Bathrooms are utilitarian by nature and get a ton of daily use in every household. This makes them prime spaces for renovations: No one wants to get ready for the day in a dingy, dated bathroom or shower in a tiny stall with mildew. Only one obstacle holds homeowners back from this project: It can be expensive! But the truth is there is a bathroom remodeling project for most budgets.
Online sources say you can spend about $6,500 up to nearly $70,000 on a bathroom remodel or renovation, depending on square footage, labor, and any high-end fixtures and amenities. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) report that homeowners spent a mean of $32,000 renovating their bathrooms in 2019, roughly twice what they spent on redoing a guest bath (about $18,000) or a powder room (about $12,000).
Here, we’ll break down some bathroom remodeling costs and design trends so you can calculate how to get the greatest impact for your spend.
Bathroom remodel costs by scale
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry puts the cost of a bathroom renovation at about $35,000. That’s roughly $875 per square foot for a 40-foot bathroom or $350 per square foot for a one that’s 100 square feet.
Fixr.com, which provides cost guides and comparisons for hundreds of remodeling projects, lists the average cost of remodeling a 100-square-foot bathroom at $20,000, including floor plans, demolition, updating plumbing and electrical systems, painting, installing wall and floor tile, and adding a new tub/shower, faucets, toilet, sinks, vanity, countertop, and linen tower. That comes out to about $200 per square foot.
But you don’t have to start from scratch to make a huge impression. “A new toilet, new tub, all nice and white, is not a lot of money,” says Douglas Huebner, CEO of the home design and renovation company The Habitatilist and a top New Jersey real estate agent serving the Maplewood, Montclair, and South Orange areas.
“Add a new mirror, new wall sconces, and a new vanity, and you’ve got a new bathroom.”
Here are a few examples across several price ranges:
Partial bathroom remodel: $3,000 to $10,000
Includes: new tile, toilet, and sink. Replace just the sink and the toilet for about $500 to $3,000.
Small bathroom remodel: $6,500
Redoing a 40-square-foot bathroom (about 8×5 feet) costs about $163 per square foot. Labor and fixtures can adjust this from $1,500 to $15,000 or more. That’s roughly $70 per square foot for DIY or up to $250 per square foot for a licensed contractor and high-end fixtures.
Midrange bathroom remodel: $21,400
A midrange remodel of a 5×7-foot bathroom — to include a new vanity and sink, recessed medicine cabinet with lighting, 30×60-inch porcelain-on-steel tub surrounded by 4×4-inch ceramic tile, single-lever temperature, and pressure-balanced controls in the shower — costs about $21,400, or $611 per square foot.
(Source: Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report)
Upscale bathroom remodel: $67,000
The larger the room and more upscale the fixtures and features, the greater the price tag. An upscale bathroom remodel that includes expanding a 35-square-foot bathroom to 100 square feet costs about $67,000, or about $670 per square foot, Remodeling magazine says. This example added a glass-enclosed shower with body-spray fixtures, a freestanding soaker tub, custom cabinetry, and electric in-floor heating.
(Source: Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report)
What’s the most expensive part of a bathroom remodel?
In general, two of the most expensive parts of a bathroom remodel are moving a waste line and replacing a vanity, Huebner says. If you change the bathroom’s layout, that involves moving the toilet, sink, or tub and needs the help of a professional plumber. Expect to pay about $45 to $65 per hour in labor. For a 40-square-foot bathroom, hooking up new fixtures to current plumbing plus cleanup takes an estimated 46 hours and costs roughly $2,070 and $2,990; moving any fixtures more than three feet costs an additional $500 to $1,000.
As for a vanity, prices vary whether it’s pre-made or custom built, but a vanity easily can cost about $1,300 to $1,800, Huebner said. The Ridgemore 71-inch double vanity in white with a granite top hits the low end of this range at about $1,300. A more high-end option would be the Charlton Home Larosa 73-inch double vanity with a white marble top and gray manufactured-wood base costing about $2,800.
Here’s how other materials and features affect pricing:
- Wall and floor tiles: Natural stone, porcelain, and ceramic are popular in bathrooms. Natural stone and porcelain cost about $5 to $20 per square foot compared to $1 to $5 per square foot.
- Countertops: Prefabricated countertops cost less than natural stone. Quartz costs about $100 per square foot compared to cultured marble at $4 per square foot.
- Faucets: Chrome is a less expensive finish than brushed nickel; matte black, antique bronze, and brushed brass cost more. Also consider the type of sink (pedestal, wall-mounted, console) and whether the faucet is wall-mounted or touchless. The Farrington 8-inch two-handle high-arc faucet in matte black by Glacier Bay sells for $129, for instance, while Zurn’s single-hole touchless bathroom faucet in polished chrome costs $376.
