Wet Area Remodeling vs. Full Bathroom Remodeling

Compare wet area remodeling vs. full bathroom remodeling in this comprehensive breakdown of the difference between these two home improvement projects. | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

It’s no secret that bathroom renovation has one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any home remodeling project. The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2019 research on bathroom trends found that typical price tags on bathroom remodeling ranged from $12,000 to $32,000. Renovating a bathroom can add value to the home, but it is certainly an investment.

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What Does a Wet Area Remodel Entail?

You have more options than a simple retiling—there are many ways to renovate the wet area of the bathroom for an upgrade in both functionality and appearance. Here are some wet area remodeling ideas to get you started.

Bathtub Replacement

Over time, bathtubs can chip or crack. In some cases, it’s enough to have them refinished for a price tag of $250$600, but if you’re looking to renovate, tub replacement is an easy way to upgrade the focal point of your bathroom. Alcove tubs are typically the least expensive to purchase and install ($600$2,500), followed by drop-in or platform tubs for between $800$4,000. Freestanding tubs are more expensive, costing between $900 and $5,500.

Whirlpool or jetted tubs are priced similarly at an average of $1,500$6,000. For a luxurious experience, walk-in tubs are the most expensive and can cost between $3,000 and $10,000.  Depending upon any plumbing changes, tub replacement can take one to five days to complete. Fortunately, a well-installed bathtub can last up to 50 years.

Shower Replacement

Giving your shower a makeover can consist of anything from installing a prefab walk-in shower stall yourself to having a professional contractor create a custom design with your choice of tile, doors and more. The prefabricated options, made of a wide range of materials from fiberglass to marble, typically contain walls, shelves, a grab bar and a shower tray. Many popular DIY kits cost between $400$4,100. 

If you prefer to go the professional route, a full shower installation usually costs from $1,000 to $8,000. As you might expect, customized showers are more expensive and take much longer to install. These bespoke projects can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $15,000, depending on the price of the materials and the amount of labor needed. 

Wall Surrounds and Liners

An alternative to replacing the tub or shower is having a high-quality acrylic liner fitted over your existing wet area. Typically, liners also cover the walls around your tub and shower as well and leave you with a tub that won’t dent, chip or fade. Since these fittings don’t involve grout, the liner is often easier to keep clean and resists mold and mildew growth. 

Popular providers such as Bath Fitter can install liners in as little as a single day, requiring much less time than a typical shower or tub replacement. Depending on the size and shape of your tub or shower, having a custom liner installed costs between $1,000 and $3,000 typically.

Tub-to-Shower Conversion

If you find you’re just not using your bathtub very often, it may be more practical to convert it to a shower. This can be a DIY job if you’ve already got the right plumbing in place. A shower stall kit for your project may cost between $1,000$8,000, depending on the materials. However, if you need to have shower plumbing installed, it will often require an additional $850$1,200. 

Creating a true walk-in shower requires adding a gradient to the floor. This project can also need additional plumbing work. Creating a walk-in shower usually falls in the range of $3,500 to $15,000.

 Average CostAverage Time
Bathtub replacement$800$4,60015 days
Shower replacement$2,000$9,00027 days
Acrylic tub/shower liner$1,000$3,00012 days
Tub-to-shower conversion$2,000$12,00025 days

What Does a Full Bathroom Remodel Entail?

In some cases, renovating just part of the bathroom won’t be enough. If your bathroom is old or outdated, it might be more cost-effective just to upgrade to a new bathroom all at once. A full bathroom remodel will be more expensive, of course—the average range is $5,500 to $32,000—but you can create a fully customized bathroom space that suits both your needs and your tastes. 

Of course, the cost will depend on how extensive the project is and how expensive the materials are. Here are some of the primary factors of a full renovation project:

  • Bathtub
  • Shower 
  • Sink
  • Toilet
  • Fixtures
  • Storage
  • Flooring
  • Wall tiling
  • Paint
  • Mirrors
  • Lighting

One type of bathroom design growing in popularity is the wet room. This concept does away with the divisions between the bath or shower area and the rest of the bathroom. In a wet bathroom, the floors, walls, and other areas are made of waterproof materials to prevent water damage. 

Typically, this installation entails putting a gradient into the bathroom floor so the water can drain and installing no-slip tiling to prevent falls when the floor is wet. This type of design allows you to make better use of small spaces or create a luxury spa feel to your master bath.

 Average CostAverage Time
Half-bath remodel$2,000$5,00057 days
Full bath remodel$6,000$15,0001014 days
Master bath remodel$10,000$30,0001525 days
Luxury bath remodel$50,000+1530 days
Wet room installation$11,000-$18,0001030 days

Pros and Cons of Each

The biggest benefit of full bathroom remodeling is that everything gets done at once. You can create a cohesive design and overhaul the entire space to fit your needs and wants. A universal design upgrade to a bathroom brings in the highest ROI of 70.6% according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 averages, as new homeowners greatly value a well-designed bathroom.

Of course, this is also an expensive and disruptive home improvement project, as you’ll pay thousands of dollars. Your bathroom may be out of commission for up to three to four weeks as well, which can be a significant inconvenience.

Restricting your remodeling to wet area renovations will bring down costs and reduce the amount of time needed to complete the project. However, you’ll spend more money and time in the long run if you, for example, remodel the wet area one year, and then the sink and storage the next and then the floor after that.

Final Thoughts

Your final decision will likely come down to budget. Most homeowners would prefer a full bathroom upgrade over just a change to the wet area if money were no object. 

One way to make a significant impact with your bathroom remodeling budget is to choose an acrylic tub and/or shower liner from Bath Fitter. You can renovate the wet area of your bathroom as one project, often in a single day. Fill out the quick online form at the website to receive a free quote for a customized tub or shower liner.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the most expensive part of bathroom remodel?

For a professional bathroom remodel, the largest single expense is labor, which will usually make up between 20% and 40% of the total cost. The most labor-intensive factors are usually retiling and plumbing work.

How do I make my bathroom more accessible?

If you or someone in your home is having mobility issues, renovating your bathroom for increased accessibility is an excellent option. Installing a walk-in tub or shower is often the safest option, but it’s also the most expensive. If you are renovating in stages, many homeowners choose to start with grab bars and a permanent shower seat for extra stability. Non-slip flooring is also a popular choice for accessible bathrooms and aging individuals.

What should I do first when remodeling my bathroom?

Before making any purchases, you should plan your remodeling project thoroughly to ensure it will fit within your budget. However, the first part of the actual remodel is demolition and removal of the old tiles, fixtures and any other items that are being removed.

How can I save money on bathroom renovation?

While it’s not a good idea to take on DIY projects you’re not prepared for, here are some other ways to reduce remodeling costs:

  • Use lower-cost materials that look like the real thing (e.g., vinyl flooring that looks like natural stone)
  • Refinish your tub instead of replacing it
  • Put new hardware on old cabinets instead of replacing them
  • Install a prefabricated shower
  • Do the painting yourself



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