The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom

So you want to build a new luxury master bathroom. You're spending more time at home post pandemic. Further, your existing master bathroom is getting old. Let me share the true cost of building a luxury master bathroom after building a couple of main bathrooms before.

Despite my frugal nature, there is one area where I feel no guilt spending a large amount of money: everything housing related!

We spend roughly half our lives in our house. Maybe even more post pandemic. Why shouldn't we buy the best mattress to sleep on or pay up to rent a beautiful house with a balcony overlooking the water?

After going through an unpleasant roommate situation when I first moved to San Francisco in 2001, I decided to “live it up” by getting my own $1,800 a month one bedroom in a nice part of town.

Living in a craptastic place for years in order to save money to one day live a better life seems a little backwards. You don't have to spend $100,000+ a year to rent a nice place. But if you're over 30 years old, perhaps the days of living like a college student are over!

This post highlights the true cost of constructing a dream master bathroom. Mine was really an expansion instead of a remodel, since the bathroom went from 36 square feet to roughly 170 square feet. 

Deciding On Building A Luxury Master Bathroom

Building a dream bathroom - The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom

After purchasing my fixer in Golden Gate Heights I had a choice between finally buying a nice car to replace Moose, my decrepit 14 year old Land Rover with a lit up dashboard full of warning lights. Or I could upgrade my incredibly crappy 6 feet X 6 feet bathroom from the 1950s and own a cheaper new car instead.

Oh, the curse of not having an endless amount of money to spend!

Instead of spending ~$66,000 out the door for a sweet new Range Rover Black Series Evoque, I decided to build a new luxury master bathroom.

Not only was building a luxury master bathroom a necessity, it was also a wiser financial move. My goal was to turn my 36 sqft master bathroom into a 175 sqft master bathroom with all the amenities.

My Rational For Luxury Master Bathroom vs. New Luxury Car

1) Cars are guaranteed to depreciate, housing is not. Therefore, spend the least amount possible on a depreciating asset, and the most amount possible on a potentially appreciating asset. This is the principle of the Financial Samurai Fiscal Responsibility Ratio.

2) Building more livable square footage is one of the best ways to make money in real estate. Don't confuse remodeling with expansion. Always look for property that has expansion potential. Many people have trouble visualizing how awesome things could be.

3) After remodeling the upstairs with a new kitchen, bathroom, paint, windows, and hardwood floors, the downstairs needed to be updated in order to match the overall quality of the house.

4) At my former residence, I spent 1-3 hours every other day in the jacuzzi working online. It was the best home office possible! I spend way less time in a car, especially now that I don't have to commute M-F to a day job downtown.

5) I found a “capable” licensed contractor who bid a reasonable price of $15,500 for the rough, and $8,500 for the finishings over a two month period. We all know that initial bids are low in order to gain business, but even a 50% overage to $38,000 was OK since I was adding 140 square feet that is valued at ~$120,000 (neighborhood is going for ~$850/sqft  X 140 sqft).

What My Old Master Bathroom Looked Like

My old bathroom had a small sink, an old toilet, and a shower that was so tiny you could barely turn around or bend over. It was also on a weird one foot raised platform, a short cut way to install the plumbing so the builder didn't have to break concrete. The total size was only 36 sq ft.

Old crappy bathroom - The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom
Old sink and toilet with no storage
tiny bathroom shower - The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom
A shower so small you can hardly bend over or turn
Size of old bathroom. Pipes around signify the outer wall border. Demolition!
36 square feet old bathroom.

As you can see from the third picture, there really wasn't any room to maneuver in my old bathroom. The L-shaped pipes hugged the outer border of the walls. This was a bathroom where you wanted to do your business and get out as quickly as possible.

What I wanted to create was a place where I could hang out for hours. Maybe I could host a hot tub party with some wine and cheese? Or maybe we could have a Wet N' Wild shower adventure? Having a private toilet stall with a heated seat is a newspaper reading man's dream! Let's see if I could make this dream a reality.

Construction Of A New Luxury Master Bathroom

The plan was to start the bathroom demolition and construction on Feb 1 and finish by April 1. To meet this estimated time frame, my contractor would employ two helpers and work with them for most of the time.

Unfortunately, my unreliable contractor would disappear for a week at a time, busy chasing other business while his helpers would do some things wrong and have to correct.

San Francisco code requires there to be 18 feet of distance between the garage entrance and a back wall. If there wasn't such a code, I'd probably expand by another foot closer to the garage door for 10-15 more livable feet. Even a Chevy Suburban is not longer than 16 feet.

