19 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Bathroom Remodel

Claire Shaner

Last Updated: December 17th, 2019

bathroom

A bathroom remodel adds luxury and value to a home. However, depending on how a homeowner goes about their bathroom remodel, the price could fluctuate by thousands of dollars. You don’t want to be flushing your money down the toilet. Here are some simple, money-saving tips to keep in mind when you remodel your bathroom:

1. Renovate your tub instead of buying a new one

If your bathtub is structurally fine but just needs a facelift, look into resurfacing the tub or ordering a bath liner. Resurfacing can change the color of your tub and make it look brand new. This requires the use of chemicals and should be done by a professional. It will usually cost a couple hundred dollars. If your tub is a little dinged up and you want a new surface to it, you can order a custom bath liner that will fit snugly over your existing tub.

2. Keep plumbing where it is

Moving plumbing around will quickly raise the price of your bathroom remodel by thousands of dollars. To move pipes you usually will have to get in the flooring and walls. Keep remodeling costs low by leaving your toilet, vanity, and shower where they already are. If you’re redoing your shower, try to keep the drain and spigot in about the same place to take advantage of the existing plumbing. If you’re planning a full scale renovation (moving walls and appliances), consult a plumber or knowledgeable contractor about how to keep the plumbing costs low.

3. Skip the fancy toilet

A basic toilet can cost you as little as $100. Though you might not want one that cheap, a $1,000 toilet is excessive. A water-saving toilet might save money over time, but you can get an efficient toilet without all the other bells and whistles. If you’re replacing your toilet, consider if you really need to replace the whole thing. Most toilets come in two or more parts. Do you need a whole new one, or just a new bowl? Does it look okay, but doesn’t work so well? Look into just replacing some interior parts.

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4. Search for damaged (and discounted!) appliances

When a hardware store has a chipped, scratched, dented, or otherwise compromised appliance, it can’t sell it for full price anymore. These type of appliances make their way to scratch and dent sellers. These stores are also called appliance outlets, open-box appliances, or appliance clearance. You can find things like bathtubs, shower surrounds, sinks, toilets, hardware, cabinets, and countertops. Most of these types of appliances are sold at a large discount, usually more than 50 percent off. Sometimes the scratch or dent is on a place that won’t be seen in your bathroom, like the side or back. If the appliance is broken, it may cost less to repair than it would to buy one brand new.

5. Think about what the bathroom will be used for most

If you’re remodeling your master bath, you might want to spend some extra money on luxury fixtures like heated floors, a rain shower, or soaker tub. However, if you’re remodeling a different space like a powder room or guest bath, it’s unlikely you’ll miss these elegant touches. If you’re remodeling a bathroom that you aren’t planning on spending much time in, keep it simple.

6. Only add luxury where it matters

If you’re only going to take a bath once a year, skip the jetted tub. If you live somewhere warm, you probably don’t need in-floor heating. However, if you’ve always dreamed of a walk-in shower, that’s where you should splurge. If a generic white sink is just fine for you, don’t get a marble one. Prioritize your “must haves” first.

7. Limit the fancy tile

Tile is usually priced by the square foot or by each piece. If you’ve been dreaming of a custom tile mosaic, do it, but don’t do it in your whole bathroom. Use nice or custom tile as an accent, maybe in the shower, in a certain part of the floor, or as vanity backsplash. In the rest of the bathroom, use a generic (and inexpensive!) tile that matches your custom accent. Less expensive tile could be subway tile, vinyl tile, or ceramic tile instead of porcelain. In recent years, vinyl flooring has grown in popularity due to its durability, price, and wide range in colors and design. You can even get vinyl planks that look just like hardwood floors. You could consider taking wood-style vinyl up your bathroom walls for a sauna look.

8. Don’t buy a generic accessory at a high-end retailer

If you’re shopping for your accent tile at an artisan or custom boutique, don’t also buy your generic tile there. Chances are you can find something similar at a more affordable store. Another example, if you don’t care what style your towel bar is in, look for a generic one at a warehouse store.

