How to Minimize the Average Bathroom Remodel Cost

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Why a Good Contractor Can Actually Save you Money

The best way to minimize average bathroom remodel costs is to do it once instead of trying to fix what’s done wrong.

I will never forget how one of my favorite clients turned down two contractors and pointed to the third one that, in my view, was rather expensive. “That guy knows what he is doing,” she proclaimed. “I don’t want to go through this process twice!”

Turned out she was right. The contractor she selected did a wonderful job, and the process was smooth. Firstly, he was able to get materials for less. Also, no subcontracting, which means almost no waiting for Johny, the plumber, to come four weeks after the demolition is finished. He was checking on his installers every day, ordering the right quantities of materials instead of tons of unused ones that end up in your garage.

NKBA Average Bathroom Remodel Cost Diagram

NKBA (National Kitchen and Bathroom Association) states that an average bathroom remodeling cost is between $635-$650 /square foot depending on the area.

Only twenty percent labor cost and eighty percent materials. Of course, it varies depending on where you live. For example, in my area, Central New Jersey it is up there on the chart.

The good news is that, if we trust the numbers, a bathroom renovation recoups up to 60% of the cost at the sale of the house.

How to Save Money on Labor

Below is the breakdown of the average bathroom remodel cost.

a breakdown of the average bathroom remodel cost
A breakdown of the average bathroom cost

Avoid Hiring the Wrong People

funny contractor

Unfortunately, there are many things that can go wrong as soon as you put a hammer touches the walls in your bathroom.

For example, my first concern is always waterproofing. Because mold is the last thing you want, using the right process and materials for your bathroom remodel is like eating good food for you to stay healthy.

Slope to drain in the shower pan is crucial. The shower can look very pretty but if you are ankle-deep in the water it’s annoying, to say the least. A typical slope pitch requirement is the ratio of 1/4″ of a slope to one foot of the floor to the drain. This is what your contractor has to get right!

So, whether your contractor is building the shower bed from scratch or using the ready-made pan, he needs to know what he is doing.

Because not all ready-made shower pans, as well as drains, are created equal. I don’t recommend trying to save money on drains and ready-made shower pans. Ask your contractor about your options.

Hiring a General Contractor vs. Each Trade Person Separately

Since it takes many trade people to remodel the bathroom the process is never easy.

I designed more bathrooms than I wanted in my interior design career. They all turned out good at the end, some better than others. Whether I wanted it or not, I always ended up on the forefront- that is, coordinating plumbing and electrical, tiling and painting.

A Real Life Scenario of Hiring Several People to Do the Job

Sometimes it seems to be easier just to call a tile guy, and then the electrician, and then the plumber and have them all come in at different times. Maybe the final cost will be lower than what the general contractor charges.

But then you might have many surprises. For example, let’s say that you schedule a plumber to install the new valve for your showerhead. Suppose he even comes on time. But, oh horror, now he demands the carpenter to move the stud by two inches. “I am not a carpenter!” he croaks. By the time you hire a carpenter and reschedule, your kids already spent too many overnights at grandma’s, and now she is calling you to complain.

Because if one thing goes wrong and off the schedule, everything gets scrambled like a lego house for a one-year-old.

See what I am saying?

In my opinion, it is easier to work with a good general contractor rather than going through the scheduling issues with a number of people.

Tip: Ask the contractor what certifications and/or licenses he has. Don’t rely on experience only.

Checking References

Suppose that you decided to hire a GC (general contractor). The next thing you do is ask around for references. That’s exactly what I do, and sometimes, not so successfully.

Not so long ago, I got a GC reference from my long-time tile supplier. She told me the best things about him, and I didn’t think twice to doubt her. I did not check his other references from real clients, and I did not ask to see his work. Her referral was golden to me. Guess what? It turned out that he was a fraud. He subcontracted to the guys that started building the shower bed and cutting corners. I had to let them go and then apologize to the client. Bottom line: ask to see the actual project, and/or talk to as many people as possible.

Tip: I can’t stress it enough- the best way to minimize the average cost of bathroom remodel is to have it done the right way from the get-go.

DIY. You Want to Remodel Your Bathroom Yourself

Some people are capable to remodel their bathrooms DIY, and I admire that. However, don’t rely on YouTube videos as if they are bulletproof instructional manuals. Many of those videos are giving utterly wrong instructions. It is sad but true. Anyone can make a video and post it on YouTube. If you want to consult with a specialist, at least go to official manuals, such as TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation

Handbook for Installers

How to Save Money on Materials

Tile and Stone

Ceramic and porcelain tile– is usually less expensive, easier to install, and more versatile. You might want to consider it first.

Design: Jennifer Kizzee Design; Photo: Gisele Parra; Tile Bar: Carolina Bay 2×20 Polished Crackled Ceramic Tile

Marble and marble mosaic – marble breaks easily when cut, so you will have much more waste. Therefore, more material equals more cost. Some beautiful kinds of techno marble look just like their natural counterpart.

Marble Pencils are used for the corners transitioning shower of this bathroom

Pencils are priced by the piece. For example, one twelve-inch marble or even ceramic pencil can cost from$10-25. They can embellish the look of your bathroom, but they do add the cost.

As an alternative, use Schluter Systems for corners and niches or transitions to reduce the cost.

Schluter Systems come in all different configurations and finishes

Glass Tile

Glass tile from Tile Bar

Glass tile – can be sleek looking and pretty. However, cutting it requires special tools. Also, depending on the transparency of the glass tile, an installer might need special glue and grout. Be aware of it. From my experience, a contractor will charge you more when he knows that the tile is not easy to use.

Cabinetry and Countertops

Used cabinetry doesn’t necessarily mean that it looks old. Facebook Marketplace is a good source for bathroom vanities. You can come across some great bargains. If you live close to a big city, check out their Facebook groups as well. You’ll be surprised what you can find.

Shower Systems and Faucets

The best shower system is the one that lasts. Right? What if you need a replacement part? Ask about availability and cost of replacement parts as well as the manufacturer’s level of service.

From the lips of my plumber, Moen is known for good service and availability, and Delta is not.

Also, think about the functions that you must have in a shower. Is it the pressure/speed? Looks? Some people get carried away with too many functions they think they want. Every additional feature adds cost. Are you going to use all of that in real life?

I’m Inviting You to Chat and Share

Please chat with me by writing a comment below if you want to know more about minimizing your bathroom remodel cost. I’ll have my eyes on your project. How to minimize average bathroom remodel cost.

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