Bathroom Construction Rough - The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom
View from garage looking in. Framing done. Helper installing plumbing in the walls.
trenching of new pipes and vents - The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom
New vent and pipes for the laundry area.
Trenched new sewer pipe - cost of building a luxury master bathroom
Trenched new sewer pipe
trenched pipes - cost of building a luxury master bathroom
Trenched plumbing to new toilet stall
Hot Tub Rough
Framing the new FS office. At 65+ years old, one of the helpers is pretty agile!
Drywall Up
Rough is almost done as sheet rock and backer board are nailed in
Rough of double shower looking towards garage
Rough of double shower looking towards garage
Double Vanity Rough
Finally got the custom double cabinet to fit. 10 drawers total. A whole day was spent adjusting the drawers to fit perfectly.
home remodeling
Two new vents installed along the side of the house

Finished Luxury Master Bathroom

After five months (three months LONGER than expected), the master bathroom finally passed plumbing, electrical, and final building inspection on June 30, 2015!

If I were to build a new luxury master bathroom in 2023, it would probably take 35% longer due to high demand and backup at the Department Of Building Inspection.

Luxury Master Bathroom
Facing the translucent door entrance for more light
Waterfall faucets and a massive mirror that was installed twice because the first one cracked
Toto Washlet in luxury master bathroom is a must
The Toto Washlet is incredible. Multiple water spray settings and heated seat.
Porcelain wood-looking tile
Spanish porcelain tile
Double Rain Showers
Double rain shower with extra shower head. White pebble floor.
Custom porcelain tile shower bench
Shower bench made of porcelain tile
Custom Jacuzzi Tub
The new Financial Samurai office! 10 jets and in-line heater to keep the water always warm
Custom Closet in master bathroom
Custom closet with double laundry pullout drawer

The Finest Custom Finishing In My New Master Bathroom

Not bad huh? I literally created everything I wanted in a master bathroom: double wide rain showers, deep soaking jacuzzi for two, a private toilet stall with Toto washlet/bidet that has a seat warmer, double vanity, and a custom closet with a pull out shelve for double laundry baskets. Obviously you need that right?

I used Spanish porcelain tiles for the floors that look like wood, and similar color porcelain tiles with a different pattern for the wall to create the spa-like feeling at a luxury resort I visited. The main landing area is large enough to put a queen size bed if I suddenly have massive amounts of children.

All recessed lights are dimable in order to create different moods. I chose translucent doors to bring in more natural light. The translucent window over the hot tub was strategically positioned for ventilation and natural light as well. The bathroom has two electrical vents, one in the main area with a heater and one in the toilet stall.

It was an incredible amount of fun coming up with the design and picking out the fixtures. If you're a creative person, home remodeling can be quite a rewarding experience as you go from concept to finished product.

Now on to the cost of construction. Will I stay within my mental budget of $57,000 given my contractor went over by 90 days? Let's see!

The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom

At 170 square feet, the master bathroom is relatively large. Most master bathrooms I see are under 120 square feet. Most master bathrooms don't have tile all the way up to 9 foot ceilings either.

Since it cost the same to install a $500 shower head vs a $100 shower head, I decided to get the best finishes possible. The custom cabinetry for the double vanity and closet took a lot more time than expected.

Total Cost Of Luxury master Bathroom Expansion Spreadsheet

As you can see from the meticulous spreadsheet, I actually stayed within budget with a total cost of $55,214.32! Add up all the line items, not just the line items in bold to get to $55,214.32.

Bathroom Could Have Cost Even More

With such a long delay in construction, I thought surely I'd be on the hook for more. In fact, my contractor used the classic line that all contractors use, “If I start calculating how much money I've lost on your project…….” to try and guilt me into paying more. Don't fall for this line folks. Stand strong!

I had no sympathy because he and his crew hardly did any work for the entire 3.5 weeks I was in Asia. Instead, the contractor let slip one day that he ended up building a whole restaurant during the time he was supposed to build my bathroom, even though he told me he had no other projects he was working on. WTF. He used the excuse that his helpers were injured as the reason why they didn't work. What was daily work became visiting once a week for a couple hours at a time.

The good thing about my contractor is that he didn't argue when I told him we would be sticking to the budget in the contract. He knows that I've got other potential projects for him to do, like building a couple decks, and maybe expanding my rental house, so he has to stay relatively honest. Dangling future projects is one of the best ways to keep a contractor from taking advantage of you.

Extra Necessities For The Luxury Master Bathroom

There are two items I didn't highlight in my main spreadsheet, but that are in my “Side Projects” tab I should mention. The first is spending $2,150 to upgrade my main water line from the street to a 1.5 inch pipe from 3/4 inches given my new bathroom has so many more pipes. A 1.5 inch pipe is there so I can build another full bathroom in the future if I'm crazy. Might as well prep the house for expansion potential.

