The Top 7 Ways to Save Money on Your Bathroom Remodel

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  • 10-200 hours
  • Advanced
  • 2,000-20,000

Every homeowner has been told updating the bathrooms and kitchen is the best return on investment. However, it still costs money upfront, and not every update justifies the cost. When it comes to bathrooms, select a style you like, but also pay attention to the budget as you work.

1. Create a Solid Plan

An accurate budget is likely the best tool to save you money during your bathroom remodel. Don’t tear into any walls without a thorough timeline, list of materials, and work estimates. Common bathroom renovation line items include flooring, lighting, toilet, shower, sink, vanity, mirror, plumbing work, electrical work, framing, sheetrock, and perhaps closet space.

Depending on the floorplan of your bathroom, you may be looking to move walls or rearrange the layout of fixtures. If so, calculate related costs, but recognize that moving any load-bearing wall is an expensive venture. If you plan to add an additional fixture, such as when you separate a tub and shower, figure in the additional plumbing needs.

2. Know What to Tackle Yourself

Tackling the labor portion yourself can save you a bundle, but if you try to complete a task you’re ill-equipped for, you can cost yourself more in the end. Be honest about your skillset and designate tasks for the professionals as part of your plan. You may be comfortable with subflooring, tile work, changing a light fixture, replacing a vent fan, installing flooring, or placing a toilet. You may want to hire professionals for moving walls, sheetrock work, installing or updating ventilation, building cabinets, or tiling the shower. Remember a general contractor will know when permits are required and can deal with that headache for you. In addition, a good contractor will know workers in every field who can perform quick, efficient, professional results.

3. Work Around the Existing Plumbing

Deciding to rearrange a bathroom is considerably more complicated than rearranging the living room. The network of plumbing that brings water to your sinks, toilet, shower, and tub all need to be connected behind the walls. Adding an additional sink or moving the toilet to another location is a major undertaking, especially when also dealing with waste lines. Save yourself a ton of hassle and money by keeping the existing plumbing structures in place.

There is much you can do to update the room without digging into a pipe restructure. Plus, it makes planning easier to simply work around the general location of the fixtures as they already exist in the room.

bathroom undergoing remodel

4. Keep the Electrical

Similar to the complications related to moving plumbing, diverting electrical systems can carry a hefty price tag. If the upgrades are necessary for safety or to meet code, add it to the budget. However, if you simply prefer an additional outlet or a second light over the shower, weigh the cost of hiring an electrician for the job. Also remember anything that goes on behind the wall, including plumbing and electrical, means repairs will need to be made to the wall surface such as replacing tile or sheetrock, which is another way costs add up.

5. DIY

Even if you have a contractor handling the major flow of the project, you can jump in with some DIY contributions. Communicate your desire to get hands on so you’re aware of timelines. An effective project means planning for the arrival of supplies and completing tasks in order. For example, moving walls and completing the rough plumbing and electrical must happen before drywall work.

Depending on your experience, you may only request help with the rough-in aspects. From there, you may tackle shower and toilet installation since it basically just requires connecting to the existing plumbing at that point. You may be able to finish walls, texture, paint, or wallpaper. Flooring, closet systems, and a vanity install may also make your list. Again, be realistic about what you have the time and knowledge to tackle or it may cost you more in the end to pay someone to fix your mistakes.

man laying large square tiles on bathroom floor

6. Refinish Tub and Sink

Instead of buying new, and expensive, bathroom fixtures, consider resurfacing instead. There are many professionals who can refinish for you, and it will save you significant amounts of money. As an alternative, you can buy DIY refinishing kits that are less than $100. If you’re thinking of replacing a sink or tub, it’s worth a try to see if a DIY resurface job can give your fixture another 10-15 years of life.

7. Buy a Prefab Vanity

Although custom cabinets or even a prefab option from a home improvement store quickly come to mind when planning a bathroom remodel, check out existing prefab vanities instead. These are free-standing systems that sit on top of the flooring. Depending on size constraints, a vanity can offer one or two spots for sink/sinks, adequate open or closed storage, and a much lower price tag than the custom route. They also come with a countertop so you won’t have to pay for custom installation.