Bathrooms can be one of the most expensive rooms to refinish within a home. But a bathroom renovation can also be one of the most rewarding projects to tackle, since it can make a huge impact on the comfort and functionality of a home. The issue is balancing the cost versus the reward, but that’s the case for almost all home improvement projects.
There are ways to tip the scales in favor of savings while still achieving the bathroom space of their dreams. Below are 10 of the best tips for reducing construction costs for your bathroom renovation, and they apply both to DIYers and those hiring the project out to a contractor.
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1. Handle the Demolition Yourself
If you hire contractors for your bathroom remodel, you can still save a bit of money by handling the demolition portion of the project yourself. However, beware that saving money during demolition requires a careful, steady hand. Recklessly running into the bathroom with a sledgehammer and reciprocating saw is a recipe for a very expensive (and dangerous) accident.
Be careful around plumbing pipes, HVAC vents, electrical outlets and fixtures, and similar items within the bathroom. Accidentally destroying or damaging these could require hiring a professional to fix them, offsetting the cost savings altogether.
2. Shop for Secondhand Vanities and Cabinets
Most bathroom renovations don’t require a ton of cabinets or shelving like a kitchen might. In fact, many bathrooms only feature a sink vanity—everything else can usually be stowed away in a linen closet.
For this reason, finding a secondhand vanity is typically pretty easy. There aren’t any worries about finding matching uppers and lowers, or enough to fill out a wall. Habitat for Humanity ReStores, Facebook Marketplace, and area classified ads are all great places to shop for secondhand vanities. And, for those feeling crafty, turning an old chest of drawers or lowboy into a vanity isn’t all that difficult.
3. Avoid Trends
Considering that many people take on renovations so they can jump into a new trend, this advice might seem hypocritical. However, trends come and go, and remodeling a bathroom every few years to keep up with those trends is a good way to flush money down the toilet.
Also, consider the cost of the materials alone. On-trend materials typically skyrocket in price, meaning the renovation will cost more than it might be worth when those prices drop back down and the trend changes. Instead, stick with classic designs and materials to avoid inflated prices and frequent remodels.
4. Avoid Moving Utilities
A brand new bathroom that looks completely different from the old one might sound great, but it’s sure to be expensive. Instead of changing the entire floor plan, leave the existing utilities in place. This includes supply lines to the sink and shower, drains, electricity for lights and outlets, HVAC fixtures like baseboard heaters and radiant heating, and bathroom vents.
5. Get Multiple Quotes
It’s not always possible to DIY an entire bathroom renovation (especially if the utilities are moving). It might be necessary to hire a licensed tradesperson or contractor to handle the job, which will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny.
While paying for this expertise is often unavoidable, it’s best to seek multiple quotes for the job. With several quotes for a specific job in hand, it is easier to possibly leverage the companies against each other and convince them to take the job for a bit less than the quoted price. While some folks might prefer to avoid negotiations, they might miss out on some real savings.
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6. Reuse What You Can
Trashing the entire existing bathroom might be the fastest way to start fresh, but it’s not the most affordable. Removing items that don’t need replacing, such as drywall that’s still in good shape or wall paneling that just needs a touch-up, will cost more than a paint job or other small fix will in the long run.
Be extra careful with existing tile. Breaking just a few tiles may require replacing the entire floor. But, if DIYers are careful, they can simply remove and replace the grout for a fresh new look without purchasing new tile.
7. Be Your Own Designer
Interior designers are almost always worth their cost, but they don’t always fit into the budget. Instead of overextending yourself for a designer, you can handle this job’s design element yourself. But don’t blindly do so either. Take some time to learn about bathroom interior design by reading up on the topic with a book such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Guidelines and Access Standards (available on Amazon).
It’s also important to recognize that designers are worth the money. They sometimes pay for themselves, as they have access to discounts and supplies that homeowners don’t.
8. Focus on Fixtures
Sometimes, replacing the bathtub, shower, or sink are outside of the budget. While these items do make a huge impact, it still is possible to breathe new life into a bathroom with new shower valves or faucets like the Luxice Automatic Touchless Sink Faucet, a favorite in our guide to the best bathroom faucets. Bright, shiny fixtures will give the room a fresh look without the cost of labor to replace sinks, vanities, or showers.
9. Consider Open Shelving
If the bathroom feels like it’s missing something but putting a finger on it feels tough, consider adding open shelving. Adding a few open shelves provides the perfect space for folded towels and knickknacks, which gives DIY designers more surfaces and styles to work with for adding plants and fresh decor.
Keep in mind that anything placed on an open shelf needs constant attention. Aside from the frequent tidying or dusting, adding a shelving unit in the corner or floating shelves on a wall may be just the design trick a bathroom needs.
10. Set a Firm (and Realistic) Budget
No project will ever stay on budget if the budget doesn’t exist. Before the project starts, it’s essential to come up with a firm and realistic budget that will help accomplish your goals while leaving room for emergencies or unexpected renovation costs. This buffer or wiggle room is incredibly important. After all, it can be tough to tell when a project might head south, so be sure to leave extra money in the budget.
Also, fight the desire to deviate from the plan and buy more expensive materials than necessary. It can be tempting to spend a little extra here and there, but those additions add up over the course of a project.
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