I also spent $1,050 to create a new drain in my garage while they were already trenching. The drain is there in case the washer pipes burst. Or if any of the bathroom pipes burst and leaks into the garage. If I add these two costs together, then my total bathroom cost is roughly $58,414.32. This is $1,414.32 over my mental budget of $57,000.

Related: Why Home Remodeling Always Takes Longer And Costs More Than Expected

Value Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Spending $58,414 on a new master bathroom might sound ridiculous to you. However, for me, I think it's one of the greatest values ever. In comparison, $58,000 is the out-the-door cost of a BMW 3.35 series or an Audi A4 3.0 sedan. Neither of which bring me any value.

Although, if I try and think how many awesome vacations for two $58,000 could buy, then the bathroom seems more expensive. But, by building this bathroom and creating an extra 140 square feet of living space, I think I've easily created an extra $120,000 in value to the house.

How Much The Luxury Master Bathroom Added To Value Of The House

I've had three realtors come by the house since the bathroom construction was finished. One of their goals was to guesstimate how much such a bathroom construction would cost. One said $90,000. The other two said “around $100,000.”

I then had a construction foreman come over to install a new vanity and sink in my remodeled upstairs bathroom. He said his construction company would charge $70,000 for just the rough. Rough does not include plumbing, electrical, permits, and finished materials. He estimated $150,000 – $170,000 all-in!

Although my builders were slow, they were a good deal in expensive San Francisco.

How much you spend on a construction project largely depends on how much your home is worth. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 5% of the market value of your house on a master bathroom remodel. For example, if you have a $300,000 house, spend $15,000 on a master bathroom. If you have a $2 million house, spend $100,000 on a master bathroom max.

You want to spend within the scope of your neighborhood. Building the fanciest home on the block doesn't bring the best financial return if you ever sell.

Emotional Cost To Constructing A Luxury Master Bathroom

Final Inspection Sign Off For Plumbing, Electrical, and Building

If you've ever taught a loved one how to drive stick shift, take that feeling and multiply it by three to get an idea of the stress involved in building or remodeling anything in your home!

For some reason, contractors will seldom come on time, do things wrong, and ask you for more money. You're constantly feeling cheated, unless you really know your stuff. The process always costs more and takes longer than expected! Even if you are rich enough to hire a project manager to deal with the contractor and sub-contractors, you will still run into a lot of headaches.

If you're in a relationship where your finances are not rock solid, your relationship will be severely tested. Your frustrations will spill over to the ones you love the most. There's nothing worse than feeling like you are being taken advantage of. Contractors can and will hold you hostage.

Please give your loved ones multiple “free passes” to vent. All that anger will pass once you get your project approved!

Invest In Real Estate More Strategically

If you don't want to build a new luxury master bathroom to add value, then don't. Instead, invest in real estate through Fundrise, one of the largest real estate crowdsourcing companies today. Fundrise manages over $3.5 billion and has over 400,000 investors. It mainly invests in the Sunbelt region where residential and industrial properties are cheaper, with higher yields.

Real estate is a key component of a diversified portfolio. Real estate crowdsourcing allows you to be more flexible in your real estate investments by investing beyond just where you live for the best returns possible. For example, cap rates are around 3% in San Francisco and New York City. But cap rates are over 10% in the Midwest if you're looking for strictly investing income returns.

Sign up and take a look. It's free to explore. I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding in the heartland. Valuations are cheaper and yields are higher.

Fundrise Due Diligence Funnel
Less than 5% of the real estate deals shown gets through the Fundrise funnel

Another private real estate platform to consider is CrowdStreet. Crowdstreet is a marketplace that mainly sources individual commercial real estate deals from various sponsors around the country. This way, you have more customization to build your own select private real estate portfolio.

However, you must diversify your portfolio and do your due diligence on all the sponsors. Look up their track record, their management, and whether they have had any blowups before. Although CrowdStreet screens the deals, you have to do your screening as well.

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76 thoughts on “The True Cost Of Building A Luxury Master Bathroom”

  1. I was very excited to study your spreadsheet only to find out the total did not match up 15k plus 8k equals 23k, your bath Reno was 53k, were are the detail records for the missing 30k, it might make your article more interesting and accurate if you provided ALL the data.otherwise enjoyed your article.

  2. Did something quite similar here in NY in the same time frame, taking a big chunk of an adjacent spare bedroom to double the bathroom size. A lot of nice tile, but maybe not as nice and not quite so much of it (we do plan to sell when we retire in less than a decade). No concrete pad, no bidet/toilet thing, linen closet is in the hall outside so that wasn’t a part of it, and got it for just a shade over 30k. It probably didn’t hurt that the contractor was a close relative of a good friend.

