northstory + co.

Bathroom renovations – the expensive reality check!

If you want your kids to go to college, do not renovate your bathroom. I’m serious. I thought kitchens were expensive to renovate, until we got the reality check that they have nothing and I mean nothing on the cost of bathroom renovations. So let me tell you a story, of how we are now embarking on the bank account draining renovation of our ensuite (primary) bathroom.

Bathroom renovations are expensive and you need to warned

Get comfy, I write long blogs. This isn’t Instagram or Twitter.

Once upon a time my husband and I bought a twenty year old home in the suburbs. Like many of the other similar model homes in the our neck of the woods, it had a claustrophobic 32 x 32 shower in the ensuite bathroom.

Not to be outdone by the then required 1980’s big corner bathtub. Which decided to start falling apart, tile by tile.

Nice horror movie looking shower

This was no surprise to us given our home inspection had shown a lot of hidden problems and attempted patch jobs by the previous owners, instead of fixing things around the house right the first time.

Such as putting an empty, plastic vinegar bottle on plywood in the attic to catch water from the leaking roof, as opposed to redoing the roof which was causing the rainwater to pour down the walls on the inside of the house.

I wish I was making that up.

You cannot even understand the amount of work we have already done to this house.

What I need to be clear about is that water and us, in terms of home ownership specifically, are not friends.

In fact, let me be very specific about how much water and us are not friends.

  • We lived through major water damage in our first condo due to improper valve sealing of a shower faucet that caused water to slowly trickle down behind the shower wall over time. All the way into our living room, thus destroying the floors and walls.
  • A broken bathtub faucet in our first home caused a slow leak and poured water into the bathroom below it. I had just finished painting the entire bathroom, including the 12 foot ceilings, a week prior. The next day I looked up and the entire ceiling had was soaked and dripping on my head. That was awesome.
  • Four – that’s right, FOUR – failed dishwashers (all different brands). All of them leaking, with one major leak destroying our entire kitchen in our current house forcing us to renovate the kitchen (which is still not finished by the way) much sooner than planned.

So when our ensuite shower on the second floor started showing glaring signs that said “Are you in the mood to redo your ceiling on your main floor?”, we cautiously slowed down using it.

Then one day my father in law came over and within an afternoon the inside of the shower was ripped apart. And now we really needed to fix it.

It was supposed to be just a shower repair. That went well.

Bathroom renovations are expensive? The reality check starts now

Originally we went looking for a contractor to just repair that tiny 32 x 32 shower because at this point, we’re not made of money. Despite what Instagram would like you to believe about every blogger and social media “Influencer” type of person these days.

Who for the record, all seem to have 2.5 kids, a dog and enough money to buy a 10K Wolfe gas range and build a custom farmhouse from scratch on 5 acres of land at the mere age of 24.

But no one would take the job.

Like no one. I called and emailed so many people for almost a year. Contractors as we have learned, do not seem to enjoy small jobs.

Our friends even tried to hook us up with a contractor who worked on a very well known and reputable HGTV show known for helping homeowners. He showed up, said he’d get back to us, then nothing. At that point the reality that we were going to have to gut the whole room in order to find someone to fix anything set in.

Apparently contractors only like bathroom renovations that are expensive.

We had never renovated a bathroom.

Neither of us has any experience in DIY renovating a bathroom or even fixing a shower tile floor.  This was the one room in the house where we really did not feel comfortable attempting to do on our own.

The builders had skimped on so much stuff when this house was built, that we just did not want to start breaking tiles and finding ourselves in over our heads. At least not with a first bathroom renovation.

Given that we shop at IKEA and Costco a lot and had previously renovated a basement and two kitchens, we thought we had a good idea of what to expect in terms of a budget for the reno.

But honestly, nothing could have prepared us for the quotes that we were getting for the bathroom.

Most of the quotes were twice, if not three times the cost of both of our kitchens combined.


Our first IKEA kitchen was approximately $3000 in cabinets and $1300 for the floor for what I believe was about a 200 sq/ft room.


Our current IKEA kitchen for a 240 sq/ft room was approximately $4300 for the cabinets and $2000 for the floor.

I am showing you the ‘pretty’ angle because behind me. The walls are empty and the range hood is still in the box on the basement floor due to a screw up in the outlet placement. And the floor in this photo looks clean, as if it’s like that every day.


The 60″/ 152.4 cm / mere 5 feet vanity alone was $1449 not including 13% Ontario sales tax and that’s on the seriously cheap end of things only thanks to our beloved Costco membership.

I really should work there. Yes it’s pretty (you can see it here). That’s all I’ve got. A bathroom vanity cost half of what our entire first kitchen cabinets did.

