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Question DetailsAsked on 6/24/2014

I have an $11500 estimate to remodel a hall bathroom. Does this seem so low that I should be asking questions?

I am changing the tub to a shower, new toilet, vanity, mirrors, tile, and accessories. Other than the shower the basic footprint will remain the same. One light will need to be moved. I have had estimates at $11500 to $19700 which both include labor and materials. Both estimates were for a mid range remodel. Both companies get great reviews on Angies list. The low end is from a "one stop shop" contractor. What questions should I be asking the low end contractor? I always worry about too good to be true or is that really a reasonable price?

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10 Answers

1
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I don't know all the specs on the materials each is using but both prices are within a realistic number. If you have told them the brand and model numbers of each item such as toilet, vanity, shower diverter, type of showerbase (custom or premade like acrylic), tile selection and one that can vary wildly the shower door you can compare apples with apples.

The $11.500 is certainly doable if you did not go crazy on the tile selection and a acrylic base is used and you have a lower end shower door. $19,700 seems like more of a custom bath unless you live in a high rent area where prices are higher. Not long go I did a bath where the shower door prices came in between $3,000 and $6,500 installed so that is one thing you have to look at carefully.

You should be asking both contractors the same questions as to what is included and what the allowances are for things like tile and such.


Don

Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon

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As Don said, materials make a lot of the difference - are the bidders bidding apples ro apples or apples to oranges ? Might be one is bidding normal mid-range materials and the other the cheapest he can get. Could also be one is very experienced and the other not so much, so underbids. Of course, other alternative could be the case - the experienced one might figure he can be in and out in no time.


I knew one bathroom specialty contractor who could do a hall bathroom remodel from top to bottom - complete tearout - consistently in 3-4 working days with a 2 man crew plus a subcontracted tile contractor, who REALLY knew their stuff and had decades of professional tricks up their sleeve. Worked a couple of $50-100,000 luxury master bath remodels they did that were unbelievable - and he walked off with over 100% profit and still did it cheaper than any of the other believable bids. In fact, he had to carry testimonial letters with him from architects on recent jobs because people would not believe he could do a good job that cheap.


As Don said - tub shower sliding glass door can run several thousand - I could also get you into one for $500 installed, using a cheap box store unit. Vanities can run $150-5000, countertop $100-thousands, lights $25-2500, tile $0.40-100.00/SF, etc. As he says the $10,000 range sounds like a doable number but probably pretty close to the lower end range. I would say the $20,000 range would be more normal for a hall bathroom remodel where you are moving the shower location and doing pretty much a complete remodel. I am surprised you are able to move the shower - must be a double-ended bathroom with center access ? Usually you are stuck with shower/tub going in the far end in all except large master baths.


I would guess your cost estimate from the "one stop shop" might be on the low side for one other reason too - is it from a "rebath" or "bathtub refinishing" type company ? I have seen a lot of those type franchisees biting off more than they can chew recently, and are commonly not even licensed for doing a complete remodel or for the plumbing or electrical. Saw one that cut right through the floor joists and just left the cut ends hanging to make room for a sunken tub. You might get a good job with that type firm - but I would say your odds are poor compared to an experienced bathroom remodel general contractor. So if this is a "rebath" type firm make sure the reviews are for full remodels, not just tub relining or refinishing jobs.


You can also find a number of prior similar questions with responses and cost info in the Home > Remodel - Kitchen and Bath link in Browse Projects, at lower left, which might help with your planning and thinking.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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Thanks for your answers...the "One stop shop" is not a refitter. They included $4500 for materials. They have a selection of vanities, shower doors, granite etc that they include for that price and they are all right there in the store to look at. Whatever your materials range they give you many picks. Very convenient. I was thinking this is how they keep the price down but am worried that even though they get great reviews on Angies list perhaps there are some hidden shortcuts that wouldn't be noticed for a year or two. The other higher estimate included $5200 for materials and they have someone consult and shop with you to get the items. Cut that guy out and they bid $17000

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_99497861

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Oh almost forgot..the shower is not being moved. Tub is taken out and shower put in.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_99497861

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Oh - sorry - when you said "other than the shower the basic footprint will remain the same" I guess I assumed it was being relocated, not just changed to a shower.


In tht case, unless this is a shower with no sill (level with floor), which requires recessing the shower pan and base into the flooring, then I can see the $10,000 range being workable with contractor grade materials.


