The bathroom has come a long way since the first humble pedestal sink and alcove tub. What people want now is a custom look radiating not utility but “joy and tranquility,” as San Diego-based designer Tatiana Machado-Rosas recently told the trade publication Kitchen & Bath Design News — “a personal retreat with a spa-like atmosphere where they can truly relax.”
Oh, and one that will also, of course, increase the value of their homes.
Cue the dimmable sconces! Throw open the frameless ombré steam shower door! But before getting too comfortable with a remodeling checklist — and its hydronic floor heating, double vanity topped with sea-blue marble and a hulky soaking tub made from volcanic limestone — check your wallet.
A bathroom remodel typically ranges roughly from $6,000 to $16,000 with a national average of $10,788, or about $70 to $275 per square foot, according to the latest data from home-improvement site Angi. But this is a project with infinite variations, and the costs can quickly climb much higher. Back in 2020 — long before the words “inflation” and “labor shortages” became facts of renovation life — homeowners were already pouring $20,000 to $30,000 into primary-bath redos, a National Kitchen and Bath Association study found. Many can mount as high as $50,000, or even beyond.
Yet even as their cost has risen, so has their popularity: The popularity of bathroom renovations has increased steadily since 2018, according to the 2021 Houzz & Home Study. They ranked second among the top house service projects on the 2021 Home Advisor True Cost Report, undertaken by nearly one-third of the households surveyed.
Here’s what you should know before taking the plunge.
How much does a bathroom remodel cost?
The cost of a bathroom remodel depends heavily on the extent of the remodel. For example, a low-end bath refresh (cosmetic upgrades, like cool new towel bars and a clean new coat of paint) might drain only a few hundred dollars from your savings account. Replacing or refacing a few items, like the toilet, vanity and medicine cabinet will see the disappearance of a few thousand.
For those who want to demolish tile, tub, toilet, vanity and cabinetry in favor of all-new fixtures, the bill swells quickly to $10,000-plus, according to Angi. But it’s when you start playing around with the layout that prices hit the serious five figures. With a full-bore renovation of a primary bath, using top-drawer materials and fixtures and/or the moving around of pipes and wiring, the costs can exceed $25,000.
Operative word: exceed. Such “upscale bathroom remodels”, as the authoritative trade magazine Remodeling calls them, can run over $75,000, once all the relocation and replacement of the fixtures, plus expansion of the space, has been figured in.
Half and hall bathrooms
This is why hall bathrooms, typically 36 to 40 square feet, cost less to remodel than master/bedroom-adjacent bathrooms: It’s partly because they have fewer bells, whistles and fancy finishes (see “personal retreat,” above), and partly because they are smaller and thus have less room for elements like, say, a separate shower enclosure. Depending on choices, Angi says, the price per square foot is usually around $70 for a low-end refresh and climbs to $150 or more for a high-end redo of a hall bath.
Needless to say, half baths (powder rooms), at only 18 to 32 square feet, cost even less to remodel, clocking at an average of $1,400, Angi says — not just due to size but because they contain less. Look, ma, no tub.
Factors influencing the cost of a bathroom remodel
By now you’re beginning to wonder: How can renovating a room the size of parking space cost more than a Tesla Model 3 — or two?
The answer to that partly lies in your geographic location and the usual variances in cost of living and services. A bath remodel in Peoria, Illinois, according to HomeAdvisor, the homeowner-contractor matchmaker, typically costs from $3,780 to $10,000. Another online service, Sweeten, says a “mid-grade” job in Houston will cost from $15,000 to $25,000 while a high-end remodel and expansion in that city might start at $30,000. Meanwhile, in New York City, Sweeten says, a typical primary bath comprising 100 square feet can be redone for a tidy $60,000 to $85,000.
No matter where you live, though, there’s going to be a range of prices for bathroom redos, when the costs mounting as the project gets more extensive. And the reasons for that reflect two things: materials and labor costs.
A bathroom remodel involves a surprisingly large number of products and materials: porcelain sinks, chrome faucets, ceramic tile, glass shower doors, nickel-plated towel bars, motorized vent fans. The good news is, there’s ample wiggle room in there for those who take the time to comparison shop.
The price range for a faucet sink set from mainstream brand Delta, for example, runs from $64 to $942. Want to take it higher? Luxury brand Waterworks makes a lovely sink set with etched cross-handles, an elegant gooseneck spout — and a list price of $4,325.
Labor costs play a big part in any renovation project price tag, but bathroom remodels feature a particularly large cast of contractor characters.
Those contractors and subcontractors can include a designer, building-permit expediter, demolisher, carpenter, plumber, electrician, tile setter, drywaller and painter. “Coordinating multiple trades is like choreographing a dance troupe,” as KBB (the official publication of the National Kitchen and Bath Association) noted in a recent article on bathroom renovations. “Scheduling becomes a fine balance of giving everyone time to complete their appointed tasks and keeping the job moving.”
