What's the Most Expensive Part of a Bathroom Remodel?

bright bathroom with window and bath

A bathroom remodel can cost in the range of $1,500 or gouge you for $80,000. There are myriad factors to consider in your budget, and a better understanding will help you focus on those numbers.

Depth of Remodel

The first step is to evaluate the depth of your remodel. Are we talking about a basic update with some new paint color and flooring, or are we creating the room from a broom closet.

Since we used the phrase 'remodel,' we’ll assume it’s more of the former and less of the latter.

A renovation, on the other hand, would cost you in extensive electrical and plumbing work, as well as framing in the new area.

Design Style

Sometimes you can create a high-end look with lower-cost items. Other times, items made to look rustic can cost a surprising amount.

Either way, your preferred design style can heavily influence the cost of the project.

The Size of the Room

A guest bathroom down the hall might average around $6,000, but be as low as $1,500 or as high as $10,000. The main bathroom will typically run quite a bit more. For an overhaul to a dated master bath, expect to pay $15,000 to $50,000.

According to HomeLight, “The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) says that as a general rule, you should expect to spend between 5% to 10% of your home’s value on a bathroom remodel.

That means for a $250,000 home, the project may cost an average of $12,500 to $25,000, and for a $500,000 home, you could pay anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 or higher.”

How Much Should a Small Bathroom Remodel Cost?

When you think of bathroom remodels, it’s obviously not a set price. Size matters too. Think of it on the basis of square footage. For example, a small 5’x7’ bathroom is 35 square feet.

The national average for bathroom materials and labor runs between a low of $70 per square foot for minimal supplies and DIY labor, all the way to over $250 for luxury fixtures and a contractor to manage it all.

That means your small bathroom could cost anywhere between $2,450 and $8,750 or more. This is in alignment with the national average price of just over $6,000 for a small bath and around $13,000 for a larger room. An ultra-deluxe, extensive master bath could easily cost over $25,000.

Labor Costs in Your Area

The pandemic and the shift in the labor force have created a wide variation in labor costs and availability. In addition, geographic location can mean a wide swing in pricing from one area to another.

Even if you’ve had a solid contact as a contractor or other labor worker, be sure to check in before making assumptions. You might find the company has shifted gears, hiring or firing workers.

Availability is all over the map. Some new people have moved into the business after making a career change. Others have closed their doors for good.

The competition in an area can heavily impact prices for labor. Start by getting a solid plan for the remodel, including materials and expected labor hours. Then call around with that information to get bids.

Disregard excessively high bids and challenge questionably low ones.

Interview potential contractors. Know your primary questions beforehand. In addition to costs and availability, find out what connections they have for materials, especially if you want to focus on sustainability.

Of course here at DIY, we recognize the many benefits of doing some of those bathroom remodel tasks yourself, including a significantly lower price tag.

For example, if you can do all of the demolition, flooring, toilet installation, and mirror mount, you’ll erase many hours of paid labor.

You can estimate, fairly reliably, that if you hire the job out, 50-60% of your total expenses will go to labor costs.

man touching tile bathroom wall


Waste removal is another cost many people forget to factor in. Sometimes this is covered in your contract with the contractor.

Other times you can get rid of major fixtures by donating them to Habitat for Humanity or within the community.

If you send all debris to the landfill you’ll pay a premium. Renting a decent size dumpster can run a few hundred dollars. Really large projects will cost more.


Don’t forget about the gouge by the building department. While what they do is aimed at making sure your project is done safely, the expense isn’t something you’ll soon forget.

Talk to the planning department early in the process. They’ll be able to breakdown the expected costs for permits and inspections, if needed.

Cost Breakdowns

Each section of the bathroom comes with its own decisions and resulting costs. Let’s take a closer look.

bathroom with glass shower

The Shower

The shower, or shower and bathtub combo, is often the most expensive part of a bathroom remodel.

However, there is a vast range of pricing between a stock fiberglass shower enclosure that costs as low as $400, and a custom-built, hand-tiled shower that requires moving plumbing. This type of setup could run you $6,000 to $10,000.

There are also conveniences like a quick insert that is professionally installed in just a few days. You may have seen ads for step-in showers meant for safety, as one example. These offer upscale finishes and a quick turnaround for a convenient, professional, and expensive upgrade that will cost you at least $10,000.

The Countertops

It’s kind of a toss up as to whether the countertops or the flooring will cost you more. If you are going with low-cost materials such as Formica, your countertops won’t cost you very much.

The same holds true for prefabricated vanities with the attached countertop. In this case, the entire vanity can be delivered for a few hundred bucks up to $1,000 or more.

The size of the bathroom is a factor here too. If you want granite countertops and have a large, double-sink vanity along with an additional sitting area for applying make-up you’ll need a large slate of granite. So where a small job might run $400, a large run will be ten times that amount. The average, however, is around $2,300.

