Hiring a general contractor for bath remodel?

saintpflaAugust 22, 2012

I would appreciate any advice you can offer. I'm planning on a bathroom model.

I have a 1906 bungalow and ONE bathroom. It's a small bathroom.

The floor is approximately 55 sq feet.

I'm interviewing general contractors now. I've never done a remodel before where I've hired a company. I usually DIY it, but because it's my ONLY bathroom and I also work from home, my thought was to hire someone rather than try to

do this myself.

So far, out of the two companies I've had onsite to provide a quote, only one has responded back with this information. The other company just never responded -- it's been a month. The company that did respond seems very high in price. Much higher than I anticipated for my bathroom remodel. But, they do specialize in historic home remodeling.

As I have never done this before, I need to know what to expect, what I can negotiate on and also, if anyone is able, if the price is in the ballpark of "normal" for my region.

I have an old cast-iron pedestal tub that will be refinished as part of the bid. The existing tub (drop-in cast-iron) will be demo'ed. The subfloor wll have to be replaced (55 sq ft) as there is no floor existing under the current tub. Existing tile demo'ed

The new tile floor will be carerra marble basket-weave (black/white). Wainscotting for the walls and white subway tile for the bath surround.

Keep existing toilet. Replace vanity with a pedestal sink. The pedestal tub will have new fixtures including the shower attachment/curtain and also the 3 handle faucet with hand held shower attachment.

My only 'real' splurge is the floor tile. Everything else is fairly basic IMHO.

The total materials: $3472 (various providers including Lowes)

Labor: $7608

Total cost: $11,080

I'm in Florida. Is this quote normal? Too high? What can I negotiate on?

Thanks for the advice!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

About average to low in price.

But, you're wasting your time refinishing a cast iron tub. It's basically painting on glass, not re-porcelainizing (re-firing glass) it. It won't last. If you want a claw foot tub, buy a new one. It's also a false economy to keep the current toilet unless it's a very new one. New ones use much less water and can save you quite a bit of money that you are literally flushing down the drain. There are new ones that have traditional styling cues that work with a bath of your vintage if that is your concern.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 12:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, hollysprings....I really appreciate the tips, specifically on the toilet. I had wondered about that myself. I've never bought a toilet so I had no idea.

I already have the tub....Craigslist purchase. I wanted historic, so...too late for that! I had tried finding re-porcelain-ing places....none to be found! Enamel seems to be all you can find.

The price is average to low?....hmmm....I had somewhat (perhaps falsely) expected between $6-8k.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 12:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That sounds high, but, does your current bathroom have a lot of demo work. Those old 50's bathrooms have about 3 inches of concrete holding the tile to the walls. :)

My house is an 80's and that would be extremely high for that work with modern construction. I've been pricing bathroom remodels myself.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It sounds average to low to me. Does the "materials" include the tub, pedestal sink, tile, faucets and other materials?

How old is your toilet? I kept mine in my recent remodel. It was 10 years old and we just got a new $25 lid and it looks good as new.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 5:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your materials cost especially sounds low. Is that building materials alone?

I suggest Signature hardware for period-appropriate fixtures that aren't quite as expensive as some of the other choices, if you still need a sink or toilet.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you so much for all the responses.

To answer your questions, that's the total for ALL the materials. I agree, it's not my first pick. This is what the GC selected.

My current toilet is 12 years old.

My bathroom was remodeled (poorly) 12 years ago by a "house-flipper". That means, the tile job is failing now, the tile floor has come loose and the poor job is now clearly visible.

There is some demo....removing extisting tile, removing floor and replacing subfloor in order to prep for new tile.

I do still need a sink. I do not like the pedestal sink that was suggested.

How do you negotiate down the price -- other than the materials?

The total materials: $3472 (various providers including Lowes)
Labor and *assuming plaster, dry wall, etc): $7608
Total cost: $11,080

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 12:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You are doing great on your fact finding and shopping around. There is no avoiding how much time this takes and think about how worth it this is to spend this time. Having a bad experience with this job would not be good. I don't suggest negotiating down the price. You could try "I was planning for a total budget of $X. Do you have any suggestions that would get me closer to that budget?"

Any time I have brought up lowering a price quote on remodeling jobs the business owner usually got sensitive or let me know I didn't need to choose his company if I didn't like the quotation.

The price for labor you have is about the same as I found here in Northern Virgnia for a 5' x 8' foot bathroom.

I suggest meet with two more so you will have a total of 3 quotes. I always learned a lot talking to and showing potential contractors my remodeling jobs. I also found then when the right one came along, we just knew. I have had great experiences using this "3 quote" method and taking a lot of time making the decision and asking a lot of questions.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 12:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think sue b is right about a way to handle the discussion on your target budget and ways you can save. You don't want to come across as someone who will whine throughout the project - sometimes a contractor will get that impression if you question his pricing. But it's fair for you to ask for ways to save. There might be little things you can do - instead of having him get the tub refinished, maybe you could arrange that and pay for it directly. Did you get a line by line bid or just a lump sum? Our contractor lets us delete items if we see something we want to change (like I deleted wainscoting to save $650) or things we want to do ourselves (like painting - the one thing I'm reasonably good at).

My contractor bid our bathroom with the understanding that we provide all the non-construction type materials: lights, toilet, faucets, tile, etc. I really like that approach because it allows me to control a lot of the costs, and I get exactly what I want. (This does take more time, however, so that may be an issue for you.) Do you know any contractors who will handle the bid that way?

My biggest concern with your posts is that it sounds like you're getting materials you don't like, and you feel the GC has imposed these on you. Don't be afraid to speak up about that - he can't possibly object to you voicing your preferences. Don't give up; you'll get what you want and you can probably get closer to budget if you cast a wider net!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 1:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

The easiest way to save money on a remodel is to learn to DIY the job or portions of the job. Almost anyone can paint. Tiling something basic isn't that difficult either.

If you have friends or family that have done their own remodels (and they look OK!), ask them about swapping labor for something you do well as a hobby or for a profession. Bartering services or goods works with contractors as well. Maybe he doesn't have such a great website, and you're a web guru. Maybe his parents have a 50th wedding anniversary coming up, and you're a great caterer or cake baker or florist It never hurts to ask to see if something like that could be worked out.

Or, GC it yourself by hiring the subcontractors directly. You will need electrical work, plumbing work, tile work, and drywall work, and some general demolition/labor in this remodel. Break down the job into those components and approach electricians, plumbers, tilers, etc. about doing those jobs directly.

Above all, do not settle for someone doing a substandard job with materials that you do not like. This will probably not get done again, unless it's done wrong now. You've got to be sure that doesn't happen, and not trust any contractor to actually know what he's doing. Make sure that you educate yourself enough about the non pretty guts of the job that YOU know how things are going to be waterproofed, for instance. And don't pick materials just because they are cheap and you can afford them. Materials are the lowest expenditure on most jobs, and even a month or two more of saving before the job is tackled can allow you to use materials that you really LOVE. You CAN do a pretty bath on a budget with inexpensive materials, but you have to be more creative in how you use those materials and you have to be willing to do the footwork of searching for them.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 1:49PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Did anyone buy a Venetian dual system tub from Costco?
I just came across this tub, looks good on paper. It...
New Kohler Levity glass shower doors...
Has anyone installed these yet? It's a higher end look...
Help choosing a vanity top?
I am trying to choose a vanity tops for my renovated...
Stop Frameless Shower from Slamming Shut?
Just completed a renovation of our master suite and...
Need advice. Subway tile on uneven kneewall
So I was kinda pissed off when I walked into my bathroom...
Michael Coates
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™