In the early stages of planning a bathroom remodel, it’s natural to fantasize about fancy European hardware, wall-to-wall handmade tiles, expansive skylights, and other extravagances you think you can’t live without. But reality can hit hard when you calculate the price for such perfection.
Can you still create a dreamy bathroom on a budget? Yes, as long as you know where it makes sense to splurge and where it’s OK to scrimp.
1. Do Your Own Demo
Before you install that new mosaic tile shower, you’ll need to tear apart those icky existing fixtures. You can hire a pro for this demolition phase, which might set you back roughly $1,000. Or you can tackle some or all of the teardown yourself and have more money to spend on your new bathroom.
A DIY demo does still require some planning. For one, you’ll need the right tools: likely a sledgehammer, a large crowbar, a pry bar, and an old claw hammer you don’t mind ruining. Make sure you know what’s behind the walls—especially electrical wiring and water pipes—before you start swinging. Finally, don’t assume your demo won’t cost anything. In addition to tools, you’ll probably need to rent a dumpster or hire a hauling service to cart away debris.
2. Check Out a Recycling Center
Lightly used building materials cost a fraction of what you’d pay for something new at the neighborhood home center. At many resale resources, such as Diggers List and Habitat for Humanity ReStores, you’ll find tubs, faucets, tile, windows, laminate flooring, and more.
The assortment can be hit-or-miss, so it’s necessary to keep an eye out for the products you want. Some past items for sale have included a contemporary vanity with a built-in sink for $100 and an antique brass faucet set for $400 (retail price $2,300).
3. Add Light, Not Holes
Adding a window or skylight is a popular—and pricey—solution for brightening a dim bathroom. But you don’t have to cut a big hole in your roof or the side of your house to let in the sunshine.
A sun tube, also known as a solar tube, is an ingenious device that you install between the attic rafters. These flexible tubes range from about 10 inches in diameter up to more than 20 inches, and they funnel natural sunlight down to your bathroom from a small opening cut into the roof. Sun tubes cost between $200 and $400, compared to the $1,500 you’d likely spend on a double-paned window or skylight.
4. Learn to Love Subway Tile
That glass mosaic tile with pewter accents you have your eye on is certainly gorgeous. But at $100 per square foot, it’s probably not in the budget for the whole bathroom.
Instead, consider using your expensive tile choice as a decorative border or feature wall, and go with white subway tile for the remainder of your tiled surfaces. Clean, simple, and less than $3 per square foot, classic subway tile has a timeless appeal that harmonizes with nearly every bathroom style.
5. Grab a Can of Paint
Even the least expensive tile can eat up your design budget. But you don’t need floor-to-ceiling tile to make a dramatic impact in your new bathroom.
Save a chunk of change by limiting tile to the floor and shower area, and paint the rest of the walls. For more warmth and texture, you can add easy-to-install wainscot or faux beadboard, which typically comes in at a lower price than tile. And, of course, you’ll also save money if you do the painting yourself instead of hiring a professional.