Sounds like you are dealing with a bathroom design center - sort of like a kitchen design center, which can be cheaper or more expensive depending on what line of materials they carry. Be sure the bid itemizes the brand and model number and color and such for each of the items you have selected (other than common building materials) and there should be a layout blueprint/plan showing where everything goes.


My last thought - are they both bonded ? Because if a job goes bad, as long as you have plans and specs/materials lists that clearly define the scope of work, that is your fallback protection.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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Yes they are both bonded and insured. BTW are permits required for a bathroom remodel? And what should I look for in a shower floor to make sure it doesn't leak.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_99497861

1
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Yes - if doing any electrical or plumbing or structural work, and in also most jurisdictions if total cost will exceed some specified $ amount regardless of type of work - typically $500-2000 range but sometimes less. Certainly in your case you have plumbing and electrical - so yes, permit needed, which generally means plans will be required too. having plans and specifications works to your advantage too because then there is a firm record of the scope of work the contrator is supposed to perform, in the event of any arguments or change order requests down the road.


One thing caught my eye in your original question - you said "estimates" - if you really mean estimates then these are NOT firm numbers - so one contractor could be low-balling and figuring to make up the difference in change orders, the other could have estimated at the level he actually expects it to take to do the job assuming a bit of rot under floor and such. For the two to actually be an apples to apples comparison, they need to be firm BIDS, not estimates.


As to the shower floor issues - here is a recent pair of responses by Contractor Don and I that touch on that issue - others can be found in the Home > Remodel - Kitchen and Bath link in Browse projects, at lower left.

https://answers.angieslist.com/how-wa...


I would also recommend you look at the applicable type of shower ona website to better understand how it is supposed to be done - This Old House and Inspectopedia both have pretty good presentations.


My recommendation - stay away from fiberglass bases, and if using plastic make sure it is FULLY supported underneath by drypack mortar or foam-in-place non-expanding foam, as they make the bases WAY too flexible so they crack. Also - I recommend a polymer grout for the tile if tiles - much more waterproof, plus 2 coats sealer.


And as indicated in my response in the above-referenced question, I recommend a secondary full waterproof lining under any fiberglass or plastic shower base leading to the drain with a two-part clamping system, same as the liner in a mud and tile install - that way if shower base does leak the water goes to the drain rather than through the ceiling below. Howeer, this does have a disadvantage - because the base has to sit on a flat surface, the liner is basically flat on the floor instead of sloped like a tile floor installation so while it will trap and drain any leakage, the first sign you have of base leakage is mildew and mold smell from the water pooling locally in the liner rather than a leak into underlying ceiling or crawlspace or whatever. Therefore, installing a water alarm at the point where it flows into the drain is a good idea - the type with long lead wire so the battery and alarm unit can be somewhere accessible - like adjacent closet or in crawlspace underneath or such.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Yes - if doing any electrical or plumbing or structural work, and in also most jurisdictions if total cost will exceed some specified $ amount regardless of type of work - typically $500-2000 range but sometimes less. Certainly in your case you have plumbing and electrical - so yes, permit needed, which generally means plans will be required too. having plans and specifications works to your advantage too because then there is a firm record of the scope of work the contrator is supposed to perform, in the event of any arguments or change order requests down the road.


One thing caught my eye in your original question - you said "estimates" - if you really mean estimates then these are NOT firm numbers - so one contractor could be low-balling and figuring to make up the difference in change orders, the other could have estimated at the level he actually expects it to take to do the job assuming a bit of rot under floor and such. For the two to actually be an apples to apples comparison, they need to be firm BIDS, not estimates.


As to the shower floor issues - here is a recent pair of responses by Contractor Don and I that touch on that issue - others can be found in the Home > Remodel - Kitchen and Bath link in Browse projects, at lower left.

https://answers.angieslist.com/how-wa...


I would also recommend you look at the applicable type of shower ona website to better understand how it is supposed to be done - This Old House and Inspectopedia both have pretty good presentations.


My recommendation - stay away from fiberglass bases, and if using plastic make sure it is FULLY supported underneath by drypack mortar or foam-in-place non-expanding foam, as they make the bases WAY too flexible so they crack. Also - I recommend a polymer grout for the tile if tiles - much more waterproof, plus 2 coats sealer.


