June 05, 2011,
L.M. asks from Meriden, CT on June 04, 2011
Has Anyone Remodeled a Bathroom or Kitchen?
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.
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.
C.C. answers from San Francisco on June 04, 2011
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!!
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C.O. answers from Washington DC on June 04, 2011
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.
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D.K. answers from Pittsburgh on June 04, 2011
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
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T.B. answers from Bloomington on June 04, 2011
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.
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J.G. answers from St. Louis on June 04, 2011
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.
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A.V. answers from Washington DC on June 04, 2011
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.
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K.C. answers from Philadelphia on June 04, 2011
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.
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S.R. answers from Kansas City on June 04, 2011
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.
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