Bathroom remodeling — a checklist of 84 costs to consider

bathroom design ideas remodeling checklist

remodel and watch your investment plunch
Reality check: Data indicate that remodeling is not a good “investment” — not in the way we expect that term to deliver. Read full story here.

Bathrooms are the smallest rooms in the house, but they pack a lot of utility into every square inch, so they can be complicated — and expensive to remodel. I thought it would be fun haha to compile a list of every element of a bathroom remodel for which you need to plan, budget and spend. I am going to take a first run at the list based on my experience with several bathroom renovations — but welcome your additions, as I may not have been hit with every possible expense. Here goes:

Permits and testing


  • Contractor bags
  • Dumpster, if required
  • Disposal fees
  • Surcharges for lead abatement, if required
  • Asbestos abatement, if required
Unexpected expenses
  • Wood rot
  • Mold
  • Old plumbing
  • Bad wiring
  • Bug infestations (we just found a nest of carpenter ants while the walls were open on my office renovation — $350 exterminator, cha ching)
  • Anything that’s not to code that you weren’t anticipating.
  • What else?
Framing and prep
  • Wood for framing
  • Insulation
  • Vapor barriers
  • Energy efficiency sealants
  • Window(s), if required
  • Door, if required
  • Drywall
  • Greenboard/concreteboard for under tile
Plumbing work
  • I always use professionals who give me a bid, who bring the stuff, and give me a bill when it’s all done. Their costs usually include cost of permit and inspections. If you move your plumbing, costs are higher than if you keep your plumbing where it is. Also, if you have an old house, it’s probably wise to bring in a licensed plumbing contractor in any case — now that you have the walls open, have them take a look at everything and if it’s necessary to repair and replace so that the house is good for another… 50 years … well, suck it up and do it.
Electrical work
  • I always use professionals who give me a bid, who bring the stuff, and give me a bill when it’s all done. Their costs usually include cost of permit and inspections. If you move your electric, costs are higher than if you keep your electric where it is. Also, in old houses, you may need to do some rewiring or upgrading to the wiring anyway — see plumbing section above regarding doing a complete inspection and any necessary maintenance/repairs now that you have the walls open…. Actual electric thingies to consider include:
  • Lighting around sink
  • Lighting center of ceiling
  • Lighting above tub/shower
  • Exhaust fan (In a tiny bathroom I like combo lighting/exhaust fan above tub/shower). See Kate’s research and the fans she bought for her two bathrooms.
  • Timer for exhaust fan on its own switch.
  • Electrical outlets and switches.
Bathroom fixtures (finally, we get to the fun stuff)
  • Sink
  • Sink legs or vanity and vanity top
  • Different hardware for vanity, if required
  • Repaint vanity, if required
  • Faucet and associated parts
  • Toilet
  • Toilet innards
  • Toilet seat
  • Grab bar by toilet – or at least consider the framing so you can add one later. 
  • Tub or shower pan
  • Tub/shower faucet set
  • Grab bar(s) in tub/shower area – or at least consider adding the framing (thanks Stubenville for this suggestion)
  • Where else to put grab bars or the framing for them for the future: Consult with pros. Sorry. We’re all getting older every day — and even if it’s not an age thing, grab bars are great if you hurt your back, etc.
  • Towel bar  in tub/shower, if required
  • Shower curtain rod, or shower door
  • I always like to add a diverter to a handheld shower head
  • Handheld shower head
  • Towel bar for bath towels
  • Towel bar, ring or hook for wash towels
  • Towel bar or hook inside tub/shower for washcloth
  • Robe hook for back of bathroom door and maybe also by tub/shower
  • Soap dish in tub/shower
  • Toilet paper holder
  • Medicine cabinet

Tile and finishing

  • Floor tile or other flooring material
  • Grout for floor tile, or adhesive for a resilient floor.
  • Wall tile
  • Grout for wall tile
  • Caulk to use at tile edges, on tubs, on sinks, etc.
  • Shower pan tile (if less slippery surface is desired)
  • Grout for shower pan tile
  • Mortar to apply tile
  • Sealer for floor tile. Some ambition people also seal their wall tile
  • Liner strip, if desired
  • Bullnose in same or contrasting color
  • Tile-in soap dish and/or toothbrush holder for above sink, if required
  • Different floor tile for shower pan, if required
  • Recessed shelving forms, such as Tile Redi (there are other brands, too) and any unique tile pieces required to edge them
  • Marble threshold for shower pan, if required
  • Marble or other type threshold for bathroom door, as required
  • Wood trim for windows and doors
  • Wood trim for floor if wall is not going to be tiled
  • Primer for drywall
  • Primer for wood trim (if trim is to be painted)
  • Conditioner, stain, finish for wood trim (if trim is to be stained)
  • New cover for heat and air conditioning vent?
  • Paint for walls and trim
  • Wallpaper
  • Wall size, if wallpaper is used
  • Window treatments
  • Shower curtain or doors
  • Shower curtain rings
  • Coordinating towels and rugs
  • Soap dish for vanity
  • Shelving and artwork for walls, as required
  • Wastebasket
  • Plunger – After all this time, money and grief, you’ll want a clean start.