    With heated under tile floor (my toes thank me so much when I walk in barefoot in the winter), and heated towel racks, really didn’t “feel” the need for a heated toilet seat.

    One of those Kohler Numi toilets would have been nice, but I really didn’t want to pay 9k for a toilet that occasionally needs to be rebooted.

    The jetted tub, big enough for two (or just me, really stretched out), with the inline heater to keep the water hot, is something I will never, ever, regret.

  3. The author says “I find no joy in spending money on fancy cars or designer labels. In fact, I feel stupid whenever I purchase an item with high profit margins… I’d much rather spend money on experiences.” And in the next breath he says “We spend roughly half our lives in our house. Why shouldn’t we buy the best?” I don’t know, but the “experience” of spending 3 hours a day on Los Angeles freeways is made IMMENSELY more pleasant in an S Class Mercedes than in a Chevy Volt (it would be even better to not have to drive at all, but.). And, although hardly the most expensive, a pair of Allan Edmonds cap toes will not only far outlast (by YEARS) a pair of oxfords from Kohl’s, but feel WONDERFUL on your feet. Now, if you’re talking about blowing money on some V-12 Italian Viagramobile that I can’t even get INTO, I agree with him 100%!

  4. Ruth R. Nero

    This is a very nice article. posting every detail of the remodeling job and including the cost computation and the final cost of the job. well done!

  5. Your bathroom turned out stunning! WOW! Congrats on staying under budget and even bigger congrats on surviving the stress. I hope that you are enjoying the fruits of your perseverance :).

    I just reno’d my kitchen and first floor flooring and I can totally relate to
    “contractors will seldom come on time, do things wrong, and ask you for more money. You’re constantly feeling cheated, unless you really know your stuff.” I researched this project for a whole year before pulling the trigger so I did know my stuff, and yet I STILLfelt that way lol. My complaint centers around a sub who lied about his capabilities–ugh–lesson learned.

    Beautiful wood look tile you used–I also did grey wood look tile on my entire first floor.

    Are you going to be doing your kitchen too? If so I’d love to hear about your plans!!!

    1. Thanks K! I’ve actually done my kitchen already too, but haven’t written a post about it. Opened it up after 65 years of being untouched!

      Nice job with your remodel too. It’s really the stress that’s the killer.

      1. Please write about the kitchen!!!

        And what about furniture? What style did you furnish your house in?

  6. How long did you have to wait for your permits to be approved? Since you changed the exterior envelope, you had to notify your neighbors, did any of them object?

    If you house is over 50 years old, you might have to go to the Historical Preservation review, did you end up doing that?

    I am expanding a house in Glen Park and it has already taken 12 months in planning and we aren’t even close to getting our permit yet. Our project is much more extensive than yours though.

    1. I didn’t change the envelope. I just reclaimed 135 sqft of my garage and turned it into a bigger bathroom.

      To do an extension and deck would probably take 7-9 months to get approved, which I’m happy to wait and save money for and have more peace and quiet,

      How much are you spending on permits, plans, and the final build?

      I just had a contractor come last week and guess the bathroom I built would have cost me $150,000 – $170,000 if I went with them!

      Be diligent on price as there is a lot of leeway!

      Glen Park is hot!

      1. NoeValleyJim

        We have been waiting on planning for a year now and now have to do a Historical Review, for an extra $3500 and then resubmit. Our architect expects another six months after that.

        His estimate for the whole job is $800,000 and that includes a new foundation to raise it up and 1500 extra square feet total.

        We are thinking of waiting until things cool off to do the work though, it is too expensive and too hard to get a good GC right now.

  7. Hi Sam,

    Congrats, the bathroom turned out great. Thanks for sharing the cost breakdown. Your contractor was cheap! But yeah, dealing with contractors can be very frustrating especially if they don’t charge an arm and a leg.

    BTW, did you use a designer or who did your construction and permit drawings, spec finishes & fixtures? I’m a professional Interior Architect + Interior Designer based in San Francisco, CA and doing mostly residential remodels for clients (if anybody on here has a need). I also own a small investment property and I am interested in expanding my portfolio. I signed up for your newsletter and have found your info extremely insightful.

    Thank you!

  8. Greg Reardon

    Did the square footage of your home actually increase or just the size of your bathroom… did you add 140 square feet to your home or did you just increase the bathroom size which now just takes up other square footage of a different area.
    Because, if you didnt add square footage to the home then did your value actually increase by ~$120K ($850 x 140)?
    Thanks for the insightful article.


    1. The latter. I converted unlivable space to livable space that gets counted during a sale or purchase while still keeping one car garage.

      The next project might be a 700 sqft expansion of new livable space where my back patio is.

