Sometimes it isn't an actual remodeling project that's overwhelming—it's the planning and budgeting for it. This is particularly true of bathrooms: The finishes and fixtures can be expensive, plumbing work is usually a necessity, and hidden problems often arise. Even so, there are smart, budget-savvy steps you can take so that you consider and plan for most costs and get a few dream-worthy items in the process. Here's our guide to calculating the cost of remodeling a bathroom.
Step 1: Determine what you have to have and create a design that includes all these items.
As with any remodeling project, wishes are different than needs. Start your bathroom budget by carefully reviewing what you must have. Do you really need two sinks, or would one suffice? Is a whirlpool tub a luxury you could live without? This stripped-down list should allow you to create a bare-bones budget as well as provide a basic outline for a design.
Step 2: Prioritize what you dream about having.
Your wish list should be a gathering of your dream-big bathroom ideas—spa shower, double vanity, heated floors. But after you figure out those "budget-is-no-option" items, put them into a list ordered by what you would splurge on first if you had the funds. Then, if construction costs come under your planned allotment, you can add back in as many dream items as you can afford.
Step 3: List every material, fixture, and finish you need as well as outside labor that's required.
As you figure out the cost of remodeling a bathroom, it's important not to overlook anything that can add to the budget. That may include demolition, drywall, plumbing, flooring, countertops, shelving, tile, grout, flooring, cabinets, electrical work, a sink, a toilet, a shower, a bathtub, cabinet pulls, and more.
Step 4: Consider design-focused ways to cut costs.
When it comes to bathroom projects, remember, simpler is better. For example, take a careful look at where your fixtures are and consider keeping plumbing lines and walls intact. Try to keep load-bearing walls where they are, too. And remember, if layout changes aren't really necessary, you may be able to splurge with more of your dream fixtures.
Step 5: Shop smart.
Even before you get bids for your project, you should sketch out a basic idea of how much fixtures and finishes may cost. Compare prices at big box stores, eBay, and Craig's List, and think about how you can creatively slash your budget without sacrificing your design. That may include:
• Repurposing furniture. Vintage pieces, for example, can be refashioned into vanities; inexpensive home center shelves can serve as storage.
• Dressing up low-cost alternatives. An inexpensive mirror with painted trim leads to a wow-worthy focal point above the sink.
• Including a small amount of a showcase material. For example, an expensive pebble tile can add a luxe touch—even if it is just a few pieces here and there, or used as a border.
• Sacrificing items that can easily be retrofitted later. Choose less-expensive lights, faucets, window treatments, and door and cabinet hardware, and put your money toward cabinets, countertops, and other labor-intensive items.
• Choosing off-the-shelf items. Custom windows, cabinetry, and other items can drive up project costs. Look for standard and semicustom goods, which are often available in a range of styles and price levels. Opt for prefabricated items, such as shower and tub enclosures, to save time and labor costs.
• Looking at your local home center for clearance items, end-of-season sales, discontinued products, and floor models. You can also find great deals online— just be sure you know what you're buying.
And, know even more by downloading our Bath Price Guide. Know what faucets, tubs and tile should cost before you head out to the stores.
Step 6: Hire a designer or architect.
Once you've outlined both wants and needs, sketched out a design, and gotten a handle on rough costs, consider talking to a bathroom designer or architect to review your project. The consultation may not be expensive as you think, particularly in the long run, if that professional can help you avoid design pitfalls and suggest ways to save money.
Step 7: Get several bids.
If you'll be hiring a contractor to help you with construction work, be sure to ask references about the communication skills, follow-through, and adherence to deadlines. If the contractor regularly misses deadlines and communicates poorly, you'll likely end up with inflated bills and extra stress. If you have some home improvement experience, talk with your contractor about splitting some of the tasks. For example, demo is a task for even the novice DIYer; painting is a simple to-do as well.
Step 8: Include an overage.
After you've gotten your bid and assembled a final budget, add an overage—about 10 percent—to your final budget. Building and remodeling almost always end up costing more than you expect and this will help to account for unanticipated surprises in the cost of remodeling a bathroom.
Step 9: Think about the neighborhood.
You may have a cushy remodeling budget that you're willing to spend. But before you begin, think about how long you plan to stay in your home. If you want to move within a few years, investigate home prices in your area and be careful to keep your budget in line with the average home price. In general, aim to spend about 5 to 10 percent of your home's value on the cost of remodeling a bathroom.
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