Take a peek at our recent master bath remodel project with before and after pictures.
After about six years of talking about it, we finally pulled the trigger and tackled our master bath remodel this summer. Talk about lost opportunity costs. We were actually sitting on a huge wad of cash that we set aside for this project… In a savings account no less!… For more than two full years! Go ahead, snicker away. We know this was not wise of us. We make mistakes just like you do!
Earlier this year, Mr. Need2Save was giving me a serious guilt trip about getting the project going once and for all.
We need to do it now, or agree we aren’t going to do it and invest that money.
Have you ever contemplated a large project like this and then hesitated on spending the money? A remodel can be overwhelming. You have to make a shit-ton of decisions. Then you have to invest a huge amount of time if you are doing the work yourself or be careful that your hired help executes on your plan correctly. I mention the execution here because this turned out to be an issue for us on this project. Although we didn’t do the labor ourselves, the project certainly absorbed a huge amount of our mental energy and time for several months. Of course, there was also the large expense as well.
WHY TAKE ON SUCH A HUGE AND EXPENSIVE PROJECT?
We bought our current house over 8 years ago. The house was already 8 years old at the time, so 16 years young now. I know right? What could possibly be wrong with a 16 year old bathroom for crying out loud?
The short answer is my least favorite two word combination: Builder + Grade.
Yes, clown lights and all. I swear the tiles had hints of ‘dusty rose’ color to them as well!
After a couple years of cushy bonus money, we had enough to do the project right but we were still waffling on whether we could do a somewhat reasonable upgrade without a full-blown overhaul. Did we want to do some of the work ourselves? Could we leave the tub in and only replace the shower? What if we only painted and replaced the sinks and vanity? These were the things we considered.
You can see below in the ‘Before’ pictures that the bathroom is certainly livable. Look at all that space! It’s about 3 times larger than the master bathroom in our previous home. The size and layout wasn’t the problem. It’s just plain ugly and cheap. There are some small details that you probably can’t see from the pictures. Here are my top 4 (picky) complaints:
1. Oversized grout lines in the floor tiles that we can never seem to get clean. There is no valid reason that floor tiles should be installed with a grout line larger than 1/8” or ¼” max!
2. Cheap shower door system that is falling apart and pools water just outside the door
3. No Storage!
4. Oversized corner tub that is (1) ugly, (2) impractical and (3) a real pain-in-the-a$$ to clean
More importantly, since we are probably going to be selling the house in about 5-6 years or so when we reach our early retirement goals, we are worried that the bathroom will send our potential buyers running for the hills. The rest of our house is pretty well maintained and we’ve made small upgrades over time to keep the house from looking dated. Buyers can change cosmetic things like paint colors and light fixtures without too much effort. But a full bathroom remodel really scares people and no one is going to appreciate the current 80’s look of our bathroom. It’s just out of sync with the size and value of the house. In our housing market and price range, buyers will expect better or simply keep walking. Hopefully the updated bathroom will help us sell the house quickly when we are ready.
WE ARE HANDY, WHY NOT TAKE ON THE REMODEL OURSELVES?
We have previously written about deciding between DIY or paying professionals to do the job. We have certainly gutted and rebuilt bathrooms in prior homes with paying professionals only to do what we were not comfortable with (mostly plumbing because Mr. Need2Save hates plumbing!) Did you guys know how much I love demo? Our past results were pretty decent but we are in a different place right now with time at a real premium.
With all the changes happening in our personal life and with Mr. Need2Save ramping up his training to run in two marathons later this year, we just don’t have the time to devote to a major project. With full-time jobs, we don’t want to fill up every spare evening and weekend hour with the remodel and sacrifice other interests and hobbies. We have enough ‘regular’ maintenance to keep up with as it is.
In addition, we have the money already saved up for this project. We still researched and found ways to reduce the costs as much as possible, but we are not taking out a loan to finance the makeover. We certainly are not refinancing to take equity out of our house (we are trying to pay off the mortgage not increase it).
THE BEFORE PICTURES
Let’s jump in and show you the before pictures. All fixtures, tile, and paint are as-is when we moved in 8 years ago. You know, what the original owners gifted to us.
