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How much should a bathroom remodel cost?

Remodeling a bathroom can be an expensive but worthwhile investment. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Jennifer S. of Burbank, Calif.)

Remodeling a bathroom can be an expensive but worthwhile investment. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Jennifer S. of Burbank, Calif.)

Remodeling your home's bathroom has a number of potential benefits: improved aesthetics, safety, comfort, not to mention that more than 60 percent of the project's cost will likely come back to you if you sell your home. The available fixture and decorative options are nearly endless. But one factor does put a limit on the project, at least for most of us: cost.

So what does a bathroom remodel cost? How can you plan a reasonable budget and keep the project within that plan?

Reasonable expectations

Before getting into specifics, it's important to understand that remodeling a bathroom can involve a number of different skills and materials. Although the space itself may be fairly small, the project can get big in a hurry.

This is because of the features unique to bathrooms: they are high traffic areas, containing specialized fixtures such as shower and toilet that require specific skills to install them correctly, and they are the only room in the house with so much potentially damaging water flowing through it at all times.

Don't expect even a small bathroom remodel project to be inexpensive. The average cost nationwide in 2011 was around $16,000, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Setting a budget

So, it's important to set a budget realistically based on your needs and desires. Based on the $16,000 average, and the rough breakdown provided by the NKBA, here is what you can expect each aspect of the remodel to cost:

Labor: 20 percent ($,3200)
Cabinetry and hardware: 16 percent ($2,560)
Fixtures: 15 percent ($2,400)
Faucets and plumbing: 14 percent ($2,240)
Countertop: 7 percent ($1120)
Floor: 9 percent ($1,440)
Doors and windows: 4 percent ($640)
Walls and ceiling: 5 percent ($800)
Lighting and ventilation: 5 percent ($800)
Design fees: 4 percent ($640)
Other: 1 percent ($160)

Of course, these are all simply averages, but it should help you determine where your particular needs may fall on the price scale. By speaking to a qualified bathroom remodeling contractor and shopping around for the styles and qualities of fixtures and decorative elements you're interested in, you can determine what you need included in your remodel.

Prioritizing your remodel

Realistically, the above information may have you convinced you're not in the market for a complete remodel at this point. That's OK. A lot of benefit can be derived from just updating a portion of the bathroom, perhaps leaving the door open for future upgrades down the road.

An important thing to remember, though, is that you need to choose quality over quantity. It would be a waste of time and money - and a source of future aggravation - for you to purchase a cheap, low-quality toilet and sink just to allow you to redo the floor at the same time.

With the amount of use these items receive, their quality will not pass the test of time and you'll end up replacing them again in the near future. The same reasoning applies to settling on the lowest estimate provided by contractors rather than basing your hiring decision on the quality, experience and expertise of the contractor.

Prepare for inconvenience

This aspect of a bathroom remodel is often overlooked, but it's important nonetheless.

No matter how large or small your project ends up being, it's going to cause some level of inconvenience as it essentially removes one of the highest-traffic portions of your house from use for the length of the project. Be sure that alternative facilities are available either on sight or nearby, and that you and your contractor are firmly on the same page as to how long the project should take and when you can expect to use your new bathroom.

While there are too many variables to provide a valid average timetable for your remodel, there is every likelihood your bathroom will be under construction for several days, even up to three weeks or more.


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