      I’m absolutely positive the 140sqft in new livable space has created ~$120,000 in value. But, I hope it doesn’t and it won’t for lower property tax purposes. I don’t plan to sell for 10 years, if ever.

  9. Great post, and walk-through of not only the before and after but the steps, thought process, and emotional side of remodeling as well.

    That Jacuzzi is one heck of an office. Well done!

    Also, interesting how the guy managed to finish a restaurant during that time, when supposedly not doing anything else. At least the finished product turned out really well.

    Speaking of remodeling, I have a friend (normally a true cheapskate) whose wife pushed him into doing a $100,000+ kitchen remodel. This in a 3,000 square foot house in a nice but not extravagant suburb. Curious if you think that’s reasonable for a very nice kitchen, or ridiculously expensive as I think it is.

  10. Pingback: What’s It Like Driving For Uber? Mixed Emotions Of Hope And Sadness | Financial Samurai

  11. Sorry about my earlier snarky comment. In all seriousness, you made a great renovation. We just totally re-did our kitchen, putting in a new dishwasher where before none was in place, and replacing the sink and all the cabinets as the earlier ones had mold from a major prior water leak. The new kitchen looks great for a price tag of $20K USD. Next up is replacing all the old windows with modern double insulated German design ones. Price tag is $15K USD. These will both add to our quality of life in the building, not sure how much it will improve the resale value. I guess wait and see for that.


      1. It was the one posted at the top of this thread, about a new FS metric talking about the payback of a new bathroom expressed as something like cost per flush (CPF) or cost per bath (CPB).


        1. Ah, gotcha.

          That is actually something I did when I bought a new 50″ TV 10 years ago. I got the cost of watching a movie for two and divided by the cost of the TV to determine my break even point!

          I assign a $30/hour cost for taking a jet bath. Hence, I need to take 1,933 baths to break even! If I take one bath a day for an hour, it will take 5.3 years to break even.

          Since my baths often last two hours, I should break even after 3 years!

  12. I think you have not shown the City permit costs in your illustration.Heard of strict CA permit process, I think its a bit difficult process but its worth considering the Appreciation & value of the property you get compared to depreciation any car!

      1. Oh ok…Was it stage by stage permit process? I heard you will have to do basic structure, City officials take their own time to inspect & give their nod, then again plumbing, wait for city officials etc..? How many times it took for city officials for permit during the entire process?

  13. Great article! I feel a certain way about my kitchen and am DYING to make it…simply better. It’s old, the vents are useless and the appliances suck. I am going as efficient as possible as I see my current place becoming my rental property within the next 10 years. You mentioned as a formula for a bathroom addition at 5% of the value. What metric would you apply to a kitchen reno? I have a mental picture of what I want to spend, but I would be curious about your thoughts.

  14. We had a master bath like your “before” pics. After living with it for three years, we tore out the whole thing like you did. It took 18 months because I did all the work myself including:
    – moved a wall to vastly expand the bathroom space
    – add a window
    – special ordered Italian tile on floor and walls
    – fully enclosed steam shower with three independent shower heads
    – Two person jetted tub with in-line heater (my wife stopped using the hot tub)
    – built in shelving
    – double sink vanity
    – dimmable lighting and added electrical outlets (GFCI of course)
    And next to it a walk-in closet. Took a long time but I did the whole thing with high end fixtures and finishes for about $20K!

    1. Not bad! How much is your house worth?

      Unless you are a licensed electrician in SF, they won’t sign off on it. Where are you located and did you have problems with inspection?

      I’m afraid I would do it all wrong and fail inspection. Instead, I spent the time making the $58,000 after tax I knew how during the period instead.

      1. House is worth about $600K. The city inspectors have to sign off on it if it meets code and is done by either a licensed electrician or the homeowner. I grew up with my folks running a contracting biz so I know my stuff (even tho my career has been in IT mgmt and such). Don’t let the contractors tell you otherwise!

        1. …and I take your point about earning the money. I did it in my spare time, for fun and it was! Nothing like building something with the very best available materials to bring simple joy.

          PS I’m in suburban Denver.

          1. Interesting. He was wrong. Their own website says:
            “Homeowners may apply for and obtain permits for work on an owner-occupied single family dwelling. When you need a permit, you can pick up an application at 1660 Mission Street or you may call (415) 558-6088 and we will be happy to mail one to you.
            When applying for an electrical or plumbing permit, you may need to demonstrate to the respective division that you have an adequate understanding of the subject in order to perform the work according to applicable codes.”

            So a homeowner can pull their own permit and do the work themselves. A lot of inspectors don’t like doing inspections on homeowner work because there do tend to be more errors requiring them to write up the problems and then return visits for reinspections. But, it is your right as an owner to do your own work.

