How to Renovate a Bathroom

So you want to renovate your bathroom, but you don't want to break the bank?

How do you renovate a bathroom?

Here's some ideas on how much it cost to renovate a bathroom.... And once you know what costs what, you can figure out which corners — or countertops — to cut!


How to Renovate a Bathroom. The scope of a bathroom renovation project depends on a wide range of factors — most of all – your budget, but also consider how long you’ve been in the house and how long you plan to stay there. As with most things, there are three levels of renovating:

Budget Bathroom Renovation
Mid Range Bathroom Renovation
High End Bathroom Renovation

We’ll take you through the planning and process for renovating a bathroom.

In general, the costs below are all relative and will depend on a variety of factors, including where you live in New Zealand, how old your house is, and what kind of home improvement has been done already, if any. Renovating a bathroom from a 1990s townhouse is a lot different than remodeling a 1920’s Kauri Villa. Older villas and houses are likely to have to peel back the layers and see what’s behind the walls and floors, whereas a somewhat modern home can largely be anticipated as what plumbing is there.

A Look at Three Basic Cost Ranges

The first step is deciding which level of renovating is right for you. Here we have three different cost ranges for bathroom renos and common materials and finishes for each.

1. Budget Bathroom Renovation
Often runs from $3,000 (DIY) to $12,000

What you might get: You won’t be able to move any plumbing around, but you could replace fixtures like tap mixers and lights with stock, off-the-shelf products like you’d find in the big hardware stores. Off-the-shelf options have gotten a bit better in recent years and you can get make things look more high-end at a lower cost.

Vanity tops: At this level, low-end plastic tops or manufactured stone will be the best choices. Buying a complete vanity with tops attached are common and relatively easy to install.

Tile: Don’t expect to tile an entire bathroom, but you could do a splash back.

Walls: Painting the walls is the most affordable choice here and will instantly make a big change in a tired bathroom.

Cabinets: If your cabinets are in good condition, you might just want to refinish or paint them. Otherwise, you’re looking at off-the-shelf units from the hardware store.

Lighting, fixtures and finishes:All basic, off-the-shelf products. Keep in mind that because the plumbing fixtures at this level have plastic pieces on the inside, they will likely need to be replaced every five to seven years.

Tip: You can make up for the stock materials by putting more focus on the accessories. Splurge on a nice light fixture or cabinet hardware. Accessorizing will draw the eye more so than the type of tile you have, especially if you put up a shower curtain that hides it all anyway.

Who to hire: It’s recommended that you consult with a designer for any project, but if you’re somewhat knowledgeable, you can do it yourself or hire an experienced contractor to help. Generally, if no plumbing locations are moved and any changes are ‘Like for Like’, Council Consents will not be required.

A budget bathroom renovation is good for you if: Your budget is limited, or if you’re looking to resell your home but don’t want to spend a ton of money to make it look nice, this is for you.

2. Mid- to Upper-Range Bathroom Remodel
$12,000 to $35,000

Why the wide range in bathroom renovation costs? Location, materials, cost of labour and scope all need to be considered. For example, the average bathroom renovation in Auckland will cost around $20,000. In Dunedin it’s just going to be under $15,000.

What you might get?: Better fixtures, like a better looking design of toilet with eco flushing capabilities or tap mixers with ceramic internal parts and nicer design. New features like flooring, better lighting, window treatments, plumbing hardware, a comfort-height toilet, a larger and nicer vanity, a framed mirror that matches the vanity and a new shower.

Plus, you can make a few more adjustments to the layout. Maybe you’ll remove the bathtub to make way for a walk in shower. Maybe you’ll slide a sink down and move the plumbing slightly to add a tall linen cabinet.

Cabinets: Semicustom cabinets with higher-end finishes — glazed instead of just stained — and decorative details like cabinet legs and intricate door panels. You’ll have options on counter tops – porcelain, granite or manufactured stones will be available for your consideration.

Plumbing: You can make moderate adjustments to the plumbing, like moving the tap mixer or shower, but the toilet will likely stay in the relative same spot. Your toilet location is the tree trunk of the waste lines, so If you move that to an opposite side of the bathroom, you’ll then have to change the drainage of all the other plumbing locations. If you can keep that where it is, do it.

