Rarely is a bathroom remodel as inexpensive as we would like it to be, as the precision needed for electrical and plumbing work, as well as the cost of new features such as a bathtub, vanity and toilet, drive up the total cost of the project. Home improvement information site Fixr reports that the average cost to fully remodel a bathroom is $20,000, with low-end remodels costing closer to $6,000 and luxury renovations reaching as high as $50,000.
If those prices have you worried about your ability to revamp your bathroom on a budget, you’re not alone. Plenty of homeowners are looking for ways to cut overall costs on their bathroom remodel and still have it feeling fresh and modern at the end of the project.
Here’s how the cost of a major bathroom remodel breaks down:
— Design and labor: 20% to 65%
— Demolition: 6.25%
— Fixtures: 3.5%
— Shower or tub: up to 30%
— Vanity: 15%
— Lighting: 2.5%
— Countertops and cabinets: 6.25%
— Flooring and walls: 10%
— Budget cushion: 10%
Design and Labor: 20% to 65%
Any bathroom remodel is best done with a solid plan, and if it’s a major remodel , you’ll likely want a designer to create a mock-up and plan. Costs for your remodel design can vary depending on whether you hire an independent designer or the designer is part of the general contracting firm you hire to complete the project. Designs can cost less than $500, according to HomeAdvisor, or reach as much as $4,000, according to Fixr.
“If the client is having the whole project done, it usually makes sense for the contractor to handle everything. It ends up saving you time and money … to not share responsibilities too much,” says Mark Page, construction estimator for Pro.com and based in the Boston area.
The labor required to complete each step of the renovation will also take up a big chunk of your budget, and the more extravagant your plans, like moving the location of the shower or toilet, the more expensive the total cost of labor will be.
“Changing the layout is always going to add cost to the project,” Page says, noting that the amount of work required to bring in licensed professionals, including a plumber and electrician, goes up. Moving your toilet, shower and vanity to different areas of the room requires pipes in the wall and the flooring to be moved as well. Adding new light fixtures and a fan will require additional electrical work.
A full bathroom makeover involves removing the finishes, fixtures and materials that you don’t want to be a part of the final product. It may also include removing the old toilet and tub, taking down towel racks, prying up tile and even potentially knocking out a wall to make the room bigger.
Homeowners may try to save on the cost of labor by handling the demolition themselves. But preparation for a renovation requires more work than a couple swings of the sledgehammer — especially considering the plumbing and electrical wiring in the floor and walls. You also have to carefully remove major appliances, and be sure to shut off the water and electricity before proceeding with demolition.
“Oftentimes there’s a lot of prep work or implications that people don’t think about,” says Kevin Busch, vice president of operations for home improvement company Mr. Handyman in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you’re planning to replace old tile with new tile on the wall, more thorough demolition might include spackling holes or damaged spots, as well as sanding and cleaning the wall ahead of installation work.
Replacing the faucets, knobs and showerhead in your bathroom are relatively inexpensive changes that can make a big difference in a minor bathroom remodel, but they can boost your total cost in a complete remodel if you select custom design options or pricey styles.
You may be able to install these fixtures yourself to cut down on the total cost of your project, although many contractors doing a beginning-to-end project would likely expect to complete these tasks, and doing them yourself wouldn’t make much impact on your bottom line.
Shower or Tub: 30%
Expect a new freestanding bathtub to cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 before installation, according to bathroom product retailer Badeloft USA. The average cost to install a new shower ranges from about $1,400 to $6,400, according to HomeAdvisor.
Installing a new bathtub or shower doesn’t mean you’re done, however. Page says installing tile around a tub will often cost between $3,000 and $6,000. Tiling a 3-foot – by – 3-foot shower stall can range from $1,600 to $2,000 at the low end, according to Fixr, though Page says more elaborate work can make the price climb to somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. “The cost driver for that stuff is if you want different niches for your soap and shampoo and shelves,” he says.
A built-in double vanity in the master bathroom is on many people’s wish lists for a bathroom renovation. According to the 2019 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, 58% of renovating homeowners opt for a custom or semicustom vanity.
Custom-built double vanities can run $10,000 or more, but stock vanities can be purchased from just about any home improvement or decor store for much less. At Home Depot, for example, 36-inch vanities start at $179.
The right lighting is a key component of a bathroom makeover. If you’re looking for additional overhead light options, know that you’ll need to pay for an electrician to run the wiring. Busch explains that basic contracting professionals and handymen who don’t carry an electrician’s license are fairly limited in what they can do with wiring in many states. If a contractor is managing the entire renovation, he or she will be in charge of subcontracting the electrical work. If you’re hiring an electrician on your own, expect to pay between $50 and $100 per hour for the work, according to HomeAdvisor, and that doesn’t include any additional work required if part of a wall or ceiling needs to be removed to work on the wiring.
As a cost-saving option, you can replace fixtures and bulbs in their existing locations. Replacing a fixture can be done by a handyman, or even as a DIY project with the right research and preparation.
Countertops and Cabinets: 6.25%
The right surface space and storage will make your bathroom function just how you want it to, and you likely want to add additional counter space, more cabinets or both. While cabinets and countertops can make up 35% of a kitchen renovation budget, the smaller scale of a bathroom makes the cost much more manageable.
Flooring and Walls: 10%
Installing any type of floor — and especially a custom tile floor — is a job often best left to a professional, especially when you have to work around a toilet, vanity and other parts of a bathroom. The more custom and expensive your flooring or wall tiles are, the higher the cost of installation will be, as it requires more skill to get the job done as well.
Budget Cushion: 10%
As with any major renovation, you should leave room in your budget for unexpected issues, like water damage discovered once the walls are opened up, or work from previous renovation that needs to be up to local building code. Page recommends earmarking about 10% of your budget for such issues.
“There’s always going to be unknowns, no matter how well you plan,” Page says. “But a good contractor is going to do as much work as possible to identify some of those unknowns before the project begins.”
If no unwanted surprises happen during the installation, that budget cushion can be used for a future project elsewhere in your home. Your contractor may even be willing to do some additional work as the bathroom remodel finishes up. Page says it’s common for the unused cushion in the budget to be used by extra projects like installing tile in another bathroom or building shelves in a different part of the house, which he refers to as “while you’re here” projects.