            1. We can pull the permit, but they are notorious for not approving the work if you aren’t licensed and can’t answer some of their many questions.

              How much did your permits cost?

  15. Nice office. ;-)

    Btw, did you look into the cost of adding radiant heating to the bathroom flooring? Was wondering how much that would cost. Who doesn’t like a warm floor in the winter?

    1. B/c the bathroom is on the ground floor, it would require breaking too much concrete and cost too much extra $$$ I think.

      There’s a nice ceiling heater/vent. And it’s not that cold in SF during the winter!

  16. Bryan@Just One More Year

    Wow – that bathroom project really turned out well. That was an added benefit by missing 3 1/2 weeks of the construction.

    We have a kitchen remodel ahead of us to consider. Our foot print will probably be increased by about 75 to 100 SQ and will allow us to re-align most of the flow and layout. In our area we are looking at about $35k – $50k for the total project.

    1. I guess in the end, taking longer to do things right is better. But, during the process, my contractor was so inefficient. It was a joke, really. If I ran my business like that, I would surely fail.

      Good luck on your project! Where are you located?

  17. A year after graduating from college, I bought a 3700 square feet duplex/triplex range. So it’s a spread out enough where I can still have privacy. Tenants would pay for everything, and in still get to live in the main part of the house. Same amount as I would pay my dad while I was in college, but upgraded house, where I have my own 3 beds, 2 baths. Rent out 3 beds and 3 bath portion. I often joke my master bedroom is bigger than a 2 bedroom condo in Manhattan. It’s true!

    The key is don’t live in a high cost living area, where every inch of land cost and arm and a leg. :)

    1. If having a big house is important to you, then you should not live in a high cost area, this is true. There are more opportunities and much higher salaries in high cost areas though, and if you can live frugally you can save much more that way.

  18. Wonderful bathroom! I do love the look of waterfall fixtures. The article did bring two snarky thoughts to mind:

    First, I see from your first picture that your contractor uses the wonderful 2×6 style of scaffolding! I saw my in-law’s neighbor’s house (in Houston) go up entirely using boards slung between ladders. Except for one day, suddenly there were real scaffolds on the house. Of course, this was “surprise inspection” day. The next day, those expensive scaffolds were back at the equipment rental place.

    Next, I feel so sorry for you to have that great bathroom in the middle of the California drought! Enjoy it before your water is turned off!

    OK, now to represent the Midwest viewpoint again: the math is entirely different if your neighborhood is $120 / square foot. (and this has appreciated by 50% since I bought the house–a very nice, pretty big place) You would be losing 50%! I think it’s these extreme differences that make national magazine articles about home improvement into useless, averaged rubbish, claiming that good returns are 95% at best. Your results may vary–widely! It also makes us scoff at the supposed value increases shown on home improvement shows: “they must have not included labor!” “There’s some trick!”

    We just have to do things out of love; or, more cerebrally, an expectation of enjoyment and utility for the time we will spend in the house.

  19. Love your blog. This is my first comment.
    Great design. Heated anything in a bathroom is the best money you can spend. These construction cost differences between areas amaze me especially materials and permits! I am shocked when I hear renovation costs in NYC, LA, SF etc. In Ohio I was able to do an addition (325 SF) for 47k. Now I did do a lot of the work myself. New kitchen & first floor laundry. As for time, I’d be surprised if anyone can find a small contractor that ever gets a job done on time. If they get a call from their buddy and can do a small job that day and get cash they are not showing up on your project. My project took 6 months from ground breaking to occupancy.
    Cost – I always put a huge contingency line item in my budget especially when remodeling. You never know what is going to be behind the walls or what kind of mood the inspector will be in. If possible I always try and buy the materials for contractors to install to save on markups. Also don’t wait for the contractor to bring up delays, get a schedule from them and monitor it. If it’s taking longer than expected have a talk about it. Like you say don’t let them hold you hostage. Don’t fall for the pay a bunch of money upfront. I know way too many people that have been in small claims court trying to get deposits back.

    1. I guess it all depends on what’s built in the space. A 300 sqft room is different from a 300sqft kitchen or bathroom. Well done being so handy!

      I’m thoroughly incompetent in doing my own remodeling. If I owned a really inexpensive house, probably. But this house takes up decent amount of my net worth.

      How much is your house in Ohio? The survey questions try to keep things in perspective.

      1. My house is worth around 360k or $135 SF. I understand labor is more expensive in high cola cities but some numbers just astonish me. And regarding permits and fees, the cities’ plans examiners and inspectors must do really well or the city sees it as an easy revenue stream.

        You can see pictures of the addition on my houzz page:

  20. Wow, that’s a fantastic master bath. I can’t let Mrs. RB40 see this post. Our bathrooms are tiny contractor grade bathrooms… Once we move into our duplex, I would feel more liberal about upgrading. We’ll do the basement first, though.