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9. Focus on small, impactful fixes

Sometimes all your bathroom needs is some new lighting and accents. Add some extra lighting by the vanity. Change out fixtures like door handles, faucets, drawer pulls, or light fixtures to give your bath an updated feel. Add mirrors to make your bathroom feel larger. You can easily add crown moulding to your bathroom for under $100. Crown moulding makes the room feel taller and more elegant. Consider framing your mirror or adding a piece of statement art.

10. Do your own painting

Though painting takes time and patience, it’s a relatively easy job. If your bathroom doesn’t have extremely tall walls, this is easily a job that you can tackle yourself instead of hiring it out. If you aren’t sure what color to paint your walls, buy a small amount of paint of a few color options and paint them in swatches on the walls or on poster boards that you can hold up in different parts of the room.

11. Haul your own materials and garbage

If you have a truck (or can borrow one), you can save on disposal and delivery fees by hauling away garbage or picking up materials yourself. If you’re doing demolition as part of your remodel, you’ll definitely have some scraps to get rid of.

12. Go to the store to buy the materials yourself

If you’re paying your contractor by the hour, you don’t want to pay them to roam Home Depot. Most contractors charge at least $50 per hour. Talk with your contractor about what he’ll need, make a detailed list, and take care of the errand yourself. Though it might take you a couple of hours, it will save you money and will help your project get done faster because the contractor can keep working while you’re picking up what they need. Also, while you’re at the store you’ll be keeping your eyes out for specials and sales, something your contractor doesn’t have as much interest in when they’re spending your money.

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13. Always get more than one bid

Make sure to ask several contractors or companies how much they will charge for your bathroom remodel. You’ll be able to compare the quotes and see which is best. Before you ask, do your research and make an estimate about how much you think would be fair. This knowledge will give you some bargaining power and help you be able to tell if you’re being overcharged.

14. Get a full cost breakdown from the contractor

This will help you know which prices are negotiable. Labor cost is extremely variable, but the materials cost might be fixed. If you can, only pay the contractor for the labor cost and buy all materials yourself to ensure you’re getting the best price.

15. Make and stick to a budget

Before you begin your bathroom remodel, define how much money you have available to spend. Do your research about how much each part of the remodel is going to cost. The average cost of a bathroom remodel is around $10,000 but costs can easily get out of hand and reach double or triple that. Find out how much your big ticket items and labor will cost, then decide how much you have left for the smaller touches. Leave wiggle room in your budget for surprises like mold and mildew or the project taking longer than anticipated.

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16. Schedule your remodel in the off-season

Contractors typically don’t charge a flat fee for their services. Their labor cost fluctuates depending on several factors, including how busy they are. If your contractor is busy, they won’t be itching for new work and will give you a higher bid for their services. However, if they don’t have many jobs lined up, you’re more likely to get a good deal. Construction off-season is usually in the winter.

17. Create a comprehensive design plan before you begin

If you don’t have the remodel completely mapped out from start to finish, you’ll end up spending more money as you change your mind on design plans. Begin with mood boards (like Pinterest), a free design consultation from the company you’re working with, or drawing it all out on paper.

18. Do some remodel work yourself

Some remodel work, like plumbing, electrical work, or intricate tiling, is better left to the professionals. Some remodeling requires permits, and if you do it wrong it could even be dangerous. However, some remodeling can be done as a DIY project. Consider painting, installing fixtures, doing clean up, and helping in demolition and the removal of old appliances.

19. Pick a well-reviewed company or contractor

Most bathroom remodel horror stories begin with a bad contractor. Check out their previous work and ask for references. Check the contractor’s licenses. If you hire a lousy remodeling company or contractor you could end up thousands of dollars poorer with a bad bathroom. See our list of the best bathroom remodeling companies here. 

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