Bathrooms / By Kerry O'Brien / December 8, 2016
Budget Basics: Bath Renovation Costs
Renovating can be a lot of work – Sweeten makes it easier to nail down scope and find the best general contractors for your bathroom renovation. Read on for nitty gritty budget basics and real-life bathroom inspiration!
$15,000 is a good starting point for a basic bathroom renovation in NYC – here’s how that plays out across materials and labor.
You have a fair amount of choice in deciding what to spend on some material aspects of a bathroom renovation, but there are other costs that are less obvious, labor-intensive, and tremendously critical to the work overall, no matter how high or low you go on materials.
Scope of Work
It can be tempting to try to apply à la carte prices to individual elements of the work, but a full bathroom renovation is an integrated process that involves design, materials, installation, and plumbing. If your bathroom has one or two areas of concern, you might decide to swap out an individual fixture or two. You can replace a toilet or vanity or take on some limited re-tiling and pay à la carte for the cost of the new fixtures and the hours of installation work.
But it can be misleading to break up and price out each step: even if you are just re-doing fixtures and tile work, you may find that you need to replace the sheetrock on the wall and address issues behind the walls (old valves, ancient drain pipes, etc). The minute you decide you are opening walls or touching the plumbing, the job becomes a more holistic project with a typical starting point of $15,000.
A gut bathroom renovation allows you to plan more broadly, so you can get more done, in the right sequence, more cost-effectively.
Take a quick look around your bathroom to get a feel for the obvious material costs of a bathroom renovation.
Wall and Floor Tile
You can keep costs under $3 per square foot for efficient and easy-to-clean ceramic subway or penny tile options, around $15 per square foot for glass and red clay tile options, or go up to $35 per square foot (and beyond) for a higher-end tile, stone, or marble finish. As an alternative, you can incorporate moisture-resistant and high-gloss paint in many areas of your bathroom to limit tile costs.
Some sinks are manufactured with the understanding that your contractor will install them with a custom countertop and storage piece, others are sold as set pieces, already integrated with a countertop surround and under-sink storage.
You can find basic sink bowl options for under $200 and up to $1,200. Vanity options can start as low as $250 (for options available from big-box retailers) and range up to $3,000 (for higher-end or semi-custom pieces) and beyond (for highly specialized, imported, or custom millwork storage options).
Sink and Shower Fixtures
You can find sink and shower faucets and shower heads for under $50 and up to $400. Statement shower and tub fixtures can easily run up to $1,000 and include hand-held shower heads and adjustable water settings.
You can find standard bathtubs for around $600 and up to $3,000 (and well beyond) depending on the size and finish. Specialized features like hydro jets do require more plumbing labor and may have an electrical wiring component. You can also choose to keep an existing tub in place with reglazing for as low as $400 to save time and money.
Upfront, a shower curtain is significantly less expensive than a glass door, but over time, the cost and hassle of cleaning and replacing it adds up. You can add between $350 and up to $2,000 to your renovation budget if you decide on a glass door. Glass doors are available in pivot or swinging mode for shower stalls and in sliding mode for full-size tubs.
You can expect to spend as low as $200 or up to $1,000 (and well beyond) on your toilet. This range includes more affordable two-piece toilets with a separate tank and bowl that make for simple installation, mid-range one-piece toilets that integrate the tank and bowl into a more seamless and easy-to-clean unit, and higher-end wall-hung toilets mounted within the wall to conceal the tank and plumbing (and often suspended over the floor without a base). You can also add more features (and expense) if you decide on extras like automatic open and close lid and flush systems and sensors that minimize or eliminate touch.
You can expect to spend an average of $150 and up to $500 and more on a medicine cabinet. Wall-mounted medicine cabinets are the least invasive and easiest to install. They sit on the surface of the wall and don’t require any cutting into the wall. Recessed medicine cabinets are a space-saving but more expensive option that require carpentry labor to cut into the walls and frame the box, and can require plumbing or electrical adjustments to give the unit enough room to sit in the wall.
You need to decide on hardware accessories like hooks, towel bars, and a toilet paper holder. You can find bathroom accessories for under $20 and up to $100 or more for individual pieces or collections.
Lighting fixtures can run as low as $25 (for basic flush mounts) or up to $300 and more for decorative pendants or statement vanity lights.
These choices are up to you, your budget, your aesthetic and functional preferences, and your desire for re-sale value in your home.
You can add shower niches that are recessed into the walls of your shower and lined in accent tile. You’ll need to order extra tile to cover the increased surface area of a niche and pay for labor to cut into the wall and work around any plumbing lines that might be in the way.
Custom and Double Vanities
You have the broadest opportunity for customization with your sink vanity. You can work with your contractor to design and create a custom piece that fits your exact space and storage needs. You’ll pay per piece for the sink, faucet fixtures, and countertop materials you choose, and your contractor may offer custom millwork options to build under-sink storage in and fit all of the pieces together.
$2,000 is a good starting point for a custom vanity with built-in storage. The math on double vanities is pretty straightforward: double the cost of a single vanity and typically starting around $800.
