8 Ways to Save Money on Your Bathroom Remodel

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated August 16, 2021
A bathroom with green tiles and brass faucets
Photo: PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images

All the tips and tricks you need to make your budget bathroom remodel look like a million bucks

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A bathroom remodel can boost the value of your home and significantly improve a space in which comfort is a major factor. The bathroom of your—or potential buyers’—dreams, however, does not usually come cheap, with the average bathroom remodel costing $10,000 or more. Follow these tips to make even the tightest budget go further, whether you’ll be laying tiles and changing light fixtures yourself or hiring a local bathroom remodeling professional

1. Budget

It seems obvious, but many people get so excited that they leap into renovating without plotting out all of the details. By drafting an extensive budget, you can review which items you want to splurge on (a statement chandelier!) and where you can cut down on costs (stick with the tub you have). You’ll also want to research and compare contractor prices, while also determining where you can DIY some of the work.

2. Keep the Floor Plan the Same

Moving the location of your tub, shower, or sink means you will have to hire a local plumbing professional to consider proper drainage and water supply, which can be costly. Keep these key components in place and look for other ways to perk up the room.

“A great way to save money on a bathroom remodel is to creatively keep the same footprint,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor. “Moving supply and drainage lines is expensive.”

3. Upcycle

If that unused dresser in the guest room is the perfect size for your bathroom vanity, consider giving it a face lift and new life with a fresh paint job and finish. Just make sure it’s the correct height: standard vanity height is 30 inches (ideal for those under 6 feet) and standard counter height is 36 inches (ideal for those over 6 feet). For tiles and other materials, check out the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shops, where you can find deals on tiles and other items.

4. Replace Hardware

Replacing all the hardware in your bathroom is a quick and inexpensive way to spruce it up. You don’t even have to buy new pieces; shop around on Etsy, eBay, and other secondhand markets to find stunning, one-of-kind vintage items.

A professional laying new tiles in a shower
Photo: Jodi Jacobson / E+ / Getty Images

5. Refinish vs. Replace

Replacing your bath or shower is a costly endeavor that has further repercussions: you might also need to replace the adjacent tile, plumbing fixtures, cement board, and more. That said, you can often refinish rather than replace the entire unit if the issues are cracks, dents, stains, or yellowing. If refinishing is also more than you need, you can do a simple touch-up and spot-fix using Super Glue White Porcelain Repair.

6. Install Wainscot

Wainscot is a decorative prefabricated board meant to cover the lower half of a wall. It can be used to cover up any small dings, stains, or other unsightliness without having to redo every wall in the bathroom. Furthermore, it’s quite easy to install without the help of a professional. 

7. Think Beyond Paint

Re-painting is one great way to brighten your bathroom, but wallpaper is another solution that can be cheaper and really add a lot of sass and personality with very little work. Just be sure to look for wallpaper designed specifically for bathrooms or other high-moisture areas. A layer of varnish can protect it even more.

8. DIY

If you’re doing any major installations or tear-downs, the work is best left to a professional, but there are many projects that you can do on your own. These include:

  • Painting or wallpapering

  • Changing the fixtures

  • Re-caulking

  • Installing a toilet

  • Wainscoting

Alternative Materials When on a Budget

A bright bathroom with double sinks and white tiles
Photo: Carlsson, Peter / Getty Images

There are always going to be some places where you want to splurge—like on a dreamy antique clawfoot tub—but there are plenty of fixtures where you can cut costs. You can either present the appearance of the luxury material you want or find a very good looking alternative. Generally speaking, anything you can buy that is prefabricated rather than custom built is going to be much less expensive. 

Floors

Instead of wood plank flooring, try luxury vinyl flooring—abbreviated in the reno space to LVF. Modern-day LVF is far superior to older iterations, and comes in a range of prints and options. It’s also very easy to install.

“LVF is a great alternative to tile or wood,” says Tschudi. “Not only does LVF look like wood, but it is more resistant to water damage.”

Walls

Instead of installing bathroom tiles—which can quickly add up in cost and might require professional installation—consider sticking to paint, waterproof wallpaper, or trying out wood panels for a new look.

Tub and Shower Enclosures

The most inexpensive way to refurbish your existing shower walls is with acrylic or fiberglass panels, both of which only cost about $100. If you insist on tile, opt for porcelain or ceramic—either won’t cost as much as pricey glass or stone.

Bathtub Hardware

Rather than buying each item individually, look for trim kits, which are sold complete with matching spout, handle, and showerhead. These typically only cost $100 to $200.

Toilets

Toilets are sold in a range of prices, so you’ll almost definitely be able to find one that works for your budget. Generally speaking, round toilets cost less than those with elongated bowls, and one-piece toilets are less expensive than two-piece options. 

Countertops

Laminate or glass and ceramic tiles are the most budget-friendly countertop options, and engineered stone is a solid (no pun intended) choice if granite or marble is out of your price range. If you have your heart set on natural stone, price out the cost of tiles, which is usually less expensive than buying larger slabs. You can also ask local suppliers if they have any remnant remains from larger jobs and see if they will sell them to you at a discount.

Cabinetry

Instead of custom cabinets, consider building open, wall-mounted shelving. You can create quite a lot of space by utilizing all the walls, including that usually blank space above the toilet. It’s also a great opportunity to shelf and display eye-catching plants or other decorative items: that figurine you bought in Oaxaca would look lovely in that corner near the window. If you prefer some of your items to be behind closed doors, look into pre-made options.

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