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Budgeting for a Bath Project


Having a realistic idea of what it costs to remodel a bathroom will ensure that you spend enough — but not too much — to get the space you want.

Budget Your Bathroom Makeover

Bathrooms are sort of like cars — affordable compacts fit standard equipment into an economical package, luxury models put a premium on roominess and style, and mid-size alternatives try to balance cost and comfort. Knowing the size of the space and the options you want for a bathroom remodel will help you determine how much you need to spend — and avoid sticker shock.

Size It Up

You can’t budget a bath project based on size alone, but square footage does help you decide what features you can include and estimate the quantities of products you’ll need, such as paint and tile. Bathrooms come in three main sizes:

  • A standard-size bathroom is a rectangle from roughly 5x9' to 8x10'. That leaves room for a sink, toilet, tub, and perhaps a small separate shower. This could be your home’s main bath or one for guests or kids.
  • A powder room, or half-bath, typically ranges from 20 to 30 square feet—just big enough for a sink and a toilet. A powder room is typically meant to serve guests and is often located near an entry or in some other high-traffic, main-floor living area.
  • A master bath adjoins the master bedroom. Often 100 square feet or larger, it may hold one or more luxuries such as a whirlpool or freestanding soaking tub, a spacious shower with multiple heads and body sprays, two sinks, a private toilet compartment, a dressing area, and large windows or skylights.
  • Though the bathroom may be one of the smallest rooms in your home, remodeling costs can be surprisingly high — $100 or more per square foot is common. There’s a lot packed into a bath and much of it — like plumbing and tile — is labor-intensive.

Save Here, Spluge There

Fortunately, you can keep a bath remodeling affordable by adjusting how much you add or change. Updating a small bath by painting and replacing a fixture or two could cost as little as a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, creating a master bath retreat from scratch could cost several thousand dollars.

Costs can vary almost as much for individual bath products. Take toilets, for example. You can still buy a basic one for about $100, yet there are designer models that go for $4,000. The same is true of sinks, faucets, and tubs. There are models for every budget. Along with these bath-specific items, you’ll also need to budget for general room elements such as windows, wall treatments, flooring and lighting.

Buying the highest quality you can afford is always a smart approach, especially with faucets and fixtures, which you want to work reliably for many years. However, by splurging a little on some items and saving on others, you can spend your money on the items that matter most to you.

For example, if you’re fine with a basic tub, toilet, and sink, you may be able to afford more expensive flooring, countertops, wall tile, or lighting. Flooring is an especially good item to splurge on, because you don’t need a lot in a typical bath — probably only 30 or 40 square feet. In that quantity, even a high-end flooring choice such as marble, slate, or limestone can be affordable.

Conversely, if you keep the existing floor or replace it with economical vinyl or ceramic tile, that frees up money elsewhere in the budget for a splurge, such as glass tile for the sink backsplash.

Don’t Forget Labor

Adding up the cost of all the products you want in your new bath will give you a pretty good idea of your budget, but that figure won’t tell the whole story. All those products need to be installed properly, and that may mean paying a plumber or other contractor. Be sure to allow for labor costs in your budget. Depending on what needs to be done, labor could account for 25 to 50 percent of your total project budget.

You can save money by doing some or all of the work yourself, but be realistic about your skill and experience levels. Fixtures, wiring, and plumbing must meet building codes, and improper installations could leave you with a big mess, a safety hazard, or a lot of wasted money and materials.

Learn about Bathroom Installation at Lowe's.

Expect the Unexpected

No matter how well you plan for your project, things can go wrong. When you remove the old tile from your tub / shower surround, you might find soggy drywall and rotted wood framing behind it. When you’re installing a new toilet, you can crack the tank or bowl. Add an extra 10 to 15 percent to your budget to allow for unforeseen circumstances. If you end up not needing that money, you can save it or use it for a special finishing touch.

Plan to Pay

Think about the best way to pay for your project once you’ve established a budget. If you have the cash up front, that’s the simplest way to go. If you’re not comfortable with depleting your savings, however, paying with a credit card is tempting—just remember that interest charges can really add up over time.Lowe’s offers two types of credit cards: one for everyday purchases, and a project card for major purchases. Explore the Lowe's Consumer Credit Center. 

Other options include a home-equity loan or line of credit, cash from a mortgage refinance, or a personal loan. Keep in mind that any loan tied to your home puts the property at risk if you are unable to pay it back.

Get the Right Amount of Paint