Kendall "aka Renos"

Founder, Lead Instructor of Bathroom Update Guide &  Renos 4 Pros and Joes

I remember the first time I planned out a bathroom remodel. I tried to breakdown every task and account for every screw. And when I had everything broken down and organized I asked myself, “What is the most expensive part of a bathroom remodel?”


The most expensive part of a bathroom remodel is typically tile work and plumbing. Both of which are found in the most expensive area in the bathroom remodel, which is the shower. But there are other aspects of a bathroom remodel that can be just as expensive if not more depending on the scenario. Keep reading as we cover each of these scenarios in more detail.


One thing that you will notice as we cover the more expensive aspects of a bathroom remodel is that when we break down the steps involved with each task, you may realize that there are in fact a lot more moving parts to completing a bathroom remodel than you may have initially considered or thought about. 


Before we move into other expensive aspects of bathroom remodeling, I would like to add one task that often goes along with a new shower, and that is a glass shower enclosure. And in many areas, a custom frameless glass shower enclosure is the standard. 


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What makes its custom? Because there are no prefabricated panels. Everything is measured and cut to size. First shower glass walls are measured after all the tile work in the bathroom is complete. Then the glass is then ordered and then fabricated in the glass shop. Finally, the glass panels are brought to the site and installed. This process is the same regardless of whether you choose to use framed or frameless enclosure. The frameless enclosure is usually incrementally more, and in some bathroom layouts, the framed enclosure makes more sense. There can also be a huge range in pricing for this type of work. Some companies may charge several times what another company charges.


Now lets discuss some expensive bathroom remodeling tasks that maybe unique to your job. 


When we talk about a bathroom remodel we have to first set some parameters on the scope of work. There are design elements that can be very costly, but that may not typically be apart of most bathroom remodeling projects.


For example, moving walls. Moving walls can be necessary in order to increase the size of an existing bathroom or to create space for a new bathroom in a location where there has never been a bathroom. In these scenarios, you may have to move or alter load-bearing walls. This line item can be expensive due to the labor to tear out and modify the framing, as well as any plans or drawings that may be involved with completing this scope of work.


Which brings me to another structurally related task-rotten wood repair. If your property is built on a wood-framed floor system, there is always a chance that you will have water damaged framing members that have been damaged by water leaks. Some common locations for these types of leaks are tub surrounds, bathtub drains, bathroom sink drains and water supply lines, and last but not least the toilet flange. These repairs can vary greatly in severity. In some instances, the issue can be resolved by replacing a section of subfloor, and in worse cases, the floor framing system may have to be cut out and replaced. Yes, you read that right. Water and moisture can damage a home worse than anything else. And one of the main reasons for this is that a slow leak doesn’t make any noise, and there isn’t any catastrophic event to draw your attention to it. Which means that the problem can go on for months and years undetected. As a property owner, it’s a good practice to periodically inspect your property for these types of issues. Even if, you have not been diligent with inspecting the property up to this point, now is an excellent time to start. If you have exposed framing in an unfinished basement ceiling or in a crawlspace, this can be an excellent place to start. You can also look for signs of water intrusion in the bathroom. By doing this type of close inspection, you are more likely to gain awareness of moisture issues before you begin working, and therefore you won’t be caught totally off guard. 


What makes tie installation so expensive?


There are several elements to this type of project that some may miss. The first expense is in preparing the space for work. Frequently when installing tile, the existing tile is removed before the new materials are installed. In addition to the cost of the actual demolition, you also have the cost of preparing the space in and around the bathroom for demolition. Dust is always a big issue on remodeling projects, and controlling dust has to be a priority from the beginning. Anything from temporarily sealing wall, floor, and ceiling vents, and doorways, to temporary dust barrier walls. 


To be fair, all aspects of a bathroom remodel can create dust, but the demolition of tile and wallcoverings like drywall and plaster creates the most dust. 


Once demolition is complete, most repairs if any should be visible at this point. Once repairs are made, its time to start putting things back. Installing tile on a concrete floor is a little less expensive that installing on a wood-framed floor because it requires less material and labor. Installing on wood frame floors requires installation of tile underlayment, thinset, and lots of screws. 


Another bathroom floor tile upgrade that has become increasingly common is heated floor systems. These heated floor mats are installed and then covered in a layer of self-leveling compound. The tile is then installed on top. So the added expense includes the electronic heated mat, the self-leveling compound(which is around $30 per bag), the electrical labor to wire up the mat, and the installation of the mat and the mixing and installation of the self-leveling compound.  


Installing tile on walls around tubs and showers costs more than installing it on the floor. And as you would assume, installing tile on ceilings, such as in a shower, will cost even more. Before tile can be installed on walls in shower or tub surround, tile underlayment and waterproofing must be installed. There are 3-4 different options for performing this step. The materials range in price from several hundred to well over a thousand dollars. Another expense of installing a shower is the shower pan. If you plan to use a prefabricated pan, you may be able to save here, but in many higher-end bathrooms, the shower pan is poured on-site. 


Regardless of whether you are working in a bathroom with a wood frame floor system or concrete, moving plumbing supply and drain lines can be expensive. And if you are working on a concrete slab foundation, concrete cutting may also be involved. 


There are different levels to bathroom remodeling. Not every remodel calls for removing all wall coverings down to the studs. But in the instances where substantial drywall work is involved, it can be expensive relative to the amount of drywall being installed and finished. This is done in part to the fact that drywall finishing requires more than one trip to complete, because the drywall mud has to dry for hours before its ready to be sanded. On large drywall projects, its common for one crew to install the drywall and another crew will come in and mud and tape it. Most bathrooms fall into the category of small jobs, and ideally, the same person that hangs the drywall will also be the one that finishes it.


Bathroom fixtures range in price depending on the style, finish, material, and brand. There is a wide range in pricing depending on your tastes. Most bathroom remodeling projects will include a vanity faucet, a shower valve, perhaps a showerhead, a bathtub, a tub filler (if there is a freestanding tub), a toilet, a vanity light fixture, and a bath fan. Each of these items can have huge ranges in pricing. Its wise to start shopping for these items in advance, because these are items that you may be able to catch on sale, which could be an easy way to save. This is a particularly good option if you have a place store these items until you are ready to start your bathroom remodeling project. 


Bathroom vanities can also be an expectedly expensive item. Most people don’t think about this expense, but just a quick look online at your big box home improvement store’s website will give you a clue into the expense. Even a very low-quality cabinet will cost a few hundred dollars. Another added expense comes in the form of countertop selection. In recent years, white and off white cabinets have become popular. And stone countertops are often the material of choice for remodeled bathrooms. Most owners prefer lighter color countertops in the white and grey family to match the white cabinets, or to contrast their darker cabinets. The white and gray stone almost always cost more. 



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