How to remodel a bathroom step-by-step
For a lot of homeowners, remodeling a bathroom is high on the wish list of home improvements. Many homeowners report a lot of personal satisfaction from updating a bathroom, and, a bathroom remodel has a return on investment between 58% to 65%, according to our recent report.
In this post, I’m going to take you through some step by step improvements you can make that fit your budget, no matter if you make $40,000 a year or $1,000,000 a year.
Remodeling a bathroom is something that you can do step by step. Let’s look at four different levels of cost and effort.
Step 1 – Light cosmetic changes
If you are just looking to freshen up a bathroom, you can do it very quickly and for not a lot of cost with a fresh coat of paint that you apply yourself, a modest new shower curtain, and professionally cleaned grout.
If you have a larger bathroom, you’ll spend a little more on having your grout professionally cleaned as it’s usually priced out per square foot, you can have someone professionally paint your bathroom instead of doing it yourself, and get yourself something like a fancy monogrammed shower curtain.
These may seem like small things, but they can really make a visual impact with hardly any effort.
Step 2 – New fixtures
Fixtures can really make a difference in the look of a bathroom as well as the function. Upgrading your bathroom with new fixtures can make it look more modern and pulled together. A new shower head can look nice but also improve your experience with the feel of the pressure, and there are many models that also reduce water usage. Putting in a toilet can be a relatively low cost item, though you do have to pay for installation.
Can you install a new toilet yourself? I wondered this, since a decent looking toilet is only about $200 without the labor charge. I ran across this youtube video that makes it look so easy to do it yourself, but I fear, similar to my caulking experience, that I might encounter some unexpected roadblocks. Just the words “sewer fumes” in the video is enough to convince me to hire an expert. But, it does look entirely doable for the intrepid homeowner, in which case you could forgo the labor charge on the toilet cost and the low end would be $200 and the upper end would be $1,200.
What does an expensive toilet do that an inexpensive one doesn’t? For one, there are some very modern looking ones if you want to give your bathroom a distinctive look (you can even get one with a remote control!), but you can find some very innovative models, including dual flush, in the $200 range.
Step 3 – New cabinetry
New cabinetry can change the look of a bathroom dramatically. The products available vary greatly in materials and workmanship. In the case of the vanity, how much you’ll pay also depends on whether you have a two sink bathroom or a one sink bathroom. This is also a project where you may want to consider installation costs depending on the size and weight of the vanity or medicine cabinet. Installation can run anywhere from $50 to $400 depending on the complexity of the job. For very simple vanity or medicine cabinets, it could also be a very straightforward do-it-yourself project.
Here’s an example of a simple vanity coming in at $249, and a higher end double vanity for $3,300. There are seemingly endless styles, finishes, shapes and sizes to choose from to fit your budget, sensibilities and needs.
Step 4 – New tile
Tiling is the most expensive way to update a bathroom but can also make a huge impact on the look of your bathroom. There is also a wide range in price, since tile price varies greatly and also the installation costs are also priced out per square foot.
If your bathroom does not have a shower or tub, you may not need any tile at all, or you may choose to tile only the floor. If you are renovating a bathroom with a shower or tub and a tile floor, then you can see your costs really climb depending on the tile you pick.
What should you expect to pay for installation? A good estimate would be between $10 and $40 per square foot for labor charges. The labor charge often depends on the size of your tile which determines the effort.
Let’s take an example of tiling the floor of a small bathroom that is 25 square feet. On the low end, you’d pay $7 for the tile and $10 for the labor for a total of $1,750 and on the high end you’d pay $21,000, for $40 tile and $21 in labor per square foot.
Can you do it yourself? Absolutely. But there are many factors that determine whether it is a hard or easy job for you. Is your floor perfectly level? Is the tile complicated? When dealing with grout consider the risks beforehand. You don’t want to find yourself having to rip it out. On the other hand, it could be a very meditative and satisfying project to do it yourself if you have scouted the risks.
How to plan and prioritize costs
A bathroom project is perfect to do in stages. You can plan out your bathroom renovation using our free home cost planner over a few months and see your totals clearly. Here’s an example of a modest, step-by step bathroom renovation I have planned for this year:
You can use the planner to plan all of your projects, to give yourself a top-down and bottom-up view into your home improvement projects over the year.
More joy and less stress!
Get the Inside Scoop
Do you like extremely well researched articles?
Then, sign up for our newsletter. You'll love it!
Independent, unbiased and timely news for homeowners.