 60 percent of the budget. Whether or not you choose to work with a contractor will depend on the size of your remodel. For a quick paint job and a new sink and toilet, a handy homeowner can skip the labor costs, but for more involved jobs a contractor, plumber, and electrician may be necessary, and with all the contortions involved in reaching all the corners of a small bathroom, you may just choose to hire a painter to prevent aggravation. General contractors for larger jobs will cost between $300 and $400 per day, while a plumber can be as much as $2,000 per day depending on the job. Electricians add $50 to $100 per hour.
As with any home renovation, the cost of materials and labor will vary based on location. As a rule, costs on the coasts are higher: the top of the average range in Los Angeles is $25,600, where the top of the range in Minnesota is $12,600. There may not be a way to avoid some of this skewing, but shopping your market wisely and comparison shopping can help you find the most economical way to get the bathroom you want.
While material and labor costs make up the majority of remodeling expenses, there are some other aspects of the project to consider when building a reasonable budget. Some of these items are considered musts, while others will allow you to customize the project and help you decide which elements are worth hunting down a bargain for and which are OK to settle on.
State and local permit requirements vary, but it’s important to check to see if your project requires them. For a simple remodel a permit probably won’t be necessary, but as soon as you start making electrical or plumbing changes, it’s more likely that you’ll need a permit. These can cost between $350 and $1,800. Making changes after the fact if unpermitted work isn’t up to code can be very expensive, so check with your town to see what’s needed beforehand. If you’re working with a good general contractor, he or she should be able to help sort through the permitting process.
Bathroom fixtures and building materials are available in a wide range of costs and qualities. A fresh, modern, durable bathroom can be built with lower-grade materials purchased at any home improvement store; the porcelain and cast iron or fiberglass used to make basic fixtures is the same. However, the popularity of spa-like bathrooms with luxury materials such as natural stone and hard-to-find wood has created a market for high-end products that come at a much higher cost, and really, the sky’s the limit. Deciding which materials you prefer (you can choose among materials such as natural stone, polished granite, intricately detailed tiles, and more) and price shopping across the range of basic home improvement stores, specialty shops, online markets, and custom- or hand-made products will allow you to customize the remodel and manage the costs.
There are two sets of costs for electrical and plumbing work: the planned work and emergency or repair work. There is a lot of plumbing and electrical in any bathroom, and all of it is tucked behind walls in damp areas, so unexpected corrosion or failure can be hidden. Remodelers can expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000 on each planned plumbing or electrical element. A new toilet, purchased and installed, will cost between $100 and $500, and a new outlet will run between $130 and $300 to install. However, if you discover that the water heater that supplies the tub is corroded or leaking, that replacement can cost between $800 and $1,500. A failed drain pipe, or an outlet that isn’t up to code and needs new wiring strung from the breaker, can cost significantly more than one might expect. This is an area where cost can ramp up quickly when there’s a problem, so even if you don’t anticipate changing the plumbing or electrical systems, it’s best to budget for emergencies.
Remodels that involve expanding or significantly changing the floor plan of a bathroom are the largest kind of remodel. They’re exciting, but they require a bit more planning and professional assistance. You’ll likely need to consider the costs of rerouting electrical wiring ($500 to $2,500), insulation, transferring and redrilling joists to accommodate rerouted plumbing, framing costs ($500 to $1,500), and drywall costs ($1,000 to $2,500). Before you get to those costs, you may need to consult an architect and a structural engineer: Bathroom floors that will hold up a cast-iron bathtub full of water with a person in it require an extra degree of strength and stability. An architect will cost $1,000 to $$2,000, while the consultation with an engineer will run between $300 and $700. Overall, the choice to expand or change the floor plan of the bathroom can add as much as $15,000 to the cost of a remodel. It may be less if the homeowner can do some of the work themselves or if the plan can be worked to keep more of the wiring and plumbing in place.
More and more homeowners are choosing to include ADA-compliant features in bathroom remodels to accommodate aging or disabled family members. Wider door frames, lower cabinet heights, and zero-depth entry showers and tubs with grab bars can add to the cost of the remodel, but the increase doesn’t have to be significant if the planning is done carefully before beginning. Costs will vary based on the selected accommodations: Lower counter height and a couple of grab bars won’t be a large investment, but a walk-in tub will be.
Because bathroom remodels can be expensive and fraught with unexpected costs, many homeowners question whether they really need to remodel at all. If there are visible repairs needed, the answer is clear, but if a bathroom is functional but old, it can be a tough call. There are valid reasons to remodel even if your bathroom isn’t falling apart.
A sleek, updated bathroom instantly increases the value of your home. Experts place the average return on investment on a quality bathroom remodel at about 62 percent, right behind adding a bedroom or remodeling the kitchen. Beyond the measurable increase in value, the emotional benefit to a potential buyer seeing an intensely personal space as an oasis waiting for them in their new home is significant.
Older light fixtures and water heaters are most likely not up to today’s standards, and replacing them with newer models can make the home more energy efficient and save on electricity and gas bills. Along the same lines, low-flow toilets and shower heads preserve precious water with little perceptible change for the user, so a new bathroom can help you help the environment.
Every bathroom, especially an older one, contains many potential safety concerns. First, it’s a room with both water and electricity in close proximity, so a remodel offers the opportunity to install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets with auto-shutoff snaps to protect users from electrical shock. Smoothing out cracks or rolls in old tile floors and replacing slippery flooring with textured materials can reduce slipping, as can selecting a bathtub or shower with integrated slip-resistant materials.