Hey, if thi$ checkli$t doe$n’t make you want to Love the Bathroom You’re In, I don’t know what will.

Want to noodle bathrooms more? Check out my three videos about my blue bathroom renovation:

What potential or for-sure expenses did I miss, dear readers?

Or, what bathroom remodeling expenses caught you by surprise? Do you have a nightmare that you need to process and forewarn? How about ideas that saved you lots of money? Bathrooms as Money Pits: That’s today’s topic.

novelty wallpaper vintage
See more of this delightful vintage novelty wallpaper from my personal collection here.

  1. Michele says:


    We just finished (about a month ago) our “new” 1950;s style bathroom…yup, the 2-3 month job took us 9 months since we had to take over the reno’s, as the contractor didn’t know how to do the tiles (walls, shower or floors)…we did pay more (a lot more) for coloured tiles as they had to order them in and “nobody” does coloured 4×4 tiles anymore! It was worth it though, I love my bathroom!

    I hope you do a list of what is needed for kitchens as that is our next project…our living room is almost done (why, “hello gorgeous orange and cream vintage wallpaper!”)…

  2. Peggy says:

    Refinishing 1955 very large and deep cast iron tub that would cost a lot of money to remove and would entail removing the ceramic tile floor set in wire mesh and concrete. A lot cheaper to refinish the tub, plus it’s a much better tub that those made today.

  3. Estelle Page says:

    Wow, you’ve really thought of everything, down to the garbage bags!!! Will be printing this one off and pinning it to my wall, about to start renovating my bathroom at home next month (more antique than retro though – trying to stick to the theme of our Victorian era flat!)

  4. Barry says:

    Those walls are lathe and plaster. Mud set is cement that floor tile was set in. I have a Cerulean blue 1952 tile shower that needed re-tiling or major tile repair. I found a bathroom restorer who does the old school plastering. He reset the loose tiles and removed the old 8″ single shower faucets. Those were replaced by a Kohler thermostatically controlled valve and a new single handle faucet. My wife loves it. The modern temperature and pressure controls on the thick 50s tiles are the best of both worlds in my book. We had a few loose tiles around that match for some reason. Previous owner had set them aside. I suspect he did shower tile work in the 1960s or 1970s. The mosaic blue floor tile looks shabby. Not sure what to do. Need a new vanity too.

  5. I’m a designer, so I may be biased, but I would add the cost of hiring a designer to your list. A designer can actually help you save money overall, as they have sources for products and leads for reputable contractors that you may not have. And, if you don’t have the 40 hours per week it may take to coordinate your project, a designer can help you with your timeline and keeping things on time and on budget. If a new space plan is in your remodeling plans, a designer can help you with the new layout, as well. We’re worth it! 🙂

  6. carole says:

    In regards to something Stacy said about hiring someone, I always remember a comment from This Old House…..Never hire the person/company that can show up immediately.

    As for bathroom remodeling, I have nothing to add, yet, but every time we remodel/renovate any room in our 1973 ranch, there are always surprises, followed by stories to tell. I have no doubt the upcoming bathroom remodels will turn out the same.

  7. Diane Miller says:

    Thank you, Pam Kueber, for creating this list. You and Kate are so cool! Retro Renovation is by far my favorite website! Your emails/newsletters are the only ones I am happy to receive. Without planning on it, I purchased a 1950s time capsule ranch a year ago. It was divine guidance, as I never bought a house before and didn’t know what a gem I had until finding your website. I consider myself blessed after reading stories here of people looking for time capsule homes. A year later, I’m still finding out how cool my house really is. Why was everything made so much better back then? I am going to save my pink bathroom someday (have to save the $$ first). Our vintage turquoise fridge (GE) and dishwasher (KitchenAid Superba by Hobart with kitschy “party” wash mode) need to be repaired (and they will be repaired…someday). I feel overwhelmed, but your website keeps me inspired. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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