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Bathroom Remodels: Costs, Ideas and Other Things to Know


Starting a bathroom remodel is exciting, but it can feel overwhelming, too. Renovation projects have more moving parts than simply redecorating a room with paint, lighting and furniture — and they’re pricier thanks to plumbing, labour and fixture expenses. But being clear on the following five factors before you begin will keep your project on track and help you manage costs.

October 2, 2020 in Life

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#1: Bathroom remodel budget

This is the big one. When figuring out the total budget, you have to factor in several things. First, decide how large a bathroom remodel you want to do. Is it a total gut job, requiring tile removal, new insulation or drywall, moving a wall, creating a window and/or improving ventilation? Do you need to shift the position of the plumbing or are the existing locations fine? Is your bathroom remodel mostly cosmetic, like painting and changing light fixtures? How big is the bathroom? These questions will help determine your bathroom remodel costs.


Once you know what kind of bathroom remodel you want, decide whether you’ll do it yourself or hire a contractor, plumber and/or designer (see point #3, below). Next, start researching big-ticket items on your bathroom remodel list, such as shower enclosures and bathtubs. Shop around for the best prices and watch for deals. Certain times of the year are ideal for sales, like Boxing Day or Black Friday. Even better, stretch your budget by using the points earned on your American Express Membership Rewards®–enrolled Card for purchases1. Finding the right rewards card that fit your bathroom remodelling project could mean the difference between your dream sink and one lower on the list.

#2: Bathroom remodel emergency fund

An important part of any remodelling project is understanding that your budget will fluctuate. A backup emergency fund may be useful in case something goes wrong — you don’t want to get stuck being unable to complete that small modern bathroom remodel of your dreams. Consider setting aside an extra 10 percent of the total budget.


Another common experience is “scope creep,” a term often used to describe unplanned budget increases that happen once a project is underway. For example, you may set the budget and then see a faucet you absolutely adore that costs hundreds more than you’d planned — but you say, “Oh well, it’s just one little extra item.” Or maybe you swap out the toilet, which leads to the discovery that the floor underneath needs repairs, and the numbers go up again. (If you live in an older home, tearing out original features and fixtures during your bathroom remodel can often expose underlying damage.) Having a contingency plan will prepare you for any work that you couldn’t have accounted for before the start.

#3: Bathroom remodel management

One of the first details to nail down is determining whether you want to handle a bathroom remodel yourself or hire a team to do it. There are a few different ways to go about it.

Option 1: Go DIY.

If you’re confident that you can do the work and have the time to complete it, then go for it. When you handle all aspects of a reno, from research to purchases to installation to finishes, it can be the most affordable — and satisfying! — route.

Option 2: Subcontract some of the work.

There are good reasons to take on some jobs while letting the pros handle others. Maybe you can’t do plumbing and/or electrical work, but you can handle design — that’s a good time to hire separate tradespeople for the tasks that aren’t in your area of expertise. You will have to oversee the plumber and/or electrician, but the work will be done for you. Both professionals will be able to tell you if you have any unseen damage, often betrayed by signs like visible mold or bubbled paint caused by water leakage. Don’t be alarmed if damage is discovered — this is why you have an emergency fund. But you may need to reassess other aspects of the bathroom remodel project to accommodate an unforeseen expense.

Option 3: Hire a full project team

If you want to hand the whole bathroom remodel off to someone else, hire a contractor or designer who will also oversee all the tradespeople. A general contractor will oversee the entire project, from hiring tradespeople to do the work to keeping you informed on progress and budget. Some experienced interior designers can do the same, but remember that a designer is different from a decorator. Designers are familiar with the construction aspects of a bathroom remodel, while a decorator is someone with a great eye who will tell you how to dress up the finished product.


Do the research, read reviews and ask people you trust for recommendations when hiring anyone to do renovation work in your home. It’s important to have a solid understanding of your project and to ensure that the tradespeople you hire communicate clearly with you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out professionals you can trust.

#4: Bathroom remodel functionality

Another aspect to consider when talking to your bathroom remodel team or before you purchase any big-ticket items is the functionality of the space. It can help to ask yourself the following questions.


  • Who is using the space? Kids, teens, guests? For kids, consider placing towel hooks at a lower level or creating open storage for bath toys (letting them air out helps them dry faster and can prevent mold). If the space is designed for teens, they may appreciate private storage or double sinks (more on that below). A guest bathroom is used less than a family one, so you can opt to save money by going with basic finishes rather than high-end or ultra-durable ones.

  • If your bathroom is an ensuite, do you prefer a standalone tub or will a shower-tub enclosure do? Would you prefer a large walk-in shower? What about spa features, such as bonus jets or rain showerheads?

  • Do you want or need double sinks? If you do and this a feature your bathroom doesn’t already have, the job will require more plumbing, and therefore increased costs and construction time. A space-saving alternative is a trough-style sink with two faucets placed on the wall, which can offer similar functionality without quite as steep a price tag. 

  • Another consideration: longevity. Consider accessibility if you’re planning to stay in your home and age in place. Should you add a walk-in shower or wider doorways to your bathroom remodel plan? Is there enough space to create a comfortable shower area that you and a caregiver could occupy at the same time? While these additions can be expensive, features that increase accessibility can be an excellent investmen

#5: Bathroom remodel ideas

For many, this is the fun part. Researching images online and in magazines to find bathroom remodel ideas is the best way to nail down your personal vision. Keep your ideas all in one place to assess your style as a whole. Start saving inspiration images and, once you have a good collection, look through them to decide on a theme. Did you save a lot of black and white with chrome finishes? Maybe your style is sleek and modern. Love old farmhouses and a lived-in, homey vibe?


Vintage may be for you. If researching images isn’t your cup of tea, hiring a designer or decorator is the best solution. They can create a bathroom remodel design plan and offer a variety of choices at different price points — you just have to pick what you like and they will have it shipped to your home.

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