Reader Bathroom: A New Shower and a Spa Look for $6,100 in Iowa

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This series profiles bathroom remodels shared by homeowners on Houzz.

Bathroom renovations are one of the more popular home remodeling projects in the U.S., with the price tag covering a huge range. A simpler update involving new paint, tile and fixtures may cost far less than a full renovation where plumbing is added or moved. Costs depend not only on the work that is done, but also on the location and cost of labor and materials for that area. To get a snapshot of projects and costs, we asked Houzz readers to share their renovation stories and cost breakdowns. Here, we profile a $6,140 renovation of a farmhouse bathroom in rural Iowa.

Reader Bathroom 1: A New Shower And A Spa Look For $6,100 in Iowa

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: Beth Cody, husband Brian Hayes, and children Lily Hayes, 13, and Robbie Hayes, 11. Also Tigger and Little Kitty the cats, Daisy the dog, about a dozen chickens, and one sheep
Location: Kalona, Iowa
Size: 80 square feet (7.4 square meters)
Total cost: $6,140
Construction time: Two months for original remodel; two weeks for recent update, eight years later

Before Photo

Reader Bathroom 1

Before Photo

Reader Bathroom 1

BEFORE: When Cody, Hayes and their two children moved into their home in 2008, the upstairs bathroom was in dire need of an update. The farmhouse had been built in 1924, and Cody believes that the original owners used this space as a sewing room before it was later converted to a bathroom. For some reason that Cody finds inexplicable, the light switches for the room were located in the hallway. An unfavorite feature: the matching blue toilet and sink.

Reader Bathroom 1

AFTER (PHASE 1): Cody and Hayes remodeled the bathroom when they moved into the house eight years ago. Their handyman enlarged the shower, bumping it out into a hall closet to gain room. They had it tiled in white, using subway tiles on the walls and hexagonal tiles on the floor. They also added plumbing, running it below the floor so that the step-up to the shower space could be eliminated.

The couple replaced the vanity and blue sink with a pedestal sink from Kohler.

Reader Bathroom 1

They removed the blue toilet and replaced it with a vintage-style white toilet, also from Kohler. The homeowners had the light switches removed from the hallway and moved inside the bathroom. They added new sconce fixtures and a wall-mounted medicine cabinet.

The owners had the rustic barn-style paneling replaced with white beadboard. Finally, they swapped out a rustic corner storage unit with a tall white cabinet unit.

Reader Bathroom 1

AFTER: In February, the homeowners embarked on the second phase of the renovation to freshen up worn aspects of the renovated bathroom. The original wood floor had suffered water damage over the years, so Cody painted it with a glossy white porch paint. The original dark window and doors had also been damaged by decades of moisture, so Cody used a glossy cream-white paint to give them a fresh look. She also touched up the beadboard paneling and baseboards with the same paint.

“I worried about painting over original wood, but as Christopher Lowell used to chant: ‘Just because it’s wood doesn’t mean it’s good,’” Cody says.

The finishing touches include a white paint for the walls — one with a blue undertone that contrasts with the creamy white of the beadboard — and fun new accessories from big-box stores. Cody added new white pots for plants, plus a few botanical prints she found online. She printed the botanical images on a color printer at a local copy store and displayed them in frames she had on hand and spray-painted white.

Reader Bathroom 1

The white cotton lace curtains were in the home when the family moved in. Cody simply washed and ironed them.

Uh-oh moment: “We discovered that there are literally no right angles or level surfaces in our 1924 Arts and Crafts farmhouse,” Cody says. “Is it better to be level or look level? It depends on what you’re referring to, and if it has to hold water.”

That’s interesting: “I do have to use a hand vac to clean the floor of cat fur and long hairs from two females, but I expected this, and it’s not too bad,” Cody says. “Before, I often would only clean the floor before people were visiting, or when I could see signs of dirt/hair building up, but I realize now that the dark floor did a really good job hiding these, and I feel gross just thinking about how disgusting my floor must have been before. White floors can be a good thing!”

Reader Bathroom 1

The large corner storage unit had always looked a bit cheap to Cody, so in the most recent refresh, she added beadboard-patterned wallpaper to create a more upscale look.

Lessons learned: “Hire local people from smaller towns. They charge less, and are usually willing and able to come up with creative ways to save you money,” Cody says.

Walls moved: Yes
Plumbing moved: Yes
Professionals hired: Handyman Mark Hartstack, a local retired plumber and local electricians
Splurges: Kohler fixtures
Savings: The owners painted themselves, purchased the botanical prints for just $3, and used wallpaper to create a beadboard look on the storage cabinet.

Cost breakdown
Shower, including tile: $1,500
Cabinetry: $250
New sink and toilet: $700
Tile: Included in shower cost
Lighting: $300
Accessories and decor: $300
Paint: About $90
Plumbing: $1,000
Labor: $2,000
Total: $6,140

Up next: A DIY Reno for $1,800 in North Carolina