In the early stages of planning a new bathroom, it's natural to fantasize about the fancy European hardware, wall-to-wall handmade tiles, expansive skylight and other extravagances you think you can't live without. Reality can hit hard when you figure out the price for such perfection.
Can you still create a dreamy bathroom even if you're on a budget? The answer is yes, as long as you know where it makes sense to splurge and where it's okay to scrimp. Here are five tips for cutting corners on your bath re-do without sacrificing style, function or quality.
1. Do Your Own Demo
Before you install your new mosaic tiled shower stall, you'll need to tear apart those icky existing fixtures. You can hire a pro for this all-important demolition phase, which will set you back about $1,000. Or, by tackling some or all of the teardown yourself, you'll have more money to spend on something you want.
However, don't assume that a DIY demo doesn't require some planning. For one, you'll need the right tools: a sledgehammer, a large crowbar, a prybar and an old claw hammer that you don't mind ruining. And make sure you know what's behind the walls before you start swinging. Surprises you want to avoid include anything from live electrical wire to water pipes. Finally, don't assume that your demo won't cost anything. In addition to the right tools, you'll probably need to rent a dumpster or hire a hauling service to cart away the debris.
2. Check Out a Recycling Center
Lightly used and recycled fixtures and building materials cost a fraction of what you'd pay for new at the neighborhood home center. At well-known national resources such as Diggers List and Habitat for Humanity Restore Resale Outlets, you'll find everything from tubs, faucets, and tile to double-hung windows and laminate flooring. While the assortment can be hit-or-miss, recent items included a contemporary vanity with built-in sink for $100 and an antique brass-finished 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 up a dim bathroom. But you don't have to cut a big hole in your roof or the side of your house to let the sunshine in. A sun tube, also known as a solar tube, is an ingenious device that you install between the rafters in your attic. These flexible tubes range from 10 inches in diameter up to 20 inches or more and work by funneling natural sunlight down to your bathroom from a small opening cut into the roof. Sun tubes cost between $200-$400, as compared to $1,500 for a double-pane insulated window or skylight installation.
4. Learn to Love Subway Tile
That glass mosaic tile with pewter accents you picked out is certainly gorgeous. But at $100 per square foot, it probably won't be covering your entire bathroom. Instead, consider using the expensive choice as a decorative border or feature wall and going 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 décor.
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 bath. You can save a chunk of change by limiting tile to the floor and shower and painting the walls. For added warmth and texture, add an inexpensive and easy-to-install wainscot or faux beadboard.