Bathroom remodels can cost a pretty penny. Sometimes, shockingly so. Did you know the average bathroom renovation costs around $10k and goes up from there?! We were able to complete our remodel for about $6k and I think it came down to these few things…
1. DIY what you can
It probably comes as no surprise that the labor portion of any renovation project is often the highest line item. For most projects you can count on labor being around double the cost of your supplies and furnishings. It varies by contractor and often by location, but labor is always going to be a large expense.
When it comes to bathrooms there are a lot of pieces to the renovation that need to be done right to ensure water is contained well, but there is a lot you can do even as a beginner DIYer that will help you save money.
- Demo – you can do most if not all of the demo yourself with a little muscle and time. Assess exactly what needs to be demoed (as in, don’t demo walls if you plan to just paint), and get in there and let some frustrations out.
- Toilet, Vanity, and Faucet instillation – These pieces are actually fairly easy to install yourself, and there are tons of YouTube videos to help you out if you feel lost or encounter a challenge.
- Light Fixture Change – If you don’t have to move your light box, then it is easy to switch out fixtures yourself.
- Paint – self explanatory, but anyone can handle paint, I promise!
- Tile Not in the Shower Area – If you have tiling experience and want to tackle the whole shower then by all means go for it! If your skills are beginner or you don’t feel totally comfortable being responsible for keeping water where it should be in a shower, I would recommend leaving it to a professional. Outside of the shower is a whole different story. Tiling can seem intimidating, but there are products now, like Muscle Bound or Simple Mat that make tiling much easier and less messy than it used to be. Mosaic tiles are always going to be a lot easier to use than larger format tiles.
2. Choose Smart Materials + Furnishings
My biggest mission is to figure out how to achieve high end looks for less. Our main bathroom is the perfect example of bringing this concept to life. I loved the look of floor to ceiling marble slab. In reality our budget actually laughed at that. I knew the next best thing was going to be tile, large tile, with a similar look – but I went beyond that. Marble tile is also expensive, so I searched until I found a porcelain tile that looked like the marble pattern I wanted, but was a fraction of the cost.
If you are not a materials or furnishings snob (meant with the best intentions, I WISH I could be a snob about those things haha!), then keep an open mind to alternatives to the expensive versions of things that would allow you to get the same feel without breaking the bank.
- Porcelain Tile – it’s durable, has a ton of options, and is WAY less expensive than other materials.
- Light Fixtures – Often I will find a high end fixture I love and then search to find a dupe. Pinterest is a great tool for this. I am usually able to find fixtures on Amazon for a fraction of what the original inspiration cost.
- Vanity – Buying pre-fab over custom will almost always save you a ton of money, but even many pre-fab vanities will be expensive. Again I try to find the look I want, even if it’s a high end product, then I will search until I find something that has a similar feel, or something I think I can make slight alterations to to achieve the look I want. In this case I knew I wanted something with a slightly vintage furniture look, but with a modern feel. I ended up finding a vanity on clearance from Home Depot and then ordered modern pulls from Amazon to update it to look like what I wanted. You can also find many options that don’t come with tops that are cheaper. Home Depot and Lowes have great modern tops for an affordable price to add to standard sized vanities.
- Faucets – The same as the above, there are a number of affordable options on Amazon, or even at Lowes and Home Depot. Once you know the look you are going for, it makes it easier to find that look for less.
- Shower Pan vs Tile – A shower pan insert is not only good for waterproofing, it is also a lot easier to install, and most likely a lot cheaper than building a waterproof shower floor and tiling it.
- Tub Style, Size + Material – Tub/Shower combo inserts are probably the most affordable option, but if a freestanding tub is your dream, there are options to keep it on the lower end budget-wise. Sticking with a more basic design and standard size will help. And going for one made of acrylic. We also chose one with a wide enough edge that if we had wanted to, we could have installed the faucet on the tub instead of having to buy a floor mounted faucet which cost significantly more.
- Toilet – I understand the benefits of some higher priced toilets, and of course can appreciate the nicer design of some, but in general we largely feel like there isn’t enough difference to warrant spending $100-200 more per toilet for them. We have purchased A LOT of toilets for our age, more than the average person I would guess, and time and time again we come back to this basic toilet from Home Depot. It has served us perfectly well for years now, is very affordable, and is a great upgrade to the short potties of the past.
- Mirrors – It’s amazing how expensive mirrors can be! It’s worth the time to check secondhand stores, or Facebook marketplace for mirrors (and vanities!). You might find options that are unique and crazy cheap! There are a number of ways to dress up those large bathroom vanity mirrors like framing them, or ways to alter them like having them cut into to mirror and then creating DIY frames for them.
3. Prioritize Your Spending
I say this often, but in any renovation where budget is a concern (read: almost all renovations!), prioritizing your spending is important. Your space has to serve YOU well. That means different things for different people. Determine what is most important to you and put your money there.
- If you are not a bath person, skip the bath and upgrade the shower to a bigger one, or better materials instead, or just save that money.
- If you don’t need a big double vanity and would rather have a tub or larger shower, downgrade the vanity and save money there to put towards the shower or tub you do care about.
- If a certain tile, or tile in general isn’t really your thing – opt for a tub/shower or shower insert instead, and then use paint and alternate flooring to finish the rest of the space. Or you could do a shower pan insert and only have to tile the shower walls.
- If a fancy toilet, either in function or design, isn’t high on your priority list – go for a basic model that gets the job done and allocate that money elsewhere.
How we saved money
- We did almost all of the work ourselves. The only things we hired out was moving the plumbing and hooking those fixtures up, and the shower enclosure including installation.
- We used this porcelain tile in a very large format that cost much less per square foot than most other options, and gave us the marble look we wanted at a much cheaper price. We also bought it from a bulk discount store, and drove to pick it up to avoid shipping costs.
- We used these fixtures which were not name brand, but good quality and gave us the look we wanted for much less. Shower head and faucet, tub faucet, sink faucet.
- We installed this acrylic freestanding tub, in a standard size, and waited for it to go on sale.
- We stuck with a basic toilet, and this modern but low cost toilet paper holder.
- We opted for a smaller 48″ vanity to allow room for the tub and still plenty of counter space. It was a pre-fab vanity we got on clearance, and then purchased a separate contemporary top.
- We used this light fixture which we waited to purchase until it went on sale.
- I thrifted a few large used-to-be dresser mirrors and settled on one we use in the bathroom. I got it for $20 so compared to the mirrors I was considering that cost anywhere from $100-300 it was a big budget saver!
Check back to learn about the mistakes we made and lessons we learned during this renovation, as well as a budget breakdown!