This is the old vanity. Everyone I know grew up with this vanity in their homes.

Bathroom vanities are VERY expensive.

The average price of any respectable vanity these days is usually $2000 and up. Don’t believe me? Go on Wayfair and search for 60″ double sink vanities and find one that you really like. I’ll wait. You’ll be back going “What the hell was that?”

IKEA would have been ideal, except they don’t make a 60″ double sink vanity that has a lot of counter space.

Which they should because they are by far the most economical choice for bathroom vanities when compared to other major retailers.

But they stop at like 55″ and their double sink counter top designs don’t actually leave you with a lot of counter top space. Lots of sink space though.

Bathroom vanity countertop space IS a big deal.

If you don’t think two extra inches of counter top space a big deal, you have not shared a bathroom with anyone. Make a 60″ vanity please IKEA. Possibly even a 72″. And a basic, bright white, shaker style kitchen cabinet front already.

So, bathroom vanities = expensive as all hell.

Then there’s the extremely important job of waterproofing behind the shower walls and the plumbing.

Let’s talk about bathroom tile costs.

You want a marble hex floor that’s in every Studio McGee bathroom? $37 a sq foot is calling you.

What about those mirrors with curved rectangle edge that are on Rejuvenation? That’s going to cost you too because unless you luck out, HomeSense and Marshall’s never seen to get two of the same mirror in stock at the same location, at the same time.

Even your toilet paper holder is going to cost you a fortune.

Perhaps you want toilet paper holders that don’t feel like cheap plastic and that doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for does it? Hello $84 CAN ($54 US) gorgeous Delta Champagne Bronze.

But the faucets.

The faucets are the most expensive part of bathroom renovations –

if you want quality items.

Dear God the shower and vanity faucets. The kids need to get part time jobs in high school to pay for college because I cannot get over the costs of bathroom fixtures. In fact I am going to encourage them to go into trades.

If you want anything to look remotely “not chrome and from the 80’s” or that screams “we didn’t get the upgrades offered by our suburban home builder”, you better hope you have an extra kidney to spare.

You can see the whole Nostalgia line from Aquadesign here. I absolutely love the line and it’s perfect, but I am still not over the price tag.

There is so much more to learn about faucets and their finishes than I ever realized.

FYI – we pay more for *everything* in Canada, especially when it comes to appliances and all of the above, compared to our neighbors to the south.

If you’ve read this far you’re probably like “Aren’t you a blogger? Don’t you guys work with brands? Why don’t you just pitch some brands?” Yes. We do.

But my Instagram (everyone’s social media darling of the moment) isn’t cool enough to warrant that special privilege at this time. I’d need about 50K more followers on there to impress brands, even though this blog pays for our mortgage every month – thanks Mediavine!

Also, remember when we all counted Facebook Likes and thought that was the most important social status symbol for bloggers? Yeah, neither do I.

There is nothing in this bathroom renovation that is sponsored by any brand.

We bought everything. And our in-laws are helping us out with the costs of the reno and I am not sure if that’s even allowed in blogging these days but here we are. This is real life, not a curated and staged Instagram photo. And real life is messy and not always cheap.

Except classic hex tile. It’s cost effective, timeless and what will be on our floors. I love you marble but you’re not happening. (Lies: we changed to marble floors).

We may know kitchens, however this is our first bathroom and it has already been a huge learning experience. We knew bathroom renovations are expensive, but this is next level.

But the most important thing we have to discuss first, is who the hell thought these bathtubs were ever a good idea? You can argue with me about why we decided to take out the bathtub in the master bathroom in my next post.


VISIT: The Ensuite Bathroom Renovation Reveal – Before and After

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  • Reply
    Laura | onehouse2barns
    January 21, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I look forward to reading the saga of the en-suite in the coming weeks. Good luck on the mirror hunt- that is one of the most frustrating things ever, no joke.

    • Reply
      January 21, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      I’m on Kijiji and Facebook every single day now, searching my notifications for a pair of mirrors or some big mirror to use in there. If I have to, I will buy my $14 mirrors from IKEA until I find something on clearance somewhere bc I absolutely refuse to pay $300 for a mirror. I need two.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    OMG – you’ve got my bathroom! AND, it in the same stage of (dis)repair. Hah! I’ll definitely be tagging along with you on this ride as we’ve been putting off our master ensuite reno since…forever. The mould, loose tiles, stained…everything…it’s all gotta go, including the 80’s. I can’t wait to tag along with you and learn all I’ll need to know to do our reno. Oh, and what the heck is that remnant marble shower entry frame all about?? Ours is all stained as well and cracked. I think every builder in north GTA used the same supplier. That will definitely be going! 😉

