Bathrooms are where we go to pamper ourselves. Consumer Reports offers this advice on how to renovate yours.


With bathroom renovations, the biggest costs come when you relocate important fixtures. Moving toilets, sinks and showers requires that workers tear out subfloors and walls to access pipes. “Moving the toilet just 1 foot can cost $1,000,” says Robert Degni, a contractor in New York City.

If you need only a slight shift — because, say, you’re hoping to squeeze in a double vanity — Degni suggests using an offset flange, a $10 fix that allows you to move the toilet a few precious inches in any direction without extensive plumbing work.

One extravagant addition that doesn’t have to break the bank? Heated floors. Just make this call early and know that it might affect your flooring options. Installing electric radiant-heat mats, rather than hydronic (water-filled) lines, can save up to $8,000. But unlike most hydronic systems, underfloor mats aren’t compatible with all solid hardwood.

Adding radiant electric heat costs roughly $11 per square foot of open flooring. Plan on an hour of labor for an electrician to connect the mats and thermostat to a circuit.

• Materials

Before you begin shopping for tile, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the lingo you’ll find on the packaging labels. Make sure any tile you’re considering for flooring is available in grade 1 or 2, the most durable. (Grade 3, which tends to be thinner, is suitable only for walls.) Water absorption is another important spec — the lower the number, the less water can seep through.

For flooring you want tile with a rating of less than 7 percent, and 3 percent or less for shower floors. Next, note the coefficient of friction rating, which conveys slip resistance; you’ll need a COF of 0.6 or higher for floor tile.

As for the ceiling and walls, don’t waste money on bath-specific paint. Consumer Reports’ testing reveals that any paints with good scores in mildew resistance, such as Behr Premium Plus enamel, hold up well. Choose satin finish, or semigloss if you don’t mind the sheen — either will withstand periodic scrubbings.

• Fixtures

If you have a dingy cast-iron tub, reglazing the surface can give it new life for a few hundred dollars.

Replacing it with a soaker tub could cost $500 to $1,000 for the tub itself, plus hundreds more for installation. No space for a separate tub and shower? Don’t blow out a wall for the sake of keeping both.

Go ahead and install that stand-alone shower in the master suite, but if and when you put the house on the market, having at least one tub is important for resale value.