7 Budget-Friendly Ways to Remodel a Bathroom

Is your bathroom looking a little outdated? Homeowners all over the country spend a not-small portion of their morning in a room that may be in desperate need of a makeover. But there’s a problem that seems to pop up every time you have dreams of taking on projects like this: price.

Estimates vary from region to region, but the average cost of remodeling a bathroom is about $18,500.  That's need-a-loan territory for most of us. 

7 Ways to Remodel Your Bathroom on a Budget

There are two pieces of good news that might make you feel a little better about taking on the challenge. First, you’re likely to recoup about 65% of the cost when you sell your home, and second, you can drastically reduce that $18,500 to something more within your budget. (See: Top 5 Home Renovations for Your Money in 2017. ) Here are seven ideas that can help lower the cost.

1. Don’t go overboard on tile.

Remodeling a bathroom often means replacing old tile with expensive new tile that looks gorgeous. But if you want to cut your budget, cutting the expensive tile is your first step. Smaller tile and tile with intricate designs are the priciest, so consider a larger tile size and simple patterns first. Or, if you forego the new tile around the bathtub or shower, you could save between $2,500 and $5,000, and passing up floor tiles could shave off another $3,000 to $4,500.

Instead of replacing all the tile at once, consider picking one or the other project to do now and take on the other later – possibly even next year. If you’re doing a complete remodel, starting with the floor might be the best choice since you’re probably removing everything, including the toilet and cabinets. That makes it easier to do the job.

2. Rely on paint for the makeover.

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a bathroom in need of an upgrade. Compared to the cost of a full remodel, paint is cheap. Depending on the size of your bathroom and the number of walls that require painting, you could spend $200 instead of thousands. Also, if you’re looking to cut tile costs, tile fewer of the walls and paint them instead.

A word of warning: This is not the time to use cheap paint. Because of the moisture created by your bath or shower, you need a high-quality paint that’s resistant to mold and mildew.

Although painting seems like a job that anybody can do, it’s deceptively difficult. If you don’t have a steady hand and the patience to tape all the corners and edges, it’s best to hire someone so you wind up with professional looking results.

3. Save on high-end counters.

If you have a limited amount of counter space, you won't break the bank by installing granite or other solid-surface counters. But don’t purchase your granite from a big-box home improvement store. Head to a granite supply yard and ask about their remnant stone. These are the pieces left over from bigger jobs. You can often get those at a major discount. Also ask about colors that aren’t as popular.

You can save by installing a laminate counter instead, but if you’re remodeling to sell the home, it might be best to splurge on the granite and save somewhere else.

4. Comparison-shop the fixtures.

Go to your nearest home improvement center and you’ll find that the prices of fixtures fluctuate wildly. If you have an eye for the modern and luxurious, you could shell out $300 or more just for a faucet.

However, for every $300 sink faucet, there’s a nearly exact replica for a fraction of the price. This Kohler faucet retails for $365, but this nearly identical-looking Delta faucet is priced at $159 and costs about $90 in stores.

If you’re handy and have an eye for design, you can make towel racks and toilet paper dispensers out of industrial pipe or other raw materials, too.

5. Ditto with the lighting.

The same strategy you use for the fixtures can be applied to selecting lighting. Any light you fall in love with probably has a cheaper replica online for much less money. Bathrooms must be well lit and that creates heat, so use LED bulbs whenever possible. They cost more but are well worth the investment.

6. Don’t replace the bathtub – refinish it.

Once a bathtub is installed in a bathroom, getting it out is usually expensive. Although a new tub doesn't have to be pricey (one can retail for as little as $300), removing the old one, hiring a plumber to reattach the pipes and installing the new bathtub can add more than $3,000 to the cost. Instead of replacing your bathtub, have it refinished (which is also called reglazing or resurfacing), which will set you back $460, on average. A shower can also get the refinishing treatment.

7. Do your own installations.

If you’re handy, you can install a toilet. No need to call a plumber for that task unless he/she will be doing some other work on the renovations. It also pays to figure out how to do your remodeling without any major plumbing moves since the price tag for relocating plumbing is likely to be quite high.

You also can purchase standard bathroom cabinets at your local home improvement center and install them yourself. The same goes for the counters.

The Bottom Line

If something is physically broken, it needs to be replaced. If there are areas of mold or obvious major cosmetic issues, they need to be addressed. It doesn't pay to save money by covering up something that’s broken, but you can save by carefully planning your remodel and using the ways mentioned here to spruce up the space without blowing the budget.

Before starting the job, have all the supplies you need in place so you’re not tempted to purchase them quickly and at a higher price. (Considering other home improvements? Check out: 6 Things You Think Add Value to Your Home – But Really Don’t.)