Budget-friendly Bathroom Remodeling: The Pro’s Guide for Beginners

Remodeling a bathroom can cost anywhere between a few thousand dollars and six-figure sums. We’re assuming you’re not the 1% ordering a custom-made diamond-encrusted toilet, so we’re going to stick to sharing some tips that will help you get the most out of your budget.

Avoid changing the bathroom layout unless you have to

This will help keep your plumbing costs down. (Moving sanitaryware is really expensive.) Run all design changes by your plumber, electrician, tiler and other contractors, to avoid complications.

Choose your sanitaryware first

This covers the essential fixtures: your shower, bath, toilet, sink and taps. Choose your sanitaryware before plastering and tiling to make sure things like the hot and cold pipes and waste pipe are correctly placed. Changing the sanitaryware around later will cost you a lot of money. And time. And tears.

Don’t replace what you can refinish

Some fittings — good quality taps and roll-top baths, for instance — are often salvageable. You can remodel or repaint them to add a distinctive touch to your bathroom. Let’s assume your bathtub is structurally sound, but you just don’t like it anymore. Instead of getting a new one installed, you could simply add a new surround to the existing one.

Stick to one statement piece, not dozens.

Instead of spending a lot of money on unnecessary frills and fuss (like lavish ornaments and ornate fixtures), add a simple statement piece like dramatic lighting or unique artwork that becomes a focal point in the room.

Remember to waterproof.

Safeguard yourself from future leaks (which cost a lot to repair) by using tile backer boards to line your bathroom walls and shower enclosures. They are 100 percent waterproof when taped together and — an added bonus — they’re excellent insulators.

Choose the right material

Bathrooms need to cope with a lot: big temperature swings, significant changes in humidity, water exposure and resistance to harsh chemicals. Choose material that’s dependable and durable instead of falling for cheaper or ‘all-style-no-substance’ options.

Freshen grout and caulk

Tiles are resistant to dirt and grime, but grout is porous and easily absorbs both. The stains settle between your tiles making them look dirty, no matter how often you clean them. When you’ve reached the point where thorough cleaning doesn’t do the trick, add a new grout and caulk. It’ll cost you less than replacing the tiles and it will help them last longer.

Upgrade to green fixtures

Going green is nearly always more affordable than not. Green fixtures are designed to be more efficient, sustainable and long-lasting. They can save you an incredible amount of money in the long run as well. Take lighting. Installing LED lamps saves 75% more energy than standard bulbs and they last about 25 times longer. Water-efficient showers save you more water (using about 2 gallons per minute, compared to the 2.5 - 4 gallons a standard shower uses). Install low-flow aerators on your faucets to bring the flow rate down from 2.2 gallons per minute to 0.5 gallons.

Recycle materials

Not everything that’s been used is beyond using. You’ll often find quality bathroom remodeling material at recycling centers, or online (eBay and Craigslist are good places to start). Recycled materials are always more affordable but — if you choose carefully — not necessarily low quality.

Ultimately, keeping an open mind and learning to compromise is the most important thing you can do to get the most out of your budget. Fixtures that aren’t high-end can be made to look so. But remember to think long-term as well. A certain material might save you more money at the moment, but if you have to replace it frequently, you’re better off buying something more durable for a slightly higher cost.