Has Anyone Remodeled a Bathroom or Kitchen?

Updated on June 05, 2011
L.M. asks from Meriden, CT
17 answers

My bathroom is falling apart. My kitchen floor is linolium installied 18 years ago, and the countertops aren't looiking very good. It's past time. We were at a festival and I signed up to have someone come in and give us a quote. They came and took a bunch of measurements and asked questions. The following week, they came back and showed us some of the items they picked for us. Showed me a catalog. I even visited the showroom, but there were no prices so I had no idea if I was picking a $300 sink or an $800 sink, even though they guided me to items they thought I would like. I found out the price of the towel bar they suggested is $80??? To make it short, I'm really not feeling comfortable with this process. If you've remodeled , what was the process like? Did you get to pick your items or did they recommend items? What about price? I have a small bathroom in an older house.. It needs to be gutted and the subfloor replaced, nothing fancy, moderate middle of the road. The gave a rough estimate of $12,000 to $13,000 for the bathroom. Does that seem expensive? Help. I'm overwhelmed.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your advise and sharing your experiences. We're still in the process of getting a quote that will include a complete itemization. The prices we saw at the showroom were list price, I don't know what the GC will charge us, I'll know when we get the final quote. Since this is a major project, we are not qualified nor do we have the tools to do the project ourselves, and I really need someone who will coordinate everything. I can also use some guidence on the materials, but l want to be the one making the decision. Obviously by filling out a form at a festival, I didn't know much about the company. I have since learned they do offer interior design help, which appears to be what I'm getting. I couldn't find the company listed with the better business bureau. Thanks for the advise on Angies List, we'll be joining. We have another company coming in next week.

More Answers


answers from San Francisco on

I'm a construction project manager; I do this for a living. So, here's the deal with kitchens and bathrooms. The low end for bathroom remodels (if you have someone come in and do all the work) is probably $3K - if you use lower-end finishes. And really, the sky's the limit. There are some areas where I do think you can save money, and where it's smart to save money. You don't have to go to a fancy showroom to get your new fixtures. Go check out Lowe's and Home Depot. Get an idea of what various fixtures cost. Do you have an Ikea nearby? They are a great source of inexpensive, but great-looking, fixtures and cabinetry. An architect I work with actually won an award for a kitchen she designed - the home belonged to a chef who splurged on the appliances, and then got all the cabinetry from Ikea - the kitchen was spectacular, and aside from the appliances, cost less than $15K. So there are savings to be had, and nobody would ever know you didn't spend a fortune.

Bottom line, here is my advice:
1) Every quote you receive should be broken down very clearly into demolition, plumbing, electrical, tile, flooring, and then further into materials and labor. I would recommend that you go with a time & materials, Not-to-exceed contract. What that means is that the contractor gives you a "worst-case scenario" quote (the "not to exceed" amount), and what you will actually end up paying is for the actual time and materials he spends on your bathroom.
2) You should purchase fixtures directly, not the contractor. When I buy materials for a client, I mark them up 15-20%. Why pay your contractor that money when you can buy it directly? To be clear, your GC should come with you to the plumbing supply house, or the cabinetry place, or wherever, so that you are both on the same page about what you're purchasing, but if you pay directly you'll save a lot. Shop around to find the best prices on the fixtures you like (use the Red Laser app or something similar - you'd be shocked how much money you can save).
3) Before you sign a contract, READ IT. Better yet, if you have any friends in the construction industry, have them help you read it. You need to be VERY clear about what is included, what is excluded, and what you're agreeing to. Do not sign a contract without a job schedule attached to it, and referenced in the contract.
4) VERY VERY IMPORTANT: Do not EVER pay in advance of work being done. EVER. Ahead of time, agree that you will pay as you go. For instance, your contractor can submit bill #1 after demolition is done. Bill #2 comes when the rough plumbing/electrical (if any) is completed. Bill #3 comes after drywall, tile, and paint are done... and so on. And since you will agree only to a time and materials contract, the contractor will only be billing you for actual time and materials spent on the job so far. It is common to withhold 10% of the overall total until the job is complete to your satisfaction (that means that all the picky details are fixed and perfect).
5) Do not proceed without getting 3 bids (at least) from licensed contractors. Ask for references, and check them thoroughly. Before any work is done, you need to be sure you have a copy of their liability insurance and their workers' comp, with you as the "additional insured." Don't worry - any contractor worth his salt will have no problem providing you with copies.

