Budgeting Your Bathroom Renovation

Projecting the cost of a remodel often depends on how many big-ticket items you're replacing and who's doing the work. Here are some guidelines.

Couple Sitting in Bathtub

Couple Sitting in White Bathtub

You want to remodel your bathroom, but you don't want to break the bank, and that's a distinct possibility with any home renovation project. Here's the skinny on how fat your wallet needs to be to do the remodeling job that you want. And once you know what costs what, you can figure out which corners — or countertops — to cut.

According to Remodeling magazine's 2005 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel is approximately $10,499, higher or lower depending on where you live (and how you define mid-range). Redoing your bathroom will cost you less in the South and more in the West and Northeast. The report also estimates that such a job will recoup 102 percent of its cost at resale. So at least you know you're not flushing money down the toilet. An upscale bathroom remodel is estimated to cost $26,052 — a hefty jump in price — and to recoup about 93 percent of that on resale.

Remodeling defines a mid-range remodel as putting in a toilet, tub with a tile surround, an integrated solid-surface double sink and vanity, recessed medicine cabinet, a ceramic tile floor and vinyl wallpaper.

An upscale remodel includes expanding the room an additional 8 square feet into existing space, adding a window, moving fixtures such as the toilet and replacing them with high-end models, a 4-X-6-foot tiled shower with a shower wall, a bidet, stone countertops in the vanity with two sinks, linen closet, tile floor, lighting, an exhaust fan and other amenities.

It's easy to spend $25,000 on a bathroom renovation. If you don't have that sort of dough, a remodel is all about compromise. Think about what elements in your bathroom you most want to change and what you can live with and without.

Construction Zone

Unless you're DIYing your renovation, you'll use a general contractor (GC) or contract out the work yourself. The latter requires some know-how, since you'll need to get permits, oversee the work, etc. In selecting a GC, get bids and definitely ask for and check references. See how satisfied his or her previous customers are. To save money, you might consider doing the demolition yourself; you can even hold a demolition party to garner help from friends. Also compare buying the materials yourself with the cost of the GC supplying them. You can buy online or at discount stores to save money. The GC gets a deep discount but also tends to mark up prices, so check both options.

Labor

Man- or woman-power costs moolah. The people who replace that ghastly popcorn ceiling, install sconces and ceiling lights, plumb the fixtures, or lay the tile will run up the budget. Keep this in mind when laying out your bathroom plan. Moving lights or plumbing or putting in a window will cost more than sticking with the bathroom's original layout. It doesn't mean you can't vary some areas, but pick and choose to avoid sticker shock.

Fixtures

One of the major costs in a remodel is moving fixtures, such as the toilet, sink and tub. If you can keep the same floor plan that you have now, you'll spend less on plumbing.

Then there's the cost of the fixtures themselves. If you must have that exquisite glass vessel sink, then pick a standard white no-frills toilet (about $125). Or if you want the Kohler Purist Hatbox toilet ($2,991 and up) then opt for a lower-end sink and tub.

Tile Talk

Tile is another major expense, not only the tile itself but the labor involved in installing it. You can limit the tile to the floor and the tub surround with a drop-in shower stall. If you're lusting after an iridescent glass tile mosaic, consider using the expensive tiles as accents in a field of more pedestrian porcelain ones. Decide if you want to spend your money on a total-body shower wall or a completely tiled shower. Instead of running tile up the wall, think about beadboard wainscoting for a period look or a cool paint color if your design is more modern.

Countertop Culture

In a kitchen, solid surface or stone countertops can bust your budget because of sheer square footage. In the bath, you can get away with granite or even marble, if you're smart about it. A single-sink vanity won't take a lot of stone. If you want two, then pedestal sinks (take your pick of beauties from Kohler, Porcher, American Standard and more from about $140 to $300 each) and a refinished side cabinet or bedside table with a remnant of granite or marble on the top will save you money, give you storage, and have you in step with today's trend of furniture cabinetry versus built-in.

Plan carefully, set your budget and be creative; you'll end up with a beautiful bathroom that hasn't broken your bank account.

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