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Where Does Your Money Go for a Bathroom Remodel?

by Marcus Pickett

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Per square foot, no room in the house takes more work or costs more money to remodel than the bathroom. The combination of plumbing, moisture content, electrical wiring, and decorating schemes packed into the smallest residential spaces create unique demands on bathroom remodeling. Yet, these same demands also place unmatched value on bathroom spaces, whether in terms of day-to-day living or home property values.

Finished Products vs. Labor and Expenses
Like a kitchen remodel, there will be substantial costs in finished products from flooring, bathtubs, shower surrounds, cabinets, countertops, and numerous bathroom fixtures. These products, however, don't typically have the same price tags as major kitchen appliances and full cabinet and countertop installations. Plus, bathroom remodeling is a more labor-intensive process between tearing out old bathroom amenities and tedious tile and plumbing installation. 60-70 percent of bathroom remodel costs are labor and expenses and about 30-40 percent is finished product. Of course, this cost breakdown indicates only an estimated average, as the cost breakdown of specific projects can vary quite a bit.

Difference Makers: Plumbing, Bathroom Designs, and Bathroom Tile
Undoubtedly, the biggest difference maker is plumbing and bathroom design. Already one of the costliest and involved subcontractors for bathroom remodeling, if a homeowner wishes to relocate a toilet, sink, or bathtub within the bathroom, extensive plumbing installation will be required, causing a substantial spike in the cost of labor and expenses. In fact, if you're set on relocating your bathroom plumbing, not only will you need a substantially larger budget, but you'll need more contingency room in your budget, as any number of obstacles can arise once the walls are torn out.

Another reason bathroom remodeling costs tend to skew toward labor and expenses is the prevalence of bathroom flooring and shower tile. Even the size of the tile will play a role in the cost breakdown of your new bathroom floor. Smaller tiles may cost less from the manufacturer but will require more labor to install. Dot inserts for your tile can also get expensive quickly, as tile accents can cost $12-$40 to cut per insert.

Home Remodeling Projects - Hidden Surprises

The Huge Cost Differences of Bathroom Remodeling
No remodeling project shows the cost difference between economical and luxury projects, and no remodeling project holds the potential for greater swings in the breakdown of finished products vs. labor and expenses. You might be able to find a low-end shower door, for example, for as little as $300, while luxury shower doors can run more than $3,000. A bathtub can range from $400 to more than $8,000 to buy and install. Shower surrounds can be just as varied. For a master bath with a separate shower and tub, installation costs can range from $3,500-$12,000. These huge differences in cost are also supported by the Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value Report. Other remodeling projects show twice the cost when upgrading from a mid-range to an upscale project. Meanwhile, an equivalent upgrade for bathroom remodels causes the average cost to triple.

Average Bathroom Remodeling Costs
The average cost of a bathroom remodeling project is approximately $10,000, although this includes minor, partial, and small bathroom remodeling costs. A comprehensive bathroom remodel is likely to cost $15,000 or more; a large master bath remodel can easily go over $50,000. Plus, it's important to know not just the total cost of the estimates you receive from bathroom contractors but also where that money is going. Understanding this cost breakdown will help you choose the bid with the best overall value and, hopefully, identify contractors who may be giving you unrealistically low, misleading bids.

Bathroom Remodeling Project Guide
If you enjoyed this article, check out our free Bathroom Remodeling Guide, which features expert advice, design & material comparisons, and custom price estimates for your remodeling project.
Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.