- Bathtub: An alcove tub installed with a shower is the most common type of tub and comes in a variety of widths and colors, Fixr.com says. Bootz Industries sells a 30x60x74.5-inch alcove bath and shower kit with left-hand drain in white for $638. Integrated grab bars can be an additional cost. A standalone soaking tub costs from $500 to $3,000, as does adding jets or other features.
- Shower: If you have an alcove bath and shower combo, add about $150 for a basic pressure balance valve tub and shower set. Shower valve systems that add varying body sprays or allow for better water control can cost about $550 and up. Tired of that rod and shower curtain? DreamLine has a 56x60x76-inch frameless sliding shower door in brushed stainless steel for about $800.
- Toilet: Prices vary from about $100 to $1,000 depending on the size of the “rough-in” (the distance from the finished wall to the floor drain), height, having a round or elongated bowl, water efficiency, and added features, such as a bidet toilet seat.
Other considerations: Location and hidden issues
Any remodeling project can incur expenses that you might not have considered, such as:
How long will the project last?
If your home has just one full bathroom—and you don’t have a gym membership or some other arrangement while it’s in disarray—there may be limits to what type of bathroom remodel you can manage. “I went through a major renovation in my house two and a half years ago,” Huebner says. “At one point, the only bathroom not out of commission was the one in the master bedroom.”
Will you need building permits?
Check with your municipality if you’re planning anything that affects the structure of the bathroom or rearranging the fixtures. “Here, if you’re just replacing [fixtures], you don’t need a permit,” Huebner says. “When you go down to the studs and move pipes around, then you need to have inspectors come in.”
Have you uncovered any water damage, outdated plumbing, or outdated wiring?
If so, you’ll likely need to hire a professional rather than handle the problem yourself. Rerouting plumbing generally costs about $45 to $150 per hour while rerouting electrical wiring costs about $50 to $100 per hour.
Will your new fixtures fit in the space?
One of Huebner’s design clients wanted a 72-inch vanity with double sinks for an upstairs bathroom. But the piece she bought on her own had a connected cabinet and countertop, making it impossible to lift up the interior staircase.
“I popped the window out of the bathroom and all the framing, and I hired a crane that moves pianos,” which cost about $800, he says. “We airlifted this giant vanity through the window with barely an inch on either side. All the money she had saved buying this vanity kind of went out the window with the crane and the extra labor.”
Maximize your value: Where to spend and where to save
Because a bathroom is by nature the most functional room in a house, Huebner suggests considering the “ick factor” when deciding where to save and where to splurge. “If you walk into a bathroom that’s not been touched in 15 or 20 years, what’s the ickiest thing?” he says. That’s what you need to fix.
Barring that, here are some other suggestions:
- New flooring:
If your bathroom has had wall-to-wall carpeting for years, that probably needs to go. (You could replace this with tile, but if you like the carpeting, a new 2020 carpeting option for bathrooms is 100% waterproof.)
- New hardware:
Consumer Reports recommends replacing the sink and shower faucets, especially in homes with hard water because of metal corrosion. Faucets with scratch-resistant PVD (physical vapor deposition) protection come in several styles, such as Water Creation’s wall-mount two-handle elegant spout bathroom faucet in polished nickel PVD for about $248, or Water Creation’s 8-inch two-handle century classic bathroom faucet in the same finish for about $223. Add a matching mirror for a coordinated look.
- Certain new fixtures:
If you use a standalone sink rather than a sink and vanity, for example, you could pay about $50 to $1,000 for a pedestal, wall-hung, or console version.
Save on …
- Refreshing the color:
The transitional look ranks among the top three bathroom designs, the NKBA says. This means lighter colors (whites, silvers, grays, beiges, blues), smooth features (think recessed panels and sconces), natural lighting, and a relaxed feel. If you can’t afford to replace every fixture, consider repainting your bathroom a lighter color.
- Refinishing the tub:
If your bathtub has minor stains and scratches, a one time but affordable upgrade is to refinish or re-glaze the tub, which costs about $200 to $650. (You may have to leave the house for a day so that the materials used can ventilate properly.) Re-caulking the tub also gives it a fresh look.
If you’re investing in smart technology in other areas of your home, the NKBA says that temperature controls, internet-connected products, and fixtures that conserve water are expected to become more popular in bathrooms. Many newer bathrooms include Bluetooth devices with speakers (about $99 to $300 to install), for instance.
However, if you’re planning on listing your home soon, Heubner advises being practical. “I’ve been in bathrooms where you hit one switch, and bright lights go on and a fan goes on. Who wants that at two in the morning when you’re just trying to use the bathroom and go back to bed?”
When considering how much it will cost to remodel or refresh a bathroom, remember that a relaxing bathroom attracts a broader swath of buyers. “Understand that people are going to walk in and they don’t want to do anything,” Huebner says. “It’s that aggravation factor.”
Header Image Source: (fran hogan / Unsplash)