Submitted by andrewbt t3_11zj6se in philadelphia

We have a 3 story rowhouse with a large standalone bedroom on the 3rd floor. We’d like to take a 9x10 space out of that bedroom and make it a master bathroom with shower and tub. (So, no true exterior additions to the house, just using existing space.) Part of the complexity though is bringing up the plumbing stack from the second to third floor as there is currently none.

We have a decent quote from Bella Brothers Construction in Bensalem. We like that they are “design build” and would handle everything as a GC. Anyone worked with them before or have any other recommendations of firms? Trying to get this done around $50k so the luxury/boutique design build firms like Bellwether are a little too rich for us!



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roobinsteen t1_jdcwn9m wrote

>Part of the complexity though is bringing up the plumbing stack from the second to third floor as there is currently none

Are you sure? Typically the vent stack goes straight out the roof. The bathroom could drain into that. The real question though, is are you going to be able to achieve the slope required for drainage if where you want the bathroom to be is not close to where the existing vent is. You may have to live with a boxed out soffit in the ceiling below the bathroom to accommodate the drains.


andrewbt OP t1_jde82ta wrote

I only know enough plumbing terminology to sound like I know what I’m talking about. The cast iron vent comes up out the roof and right on the other side of the “new bathroom’s” only exterior wall, which I think is what you’re asking about. However when I said “stack” I also meant bringing up water supply lines - there is no plumbing (waste or supply) on the 3rd floor at all currently


roobinsteen t1_jde8kc8 wrote

Ah, ok. The term "stack" refers to the drain/vent line, not supply lines. If the vent stack is right there, that's good; the hypothetical new bathroom can drain right into that with no additional venting needed. But yes, you're right--supply lines still need to be brought up to the bath location.


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jdctubq wrote

50k sounds absurd to me, but I just redid my own kitchen, new everything, and it cost me a bit under 9k.


roobinsteen t1_jdcwzy4 wrote

50k is not unreasonable at all for carving out an entirely new master bathroom in a preexisting finished space with tub and shower and nice finishes. It involves every single trade short of roofing, basically.


zillabunnny t1_jddbtrs wrote

Actually, unless the planned bathroom space already has a window they might need to involve a roofer because a bathroom with shower requires an exhaust. Sooooo, roofing, electrical/plumbing/hvac and the permits and inspections process, drywall, carpentry, tiling and glazing, project mgmt etc and all done in a timely manner -- 50k is not bad. It may only be realistically 30k of materials and labor but the builder isn't working for free.

You also have to consider the level of finish the homeowner wants. A double vanity can be $300 from Ikea or $3000 from room and board. Tile can vary from less than a dollar for subway to $20sq ft for zellige.

A DIY kitchen for 9k doesn't really compare because no one is trying to make a profit and you're likely only making minor adjustments to existing mechanicals.

Edit: the plumbing stack will surely also need to be vented closer to this new location right? more roofwork?


andrewbt OP t1_jde8rd9 wrote

We do have an existing window in the space. The vent stack is right on the other side of the same exterior wall


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jdcx7rp wrote

It just surprises me is all. That's almost a quarter of my entire house just for one bathroom.


roobinsteen t1_jdcxgm7 wrote

I hear you, the costs for major projects like kitchens and bathrooms are surprising to many homeowners. It's less surprising once you realize how complex these projects are, especially in remodel situations, as well as the staggering cost of the materials involved. Contractors aren't getting rich off of these, generally.


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jdcxpu3 wrote

I didn't think my kitchen was all that complex, but I did have to rebuild basically everything, including new framing because the old framing was done completely wrong. I had joists sitting on raw brick and no sill plate.


andrewbt OP t1_jde8o47 wrote

Thank you. Indeed I have been educated as I understand the scope and magnitude of what we want to do! Part of why I’m looking for a one stop shop.

I also need a good roofer (this dumb house) but that’s unrelated. I saw some recommendations for the Roof Doctor on this Reddit and they are looking nice


ambiguator t1_jdcx0ya wrote

How long did it take? Did you have to run new plumbing or move other mechanicals like OP?


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jddg1fj wrote

New everything.

Edit: took exactly 2 months


ambiguator t1_jddkloa wrote

new water lines, new sewer, new gas, new electric, new hvac, new subfloor, new cabinets, new counters, new floors, new appliances?

give us some details


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jddn2xa wrote

New electric, though some were already ran to the kitchen. Replaced the wire with correct guages for circuit (had some 10ga wire running on an outdoor light and a 15a circuit) added GFCIs and properly routed them with nail plates. Had to fix a bootleg ground that stopped GFCIs from operating properly.

New gas line, moved it to the other side of the kitchen. This also fixed what i consider poor workmanship on the previous clusterfuck that was the gas line, redid the sink fittings after cutting down the old copper, ran a pex through the wall for an icemaker box.

Didn't move HVAC but did install a duct for the range hood which required knocking out and replacing some bricks.

Had to build new framing, as well as build an exterior wall to utilize and support the roof. Old build had the roof in a sorta awning configuration, but it was only supported on that side by a very old, and obviously rotting stud. Doing this allowed me to change the kitchen and gain a few square feet.

Speaking of framing, installed new structural walls with studs every 12" (over the top, I know) because the brick wall that was supporting the ceiling did not have a sill plate, so the joists were resting on brick and were beginning to show signs of decay. Also, one of the joists was literally .25" from falling off the bricks because of settlement issues.

Fixed 3 different roof leaks caused by improper flashing on the roof where it meets existing neighbors structure. They used clear silicone. It cracked and leaked. Added a bucket of blackjack and mesh tape so should last a few more years.

