Bathroom Remodel Cost: Minimum and Medium Level Remodels

Luxury Bathroom with Tile Floor
Luxury Bathroom with Tile Floor. Getty / Vladimir Godnik

You want nothing more than a nicer, prettier bathroom.  You have been perusing Pinterest, walking wistfully down the bathroom fixtures and tile aisles in the local Home Depot, and talking to your neighbors.  But can you translate bathroom dreams into bathroom reality?  Only money can tell.

Money is the sticking point in any remodel.  Throw enough money at any home project and it will get done.  Problem is, most of us do not have a bottomless bank account to draw from.  How much will your bathroom remodel cost in a realistic sense and what will get done?

1.  Minimum:  Do-It-Yourself Surface Remodel

Cost:  $1,000 to $5,000

When you take on the work of remodeling your bathroom yourself, costs are slashed dramatically.  Costs can go as low as the high hundreds, as long as you are satisfied with a surface remodel.  

A surface remodel means that core elements--plumbing, electrical, and wall structure--are left untouched.  Shower or tub, too, are only minimally restored.  Nothing is moved and the footprint--or plan--stays the same, more or less.

A surface-level, light bathroom remodel might look something like this:

2.  Low-Medium:  Remodel Using Contractor and/or Sub-Contractors

Cost:  $15,000 to $17,500 

This estimate is based on a 35-40 square foot bathroom, which can be imagined as a larger guest bathroom for a small house, or a small master bath for a large house.  All fixtures and other items quoted are basic and functional. The remodeling contractor would do the following:

  • Install a standard porcelain toilet.
  • Lay down moisture-resistant vinyl wallpaper or paint with latex paint.
  • Install a 30-by-60-inch porcelain-on-steel tub.
  • Install ceramic tile surround, around tub, with basic four-inch square tile.
  • Install a solid-surface vanity counter with integrated sink. Install single-lever shower temperature and pressure balanced shower control.
  • Install recessed lighted combination mirror/medicine cabinet.
  • Lay down ceramic tile floor.

For Contractor Remodels, Location Affects Estimates

Location barely affects the minimum do-it-yourself remodel because outside labor is not involved.  But it does affect any remodel that uses contractors and/or trades (sub-contractors).

California and the Pacific Northwest max out the bathroom remodeling estimates, with figures reaching $18,000. Southern states (east of the Mississippi) have the lowest bathroom remodeling costs, ranging around $15,000.

Data Sources

Giving ballpark estimates for home remodeling jobs is a slippery task. Without taking into account every factor--bathroom condition, locality, time frame, and far more--bathroom renovation estimates can vary considerably. Even if you were to nail down these flexible factors, three contractors would give you three different estimates.

Remodeling magazine's annual Cost Vs.Value report compares changes in job costs with Realtors’ perceptions of what those jobs bring to a home’s price at resale.

For example, you may covet the idea of including a self-sanitizing toilet, or those lovely heated floor tiles when you remodel or add a bathroom, but the cost to value benefit would likely not reflect well in an increased resale price.

Sometimes the addition of owner-specific luxury items like these are well worth the extra money spent if your primary goal is enjoyment while you occupy the home. Likewise, you may not relish the idea of spending the extra money for a double sink when you are planning your master bath remodel, but most couples today searching for a new home insist on a higher end bathrooms including a double sink.