Breaking down the costs of renovating a bathroom in New York City
With a steady flow of inspiring Pinterest boards and design blogs, it’s easy to reimagine how your dream bathroom can become your sanctuary. Renovating even a small space, however, can involve a lot of decisions and behind-the-scenes costs. Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, offers an overview of bathroom renovation costs. From building requirements and permits to demolition and design, this guide will help nail down your scope and better align real costs with a realistic budget.
The current national average for a mid-range bathroom remodel is $18,546, with an upscale renovation average cost of $59,979, according to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.
In New York City, these costs are higher: a mid-range renovation is $24,688, while an upscale one will run you $102,137. At Sweeten, we recommend budgeting at least $20,000 for a gut renovation with standard, off-the-shelf materials, fixtures, and finishes. This baseline number is for a holistic project that includes plumbing and electrical work, but no significant layout changes.
While it can be tempting to apply à la carte prices to individual elements of the work, 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 you need to replace the sheetrock on the wall and address issues behind the walls, such as old valves, ancient drain pipes, etc. (In a national online survey of 700 renovators conducted by Sweeten and global marketing firm Schlesinger Associates, nearly two-thirds are worried about finding hidden problems in their home during a remodel.) A gut renovation allows you to plan more broadly, so you can get more done, in the right sequence, and more cost-effectively.
MATERIALS AND FINISHES
These are the visible parts of a bathroom renovation, and probably the aspect you’ve spent the most time thinking about. Take a look at the range of pricing for various fixtures, materials, and finishes in the chart below. On the low end, you’ll find items sourced from big-box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s or IKEA. Prices increase if you choose to use their interior boxes but upgrade or customize the function or style, such as the door fronts. The middle range covers long-lasting products that offer great value for the money. And on the high end are highly customized, handmade, or imported items.
In contrast to visible upgrades such as fixtures and finishes, there are some unavoidable behind-the-scenes investments to consider; it’s a common mistake for homeowners to forget about them when creating an initial budget.
For those in apartments, building requirements can play a significant role in dictating design and budget needs. These requirements 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 who 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. While there is no exact figure on this, you may see this translate into higher rates overall for teams that can meet those demands.
In the design stage, plan to collaborate with the experts you hire to create detailed drawings that account for all physical elements of the bathroom. A schematic drawing is usually presented to the building board as part of the approval process, which needs to outline the locations of the major fixtures, as well as specifications for the vanity and tub/shower, and lighting. If you plan to rework the layout or convert a bathtub to a shower or vice versa, you are automatically looking at a baseline cost of $25,000. This is because you’ll need to hire a registered architect to file a permit application certifying that the plan complies with applicable codes and laws. An architect or interior designer will typically charge 15 to 20 percent of the project’s construction costs for his or her fee.
Demolition and Site Prep
In this stage, significant behind-the-scenes labor is needed to ensure that your bathroom renovation maintains its value over time. Old materials and fixtures need to be pulled out and disposed of—this can be complicated on busy city streets with limited parking. This difficulty will be reflected in the contractor’s rate. Almost without exception, your contractor may need to strip the walls and flooring to frame and level before any installation occurs. This step is critical and labor-intensive and can cost an average of $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 new plumbing fixture. You may find it necessary 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 unwittingly inherited. You’ll want to factor in costs that support 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 the project’s foundation alignment and infrastructure.
Tackling a bath reno means planning 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, an electrical permit may be needed, which can run close to $900. You may also need an asbestos inspection, depending on the building requirements and your plumbing plans, which run $500 to $1,000.
Installation is the 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.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect to spend 30 percent or less of your total project cost on visible materials, fixtures, and finishes, with the rest going to behind-the-scenes costs such as labor, permits, and fees.
You have a fair amount of choice in deciding what to spend on the material aspects of a bathroom renovation. Less obvious are the costs that are labor-intensive and tremendously critical to the work overall, no matter what you spend on materials. Having a good handle on the real costs involved will allow you to better align your budget, avoid surprises, and get you that much closer to your dream bathroom.
Find out how long a bathroom renovation takes—and what’s involved—in our step-by-step guide and process timeline.
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