Natural stones like marble, quartz, and granite are one of the most expensive materials you can choose. Granite is perhaps both the most coveted and the most expensive. It’s an ultra-durable material that’s easy to care for, but it costs from $70-300 per linear foot.

Quartz falls in the middle of that range too. You can expect to pay between $100-250 per foot.

You could also go with a less expensive tile countertop. If you install it yourself, the materials alone won’t break the bank. Having it professionally done can result in rising costs, though, especially if you’re having extensive tile work done.

Then there are synthetic materials that look like stone but that are much cheaper. You can also consider copper, stainless steel, or butcher block.

All this adds up to a massive range of options, from a small room that might total $500 for a Formica countertop or $10,000 for granite work.

The Toilet

Most bathrooms only have one toilet, and you can certainly perform a DIY install for a few hundred bucks.

However, if your room is equipped with a separate urinal or your primary toilet boasts a variety of fancy features, you could be throwing down a few thousand dollars.

You may not even know until you begin toilet shopping that you desire a heated toilet seat, a remote control, and a bidet feature.

Bathroom Flooring

bathroom tile floor

Bathroom flooring needs to be chosen with attention to function. You’ll want a floor that is water resistant or waterproof. It also needs to resist mold and mildew.

Of course, you also want it to look fabulous and offer a long-lasting durable life. That’s not too much to expect, is it?

One of the most popular choices for bathroom flooring is ceramic or porcelain tile. It meets the needs for durability while presenting a timeless look. Tile is a natural material everyone can feel good about.

While it is priced higher than laminate and vinyl, it’s less expensive than other options. Tile falls in the middle of the cost arena and is much more affordable if you install it yourself.

Vinyl tile planks are also very common in modern bathroom remodels. These are tongue and groove planks that install easily with a few tools and a bit of practice. Most are water resistant if not completely waterproof, and they come in virtually endless designs, colors, and patterns.

Your luxury vinyl tile can replicate the look of ceramic tile, wood flooring, or traditional vinyl.

Linoleum flooring is yet another option that can toe the line between cost and function.

At the bottom of the cost spectrum is vinyl flooring, which is glued down and seems to be a passing preference, no longer as popular as it was during the 1970s, but still available as an option.

Other Expenses

The overall expense of your bathroom remodel is also contingent upon whether you decide to keep some fixtures.

If you’re putting together a budget, smaller line items you plan to replace can add up quickly, so be sure to find pricing on your choice of exhaust fan, mirror, medicine cabinet, paint, wall art, faucets, towel racks, toilet paper holder, and trim.

Also consider whether you’ll be adding new bath towels and rugs.

Sustainable Upgrades

Next to the standard bathroom remodel items, you may choose to make system upgrades that cost more than anything you put in the room.

For example, if you add a second water heater or switch to an on demand heater, it will likely cost you several thousand dollars.

You could also install solar panels to heat the water for your bathroom upgrade. The upfront cost will counterbalance the savings later on, but it needs to be part of the initial budget, and it might be your top expense.

on demand heater on shower wall

Changing the Footprint

Without a doubt, changing the footprint or rearranging fixtures in the bathroom is the most expensive process in a remodel. Specifically moving plumbing pipes. This is because, once the original pipes are enclosed, it takes time and labor to uncover them again.

If you want to move a pipe from one wall to another, it may mean the destruction of the entire room. Once the pipes are in their new location, wall materials have to be rebuilt, which may include sheetrock, mud, and tape.

Even if the move is fairly subtle, like when shifting the sink and vanity down the wall a few feet, the costs can add up to a few thousand dollars.


A basic porcelain sink will only set you back a few hundred dollars, but if you have two sinks or go with an artisan piece, it could easily top $1,000. As mentioned, if you move a sink location, it can drive that cost up even more.

Structural Changes

Looking back to the high end of the pricing spectrum, any structural changes will come with a substantial price tag. For example, if you decide to make a window larger or insert a window where there wasn’t one before, expect it to sting a bit.

Similarly, if you decide to add natural light through a skylight, the addition will run you several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Fancy doors may also add $1,500 or more, especially if they are sliding glass doors or French doors that lead outside.

Inside, if you’ve finally decided to jump onto the barn door bandwagon, you might be looking at $350-$500, even if you install it yourself.


The answer to the original question, “What Is the Most Expensive Part of a Bathroom Remodel?” is typically labor. If you’re willing to DIY some portions of the project, your labor costs will lower too.

If your remodel includes renovations, having an electrician or plumber rework the system ranks high in the budget line items too. Major system upgrades will also float to the top of the pile, so be realistic when you decide to go with renewable energy or innovative technologies.

When it’s time for an update, consider ways to Restyle Your Bathroom Without Remodeling It and read more about DIY Tips to Reduce Bathroom Remodeling Costs.