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I Asked Experts How Much I Should Budget for My Home Remodeling


A couple of years ago, as my wife and I embarked on a kitchen remodel, I spoke with a remodeling expert to understand what to expect. We finished that project a year ago, and now we’re ready to tackle the second floor of our 800-square-foot condo: the bedroom and bathroom.

I called two remodeling experts to get an idea of the how much we should budget for the project — and how we can save money on the cost of remodeling.

Sarah Rodebaugh is principal interior Designer at Henry + Mae in Petaluma, California, a company she started in 2018 after several years in the business. Deborah Lamberton is General Manager at ASAP Restoration in Scottsdale, Arizona; she’s worked on home renovations for 18 years. Both had valuable tips to get the most from the cost of home improvement.

There’s no reason not to do a bedroom refresh

When remodeling a bedroom, a DIY approach can save money. If you hire professionals, Rodebaugh said to plan on spending at least $10,000, but half that if you do the work yourself. She says $20,000 is a standard price tag to redo a bedroom, and furniture and lighting are the most significant costs.

In my home, we want to remove a nonstructural loft, add more storage, repaint, change the window coverings, and replace the flooring. “The most typical thing that we end up looking at when we are making major changes is adding a walk-in closet,” Rodebaugh says. And yes, we’d like a walk-in closet if we can carve out the space.

For that, we will need a professional crew, and I suspect our costs will be in the $20,000 range Rodebaugh suggests. Having an experienced contractor do the work and advise us during our kitchen remodel was invaluable.

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The tricky business of a bathroom remodel

It’s possible to do a bathroom model on the cheap. New flooring, a pre-formed vanity top, and some paint “can change the look of a bathroom pretty dramatically,” Lamberton said. Replacing hardware and repainting an existing vanity can change the feel of the room at a low cost. And modern flooring options that can be laid down without tearing up existing tile reduce construction costs.

Rodebaugh noted that bathroom remodels in the Bay Area (where I live) tend to start at $40,000, though people in less expensive markets may pay much less. Case in point: Lamberton said her typical bathroom renovation runs around $25,000.

For people who want to save, she advised keeping plumbing and lighting in the same places. If you move plumbing or electrical, you need permits and must bring the bathroom up to the current code, which can add complications and costs. And Lamberton cautioned that bathrooms can contain unforeseen hazards once you open the walls, including asbestos and mold.

Removing our loft will allow us to expand our postage-stamp bathroom, but Rodebaugh noted that a major bathroom renovation can cost as much as a kitchen. Still, she said, it’s so much work she advises clients to go for their ideal bathroom if they have the budget.

The value of remodeling projects is measured in more than dollars

I learned several lessons from our kitchen remodel. You’re not done making decisions until the last day of construction. A new wrinkle will inevitably arise when you think you have everything figured out. Everything takes longer than you want it to. And living through construction is, frankly, a bit hellish. But worth it.

Before our kitchen remodel, I was worried about the money we were spending and how much we might get back when we eventually sell. But having a modern kitchen with clean lines and abundant storage and counter space has been life-changing. Rodebaugh said we can expect a 75% return on investment on a bedroom remodel and 40% to 70% on the bathroom. But since we intend to stay here for many years, the biggest benefit is having a comfortable, appealing place to call home.

As I embark on the next reno project, I’ll follow the advice of the two experts and look for discount options for big-ticket items such as tile and window coverings. “The biggest that we’ve learned and that we reiterate with clients is know all your costs up front,” Rodebaugh said, suggesting putting every item in a spreadsheet and adding a 10% contingency.

And if you work with a contractor, before hiring someone, “Just do your research,” Lamberton said.



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