Budgeting for a Bathroom Remodel

Get tips for figuring out how much you can spend on your renovation project
75677150

75677150

Senior couple sitting on sofa, woman using laptop

Photo by: Stockbyte

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Budgeting for a remodeling project can be a real test of your self-control. Sure, you can create a spa retreat in your master bedroom, but does that mean your family will eat cereal for dinner for the next 15 years? And will your "big ideas" cancel out plans for other home remodeling projects? Remember, a stellar bathroom truly is a luxury island if set within a home in disrepair.

The Big Question

Setting a budget for your bathroom renovation requires meshing your vision with your bank account

  • What do you want?
  • What can you truly afford?

So, approach the bathroom budgeting process with a realistic attitude. The good news: There is almost nothing you can't do on a budget because manufacturers offer a wide range of fixtures and finishes that can accomplish your goals.

Do your homework. Begin by researching all of the options available on the market today—flip through magazines, refer to our handy slideshows, check out local home improvement trade shows, talk to professionals at bathroom showrooms. Dream up your wish list, then revise that into a reality list with price tags.

Get real. "When you are hiring or interviewing a professional to do a bathroom remodel, make sure the number they are giving you is realistic," says Cameron Snyder, president, Roomscapes Luxury Design Center, Boston, Mass., and past-president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Be wary if one designer quotes the project at $75,000 and another claims he or she can complete the same job for $40,000.

"You need a hard number," Snyder says. This is accomplished only if you choose all of your materials before the project begins, which is the best way to go about a bathroom remodel, he adds. "A contractor's allowances may not be realistic, and that's where a $30,000 project can become a $50,000 project."

Expect the unexpected. The one sure thing about any remodeling project is that you will spend more than you planned. The key is to keep that overage within reason. There's a fine line between splurging and blowing your bank account—in fact, a single decision on a fixture or finish can cost you thousands more than you thought you'd spend.

Then there's the tear-out and all of those surprises that can crop up behind the walls. "What kind of drywall repair will it need?" says Lori Carroll, president, Lori Carroll & Associates, Tucson, Ariz.

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Plan to add a 30-percent cushion to your budget, suggests Brian Johnson, principal, Collaborative Design Architects, Billings, Mt. He estimates that a bathroom remodel using a licensed professional designer and contractor can cost $175 to $225 per square foot on the low end. "I tell clients if you add a bathroom, it's $8,000—that's where we start," Johnson says. "But it's hard to say because there are so many customizations." For instance, Johnson has designed bathrooms for clients in the $600 per square foot neighborhood.

A do-it-yourselfer can spend $75 to $100 per square foot on materials, Johnson estimates. Again, this is a round number not based on personalizing the space or adding bells and whistles (shower sprays, heated floors, custom medicine cabinets, etc.). For example, a DIY project for a 5 x 8 foot bathroom (40 square feet) could cost about $4,000 at $100 per square foot. Then, add that 30-percent overage allowance, and a realistic budget is $5,200.

Next Up

Bathroom Remodeling Costs

Find out what expenses to expect in your bath renovation and learn how to manage your budget.

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