What you could spend on materials, labor, and permits for your bathroom remodel
“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten
(Above) Katherine + Gus’ bathroom renovation
With a steady flow of inspiring Pinterest boards and design blogs, it’s easy to reimagine how your dream bathroom can become your sanctuary. To get you there, Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, offers a roadmap of the elements you could encounter in a New York City bathroom renovation. From building requirements to permits and design, this guide will help nail down your scope and better align real costs with a realistic budget.
Take a look at the overall averages based on NYC remodels in 2019, according to Remodeling‘s Cost vs. Value Report. These costs end up being higher for NYC than the national average*.
- Mid-range renovation: $29,585
- Upscale renovation: $88,523
*National averages were $21,377 for a mid-range bathroom renovation and $67,106 for an upscale renovation.
Remodeling a bathroom all at once
While it can be tempting to apply à la carte prices to individual elements of the work, a full bathroom renovation is an integrated process that involves design, materials, installation, and plumbing. If your bathroom has one or two areas of concern, you might decide to swap out an individual fixture or two. You can replace a toilet or vanity or take on some limited retiling and pay solely for the cost of the new fixtures and the hours of installation work.
But it can be misleading to break up and price out each step: even if you are just redoing fixtures and tile work, you may find you need to replace the sheetrock on the wall and address issues behind the walls, such as old valves, ancient drain pipes, etc. A gut renovation allows you to plan more broadly, so you can get more done, in the right sequence, and more cost-effectively.
Low to high-end costs for bathroom materials and finishes
These are the visible parts of a bathroom renovation, and probably the aspect you’ve spent the most time thinking about. Take a look at the range of pricing for various fixtures, materials, and finishes in the chart below. On the low end, you’ll find items sourced from big-box stores like Home Depot, Walmart, or IKEA. Prices increase if you choose to use their interior boxes but upgrade or customize the function or style, such as the door fronts. On the high end are highly customized, handmade, or imported items.
How much materials for a bathroom remodel cost
- Wall and floor tile: Low-end – $3 per square foot (psf), Mid-range – $15 psf, High-end – $35 psf
- Sink: Low-end – $50, Mid-range – $150, High-end – $500 and up
- Vanity: Low-end – $250, Mid-range – $1,000, High-end – $2,000 and up
- Sink and shower fixtures: Low-end – $40/fixture, Mid-range – $100/fixture, High-end – $350/fixture
- Bathtub: Low-end – $150, Mid-range – $600, High-end – $2,000 – $3,000
- Shower enclosure: Low-end – $350, Mid-range – $1,000, High-end – $2,000
- Toilet: Low-end – $150, Mid-range – $400, High-end – $1,000 and up
- Medicine cabinet: Low-end – $50, Mid-range – $150, High-end – $500 and up
- Accessories (hooks, towel bar, paper towel holder): Low-end – $10/item, Mid-range – $50/item, High-end – $100 and up
- Lighting: Low-end – $25/fixture, Mid-range – $150/fixture, High-end – $300 and up
- Ceiling vent: Low-end – $50, Mid-range – $200, High-end – $500 and up
- Radiant floor heating: Low-end – $6 psf, Mid-range – $8 psf, High-end – $12 psf
Budget for permits, design, and everything behind-the-scenes
In contrast to visible upgrades such as fixtures and finishes, there are some unavoidable behind-the-scenes investments to consider when creating an initial budget.
1.) Building requirements
For those in apartments, building requirements can play a significant role in dictating design and budget needs. These requirements can range from insurance coverage minimums, which limit your ability to work with professionals who aren’t carrying high-value insurance policies, to general alteration agreements that require anyone doing any work in the building to have far-reaching coverage for problems they may never encounter, like asbestos removal or collapse scenarios.
Sweeten contractor Thomas explained, “Buildings are becoming less flexible on their [insurance] requirements which cause us to raise prices to keep up with those needs.” The contractors who can afford to work in buildings with more extensive requirements tend to have higher operating costs and can meet higher insurance requirements, more stringent debris removal expectations, limited noise and hours-of-work requirements, and stricter parking rules. While there is no exact figure on this, you may see this translate into higher rates overall for teams that can meet those demands.
