Bathrooms and kitchens are the main areas of the house that most homeowners would love to change. Both projects have a tendency to be expensive. When it comes to savings, bathroom remodels' cost overruns can be simple to control. Because of the smaller space, it can be easier to implement cost-saving measures. Plus, do-it-yourself work will reduce the costs of any contracted project.
Retain the Bathroom's Size and Layout
Enlarging or rearranging a bathroom often means moving plumbing pipes, which can be expensive. The toilet discharge and sewer pipe are particularly expensive to move.
Resize or alter the bathroom only if it is necessary to accommodate your needs. Moving objects that aren't easily movable is the single most expensive aspect of bathroom remodeling. You can alter the size or layout of your bathroom during a remodel. But you do need to weigh the benefits of that change against the financial impact of that change.
Keep the Bathroom's Load-Bearing Walls in Place
Load-bearing walls hold up your second floor, if any, and the roof. Moving or removing a load-bearing wall is a major project involving structural changes. As a rule of thumb, exterior walls are load-bearing. Interior walls that run parallel to ceiling joists tend to be non-load-bearing.
Explore the possibilities of expanding through non-load-bearing walls—walls that do not bear weight. Non-lead-bearing walls can be removed or moved with moderate cost and effort.
If you do want to move that load-bearing wall, it is best to hire a contractor. But you can even do it on your own if you are especially motivated. Materials such as laminated beams are inexpensive but much labor is involved.
Save the Bathroom's Drywall If Possible
Drywall often must be completely replaced in bathroom renovations, due to the high moisture levels in this environment. Drywall replacement is common enough and should be anticipated. Any drywall that is even remotely affected by mold should be removed.
The more walls you open up, the more walls you will need to close up later on. Each closed-up wall means more drywall and paint and associated labor.
If any section of drywall is in good shape, keep it. Clear out and replace only the bad sections. Drywall near or behind showers and bathtubs often requires replacement. But drywall in other areas of the bathroom may still be in good shape.
Refinish Bathroom Elements Instead of Replacing Them
Removing and replacing existing plumbing fixtures and tubs or shower bases or surrounds adds to the cost of the replacement fixtures. It may also include demolition work and construction changes, as well as a new installation.
Ask yourself if any of these items really do need to be replaced. Are you replacing them for functional or for aesthetic reasons? If they are unattractive but operable, you may have options for dressing them up or for renewing them rather than replacing them.
You can refinish your bathtub with an attractive, protective coating instead of entirely replacing it. You can paint your bathroom cabinet instead of sending it to the landfill and buying a new cabinet.
Not only does it make financial sense to refinish bathroom items, but it also makes environmental sense.
Install a Prefabricated Shower or Bathtub
Tearing out an old prefabricated shower base and surround and replacing it with a custom tiled base and walls is one of the most expensive bathroom improvements you can make.
Consider using a pre-formed, one-piece shower stall rather than a tiled shower. It will be considerably less expensive because you won't be hiring costly tile setters. Also, prefabricated shower stalls go up in hours, while tiled showers take several days.
As an alternative, you might start with a prefabricated shower base and tile the walls yourself. Tile materials can be much cheaper than a one-piece stall; it's the labor that makes most tile expensive.
Some pre-fabricated shower or bathtub/shower units will not fit through narrow hallways or bathroom doors, especially in older homes. One-piece units, in particular, need ample passage room.
Install a Standard-Type Toilet
It always makes sense to replace an old water-wasting toilet with a new water-saving model. But new toilets often come with lots of features that can be surprisingly expensive, and they may need costly maintenance down the road.
Unless you have special needs for a toilet with lots of extra features, choose a well-designed, simple toilet that offers good flushing performance with little water. Toilets do not have to be expensive to do the job right.
Also, toilet installation is a common do-it-yourself project that, for many homeowners, may seem more difficult than it really is. Installing your own toilet will save some money on plumbers' bills.
Keep the Bathroom's Electrical Circuits in Place
Bathrooms that get remodeled usually need wiring upgrades because the existing wiring does not meet the current electrical code standards.
If your bathroom wiring is functional, your local permitting office may be able to tell you if your system can be grandfathered in. If it needs to be brought up to code, it may need some changes. One common example is to replace non-grounded outlets with GFCI (ground-fault current-interrupter) outlets. If the electrical wiring is safe and fits your needs, keep it in place.