  21. Looks great! I recently undertook a shockingly similar project but didn’t have to pay for labor except for drywall finishing and the electrician, ball park cost was ~10-12k. I also was able to add another window on the view facing side of my house, which is a cool added bonus both for views and for afternoon breezes.

    It’s weird now sometimes I’ll be staying at a 4 or 5 star hotel missing my bathroom at home.

    Money and time well spent

    1. Nice work! How long did it take you?

      The inspectors here in SF at least won’t sign off on any electrical work (they come 3X) if a licensed electrician doesn’t do the work.

      1. It was mostly complete in around a month. The few finishing exterior touches took a bit longer. The secret to this is having a very talented father-in-law who was willing to work 12+ hour days, 6 days/week for a month! My meager contributions paled by comparison. I was happy to have my evenings and weekends back though.

  22. Adam @

    Man, that bathroom looks amazing. I would love to update our old 1960’s one to that level, but it’s not in the budget cards at the moment.

  23. That’s one insanely awesome bathroom. Just bought my home 2 years ago. Only has one tiny awkward bathroom. It will be updated in a couple years. First the downstairs then kitchen. Baby steps.

    I agree, purchasing anything that has a short life bothers me. the shorter it is, the more it bothers me. That bathroom will last decades while looking great and adds huge value to the home that wont soon diminish. That car starts looking old by 5 years and seems ancient after 10 with most of its original value gone at 15 years.

    1. Baby steps is right, otherwise, you might get into a lot of fights with your partner, especially if you are living through the remodel.

      I plan to do two decks and sliding doors next at the end of the year or early next year. Will give time to save some money and recharge.

  24. “I had no sympathy because he and his crew hardly did any work for the entire 3.5 weeks I was in Asia. Instead, the contractor let slip one day that he ended up building a whole restaurant during the time he was supposed to build my bathroom, even though he told me he had no other projects he was working on. WTF. He used the excuse that his helpers were injured as the reason why they didn’t work. What was daily work became visiting once a week for a couple hours at a time.”

    It looks like nobody is ever on schedule with construction projects. Did you GC this yourself or did you hire one and put a contract into place? I’ve noticed that adding a liquidated damage clause helps tremendously in pressuring the contractor to finishing closer on time.

    1. I did the GC myself. I’ve build a bathroom before in my old house and have gone through the permit process, so I figure I’d just do it again since I knew what to expect.

      Because I finished the upstairs, I could live in the upstairs while they worked on the downstairs. My other house had all the main bedrooms upstairs, and I was building a bathroom upstairs, so it wasn’t ideal. But, that bathroom construction only took three months.

  25. It looks fantastic, what a huge improvement. To respond to a couple of the points above, if my wife and I were looking at new houses we would not even have considered your house previously, because of the tiny master bathroom. The new bathroom becomes a major selling point. So I can certainly see how it could have a significant impact on the value of the house.

    My dad always told me that it was important to have rooms in the house that appealed to both the husband and the wife looking at buying (assuming it’s a couple shopping..). To that end when building our house we made sure to pay special attention to the kitchen, laundry, and master bath, and to the garage/shop area. If the wife falls in love with the kitchen and the husband falls in love with the garage, you’ve greatly increased the odds of getting an offer. And as a bonus, we get to use those nice spaces while we live there!

    One correction: A Chevy Suburban is 19 feet long. I built my garage 30 feet deep to comfortably house a crew-cab pickup (~23 feet long).

    1. Dang, 19 feet long? Hard to park in SF or other cities!

      I always look for property with expansion potential or really ugly things that can be fixed with some elbow grease. Once you do the work and see things down to the studs, the worse a house looks, the better if the price is significantly discounted b/c you get more bang for your buck with any improvement.

      For example, remodeling an untouched house of 60 years provides more bang than updating a 20 year old house.

      With dual shower heads, double vanity, and dual laundry baskets, hopefully I’ve got the husband and wife covered for this bathroom!

  26. Great taste! I LOVE how it turned out! Extra points on the Toto toilet; I LOVE those things! Self warming seats….ooo la la! The funny thing is, when you’re used to them, you use a regular one and you are sorely disappointed by the lack of warmth, lack of self flushing ability, etc

  27. Wow those are some amazing pics! It really does take an army to build a bathroom like that. I think you made the right move to put money you were thinking to allocate to an expensive car into your home instead. Remodeling can be crazy stressful and contractors are never easy to deal with, especially the longer a project takes to complete. Congrats on completing it!

  28. Great post. Would you be able to post a layout showing before and after the remodel? Trying to picture how you expanded the old bathroom into the new master bathroom.