2.) City permits
- Plumbing services: $2,000 – $3,500 and higher
- Plumbing permits: up to $2,000 and as high as $5,000 per permit
- Electrical permits: $900
- Asbestos inspection: $500 to $1,000
Tackling a bathroom remodel means planning for plumbing services and permits. Any plumbing work that exceeds a minor repair or a direct swap of a similar fixture requires a permit from the City’s Department of Buildings, which can run up to $2,000 and as high as $5,000 per permit. Plumbing is a specialized trade that often comes with hourly rates; expect to budget between $2,000 and $3,500 (or higher) for a full bathroom renovation.
If you’re adding outlets or doing electrical work, an electrical permit may be needed, which can run close to $900. You may also need an asbestos inspection, depending on the building requirements and your plumbing plans, which cost $500 to $1,000.
In the design stage, plan to collaborate with the experts you hire to produce detailed drawings that account for all physical elements of the bathroom. A schematic drawing is usually presented to the building board as part of the approval process, which needs to outline the locations of the major fixtures as well as specifications for the vanity and tub/shower, and lighting. If you plan to rework the layout or convert a bathtub to a shower or vice versa, you are automatically looking at a baseline cost of $25,000. This is because you’ll need to hire a registered architect to file a permit application certifying that the plan complies with applicable codes and laws. An architect or interior designer will typically charge 15 to 20 percent of the project’s construction costs for his or her fee.
4.) Demolition and site prep
In this stage, labor is needed to ensure that your bathroom renovation maintains its value over time. Old materials and fixtures need to be pulled out and disposed of, which can be complicated on busy city streets with limited parking. This difficulty will be reflected in the contractor’s rate. Almost without exception, your contractor may need to strip the walls and flooring to frame and level before any installation occurs. This behind-the-scenes step is critical and labor-intensive and can cost an average of $2,000.
If your home is new or the sub-floor is concrete, leveling needs may be minimal, but otherwise, you probably need to account for floor leveling and new drywall or plastering before any surface work can get going.
Exposing the existing conditions inside walls during this leveling and framing step will also allow your contractor to address plumbing or electrical issues before you hook up a new plumbing fixture. You may find it necessary to replace all horizontal plumbing work to the building’s “stack” (the main vertical lines that run throughout the building), and run new wiring to head off plumbing and electrical problems that you may have unwittingly inherited.
You’ll want to factor in costs that support the success and longevity of the work, including prep work to protect floors and valuables (which can add $600 to $900) and waterproofing steps (which can add $1,000). This is critical for the project’s foundation alignment and infrastructure.
Installation is the final stage to incorporate all of the materials you’ve purchased. The craftsmanship involved in the installation of all the pieces varies in accordance with the size of your bathroom and the degree of customization you need to make all of the pieces fit.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect to spend 30 percent or less of your total project cost on visible materials, fixtures, and finishes, with the rest going to behind-the-scenes costs such as labor, permits, and fees.
6.) Overhead costs
General contractors always factor in a percentage of the project to cover overhead costs, including insurance, administrative support, and the inevitable costs of growing a business. Sweeten contractors range from two-men crews to much larger entities that employ dozens of staff (including designers, project managers, millworkers and laborers, bookkeepers and operations staff). No matter the size of your contractor’s business, however, you will absorb some of the cost increases they bear from year to year, though not necessarily dollar for dollar.
Sweeten contractor Aaron explained that in the last year, there have been specific increases of compliance, certificates and safety measures imposed on MEP subcontractors (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) by the Department of Buildings leading to higher costs. While Sweeten contractors attempt to explore all avenues to stay competitive, it is an industry that is affected by trade. The prices you’re quoted at any given time may not be the same six months or a year from now. Prices on labor and materials fluctuate and this will be reflected in your overall quote.
You have a fair amount of choice in deciding what to spend on the material aspects of a bathroom renovation. Less obvious are the costs that are the backbone and labor of the work overall, no matter what you spend on materials. Having a good handle on the real costs involved will allow you to better align your budget, avoid surprises, and get you that much closer to your dream bathroom.
Find out how long a bathroom renovation takes—and what’s involved—in our step-by-step guide and process timeline.
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