Plumbing, bath tubs, and other fixtures should all be added up in the final budget.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average bath remodel costs $10,768. But before you start fawning over shower tiles or drawer pulls for the vanity, know this: You're probably going to spend more than that. Refreshing a half bath, says Burak Senel, manager of KBR Kitchen and Bath's Farifax, Virginia, showroom, actually runs between $14,000 and $15,000 while a primary bath usually falls in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. "Usually people don't think about it in advance, what things will cost, and then you're presenting [the client] with a $50,000 quote," he says.

Ahead, we asked the experts about the costs affiliated with a bathroom renovation and how to keep within your budget.

mother and son renovating bathroom tile
Credit: AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

How do the costs break down?

Material selections, as well as interior designer and contractor fees, vary by region. But a good rule of thumb are industry percentages for the quote's breakdown. Labor (often including design fees of 10 to 15 percent) accounts for about 70 percent, says Senel, materials 20 to 30 percent, and building permits 10 percent "Recently, the cost of building materials has doubled and, in some cases tripled," adds Janet Lorusso of JRL Interiors in Acton, Massachusetts, "affecting everything from lumber to copper pipe, so expect contractor quotes to be higher because their materials costs have soared."

Where can you cut costs?

"Spend on functionality first," says Lorusso, like cabinetry (upgraded plywood over particle board). "Get the layout right, choose good-quality cabinet construction, and buy faucets that haven't been value-engineered with cheap guts to keep the price lower." Anything preaching aesthetic over function should not be a splurge, such as a frameless mirror (around $75) and a vanity light ($25 to $30). Every shower needs a shower head, but a niche bench or fancy tile border costs more.

"Materials are where there is the most variability [in price]," says Lorusso, "[as] the labor to install three dollars per square foot mosaic tile is not any different than the labor to install $60 per square foot tile." Open to any sink design? "Pedestal sinks save on cabinetry costs," she says. Similarly, fiberglass showers or tub surrounds—rather than tile—cost less to install. Keeping the toilet, vanity, shower, and tub in the same spot avoids moving plumbing and drains (additional costs). "Don't rearrange the layout unless it adds a lot of functionality," says Lorusso.

For "bath people," a soaking tub is a must—but could vary as much in price as the cost of a decent used car ($1,000 to $10,000). For a 36-inch vanity, says Senel, expect to pay around $800 to $1,000 (with a light, faucet, and mirror) but, depending on wood and faucet finishes, along with sink design, that cost could soar. The lesson here is to look within the category and be open to different ideas. Any sweat equity you do yourself, or materials procured secondhand or repurposed, like a vanity born out of an antique dresser, saves even more dollars off the overall cost.

What hikes up the cost?

Throughout the remodeling industry, the price of any custom job will—pardon the pun—go through the roof. Another fact: "Marble is high end. If someone wants to [install] that, the price is going to jump," Senel says. Mosaic tile patterns "cost anywhere from $25 to over $100 per square foot," says Lorusso, adding that "custom millwork is another luxury splurge." Other splurges clocking in at around $10,000: a steam shower, multi-function toilet, and hidden built-in TV in the vanity mirror, "so you can watch the morning stock report while you brush your teeth," she says.

Other luxury items? "Multiple jets or shower heads, thermostatic valves that regulate water at a given temperature, freestanding tubs with the necessary faucets, custom-built personalized storage, radiant heated flooring, quartz or stone countertops, and built-in heated towel racks," says Lorusso.

Which costs are non-negotiable?

If you're demolishing an existing bath, you can't avoid a dumpster. Installation and hauling fees cost around $2,000, says Senel. Building permits—for plumbing, electrical, a new water heater, or change to the existing layout—are also required and fixed in price based on the county where you live. Average cost for bathroom permits hovers between $500 and $2,000, according to "If you're going to do something structural you cannot cut the permits," says Senel. Only swapping out fixtures? A permit may not be needed.

Finally, don't hire the most affordable contractor if you have qualms about their abilities to do the job. "Skilled labor is important to prevent problems down the road," says Lorusso, who also advises shopping at a plumbing showroom over a big-box home store. "Finishes and innards of the same model at the home center are lower-quality materials to allow for the lower cost."


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