When we bought our house in 2015 it had one bathroom for our 4br unit. In 2016 I added a bathroom upstairs and then in 2019 I gut-renovated the existing one downstairs. I was thinking back over these, and I was curious: how did my costs compare on the two projects?

In both cases I acted as my own general contractor, hiring people for the plumbing and electrical but otherwise doing the work myself (with friends and family helping). First, the costs:

Upstairs (2016) Downstairs (2019)
Plumber $6,100 $5,826
Electrician $1,267 $2,651
Fixtures $823 $1,750
Materials $861 $1,733
Engineer n/a $1,550
Plasterer $1,000 n/a
Roofer $700 n/a
Window n/a $428
Permits $247 $103
Other $658 $381
Total $11,656 $14,422


Upstairs (2016)


Downstairs (2019)

Even though the costs only differ by ~25% there were a lot of differences between the projects:

  • Upstairs the framing was in fine shape, downstairs it was in terrible shape (a load bearing wall had gone missing...) and I needed to hire a structural engineer and do serious framing work.

  • Upstairs I need a new roof vent, downstairs we could hook into the existing one.

  • Upstairs the plumber ran a new drain down to the basement, upstairs they could use the existing one. Except the existing one needed to be moved to make room for the framing work, so as part of the project the removed our original cast iron stack and replaced it with a PVC one.

  • Upstairs I hired someone to do the drywall finishing; downstairs I did it myself (and you can tell...)

  • Downstairs we added a window, and I hired someone for the exterior work.

  • Both floors were sheet vinyl inside, but the downstairs work also included a hardwood floor section outside.

  • Upstairs we went with a relatively cheap modular shower; downstairs we did a tub and a reasonably nice surround (partly tile, which Julia did, and partly modular).

  • I also haven't included the cost to clean up the mercury we found under the floor during the first project.

  • Upstairs is about 50sqft, downstairs 100sqft. This is a case where per-sqft pricing isn't going to be very useful, though, because most of the costs weren't proportional to size.

One thing I'm curious about is how much we saved by doing much of the work ourselves. Looking at estimates I've seen for other work, I think we might have paid $20k for the first project and $30k (up from a $20k initial estimate once the framing issue was discovered) for the second? I enjoyed both projects, but the amount of time they took up meant Julia had to do a lot more solo childcare than she'd have preferred, and the need to move quickly meant I enjoyed them less than I would have a project that I could take my time on. I'm still doing smaller house projects, but generally planning to fully contract out large ones at this point.

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