If you need any help with this, please feel free to PM me. I've been doing this for years, and have unfortunately been called in many, many times to clean up projects that had gone bad - so I know where all the pitfalls are! Good luck!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

To have the bathroom gutted to the studs and rebuilt - $10 to $15K sounds right - drywall, electrical, etc. - not cheap. ESPECIALLY the sub-flooring - leveling, load bearing, all of it.

If you can demo yourself (pulling drywall down and taking sinks, vanity, toilet out) DO IT. Tubs aren't easy to get out - especially if they are the old cast iron tubs!

Go to Angieslist.com and see what they say about the contractors you are choosing...

Get at least 3 (three) bids and have EVERYTHING written out, i.e.
remove and replace sink
remove and replace drywall, etc.

It's called line-item and if they won't do this - they are ballooning costs for you. they should have a column for the consumables and a column for their labor charges.

You pick out what you want...walk through Lowes and/or Home Depot to get a feel for what you want..and compare those prices.

Ensure they are getting permits and having the county come in and verify the work as electrical problems can bring a home down in flames in minutes.

Kitchens - $20K to as much as $100K - no joke....Jenn-Aire appliances and other appliances can be EXPENSIVE....if you have an IKEA near you - check into their cabinets - go in with your measurements - then find out what you want - and price it out. I don't remember if they install or if you do - but you'd be surprised at what you can do yourself to cut back on costs and get it done.

After you get your quotes, check with the better business bureau and places like Angieslist for information. Ensure they are licensed, bonded and insured...if they aren't - DO NOT USE THEM!!! You can call your county to verify their license is current and they have not pending charges, etc.

Take one step at a time - don't try to do everything at once. Pick the project that is the most important and do that one first. DO WHAT YOU WANT - not what some company recommends - YOU have to live with this remodel - they don't....if you like everything the way it's placed right now but just want updated items - you can do a lot of the work yourself.

My husband remodeled my bathroom - granted we didn't change locations of the tub or anything like that - but he replaced the drywall, redid the shower surround, painted....we didn't replace the vanity YET because I want to make it a double sink instead of a single one...but we'll get there.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

No wonder we have that $2000 available that an earlier post asked about! There is no way that I would spend that much on a "small" bathroom! We use a independant carpenter/handyman and he charges $25 per hour. We buy as much of the materials ahead that we can ourselves and always order flooring from a local dealer who doesn't have a showroom, so no overhead. Also, we are super blessed with a BIL that is an electrician and only charges for materials! I would start asking around locally and see if there is anyone that can do the work for a more fair price.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We did a lot ourselves and we did things like go to Home Depot or Lowes and pick out our faucet and sink and then took them to the granite people to cut out the right holes. I would also tell them my budget is under x and see what they come up with. You might also want to hire a local handyman. Friend of ours does handyman work and he'll buy what he needs or direct people to what they need to buy and then do the install vs having the big showroom types do it. Sometimes it does pay to have the thing installed professionally. Our new dishwasher was installed very quickly and professionally and DH said he was very happy to have paid the extra $100 or so to have that done for us.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I've remodeled a total of five bathrooms, actually, AND a kitchen as part of a whole house remodel. I insisted on pricing for everything, down to the kitchen pulls. I also researched every item that went into my house, every doorknob, every appliance, every sink, faucet, towel bar, light fixture, everything, and bought and supplied my contractor with most of the stuff. I do think that price is really high. It seems like they're going to make some $$ on the markup of the items because you're not being given a chance to compare prices on them. If you want to save money, you need to do your own research, compare prices on the *actual* items you want (Blanco sink xxx-xx 25"x22" as opposed to "two bowl stainless steel sink"). There are some people who cannot do this. They neither have the time nor patience to compare literally hundreds of sinks, faucets, or towel bars. And THEY are the ones who will pay extra to have someone walk them through the process, kinda like this company is trying to do with you (although the "no prices on anything" really bothers me). Get at least two or three quotes for the remodel. If you're keeping everything in the same place and just replacing everything that's there, I would run the job myself, hire my own subcontractors (the demo guys, the floor guy, the drywall guy, the painter, cabinet maker/installer, plumber, etc). At the most, I'd hire a GC to run the project, but purchase the finishing materials (fixtures, appliances, lights, paint, flooring, tile, countertops, cabinets, etc) myself. And I'd set my budget for the bathroom at around $5000.