If you don’t have a natural ventilation source provided by a window or skylight, the City requires you to add ceiling fan ventilation to regulate air flow and eliminate mold and mildew growth. Your contractor will connect the fan to vent ducts that channel the exhaust outside. Fans can run between $250 and $500 and up for more advanced features like heat and lighting.
Radiant Floor Heating
An under-the-floor heating system conducts heat through the floor rather than through the air and can run between $6 and $12 per square foot with professional installation. The most common type of radiant floor heating for bathrooms is an electrical system, in which heat is conducted by electric wires that are pre-attached to mats or pads and installed over the bathroom’s sub floor. While this option is affordable and easy to install with floor tile, it consumes a lot of electricity and can be costly over time.
In contrast to visible upgrades like fixtures and finishes, there are some unavoidable behind-the-scenes investments to consider.
Building Management Requirements
The requirements of individual buildings can play a significant role in dictating design and budget needs. Building demands can range from insurance coverage minimums, which limit your ability to work with professionals who aren’t carrying high-value insurance policies, to general alteration agreements that require anyone doing any work in the building to have far-reaching coverage for problems they may never encounter, like asbestos removal or explosion and collapse scenarios.
The contractors that can afford to work in buildings with more extensive requirements tend to have higher operating costs and can meet higher insurance requirements, more stringent debris removal expectations, limited noise and hours-of-work requirements, and stricter parking rules. You may see this translate into higher rates overall for teams that can meet those demands.
In the design stage, plan to work together with the experts you hire to create detailed drawings that account for all physical elements of the bathroom. Your drawings should cover layout, plumbing fixtures, specifications for the vanity and tub/shower, and lighting. You should also select your toilet, faucets, tiles, and hardware accessories during the design phase.
In the site prep stage, significant behind-the-scenes labor is needed to ensure that your bathroom renovation maintains its value over time. Almost without exception, and especially in old buildings, your contractor may need to strip the walls and flooring to frame and level, respectively, before plumbing fixture, tile, or cabinetry installation.
This step is critical and labor intensive – the cost for this step can easily average $2,000. If your home is new or the sub-floor is concrete, leveling needs may be minimal, but otherwise, you probably need to account for floor leveling and new drywall or plastering before any surface work can get going.
Exposing the existing conditions inside walls during this leveling and framing step will also allow your contractor to address plumbing or electrical issues before you hook up a brand new plumbing fixture. You may find that you need to replace all horizontal plumbing work to the building’s “stack” (the main vertical lines that run throughout the building), and run new wiring to head off plumbing and electrical problems that you may have inherited. You may also need to factor in costs that ensure the success and longevity of the work, including prep work to protect floors and valuables (which can add $600 to $900) and waterproofing steps (which can add $1,000). While these steps are labor-and cost-intensive, this work is critical for foundation alignment and infrastructure needed for the project.
You also need to plan for plumbing services and permits. Any plumbing work that exceeds a minor repair or a direct swap of a similar fixture requires a permit from the City’s Department of Buildings, which can run to $2,000 per permit. Plumbing is a specialized trade that often comes with hourly rates; expect to budget between $2,000 and $3,500 (or higher) for a full bathroom renovation.
If you’re adding outlets or doing electrical work, you may need an electrical permit, which can run close to $900. You may also need an asbestos inspection, again depending on the building requirements and your plumbing plans, which can cost around $500.
Installation is the third and final stage to incorporate all of the materials you’ve purchased. The craftsmanship involved in the installation of all the pieces varies in accordance with the size of your bathroom and the degree of customization you need to make all of the pieces fit.
Converting a tub to a walk-in shower of moving fixtures?
If you are looking to re-do an outdated or less-than-functional bathroom, you may start with ideas about the placement and function of the tub or shower because of space demands. Do you want to leave what’s there? Convert an old tub to a new tub? Convert a tub to a walk-in shower? Move the sink, toilet, or tub?
$20,000 – $30,000: Converting a tub to a shower or re-working the layout of the existing bathroom requires more specialized services and additional cost.
Converting a tub to a walk-in shower or moving the bathtub and toilet footprints typically hit a cost threshold above the $15,000 starting point you need for a basic bathroom gut. If you are considering that kind of work, you’ll need architectural designs from a registered architect and you’ll need to plan for the cost of plumbing permits, high insurance coverage requirements, and more specialized services that require a licensed plumber overseeing the project.
First check with your building management to see if a layout change is an option. With people living in such close proximity to one another, the City has to be exceedingly careful about water and gas line safety. Many co-op and condo boards want to minimize situations where residents might be exposed to loss or damage from renovations in adjacent units. This often means that building boards do not permit residents to move “wet” spaces like baths over “dry” spaces like a downstairs neighbor’s living room or bedroom, because moving water lines can increase the danger of flooding and expand areas that are vulnerable to leaks.
For most layout changes, you will need to hire a registered architect or professional engineer to file a permit application certifying that the plan complies with applicable codes and laws. These “soft costs” — expenses critical to the success of the work but often invisible and unforeseen — can represent 15% – 35% of the renovation cost.
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