And as indicated in my response in the above-referenced question, I recommend a secondary full waterproof lining under any fiberglass or plastic shower base leading to the drain with a two-part clamping system, same as the liner in a mud and tile install - that way if shower base does leak the water goes to the drain rather than through the ceiling below. However, this does have a disadvantage - because the base has to sit on a flat surface, the liner is basically flat on the floor instead of sloped like a tile floor installation so while it will trap and drain any leakage, the first sign you have of base leakage is mildew and mold smell from the water pooling locally in the liner rather than a leak into underlying ceiling or crawlspace or whatever. Therefore, installing a water alarm at the point where it flows into the drain is a good idea - the type with long lead wire so the battery and alarm unit can be somewhere accessible - like adjacent closet or in crawlspace underneath or such.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

1
Vote

As far as permits, yes you should have them! It becomes a grey area as to how long you own the property.

I know this will set off all sorts of replies as to what I am going to say next. If you do not plan on staying in the house for a number of years yes you need a permit. If this is your forever home and you know and trust the contractor and the number of fixtures in the bath do not change it should not be that much of a deal. If you say have a fire and the contract for the bath was saved and you can prove the bath was not say 40 years old they shold cover even if you did not have replacement value insurance. It is one of the nightmares of my business that each town seems to have different ideas as to what needs a permit or not. I have done kitchen remodels where the town does not require a permit for a job unless you move the sink. Others towns have a dollar limit and I remember one that had in their code any job exceedng $500, I argued so I need a permit to paint a house as the cost for paint alone would exceed, he then gave me a vague answer as much as to say I did not need a permit if in and out in a few days! Your local government protecting you!

Your best protection is picking a contractor you know and trust or at least have others you know and trust that have used them. I have lost money on jobs (and thank God not that often) and I have made money most on jobs but each was treated the same. For most of us your home is the biggest investment you will make in your life and as much as you want instant gratification, slow down and do your homework.


Don

Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon

0
Votes

NIce comment by Don as usual - and as he says, in some jurisdictions (more in large cities than not) ANY plumbing, electrical, structural, HVAC work requires a permit EVEN if done by homeowner, and any over $500 valule (or other arbitrary figure) other than cleaning and mowing requires a permit. In some areas now includes even tree trimming, fence building, painting, etc. And note it commonly reads "value" of the improvement - so if you build a $3000 value deck for $499 in materials so do not get a permit, that is in violation. Plus the property tax assessment goes up by the $3000, not the actual cost.


And as Todd Shell has said in the past - many towns are now seeing improvement permits as a source of revenue rather than a public protection measure - so costs going up - in our area a simple deck exceeding 120SF can now cost $500-1000 in building and planning and zoning permit and review fees.


On the not getting a permit - you run a couple of risks by not getting a permit.


One, if the city/county finds out about the lack of permits (especially in areas where they actually physically enter the house during property reassessment for property tax valuation) then you risk having to apply for the permit after the fact and opening walls up for inspection, PLUS paying 100-200% permit fee penalty. Beautiful catch-22 I have seen in this sort of case - have to open the walls and ceiling up for plumbing and electrical inspection - THEN you need a NEW permit to repair the walls and ceilings because THAT value exceeds $500 !


Also, some insurance companies are now putting disclaimers in their policies to the effect that unpermitted improvments that should have had a permit are NOT covered - this is due to too many claims from fires and structural damage from unqualified contractors, especially in disaster reconstruction situations where there are a lot of shoddy workers and scams. I have even seen insurance cases where the policy required permit and professional work in those trades - prohibiting homeowner work at all, So, if you suffered a loss, the improvements might not be covered even with a paid invoice or contract in hand as proof of cost, depending on your insurer. Some states and FEMA also have provisions to that effect in their emergency payments regulations - I have heard of a few cases of very old homes rehabbed to multi-million dollar mansions in California having state or federal emergency payments denied except for the original (1940's at times) construction cost due to lack of permits for the upgrades being on record with the county.


A third thing I have seen in my area - as zoning and building regulations change, they generally grandfather existing approved improvements that would now not be legal if built today - but the catch-22 is if not legally built and having required building and planning and zoning permits then they are not grandfathered. Had one very large detached garage in our area that was about 5 years old and probably $200,000 range (20' height 4-bay steel shopbuilding) had to be torn down because he had it built on the sly to avoid property tax increase and probably permit refusal due to not approved type structure in residential area - had to tear down plus he was charged penalty rates for avoiding property taxes, and penalty for failing to get building permit, and penalty for failing to get planning and zoning permit.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD




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