Can I renovate a bathroom myself?

Renovating a bathroom is one of the most popular home improvement projects. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive — it easily gets into the high five-figure range — and it’s only getting more expensive: The average spend on major remodels for both small and large bathrooms has increased by as much as $20, according to Houzz Bathroom Trends 2021 percent learning.

Much of this cost is labor, which naturally leads to the question: can I remodel a bathroom myself? On the surface, it sounds tempting. Do-it-yourself bathroom renovations cost an average of $5,720. Compared to having a professional do the job, where the average cost is $19,130, doing it yourself can save $13,410, according to the US Census Bureau’s latest American Housing Survey.

Although this cost comparison might have you sprinting to the nearest hardware store, there are a few factors you should consider before undertaking a bathroom renovation. Bankrate’s guide tackles these challenges and shows you which remodeling projects are easier for you and which you should leave to the professionals.

Is it a good idea to remodel a bathroom?

It depends on the scope of your project. Cosmetic or superficial makeovers like adding a mirror, repainting walls or ceilings, or replacing the showerhead are easy tasks. But if you want to enlarge the bathroom, it gets complicated: Even a simple room enlargement requires experience with drywall and flooring.

And if you’re planning a complete redesign—including installing new fixtures, changing their placement, or anything to do with power or water lines—then you’ll need an in-depth knowledge of plumbing and electrical work as dealing with these systems arises could present hazards such as flood, fire and electric shock.

In addition to skill, time is also a crucial factor in deciding whether or not you should do the renovation. More complicated work can take days or weeks, depending on whether the materials you need are available and whether you spot any issues that need fixing along the way. And with bathrooms, several tasks need to be completed in a precise order: a floor needs to be prepared before you can install a shower stall, a sink drain pipe needs to be installed – at the right height – before you install that new counter.

If you have a plan before you begin, you can inventory everything you need to do, the steps required, and whether you have enough time to get the job done well. As part of the planning, “find the original layout of your [room] and map every plumbing and power line found there,” says Stephen Keighery, CEO and founder of Home Buyer Louisiana, a real estate developer. “Breaking open pipes is more common than you think.”

What bathroom renovations can you do yourself?

Here are some of the projects you can undertake and how much savings (based on HomeAdvisor’s national averages) you can expect:

  • Paint walls or ceiling: A fresh color can make the room stand out or appear larger. Since a big part of the price of a paint project is the labor, you can save $380 to $800 by guiding the brush yourself.
  • Lay floor tiles: Tiles can also transform space. Again, labor costs are a significant expense, as professionals can charge anywhere from $860 to $2,600 for the work — about two birds of the total price. Tiling isn’t difficult either, although you will need a steady hand and some precise cutting tools.
  • Installation of a mirror/new lights: For a cramped bathroom, a hanging mirror redirects perspective so the eyes perceive the space as larger: you can save $150-$460 by doing this simple job yourself. The style and size of light fixtures can also dramatically change the look of the room. Replacing them, while requiring some care, is within the reach of a do-it-yourselfer and can save a similar amount in electrician fees.
  • Refreshing the faucets: Given that plumbers can charge $150 to $340 to install a faucet, doing it yourself represents a significant savings. It’s a relatively straightforward task, but “it’s important to buy the right faucet for the holes, that already exist in the countertop (unless you plan to change or alter the countertop),” says Enoch Heise, a journeyman plumber for Legacy Plumbing in Denison, Texas. The same goes for bath/shower faucets: make sure the new ones match the old ones in size and configuration (for example, don’t try to replace a one-handle system with a two-handle system).
  • Refurbishing your bathtub: Also known as reglazing or resurfacing, this tub facelift costs a fraction of a new purchase; and you can save even more by not paying a professional $330-$600 to do the job for you. Instead, repair kits can be purchased at your local hardware store for under $100. Ensure adequate ventilation when mixing the hardener with the epoxy resin.

What Kind of Bathroom Renovation Should the Pros Do?

Although you can replace the fittings, more fundamental modifications to any plumbing or electrical system element should always be left to professionals. “Unfortunately, many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that plumbing is an easy task when it’s definitely not, and that when the pipes need repairing, it can get expensive,” says Ryan Thompson, a Miami plumber . “More skilled homeowners may be able to get it working, but often even small mistakes can cause water leaks that result in water damage.”

Because of this, enlarging a bathroom or changing its floor plan often requires building permits, which are easier for licensed contractors to obtain (in fact, in some areas only professionals can obtain them). Even if it’s just knocking down walls, you may need a permit and you may want a contractor’s expertise to minimize damage and debris.

The same goes for installing major new fixtures like a bathtub or freestanding shower stall: even with prefab shower sets, a plumber may be required to ensure the drain is properly connected and the floor is properly prepared. Not to mention that these items are difficult to handle. And if you replace such parts, then who is lugging away the old ones?

Time is another factor that can influence your decision. In homes with one bathroom, availability is key, and having the work done by a contractor can reduce project completion time compared to doing it yourself.

Conclusion on DIY bathroom remodeling

Overall, you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars by doing your own bathroom remodeling, but be realistic about your skills and plan carefully before you begin. For superficial or cosmetic upgrades, you might be able to get the job done quickly. If you’re replacing major fixtures or making a major change to the bathroom footprint, you should have extensive plumbing, electrical, and drywall experience—and if you don’t, it’s best to leave the job to the professionals.

A trade-off might be to make it a hybrid project: leave the design, components, and major installations to the contractors, and then do the finishing touches (painting, tiling, etc.) yourself. Or do some of the essential work under the supervision of the contractor. You’ll still save money, but you’ll also have a trained eye that’s going to scrutinize everything — and be ready to deal with any issues you encounter along the way.

Leave a Comment