Bathroom Remodel Part 1: The Project Details

Sometime during 2014*, I plan to put my little 1 bedroom house on the market. As I’ve mentioned before, there are several projects, big and small, that need to be done before the house can be listed. One of the biggest projects is the bathroom remodel.

The Back Story

I bought the house 7 years ago, and did a lot of minor “make do” repairs and upgrades to get moved in quickly. You know, painting, cleaning, replacing the carpet. Inexpensive things to make it look nice and feel homey, while I slowly went through room by room and did more detailed renovations. The bathroom had cosmetic issues, but the “bones” were good. I painted. I updated the light fixture, and bought a bigger mirror. I kept the vanity (which is actually kind of awesome), but bought a new one piece counter/sink, and replaced the fixtures. The linoleum was worn, so I replaced it with cheap stick-on linoleum squares. The blue tub was horrible, but that could wait until I remodeled. I did switch out the matching blue toilet for a very basic, $40 toilet. A couple hundred bucks and the bathroom looked fine.

When a job sent me halfway across the country 4 years ago, I paid my much younger brother to stay at my place and watch my dogs. Hint: Having a 20-year-old boy watch your house may not be the best plan. There was damage. There was a plumbing issue that, rather than call me about, he tried to deal with on his own. The kick-plate on the screen door got ripped off. I could go on and on.

When I’d replaced the old linoleum when I moved in, the subfloor was perfectly fine. When I came back home, there was a big soft spot between the toilet and the tub. Close enough to the wall that it didn’t pose much risk. I’m not sure if the plumbing issues that weren’t resolved correctly caused it, or if carelessness in closing the shower curtain all the way, and getting lots of water on the floor, caused it. Regardless, the subfloor was ruined. I didn’t see an immediate need to deal with it; it wasn’t getting any worse, and it was a perfect spot for my clothes hamper. But the reality is, it needs to be fixed before I can sell the house.

The Remodeling Project

So obviously, there’s some work that needs done in the bathroom. I’m an avid Do It Yourself-er, and might do some of the work myself. There are a couple of things that have to be done that I simply can’t do, or am not comfortable with doing at this time. There’s no way I can get the tub out; It’s one of those old, heavy, painted metal (cast iron?) tubs. The contractors I’ve met with have said it will have to be cut in half just to get it out of the house. And the drain is so old it’s pretty well fused in. Even if I wanted to keep the tub (which I don’t), it would at least have to be removed to replace the subfloor. And that’s another thing I’m not comfortable with: Replacing the subfloor. Woodworking is not my strong point.

Alright, so tub and subfloor are the main things that I really need a contractor for. The rest, technically, I can do myself. I’ve done them myself many times over. But the questions remain: How much should be done? Do I have the time to do much of it myself? Or should I hire out the whole job, and concentrate on the many other projects that need done?

Here’s where I am so far:

Tub/Shower: The tub and the surround need replaced. Currently there is tile, but I’ve decided for the sake of time and costs to just tear that out and replace it with a nice, basic surround. One contractor told me the surround they use gets attached directly to the studs, so I don’t have to worry about the condition of the drywall under the tile, since it gets ripped out.
Cost: $500. That seems to be the mid range for the sets I’ve been looking at.

Sink: Honestly, the sink vanity is nice, and I get tons of compliments on it, so I don’t see the point in replacing it. When I bought the house it was a basic finished wood, which didn’t seem to compliment the style. I painted it a chocolate brown, and it looks good. I plan to add a fresh coat of paint. The top is still in good shape, so it’ll stay as well.
Cost: $20 for paint.

Toilet: There’s nothing wrong with the toilet, per se. But it’s cheap, and looks cheap. And toilets don’t cost that much. Might as well replace it.
Cost: $100-150

Subfloor: Subflooring is cheap, at about $20 per board. You could cover my whole bathroom with no more than 3 boards.
Cost: $60

Floor: My plan was to match the floor to the kitchen floor, which runs about $2 per square foot. It’s a nice vinyl tile, which is very sturdy and looks great. The bathroom is about 10×6, so it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to do. Less than $300, once you took out the space for the tub. The contractors all agreed though, they’d rather do a vinyl sheet flooring. With the moisture in the bathroom, it’s probably a better idea, and they tell me a nice floor would only run about $100 for materials. Vinyl is the best choice in my neighborhood; It’s what most people expect in a house, so going for something like tile wouldn’t have a good return.
Cost: $100

Plumbing: My original thought was to replace all the plumbing fixtures, which are currently brushed nickel, with bronze. In my opinion, it has a more high-end look. Both contractors told me not to bother; There’s nothing wrong with my sink fixtures, so why replace them? One contractor told me the shower/tub fixtures he generally uses only run about $80, and they look nice.
Cost: $80

Lighting: If I leave the plumbing fixtures the brushed nickel, then there’s no reason to change out the lighting fixture (or the towel bars, etc). That saves a lot of money, and means the project requires 0 electrical work. The outlet is already GFCI. The vent works fine.
Cost: $0

Paint: The bathroom is currently a nice, pale yellow, which isn’t bad, but I plan to switch it out for a light beige color. Basic, neutral, clean. The trim would be painted a nice, creamy white.
Cost: $80. That’s on the high side, since paint prices vary.

Trim: There really isn’t much, just the baseboards. And with the size of the vanity, and placement of the tub, there isn’t much to worry about.
Cost: $20-30

So, we’re looking at just over $1,000 for obvious materials. Should probably throw in a couple hundred bucks for the unknowns and incidentals: Plumbing pieces, screws, etc. Even if I decided to splurge a little, I don’t see materials costing over $1,500. And most of that is considering retail prices; Contractors can usually get things at a discount, or can buy in bulk.

On Tuesday I met with two very different contractors, from two very different types of companies. Tomorrow I’ll post about what I thought. I’m still waiting to get the estimates in, so nothing will be decided until I know more about what they plan, and how much it will cost.

– Cindy W.

* I hope to list the house sometime in the next 3 months. The boyfriend thinks that’s overly ambitious. We’ll see!


  1. […] I posted the details of my upcoming bathroom remodel. It’s a pretty basic project, and I’m expecting materials to cost less than […]

  2. […] bids are in! I received a call last week from Contractor B with his estimate. If you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2 on my bathroom remodel, you probably knew that I’d already made a decision on who […]

  3. This remodel seems very inexpensive. All those material for 1,000 dollars is great. I will indeed take a few pointers from this! Thanks a lot.

    1. It was pretty inexpensive. I chose to go pretty basic for this remodel; No special or upgraded fixtures. But, yeah, it always shocks me when they show the average bathroom and kitchen remodel costs. You can definitely do it for a lot less!

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