Lighting & Plumbing Fixtures: You can upgrade the fixtures for higher-quality ones, which should last considerably longer than off-the-shelf units. Also modernizing the lights will provide more interior light and using LED lighting is more economical to run in the long term.

Tile: At this level tiles will be your new best friend. There are more color, size and design options these days and can dramatically change the look of a bathroom. You’ll have the option of doing interesting borders and accent tiles, and you may be able to tile the entire room instead of just a shower or bathtub area.

Walls: You can get a bit more creative with materials and do tile walls or simply just paint it.

The possible costs of a mid range project like this: The shower head & mixer combo kit, materials and plumbing labour could be around $2,000; purchase & install frameless glass shower door, $2,500; water proofing & tile work, $4,000 to $5,000. You’re already to 10’000 just for the shower.New Bathtub is $1,000 to $5,000; a toilet, $200 to $800; Vanities are $1,000 to $4,000. That’s why the dollar amount per square meter in a bathroom is much higher than any other part of the house, including the kitchen.

But it’s wise to spend the amount in the bathrooms.You won’t spend $300 per square meter in a bedroom. That’s just Gib, framing, lights and carpeting. In the bathroom there are so many more durable finishes that will last 20 years, so it makes sense.

Who to hire: You’ll likely have a team that includes a project manager, plumber, plasterer, electrician, tiler, painter and other specialists. It’s not going to be just a one man band. This level is likely to need Council Consents, so work with someone like us who can take care of the process, from concept to design, to council, to building and completion.

A mid range bathroom renovation is good for you if: You’re renovating for yourself and not because you plan to sell and move. You’re limited in the space or footprint, but you’ll still be able to do a lot more with finishes and fixtures and cabinetry.

3. The High End Bathroom Renovation
$30,000 to $100,000-plus

This level is also known as a full strip out renovation. Everything will go away stripped back to bare wall & framing, and you’ll put things where you want. You might also remove walls into an adjacent room for more space or build and extension. The toilet and shower might change locations, the bathtub might go away and a sauna might come in; all-new high-end fixtures, materials, cabinets, high end mood lighting and unique finishes can be added. Integrated entertainment systems can be added. The bathroom is likely to be larger. Detailed moldings, trim work and tile work might also be included with exotic material. Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it if budget is not a concern. The bathroom is customized to you and your tastes exactly.

Cabinetry: Custom solid wood construction with custom finishes and decorative accent pieces.

Tile: Natural marble or granite, all of which are more labor intensive and difficult to cut. Natural stone requires more maintenance, but every single tile has its own unique character.

Plumbing: All high-end designer finishes and parts. Multi head shower. Maybe a classic freestanding tub with a freestanding faucet mixer. We have even installed solid gold plumbing fixtures, so sky really is the limit.

Amenities: Steam showers and heated flooring. You may even wish to consider a ‘His’ & ‘Hers’ section of bathroom if space is not an issue.

Who to hire: Depending on the scope, you might have an architect, engineers if you’re changing the footprint, a designer and all sorts of subcontractors, like a project manager, a tile layer, a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician and a general contractor. It will require council consent, plumbing inspections etc.

A High end bathroom renovation is good for you if: You have the funds. But at this level, you’re really getting the bathroom you desire not what you can afford.

Planning for a Bathroom Remodel

Budget breakdown: Once you establish your budget you can start hunting for materials. It’s up to you where to spend and where to splurge, but this breakdown of anticipated cost areas is a good starting point. Remember to reserve an additional 10 to 20 percent for unforeseen costs that might come up during construction.

When to renovate a bathroom: You can do a bathroom renovation pretty much any time of year, but you’ll find it harder to get contractors in summer, so try and arrange it in winter when the builders are slower.

How long it will take: Expect a week for a budget bathroom. Mid range can take a couple of weeks to months depending on scope of work and Council consent requirement. High end bathrooms will have a minimum 3 months.

First step: Figure out which of the three levels of renovating your bathroom falls into, then start looking at photos of bathrooms in the internet to figure out what style, materials and amenities you want. Dont get too carried away with planning before reaching out to a designer or builder for help. Professionals can quickly assess your renovation and budget to steer you toward what will work for you.

If you thinking of renovating your bathroom, why not get in touch with us? How to Renovate a Bathroom? We have the project managers who can arrange all the building trades for you to make the job easier.

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