Floor was more than 2" off level due to settlement. Went into crawlspace to support floor from underneath by building yet another wall in the crawlspace. Wasn't necessary but it made me feel better. Then leveled the floor using 21/32 OSB with tongue and groove and a series of shims, finished up with 2 bags of self leveling cement.

Replaced windows, which had rotting framing, with new pressure treated frames and flashing tape. Still need to add exterior moulding.

Cabinets were then ordered, and I assembled them myself. Got from Washington Avenue. Countertops were ikea. Did subway tile and black grout.

Had a contractor neighbor who came through every couple of days to help with bigger stuff like putting drywall on the ceiling. He also was the one who installed the cabinets. Borrowed a lot of tools from him. He also made sure I was doing things correctly, and was extremely helpful when I had questions or needed solutions to problems.


ambiguator t1_jddr90m wrote

wow, that's an incredible amount of work. sounds like you have a lot of experience. i'm handy around the house - hanging or patching drywall, basic plumbing, some shoddy carpentry - but probably wouldn't be comfortable doing most of the things you mention here.

how long did it take?


Bartleby_TheScrivene t1_jddrfo2 wrote

It started on January 11th, after my dog turned on the bidet when I was at work and completely flooded the kitchen and basically destroyed it.

There's a lot of things I didn't mention that I had to do, but I was working on it 5+hrs a day, more on weekends, with no time off.

I finished and had the appliances installed on March 14th.


ambiguator t1_jdduk1f wrote

Wow, yeah. Major sweat equity. Kudos to you friend!


Cobey1 t1_jdcuigr wrote

Just redid my bathroom for 6k. There’s tons of talented small contractors that can do exactly what a big firm can do for A LOT less.


andrewbt OP t1_jde90r8 wrote

From what I’m understanding “redoing” a bathroom with existing electric, waste, supply, and vent lines is a heckuva lot easier for small folks than “creating” from empty space like we’re talking about


ParallelPeterParker t1_jdd05x1 wrote

The complexity is definitely adding to the job (but not 50K imho). That said, design work is expensive and what you might consider doing is doing a design separately and bringing that to a good contractor. You may also want to part out the plumbing work as well. Not 50k worth, but you're definitely paying to having all those types of professionals under one "roof".

You can probably get a few more quotes for less, but if you want a hands-off approach like this, you're going to pay for it. The perk is you don't have to deal with any of the permitting and other bullshit that might fit between the cracks of diff contractors.

My advice (fwiw), is probably to hire a designer who can do that work and also give you a rough price. Keep in mind, designers like to upsell finishes because, like all people, they prefer to work with superior products and produce a superior product. Also, I find designers to be OKAY at pricing, but not very good and understanding the market itself - so the price you might get from then will be VERY rough.

After you get the design, I'd shop it around to a GC.


grumpy_old_lady t1_jddiaqq wrote

Had a bathroom done by [dRemodeling] ( and was pretty happy with the construction. Learned from that experience that design-build was not for me (found the design work pretty unoriginal and unexciting - the designer was not particularly sophisticated IMO), but if you are not looking for high end design work, I would recommend.


hairlikemerida t1_jdkos5q wrote

No recs, just tips.

Make sure that any contractor you use is using Schluter.

Avoid using the fancy schmancy architectural drains. I know it looks good, but it is a pain in the ass to keep clean. Just get a nice looking square one and call it a day.

I put Corian/solid surface walls in all of my renos as there is no grout. Super easy cleaning and no breaking tiles.

For tiles on any surface, use an epoxy grout (I use Ardex). An absolute bitch to put on as it’s only workable for a very short amount of time and it’s sticky, but it’s so, so, so much better. Most contractors refuse to work with it.


andrewbt OP t1_jdkz1k7 wrote

Wow, thank you. I just watched some videos on the Schluter website and that’s incredible.

When you say “architectural drain”, do you mean like those linear shower drains?

You sound like you know what you’re talking about. Sure you don’t know anyone who wants the job?


broadstreetfighting t1_jddt64s wrote

I have a guy located in South Philly that is great, trustworthy and affordable. Look up Rider Homes online or send me a message.


fear_boner_ t1_jde899q wrote

Family and Friends Builders were great for our bathroom renovation


ScottishCalvin t1_jdcsrj6 wrote

I'd have thought the price difference was down to making sure the structure was suitable and capable. Admittedly materials and labour are also up a lot from a few years ago, but I'd have thought extending all the plumbing by an extra 12 feet wasn't a huge difficulty, just messy because you're having to tear out 2 sets of walls


Geo_Music t1_jdffn1a wrote

Could try Buckminster Green


andrewbt OP t1_jdl1yz9 wrote

Damn they have a $150k minimum on their website they say


Dude_Love4 t1_jdfkom9 wrote

Not as complicated as you are thinking. Assuming you are planning on putting the bathroom directly above your current bathroom you can tie the waste line into your stack(should be exiting out of your roof) and pulling supply lines up is not a big job. I did exactly this in my three story row.


jmajek t1_jdowzwo wrote

If you guys have a good handle on the design, I would recommend Beth Allen. She's top notch. She doesn't talk on the phone though but she texts and emails. She's independent and will GC the whole thing. She's licensed/insured and can/will pull permits if you want.
She's a really good person too and will give you advice even if you don't go with her. I can share her number, if you'd like.
For firms, try Hivemind and Kole the min was 50k but this was in 2021. I don't know if the rates went up, checkout Oak Design Project. I really liked their vibe and explanation of things. They said 40-50k for a kitchen in 2021 which I had they money lol.


jeffseidl92 t1_jddjr9q wrote

Just DIY it, it’s probably easy and simple.