Avoid taking a bath on bathroom remodeling costs

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Styles come and go, but if your bathroom looks the same as it did in the 1980s, it might be time for an upgrade.

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A bathroom may be the smallest room in the house, but a remodel can have a large price tag. The cost to remodel a bathroom averages about $10,000. However, the actual cost of remodeling will depend on the size of the room, the style of fixtures and materials you choose, and how thoroughly you plan to remodel.

A detailed plan and good communication with your contractor can help you understand the costs involved—and stay on budget. Luckily, the return on investment for remodeling a bathroom is quite high—up to 80 percent—making it a great way to improve your home and its value.

How much of a remodel are you aiming for?

Remodeling a bathroom can mean many things. You may only plan to paint the walls and replace your lighting fixtures and countertops. Or, you may plan to redo everything from the tub to the tile to the vents. What you plan to replace will determine the overall cost. Here's what you can expect to pay for some midrange bathroom fixtures:

  • Toilet: $175
  • Sink: $100
  • Bathtub: $750
  • Vanity: $200

If you're trying to keep costs down, remember that you don't have to do a complete remodel at once. You can make some changes now and others in the future. But be sure to discuss these plans with your contractor. They can tell you which changes should be made simultaneously. For example, large changes such as replacing tile and a bathtub usually make sense to do at the same time.

Determining costs

Once you've decided which fixtures to replace, you'll need to select new ones. With any fixture, you'll have a wealth of options, from basic to high end. The difference in cost can be dramatic. For example, a basic toilet averages $130, while some high end toilets go for up to $780. Likewise, a shower can cost anywhere from $450 to $10,000 or more.

The difference in cost is determined by style and material and whether a fixture will need to be built custom for your bathroom. Make sure your contractor knows the price range you're comfortable with ahead of time. And whatever your budget, be sure to choose fixtures that will work well together—or with what's already there.

Do you need to change your bathroom's layout?

Many homeowners want to remodel a bathroom to make it larger and more functional. You may even want to convert a half-bath to a full bath. If you plan to expand or rearrange your bathroom, your contractor may need to change the plumbing and the electrical wiring, which will increase costs, and may require permits. This can be both costly and time consuming. Whenever possible, aim to keep fixtures in the same location.

Factoring in labor

If you're planning a full remodel, you'll likely need to hire a contractor. Expect to pay between $60 and $120 per hour of labor, but keep in mind that contractors will often charge a flat rate for a large job, rather than billing hourly. This flat rate should include the costs of all materials and include a detailed list of what is included in the fee. Completely remodeling a 100-square-foot bathroom can cost up to $12,000 in labor, including subcontractors such as plumbers and electricians.

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