Cracked tiles, loose grout, and leaky sinks and tubs are all hazards unto themselves, but leaks, in particular, can cause a lot of problems elsewhere in the home—like in the ceiling of the room below. Remodeling the bathroom before leaks and cracks have time to become active problems will make the space more pleasant and save on repair costs down the line.
Midcentury pastel bathrooms with Art Deco sinks are lovely and quaint, while late-1990s baths may have vintage wallpaper still in great condition and a lot of dark trim or wood paneling. Bathrooms feel dated quickly. As nostalgic as these rooms feel, they can be hard to keep clean and don’t have the aesthetic quality most homeowners and home buyers are looking for. In addition, modern fixtures provide hygienic and convenience options that were simply not available to earlier remodelers. A newly remodeled bathroom doesn’t have to be sleek and cold, but it can be luxurious and relaxing.
Water is intrepid: It will find the tiniest cracks or crevices in grout or drywall, seep through, and provide a dark, warm, damp atmosphere ideal for breeding mold and mildew. While the occasional spot is easily wiped away, the mold and mildew that can develop behind tile or drywall, in grout or tile seams, and on ceilings can at best cause minor allergic irritation and at worst cause major respiratory ailments. Remodeling provides a chance to clear out any existing mold and mildew and start fresh with clean surfaces and new sealants. Many of the products used in bathroom remodels have mold- and mildew-resistant properties, which will help stave off major issues for years.
If your bathroom has always felt a little hemmed in and there’s a closet or extra bedroom adjacent, a carefully planned remodel can open up the options to make the space larger or build out a linen or supply closet. Even if there isn’t available expansion space, there’s unexpected space in many bathrooms for between-the-studs cabinets that can be neatly built into the wall and can run from floor to ceiling, providing additional storage space.
There are many parts of a bathroom remodel that can be done by homeowners. Pulling out an old vanity and installing a new one, some basic plumbing changes, and painting are all DIY-friendly jobs. But even many experienced DIY homeowners quake at some of the possibilities once a bathroom wall or floor is opened up. Bathrooms are a crossroads of many major systems, including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. The highly skilled work of installing water-resistant drywall and tile so the water in the bathroom stays where it belongs—all while in the tight confines of the smallest room in the house—make a bathroom remodel a job where it’s a good idea to call in some help. Mistakes can be costly and may cause damage to other areas of the house or even personal injury. Homeowners who do choose to manage the job on their own should be particularly cautious about unusual smells or sounds coming from pipes and wiring, and need to pay attention to local concerns such as asbestos, lead paint, and radon gas when dealing with open pipes.
A general contractor can help plan and manage the project, or homeowners can save some money by choosing to hire their own individual contractors and manage the process themselves, but it’s best to have someone to call if water starts gushing out of a pipe unexpectedly. Professionals will know how to maneuver a cast-iron tub up stairs and around a corner because they’ve done it before and can help anticipate problems before they arise. In addition, professionals will be insured, so if a project takes a wrong turn, they can handle it and will then be covered for any damage done to your home—a much more appealing option than making a sheepish call to your homeowners insurance agent to admit you’ve made an error that will require a much larger repair or remodel. Finally, some higher-end suppliers won’t sell materials to the general public and require a contractor’s membership or license number before they’ll provide prices or permit sales.
Because there are so many components in the cost of bathroom remodel, there are a lot of areas where you can potentially save. Some items will be nonnegotiable, such as the cost of permits or some materials, but there are places where the choices you make or work you do on your own can help you control the costs of the project.
Bathroom remodels are complicated because of all of the home systems and decor elements involved. This means that in addition to the usual questions you would normally ask a contractor you’re considering hiring, there are additional questions you’ll need answers to regarding subcontractors, references, skill sets, and warranties. Here are some things you’ll want to check off as “answered” before you hire a professional.
Once the professional provides references, it’s important to contact them. The existence of references isn’t enough to go on for a bathroom remodel—you actually need to contact them and ask about their experience. Some starter questions for the references follow.
With so many choices, so many decisions, and so many unknowns, the process of beginning a bathroom remodel can be overwhelming. Choosing a good contractor and envisioning your ideal space are great first steps. As you’re considering those, these are answers to some of the questions we’re asked most often and their answers to help you feel more settled as you begin making your choices.
While a small bathroom seems like it should cost much less to remodel than a large one, there can be complications: Small spaces and odd angles can create a lot of wasted material and sometimes require nonstandard or custom fixtures, which are more expensive than standard. The national average for remodeling a small bathroom is about $6,500, but the job can be completed for as inexpensively as $1,500 or as luxuriously as $15,000 if you choose custom-crafted materials and high-end fixtures.
Yes, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and make some tough choices. A small bathroom, roughly 5 feet by 8 feet, can be remodeled for $5,000 given a couple of conditions. You’ll likely need a contractor who is willing to let you help, you may need to be willing to help and capable of doing so, and you’ll likely need to choose or find budget materials. Unless you’re very lucky on the remainder or leftover market, this won’t be a job that features expensive, exclusive tile. But a clean, fresh, new bathroom can be curated for $5,000.
Anything that involves moving the plumbing, especially the main waste line, will push the cost of remodeling a bathroom through the roof. Moving the waste line means pulling up the flooring and sometimes part of the wall, paying a plumber for hours of work, and connecting new fixtures. If you leave the plumbing in place, the vanity, surprisingly, will often become the most expensive choice you have to make. Consider your options in terms of shopping sales and clearance items, along with resale shops or salvage stores, to take the cost down on a replacement vanity.
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