Bathroom remodel may come at a price

Published 7:09 pm Thursday, January 9, 2020

You see them on Pinterest, on HGTV: the perfect bathroom — a place to relax and unwind, a spa-like oasis.

Many homeowners dream of renovating a bathroom or two. Many others go through with it — a 2018 survey from the National Association of Home Builders found that bathroom remodels are the most popular remodeling projects.

But just because bathroom remodeling projects are popular doesn’t mean they’re easy to endure. Knowing what to expect during a bathroom remodel can help homeowners get through the renovation process.

The first, and most important, point is to have a budget. Even then, budgets can be tough to maintain in a bathroom remodel, according to Matt Sopher, owner of Turning Point, Inc. Renovations and Remodeling in Washington. The reason is that you’re looking at having a lot of work done in a small space by plumbers, electricians, flooring and tile installers and even drywallers, framers and more, if the space is going to be expanded.

“Bathrooms, especially, can become a rabbit hole that you don’t want to fall into,” Sopher said.

Trendy fixtures and high-end tile come with a cost, but what may be the most expensive might not be the best. Sopher recommended making function a higher priority than form, especially when it comes to really large bathrooms, where it can be difficult to make everything fit to scale.

“A lot of times, people will see ideas, especially with the internet, that may not even work in the space that they have,” Sopher said. “They see pictures on Pinterest and places like that and it looks really beautiful and pretty soon you’ve got a $30,000 bathroom.”

JUST RIGHT: The trend is for larger bathrooms, but one Washington Park couple made the most of their 1965 ranch’s original bathroom by replacing the tub/shower with a walk-in shower with sliding glass doors, giving the illusion of more space. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

According to Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value 2019” report, a mid-range bathroom remodeling project cost an average of $20,420 in 2019, while an upscale remodel cost just under $64,000.

One thing to watch out for, and prepare for, is that few renovations go off without a hitch. Once a project begins, contractors often uncover issues that weren’t noticeable to the naked eye. These issues may increase the cost of completing a project or force homeowners to change their plans to make the project stay as close to their budgets as possible. This is especially the case in older houses.

“There can be a ripple effect in older houses — you just want to do this one thing,” Sopher said, adding that a variety of problems could be revealed once construction starts.

Sopher said he’s had to replace walls and floors rotted by poorly installed showers or leaking drains that were previously unknown; on another job, he had to reframe a floor because the floors were not designed to have the weight of tile on them.

Homeowners should also take into consideration just how influenced by current trends they might be and what that could mean for resale value. A popular design now could date a house for potential buyers down the road.

“You’ve got to think: in five years, is that the look I want?” Sopher said.

While large bathrooms are the trend right now, those looking to remodel should consider that in a decade, that trend may be long past and a home with more bathrooms might be preferable to one with one large bathroom.

While it might be tempting to go overboard on size, fixtures, tile, dual showerheads and heated floors, those with a set budget, and who might be selling their home down the road, might be better off with more conservative choices — and have more to spend on other home improvements.

“Unless this dream bathroom is something you just have to have, it makes no sense to blow your whole budget on it,” Sopher said.

FUNCTION OVER FORM: While river rock adds a great look to this walk-in shower, remodelers should focus on function over form: it looks good, but some might find it uncomfortable to stand on.