How to Budget for a Bathroom Remodel

If you are considering a bathroom renovation, you are probably thinking about how you want to update your bathroom, while also wondering how much it will cost.  When undertaking any major project, including a bathroom remodel, it is important to understand two key points: how much you are willing to spend and how much it actually costs.  There is no single answer to the question, “How much does a bathroom remodeling project cost?”, as it is nearly impossible to answer without first exploring the specifics of your project and your requirements. 

A number of factors influence your bathroom project budget, including the size of the room, the quality of materials you want to include, and whether you plan to do some of the work yourself, hire contractors, or work with a design/build firm that will handle all aspects of your project from start to finish.  Other factors include the scope of the project, the age of your home (and of your pipes), and any previous remodeling work done on the bathroom.

A bathroom packs a lot into a relatively small space, including durable materials, fixtures, plumbing, lighting, and more.   For this reason, you tend to spend more per square foot in a bathroom than any other space in the house.  The average spend for a bathroom today is about $450/sq. ft., however you also tend to recoup on average 100% of the remodeling costs in the resale value of your home.  If you are not planning to sell, you will definitely get a return on this investment in the quality of your day-to-day life!

Bathroom remodeling expenses can be broken down roughly as follows:

  • Design Fees: 4%
  • Installation: 30-40%
  • Materials, fixtures, cabinetry, flooring, doors, windows, lighting, and other goods make up the rest of the cost
  • Always allow 10-20% extra for unforeseen costs

How each of these costs affects your overall budget depends a lot on the materials you select and on the size of your space.  Everything from your shower to faucets can change the cost of a bathroom design, as they are available in a wide range of price options.  A larger space requires more materials and, especially in the case of tile, more labor to install it.  One approach is to pick one or two items to splurge on, or in the case of tile to use more expensive tiles in a small area to create a feature. Changing the layout, moving fixtures or plumbing, and extending the room will always add to your costs, but will also give you exactly the space you want.

Bathroom budgets can be classified as a partial remodel, basic, mid-range, or deluxe. 

In a partial remodel, you replace specific, outdated items, such as cabinets, countertops, faucets, and toilet.  

A basic renovation includes no structural changes, mainly off the shelf products (like from big box stores), lower end materials for countertops/tile/fixtures, and a single sink. 

The mid-range project includes better quality fixtures, faucets, flooring, and sink.  It may incorporate other features like a recessed medicine cabinet, semi-custom cabinetry, or a larger shower. 

The deluxe remodel starts from scratch and designs the room exactly as you want it.  You may move fixtures around, extend the size of the room, and change the layout.  The upscale remodel may involve more tile work, a larger vanity with two sinks, and possibly changes to the plumbing.  Materials used are higher end and therefore more durable and unique.

You get what you pay for, and this is definitely true when remodeling a bathroom.  A larger budget allows flexibility to play around with the layout of the room, the space available, and to select the perfect materials and design features.  There are also excellent materials available on the lower end, which may fit your requirements and budget.

Determine how much you want to spend, and consider which features are important to you (e.g., extra-large shower, fully tiled room, custom vanity with extra storage).  Educate yourself on which products and features you want, but also on how much these things cost.  Then talk to your bathroom design professional to find out what you can achieve within your budget.