Also, re-read what Catherine C. said. She knows her stuff.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I do everything myself. I tore everything out but did not replace the subfloor and I can't see why you would. Are you perhaps speaking of the underliement? So, the sink I picked out was small since I was trying to gain space in the bathroom, $119. The floor is nonslip ceramic tile, it includes the moldings, toe kicks, $480 including moisture blocking backer board, mortar, and grout. Paint, $25. I put in ceramic tile on the upper part of the tub surround including ceiling, $120, I was tired of the kids ruining the ceiling by spraying it with water. So under a $1000. Even factoring in labor there is no way a small bathroom should cost as much as you are quoted.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

We worked with a contractor for the kitchen and with an architect and contractor for bathrooms (it was a larger overall project). We chose to be very involved and picked all items ourselves. The contractor did give us recommendations about places to shop. We sat down with someone at several bath supply places and looked at what was on the floor and through approximately 3 million catalogs. You have to be assertive and ask prices for everything you look at if they are not clearly marked. We interviewed 4 contractors for the kitchen job. We interviewed 3 architects for the second job and then put the job to bid and found our contractor. You can find towel bars from $20-600. There are lots of reference books about remodels. They go step by step through the entire process - I would read one. I would not just go with the first person you signed up with at a home show. Good luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My parents redid their kitchen and just spent $30k at Lowes. That's also including 10% off because my dad is retired Navy. It took a long time, but I'd LOVE to have their kitchen now. Prepare for costs to creep in here and there, and for it to take a lot longer than they say. Because the different installers need to work together - and when they don't it's a hassle. Seems like 12-13k is a lot for a bathroom, but maybe not depending on your finishes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

I wouldn't use that company. You have no idea what their finished work looks like and they are not being transparent about costs.

If you want to remodel your bathroom, get 3 referrals from friends who were happy with their contractors. Or talk to a realtor, they often have a list of people who do remodels, or they have seen remodeled homes and have an idea of who does good work.

If I were remodeling my bathroom, I would find a contractor who does excellent work and who has good communication skills. I would expect an estimate that included the exact model numbers for the fixtures he plans to install, or a dollar amount for the fixture allowance. Go to Home Depot or a plumbing supply store so you have an idea of what things cost, and the price difference between basic and designer fixtures. Then have the contractor give you a cost breakdown so you can see how much he is allowing for the fixtures, and how much for his labor. Make sure he is licensed and bonded. Talk to former clients to see if he is honest. Some contractors will take the money you pay them but not pay their suppliers who will then expect you to pay them. This has happened to 2 families that I know. Another thing that will help you is to talk to more than 1 contractor. You will learn as you go, and begin to know what you need and what to ask before signing a contract.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

We gutted our bathroom last summer. It was plaster and we wanted drywall and needed new electrical and plumbing pipes.

We did all of the work ourselves except the new plumbing and electrical.
It took 2 weeks to get the floor up there was 2 layers of different linoleum plus this black glue all over the floor. We wanted to refinish the original oak floors we have in our house.
It took about a week to get all of the plaster knocked down, and then the wood off down to the studs was another few days. Clean up was really awful the plaster was soooo heavy. Cement board is more expensive than drywall but you need it for certain areas of a bathroom.
The next week my husband got help to hang our new shower walls and put up the fixtures.

We want to buy a new toilet and vanity eventually but we ran into so many unexpected problems that it blew our budget.

Our bathroom is not what I would call "big" and we spent nowhere near $12,000 but like I said we did most of it ourselves. My husbands uncle does electrical work on the side so we are lucky there. We also know someone who will just charge for the parts and he did the new shower plumbing for us. He even took my husband to the store with him so he knew where his money was going.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

That sounds like a lot for a modest, middle of the road bathroom. I don't care if they have to tear out stuff. I would get another quote. Don't let them give you a lump sum quote. Ask for a specific, itemized list of prices for labor, tear out, install and all the materials. We added a very large room to the back of our house. It included tearing out an old patio, taking brick off the back of the house to be reused, the new foundation that was tied into the old, the new roof that had to be tied into the old, a new top end air conditioner for the whole house, all new duct work in the entire house, materials, labor, etc. It cost $30,000. Make sure you check the Better Business Bureau and Angies list. Ask around. The fact that they don't have prices on anything makes me suspicious. Get more quotes!! We also paid as we went instead of a large lump at the beginning and another at the end.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I am sure the estimate was based on what you picked, and since you did not know the prices, I am sure that you picked some very nice things. It is easy to put together a $12K bathroom just with supplies. My husband does remodeling and a total bathroom makeover can range from 3K to well over 15K depending on what is being done. He also gives the homeowner the option of letting him choose everything within a budget, bringing them choices, going shopping with them, or letting the homeowner pick out all the materials. His website is www.homehelpllc.com and he is local to you. I know he is in the midst of a large kitchen remodel, but if you want to send me a private message, I can pass along any other questions you might have to him.
At the moment, I am picking out items for our own master bath complete remodel (a weekend project) and it is very overwhelming. Even with my husband, there are so many choices and it can easily spiral out of control with all the really awesome things out there.
Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

I personally do NOT feel comfortable working with businesses that run the way you explained.......