    • Reply
      January 22, 2019 at 10:52 am

      I am honestly not a bathroom person. You know how people love spas and want that in their home? That’s not me. I am a kitchen girl. So despite the dated state of this bathroom, I could have feigned ignorance for the next decade and lived with it and used the soaker as a laundry basket. LOL! But yeah, I do agree that it’s such an old design at this point that it screams help me. Those marble frames are the worst. They yellowed and changed color and there’s nothing like having a shower in the equivalent of a vertical coffin. We tried to get items from stores that people could go to on their own because one thing I miss when I read before and after’s is not being able to find the products that are featured if I like them. Thanks for following along!

      • Reply
        January 23, 2019 at 5:14 pm

        Yes, annoying not to be able to source feature magazine products. I actually am a bathroom girl which makes it sad that I HAVE feigned ignorance for the last decade to the state of our master bath so a reno is way overdue. I do want a bit of bling but for the most part will be looking to obtain items readily available from large stores. I won’t be ordering any custom tile from Italy that will take 6 months to ship! 😉

  • Reply
    Treasures By Brenda
    January 23, 2019 at 8:53 am

    I am forwarding your post to my husband, LOL. I know bathroom renovations are expensive. I think we’ll be keeping our vanity!

  • Reply
    January 23, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Alex, I think your idea to “buy my $14 IKEA mirrors” until you find something that works perfect for your new bathroom is a great idea. You mention looking on Kijiji and Facebook. Are you also checking Varage? Being in the 404 corridor I belong to and access the Markham, Thornhill, Uxbridge, Stouffville, Aurora, Newmarket etc. groups and was thinking you may find something through your area groups. Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply
    bek kim
    January 30, 2019 at 3:49 am

    I had a indented area that could accommodate exactly and 58.5″ vanity… It so hard to find that size without doing custom. The top alone was going to cost me over $1k! I went to idea and found last year’s godmorgan 55″ in as for $25. New one looks exactly the same but the hinges that hold the door have changed.

    I agree on your comment on the Ikea vanity counter space issue. Given the price, I experimented and painted it blue, then added fake half wall with ledge (kind of like here: That solved the depth and space issue (Ikea vanity’s are a few inches shallower than standard vanities and a few inches makes a huge difference!) The fake wall also allowed us not have to rip up all the plumbing as well as giving a little more space for the pipes as well as giving us control to add sstuds to support the floating vanity.

    I did have to sacrifice and have a 1.5 inch gap on either side, but it doesn’t bother me as much as thought. Worth the $300 price the (including full priced top).

  • Reply
    February 2, 2019 at 10:54 pm

    Oh, gosh , I totally feel you on disappearing contractors. I’ve had a virtual parade through my house (like you, I bought a house with scary ‘fixes’ that need to be redone properly) and not one has been interested in the many projects I need done. I’m pretty much at the just do it myself stage, despite the fact that I have no skill whatsoever.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    I love the “real-ness” of your blog. I actually recently deleted my Instagram app, due to the very things you are describing. It doesn’t do anyone any good to put on the facade that everything in your life is perfect, as Instagram seems to depict. I would like to see Instagram float off into the abyss of the internet somewhat like myspace did.
    Also, I love your hexagon tile choice! Classic yet modern look that is timeless and beautiful. Marble can be hard to care for as well, so I think your ceramic choice is spot on! Also check out Target if you haven’t yet for mirrors.

  • Reply
    Peter Wallace
    September 8, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Alex. I love your writing style. Very funny. That shower is so inviting haha. Did you end up tearing up the floor so that you could move the plumbing and rearrange the bathroom layout?

    • Reply
      September 24, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. We tore out the whole thing and started over. I have to blog about that joy and hiring the wrong contractor. I wish I was joking.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Good luck with it, hope it doesn’t cost a fortune. Keep posting

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    I was *shocked* when I found out what shower fixtures cost. I had wanted to go with a Moen line but our GC’s plumber on this project told me they are crap. Of course, I upgraded everything and now his guys have never heard of any of it and they keep messing everything up. Between them and the tile guys having to redo our floors three times (and it’s still wonky), we’ve spent WAY more than I ever budgeted for this project. Also, our $2000 vanity from Houzz came badly damaged.

  • Reply
    Thomas Le
    March 20, 2020 at 4:16 am

    Hey! Hope you are fine.
    That is really great and its really very helpful for me in my ….. thanks for this and please keep posting.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2020 at 1:21 am

    Job very well done.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2020 at 1:27 am

    Bravo, this is how it should be done.

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