  29. Sam,

    Congrats on the finishing of your bathroom and thanks for the article.

    I am impressed and curious at how you arrived at “increasing the value of your house by 120k”. If this is the case, you have achieved a 100% ROI which is very exciting. Have you considered making this a hobby/side business of remodeling either your own or other people’s house’s bathrooms?

    Also, what do you think about the average ROI on remodeling a non-master bathroom and finishing or remodeling a basement? That would be very informative.

    Thanks again for the article and have a good day,

    1. Hi Erik,

      It’s all about EXPANDING livable space. My old bathroom was 36 square feet. I knocked down all the walls and expanded the bathroom to be ~170 square feet. 170 – 36 = 134 square feet of extra living space with high end finishes vs. the 1950s bathroom.

      When you buy or sell a property, one of the most common metrics is figuring out price per square feet. You look at what comps sold for and get a rough estimate.

      Comps in my neighborhood are at roughly $850/square feet e.g. 1,500 sqft house = $1,275,000. Simply take 134 square feet of expanded space X $850 = $113,900.

      Don’t confuse remodeling with expansion! Always buy a home with expansion potential to create value.

      For more info, read these posts:
      The Best Way To Make Money In Real Estate: Expand
      Fixing And Flipping Homes
      Should I Buy A Fixer-Upper?
      Invest In Real Estate For Lifestyle First

  30. Well, it’s your money. Personally I don’t need a heated toilet seat or lights for different moods. But I completely agree that “contractors will seldom come on time, do things wrong, and ask you for more money. You’re constantly feeling cheated.” (Obviously you intended the “seldom” to apply to only the first clause in that series.) Contractors will always low-bid on price so they get the job; then they stick you for more and more money as the job goes on. I once had my place painted by a crooked painter who gave me a good estimate and then came in with a much higher bill because “materials [like paint] are always extra.” Now I’ll know.

    The one thing I could suggest is keeping some of those extra tiles you returned. Tiles can crack or otherwise become damaged, and then when you try to buy new ones you find your style has been discontinued. When I had my bathroom done (for a lot less than yours), I kept about a dozen tiles of each type I used (and yes, in one case I needed a tile replaced).

  31. Now that is what a master bathroom should look like. Well done all around. You mentioned spending no more than 5% on a bathroom remodel. Do you have any type of guidelines for kitchens, another room that tends to get some pretty high end upgrades?

  32. Hi Sam,

    I’m holding my breath looking for a cool FS metric on this like CPF (cost per flush)…


  33. Good stuff, Sam. I love home renovation. I currently have my living room torn up, where I am putting down new Hickory hardwood. Unfortunately, I’ll never get to enjoy it, as we close on a new house 2 weeks from today. Our current house should go on the market shortly after we move out.

    Over the course of 10 years, I have completely refinished the basement (new electrical, lighting, insulation, storage, and drywall), replaced all windows, ripped out a 1960’s sliding patio door and replaced it with a modern french door, built a deck, landscaped the yard with a custom curved raised planter (stone), renovated two bathrooms, expanded a closet, added a pull-down attic hatch, attic storage, and attic insulation.

    I did everything myself. Yay for sweat equity, and on to a new project. We’re upsizing from our current 1800 sq ft 3 bedroom townhouse to a 4200 sq ft 5 bedroom single family home. It has a huge, unfinished basement, original windows from 1968, and .63 acres of grass with no landscaping. That should keep me busy for a while.

    In case you’re curious, all of this is in Northern Virginia (Vienna)

    1. Oh wow! You did that all yourself? I’m afraid to do anything more than painting because I might do it wrong, and also fail inspection, as well as potentially hurt my back. That would really piss me off b/c I play so much tennis.

      Did you ever do anything wrong and have to spend time redoing it? I can imagine me doing the tile work wrong and having to rip out everything!

      Vienna is a GREAT neighborhood. That house is huge! How is the property demand out there? My family used to have a house in McLean, and I used to go to this late night diner in Vienna as a high schooler.

  34. Ali @ Anything You Want

    Wow – the bathroom turned out great! I totally agree with investing in your home. I have lots of plans for my dream bathroom when I buy a long-term home!

    As far as keeping contractors honest, on time and on budget, I think the key is thinking through all of the details up front. If you’ve already negotiated something into a contract, it is possible to enforce the contract. If something comes up along the way, you’re stuck with that contractor (mots likely) and therefore they can charge whatever they want (no competition). So avoid the temptation to make changes!

  35. Thanks for sharing those experiences! It most valuable to see what is really behind those projects, especially with real world numbers. I really appreciate that!

    The new bathrooms looks amazing, I better do not show that to my wife, she will cry on me to change our tiny shower, too! :D

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