What we did when we remodeled. We CALLED a few different people (SMALL FAMILY OWNED OPERATIONS) and had each of them give us a bid. We pretty much knew what we wanted. Sit down and decide what layout you want for cabinets. Get a bid for the cabinets from a couple different cabinet shops. YOU can buy all the "accessories". Do NOT buy them from the contractor (unless the price is right)! We bought those little accessories from Menards. YOU buy the appliances. Go shop around and find the best deal. If you want one person to come in and do everything, you WILL pay more. Because they will have to do all the leg work to get bids for all the jobs that they don't do personally.....

Make sure to get RECOMMENDATIONS! Ask around. Get some feedback from previous clients!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We recently remodeled our very small bathroom. We found some really nice yet inexpensive (on sale) items at Home Depot. These items included, vanity, sink, faucet, mirror, wall cabinet, shower, toilet, tile and grout. We basically have an entirely new bathroom. For everything, I would say we paid no more than $1,300.00 for materials only. Our brother in law was the contractor who did the work for us but, he didn't charge us anything for his services. If I were you, I would look around for the materials you are interested in...sink, faucet, toilet, vanity, hardware like towel racks, etc., purchase these items, then shop around for a contractor, getting several quotes and choose the one who gives you the best price. The thing about it is, YOU should be making the decisions on YOUR bathroom. Not someone else. There are sales everywhere on bathroom stuff, just do your research and be patient. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We are doing the same thing with our bathroom. The floor under the shower leaked and the sub-floor rotted. I am only having tradesmen in to do the real structural work. All the rest, we are doing ourselves. I have sourced a beautiful sink for a fraction of the showroom price, and things like towel rails can be sourced cheaply and easily. Don't be forced into spending unnecessary money! Remember it's OK to say to them, 'no, I don't want to spend that much.'

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

You choose who you want a quote from.
Quotes are free.

Those people you dealt with, SHOULD have had a pricing for it.
Or you tell them, you want a quote, that is per our measurements and the items WE choose.
They are supposed to supply you with a "spec" sheet. ie: a 'specifications' run down/itemization of it typically included in the quote.

I would not trust them. They were not, providing you with a quote. Just trying to sell you stuff.

You get quotes from contractors. Or, 'showrooms' are the one's that sell various brands and are typically Manufacturer Reps. They typically have their own Sub-Contractors, to install said products which they sell. They, manage the project. Their Quote, includes: cost of product, labor, cost per square foot, and time involved.
Nothing gets done, without your signature and a contract.

You, tell them of whatever 'budget' you have. You tell them, you are 'shopping around' to get the best options and pricing, per your needs.

Because your home is old, you need installers/Sub-Contractors, who can do it properly. With a bathroom, it often involves, waterproofing the sub-floors, replacing said sub-floors, ripping out existing materials, demo-ing (which means 'demolishing' and tearing out existing materials/fixtures etc.

MAKE sure, that with a bathroom.. it HAS TO BE, waterproofed before they install the new flooring. Or you will have water damage/leaking to the sub-floor.

Yes, towel bars can be expensive.

You have to really shop around for Contractors, independent or with a company, and check if they are insured and licensed. Too.
But yes, that is how the process it.
Prices/labor will really vary.

Or yes, you hire an Architect and they will handle the coordination/project management, for you. But at the end, it is all per your, okay.

Don't let anyone pressure you into it.
ALSO ask the Reps/contractor, for references AND photos of their work, past jobs.
MANY of them, do have this.
Many also have their own websites.
Check them via the Better Business Bureau too.

Ultimately YOU have the control of the project and who you hire.

Your rough estimate, does not seem like a lot.

Unless you have construction experience/background... if you supervise the project yourself, you will NOT know, if they are doing a good job or not. Or properly nor know what questions to ask.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes it's expensive. Who picks out stuff without considering the price? I'm guessing not you! haha
Go to your local home improvement store and look there at stuff, at prices, etc.

Next question: Bathroom Renovation Costs?