Real-World Budgeting for Bathroom Remodeling

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By Steven Moore, Budget Bath USA

People are more cautious than ever when loosening their purse strings. We’ve all learned that becoming educated consumers not only helps us get the right products, but get them at the right price. Most people don’t know what’s involved in getting their bathrooms remodeled by contractors, and because of that, they don’t know how much it should cost. Here, we’ll discuss the general guidelines for pricing.

To begin, let’s discuss a common misconception that homeowners have when having a bathroom remodeled by a contractor. You may think that you’re only paying for materials and the labor to get the job done, but the costs to a bathroom contractor when he signs a job is much more complex than you might think.

First, the contractor needs to make sure that he has enough money in the contract to cover mistakes, Now, I know what you’re thinking: “They should pay for their own mistakes” and that’s true to a certain extent, but people aren’t perfect and they’ll make mistakes, so a businessman has to compensate for it. As a result, they mark up the material about 10 to 20 percent to cover for any little mistakes that may happen. They also have to pay for the back end, like secretaries, legal services, advertising, truck maintenance, office supplies, and similar expenses. Most people don’t think about that when they see the final price of the bathroom remodeling project, but it really does add up.

Next, the contractor has to pay for the front end, like materials and the labor of employees. The average construction worker earns about $20 an hour, so if you have three employees working 50 hours a week for two weeks on a bathroom—which is typical—you’ll have 240 hours of regular pay (3 employees x 40 hours per week x 2 weeks) for $4,800, plus 60 hours of overtime (3 employees x 10 overtime hours per week x 2 weeks) at 1.5 times the regular wage, which adds an extra $1,800. Add it all up, and the cost of labor alone is $6,600.

Then add that to the $4,000 for the typical materials used, and that already creates a bill in excess of $10,000. Then you have to account for the back-end expenses and provide some profit to the owner of the company. That’s why the cost of a typical bathroom remodel in the United States is about $16,000.

Understanding these costs will help you weed out low-quality contractors. If a contractor tells you that he can remodel your bathroom for $9,000, you should ask some questions to figure out why the price is so low. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with added costs later, or a bathroom that you’re really not happy with.

As you set your budget for a bathroom remodel, keep in mind that you should spend 5 to 10 percent of your home’s value on a bathroom remodeling project. If you have a $200,000 house, this means you should plan to spend $10,000 to $20,000 on your bathroom.

If you have a significantly higher-valued home, such as a $1.5 million mansion, you shouldn’t spend $150,000 on a single bathroom remodel because most of that money will go into the contractor’s pocket, except in rare circumstances where you order products like a solid stone bathtub, which cost about $40,000. Spending $75,000 to remodel a bath in such a high-value home would still be appropriate, however, since larger homes generally have larger bathrooms where luxury fittings are more, well, fitting.

For homes that are valued at less than $100,000, you should spend about $10,000 for a quality bathroom remodel. In most circumstances, anything below that will include linoleum floors, a leaky bathtub, and other materials that you won’t be happy with. With a budget under $10,000, you’ll most likely end up spending more to get the job done right the second time.

Here are some tips to help you keep costs down:

  • Buy the fixtures, like bathtubs and vanities, yourself. In general, you can save a thousand dollars or so by finding your own deals. You can find NKBA bathroom dealers in your local area by using the NKBA ProSearch tool.
  • Don’t have the contractor relocate any fixtures, like toilets and vanities, unless you need to. Repositioning items in the bathroom takes a good deal of extra time and material. You can easily save $2,000 just by keeping things put.
  • Opt for simple tile designs instead of inlays and other more complex layouts. Not only do simple designs take less time to install, but you’ll often spend considerably less on tile, as well, allowing you to save about $1,000. Keep in mind, however, that your bathroom should be a relaxing and pleasant environment with a little panache, not something that resembles a hospital commode.
  • Perform the demolition of the bathroom yourself. It’s back-breaking work, but will save you about a day in labor charges, as well as hauling charges. In addition, swinging a hammer once in a while can be fun and good exercise.
  • Do the painting yourself. Painting is very time consuming, and most people can do this themselves. This can save you a great deal in labor charges, and can also be fulfilling.

Whether or not you purchase materials yourself or have the contractor do it, make sure the materials are of high quality. Remember that the bathroom is one of the most abused rooms in your home, exposed to heat, cold, constant use, steam, mildew, mold, and a variety of other causes for deterioration. Buying low quality materials won’t pay off in the long run. Watch for shortcuts such as exposed particle board and non-painted or sealed wood. Longer lasting materials will ultimately be more cost-effective.

I hope this information is useful to all of you who look to hire a contractor to remodel a bathroom. Just make sure to ask questions and do your homework.

About the Author

Steven Moore is the Internet marketing director for Budget Bath USA, an NKBA member company specializing in custom bathroom remodeling throughout the Baltimore area. For more information, visit www.budgetbathusa.com.

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