By some estimates, bathroom remodeling is the single commonest home renovation undertaken by American homeowners. Bathrooms are a heavily used part of the home and can often be dramatically transformed by well-planned renovations. But determining how much to budget for a bathroom renovation can often be a challenge.
Most sources put the average cost for a bathroom remodel at around $10,000 to $11,000. But this is only the average. It turns out that bathroom renovation projects can have massive variations in cost. For example, the National Kitchen and Bath Association has stated that an incredible 31 percent of bathroom remodels cost more than $30,000 in 2018.
Delving deeper: the true cost of a bathroom remodel
The fact is that estimating the true cost of any given bathroom remodel must take many variables into account, including the materials used, local labor costs, whether the homeowner can save by doing some tasks themselves and the likely increase in the home’s resale value.
Nationwide, the average bathroom remodeling project will typically add enough resale value to the home that around 80 percent of the cost will be recouped. This means that a bathroom renovation that costs $15,000 will have a true long-term cost of just $3,000. But homeowners must also factor in the opportunity cost for not having access to the $12,000 in equity by which their home value has been increased as a result of the project. Still, it is important to note that the full spend on a bathroom remodel does not reflect the true cost because it will almost invariably raise the home’s market value by most of the renovation’s price.
The amount that a given bathroom remodel can be expected to raise a home’s value is highly variable, with the local real estate market largely determining what a homeowner can expect to recoup on a specific project.
Throughout the country, material costs vary little. However, labor costs in high-cost-of-living areas can be as much as 20 percent higher than in low-cost areas. Because labor costs usually account for between 20 and 65 percent of the total cost of a bathroom renovation project, this difference can be significant. But it also leads to an interesting and potentially very profitable conclusion: Labor costs don’t scale at anywhere near the same rate as housing costs from market to market. In other words, a housing market like that of Palo Alto, California, may see median home values that are as much as 10 times those in a typical Midwest town. But the labor costs will likely only be 20 percent higher.
As a rule, this means that bathroom remodels in housing markets with median home prices that are significantly above the national average can often result in large returns over cost. This means that a bathroom remodel may not only have a net positive return rather than a net cost but that it also may prove to be among the best investments that are available to homeowners in high-priced markets.
Even in markets where it is quite clear that a bathroom remodel will result in net costs for the homeowner when the increase in home value is accounted for, renovating this frequently used area of the home can still pay daily aesthetic, utility and safety dividends that make it well worth the expense.
Breaking down bathroom renovations by item
The majority of bathroom renovations will cost between about $3,000 and $30,000, with a significant minority running higher. An itemized breakdown of the costs for renovating an average-sized bathroom will typically look like the following:
- Showers: $300 to $3,000.
- Counter surfaces: $300 to $1,500 or more.
- Vanity costs: $200 to $4,000
- Lights: $100 to $500
- Fan: $50 to $300.
- Plumbing and plumbing fixtures: $300 to $1,500.
- Painting: $200 to $600.
- Flooring: $200 to $1,500.
- Doors and windows: $200 to $1,800.
Labor costs will usually total between $1,500 and as much as $15,000 or more. Demolition costs alone may run as high as $3,000. Therefore, homeowners who are able to do much of the installation, demolition, electrical or plumbing themselves stand to save tremendously by doing so. However, only those who have the skills, knowledge and experience should attempt to carry out parts of the renovation themselves. Not passing inspections, improper installation and generally shoddy work will ultimately end up costing far more than simply hiring professionals in the first place.
Deciding to go ahead
If the main reason you want to carry out a bathroom renovation is simply to make your home a nicer place for you, your family and your friends, then there is nothing wrong with choosing the bathroom you want and going for it. Even if you choose a high-end, granite-clad renovation, the chances are good that you will still recoup a significant portion of the costs upon selling your home.
However, many homeowners will be far more concerned with the return that they can expect on a bathroom renovation. If you are primarily trying to add as much value to your home for the lowest cost, carefully consider things like how much you can save by doing some of the work, such as demolition, yourself. Also take into account whether you live in an expensive market where most renovation projects are likely to produce a significant positive return and what type of finishes, layout and amenities would be consistent with what homebuyers looking in your specific neighborhood would likely be searching for.