Creating a Realistic Bathroom Remodeling Budget

by Rachel Laurendeau on May 21, 2012

One of the most common home improvement mistakes is to under-budget for a project (or to not create a budget at all) and be left part way through the project with no option but to abandon it half done, cut corners on the wrong items or to spend more than you had initially anticipated.

Creating a realistic budget for your bathroom remodeling project ahead of time can save you plenty of headaches and delays, not to mention your hard-earned money.

• Look closely and your finances to determine how much you can honestly spend on your renovation. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has a handy online worksheet to help you with these calculations.
• Establish priorities versus wants. You may want an extravagant family-sized Jacuzzi tub, but do you need it? How about tub refinishing of that beautiful antique claw-foot tub that you already have instead?
• Cut costs where you can but don’t be stingy when it comes to using good quality materials. The bathroom is a high traffic area that is exposed to high humidity, extremes in temperature, mold and mildew. Be sure that the materials that you and your contractor are using will withstand this daily grind.
• Consider whether this is a long-term home improvement so you and your family can better enjoy your home or whether it’s an improvement on your investment. If will you be selling your house in the next five years, look at this as a way to improve your home’s value. Try not to overspend if you are doing this simply for resale, as you want to be sure to get a full return on your investment.
• Remember to allow for labor costs, which typically add up to about a third of a project’s cost.
• Keep track of spending as the project progresses. Creating the budget isn’t just an exercise to do before starting, it is a living document that should be updated regularly and followed as closely as possible.
• Having a small contingency fund in place – that you try very hard not to use – gives you a small cushion in case you go over budget a little bit or in case the renovation uncovers other problems that need to be fixed. This is common when it comes to bathroom renovations since there is water and plumbing involved.
• If you need to apply for financing, shop around for the best rates and consider all of your options (home equity loan, refinancing, no-equity loan, FHA loans, personal loans, etc).

Tips to keep costs down:
• Keeping fixtures like toilets and sinks where they are currently located can save you thousands of dollars since relocating them takes a lot more time and materials.
• Rather than replacing all of your fixtures, a much more economical option is to invest in countertop, sink or bathtub refinishing. The fixtures will look like new for a fraction of the cost.
• Avoid making last minute or mid-project changes after signing a contract. These are typically called “change orders” and most contractors have extra charges for these.
• Look at your budget prior to heading out shopping and stick to it. Watch for sales, promotions or scratch and dent items.
• If you’re a little bit handy, opt for doing some of the work yourself. Doing your own demolition work and painting are two great places to start.

Your bathroom remodeling project does not need to send you into the poorhouse and budgeting for it will ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to spending. Having a realistic budget and sticking to it can take out the biggest stressor of any home improvement.

If you found this article interesting, you may also want to read How To Budget For Your Kitchen Remodeling Project.

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