I disliked those lights so much, I had already yanked most of one down!
No storage in shower other than the soap dish.
Although we had two sinks, there is no storage between them so you end up leaving all your day-to-day toiletries out in the open. I cleared all our ‘junk’ off before taking the photo.
THE PROJECT COSTS
According to homeadvisor, the cost for a bathroom remodel can range anywhere from $10,000 on the low end with minor changes/replacement features and up to $50,000 for a large master bath remodel. If you really want to go crazy you can spend up to $100,000 without even changing the footprint of your home for a luxury spa of your own. Obviously the size of your room, the actual fixtures you choose, and the supply and demand of contractors in your area will affect the final price.
For a local comparison, a coworker of Mr.Need2Save’s mentioned he was paying around $40,000 for a master bath remodel, so that was our benchmark. A little more research found that around $30,000 to $35,000 was typical for the mid-range upgrade that we were hoping to end up with. Being in a HCOL area, I was expecting full estimates to start at $35,000 and go up from there.
I was secretly hoping to pay closer to $20,000 though. We had a max budget of $30,000 set aside for the project so we needed to come under this or reconsider.
Company A came back with an estimate of $19,500 for labor and only the basic building supplies required. They clearly outlined what we would be responsible for providing. This includes the bathtub, vanity, sinks, all the faucets/shower fixtures, lights, new toilet, and accessories like towel bars/TP holder. I researched and then estimated our purchase costs for all those items to be around $10-$11,000 so this brings our total projected costs to be $29,500 to $30,500. Right around our max budget.
Company B came back with an estimate of $22,700 for labor, the basic building supplies, plus all the fixtures. They also provided us a rendering of how our finished bathroom would look like, which we were appreciated greatly. Included was all the tile, vanity, sinks, toilet, etc. We had already purchased the light fixtures so those were supplied by us. I also decided to pick our own mirrors because it’s a detail I’m sort of picky about and wanted to shop for just the right size and style.
In the end we decided to go with Company B. They had good reviews and the overall costs were much lower. They had a show room with reasonable selections and were consultative in helping us make final fixture and tile choices.
OUR WISH LIST // THE END GAME
- More storage
- Smaller, free-standing tub
- Slightly larger shower with a niche
- New tiles in contemporary sizes and colors
- Upgraded fixtures for the bling factor
- Fresh paint and trim
When we signed the contract, our guy said three weeks, maybe four because the shower door would be installed last (custom order piece). In reality, the work took 5 full weeks. However, there were many non-working days when no one came to our house. They also worked on the occasional Saturday.
We think it was more than reasonable to expect to finish in 3 weeks if we had a better project manager who had all the fixtures and supplies ready on day 1, but that sadly did not happen with our contractor of choice. In addition, because we weren’t there every day all day to supervise, some things had to be installed twice to fix errors made by the plumbers and electricians. That part was frustrating and extended our completion date while some things were fixed.
I think it’s true that big projects always take longer than you think. We didn’t have any ‘hidden’ costs with this one, but when you do the work yourself, you sometimes underestimate the extra materials you may need to buy.
THE END RESULT
Now for some photos of the finished bathroom.
Distressed shelf on back wall purchased on Houzz and installed by us.
It’s so nice to have drawers!
Our new window shade is on order.
The tile job is excellent. Very happy with the accent tile we choose which mimicks the morracan shape of the light fixtures.
We built the shelves above the toilet using 2×4’s and a box of 4″ distressed wood from Home Depot. Inspiration found on Pinterest. The lower shelf is 8″ so you don’t bump your head on it, and the higher shelf is 12″ to provide lots of storage.
Baskets and glass jars all from Home Goods.
Garden Stool and mirrors from Overstock.com.
THE FINAL COSTS
Here is a summary of the final costs.
We are about $24,000 poorer today. However, we are happy with the end result and relieved it’s all done with. Plus, we came more than $5,000 under our max budget so we can direct some of those funds to our investments or our Donor Advised Fund (DAF) this year. I love coming under budget!
What do you think? Too much to spend for a room we only spend about 45-60 minutes in a day? What ways have you saved money on major projects like this in the past? If you plan to sell your house, do you think about resell value when contemplating your renovation projects?