Sometimes literally: If a worker punches a hole in the wall for the sink drainpipe without studying the specs for the vanity, another worker may not be able to install that vanity at the correct height. If the shower enclosure is mapped out before the fixtures arrive, and someone forgot to measure the new toilet, the layout may not meet building codes. (Yes, there is a minimum distance between a wall and the toilet’s center point.)
Baths designed for universal accessibility or simply aging in place can be trickier (read: more expensive). Some homeowners may want a designer and a contractor certified as aging-in-place specialists by the National Association of Home Builders or at a minimum a designer and a builder who are versed in universal design. More important, ADA-compliant baths require extra maneuvering space, so the job may require carving out more room. When a small bath needs to be enlarged to meet ADA requirements, costs tend to double, partly because the number of square feet is larger, according to HomeAdvisor.
Choosing a bathroom contractor
Some homeowners try to take on a bathroom remodeling job themselves, stashing products and materials one by one in the garage while lining up subcontractors (plumbers, electricians, carpenters) in hopes they arrive on schedule and in the right order. This way leads to delays, mistakes, and costly overruns. Unless the job just involves some cosmetic upgrades, an extensive bathroom remodel should not be done DIY, but by pros.
Seasoned renovators tend to seek out an experienced general contractor — there are those who specialize in kitchens and baths — while perhaps drawing design advice from space planners on staff at retail showrooms where they know they want to shop; Ikea, for example, offers a service called Bathroom Planner. Armed with a detailed drawing, the general contractor can do the hard work of landing a building permit, ordering products and materials, and coordinating the subs.
For others, the best solution is a so-called design-build firm, a one-stop-shop that keeps responsibility for every element of the remodel under one roof, from designing the layout, sizing the vanity and determining the right height for the toilet paper holder to finding the prettiest moisture-resistant wallpaper and an expert to hang it.
How a bathroom remodel influences your home’s value
Realtors like to say that when it comes time to sell, a sparkling, updated bath can be a true selling point. Renovated bathrooms rank among the top five projects that appeal to buyers and are likely to add value to a home up for sale, according to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent Remodeling Impact Report.
Not that homeowners get back more than they put into the project. Generally, bathroom remodels average a return on investment of about 57 to 60 percent. Interestingly, the more lavish the remodel, the less you recoup in costs. According to Remodeling, a “midrange” bath remodel, or one costing $24,424, upped a home’s sales price by $14,671 (a 60 percent ROI). Spend $75,292 on an “upscale” remodel —and some people do—and the rate of return drops to 54.8 percent.
How to finance a bathroom remodel
If you’re ready to remodel your bathroom because you need more space or it’s outdated and desperately needs an upgrade, you’re probably wondering about the best ways to finance this project. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay for it all at once.
Using a personal loan to finance your bathroom remodel
Personal loans come with fixed interest rates, a fixed repayment timeline and a fixed monthly payment that will never change, making them easy to plan for.
One benefit of using a personal loan for bath renovations is that, unlike other borrowing options, you don’t have to put down collateral. And since personal loans are unsecured, the application process is usually much less involved so you can get your money sooner.
Using a home equity loan or a line of credit (HELOC) to finance your bathroom remodel
Another option is a home equity loan. Like a personal loan, home equity loans come with fixed interest rates, a fixed repayment term and a fixed monthly payment. The difference, however, is a home equity loan requires you to pledge your home as collateral.
Home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, also require you to use your home as collateral, but instead of getting a fixed loan amount, you get a line of credit you can borrow against — typically with a variable rate. Like home equity loans, HELOCs tend to come with low rates and fair terms since you’re using your home as collateral.
In both cases, if you use the money to finance home improvements, the interest could be tax-deductible.
Using a credit card to finance your bathroom remodel
If your remodel’s a fairly modest one, consider acquiring a credit card — but not just any credit card. Some balance transfer credit cards, which can also be called “0% APR credit cards,” come with zero interest on purchases for up to 18 months.
The upside of using one of these offers is the fact you’ll get an interest-free loan to pay for your remodel. And you may get points or rewards for spending a lot during the introductory period, too. Since these offers don’t last forever, though, you need a plan to pay off the entire bath remodel before your interest rate resets to the regular rate.
The bottom line on bathroom remodel costs
A beautiful new bath can deliver joy and comfort at a time when many homeowners could use more of both. But don’t be misled by the size of the space; the cost per square foot of a full renovation can run into hundreds of dollars. It’s key to plan and budget for best-value products and services, and to find a contractor who can carry out the work with expertise and minimum disruption. Financing is also key, whether you decide to draw from savings or take out a loan or line of credit.