When remodeling a bathroom to save money, what you should avoid is often as important as what you should do. Avoid these bathroom remodeling pitfalls that are guaranteed to drive up the budget, slow down the timetable, and result in added maintenance down the road.
Remodeling the Bathroom With No Plan
Jumping into the bathroom remodel haphazardly is a sure way to spend more money than is necessary. Even though bathrooms tend to be rather small, their dense cluster of services within that small space means that you cannot afford to do anything impromptu and absent a clear plan. For example, if you install the toilet and then decide that it should be moved a few feet to the left, the project will be more expensive than if you have situated it correctly the first time around. So, lay out a firm bathroom design even before you call up the contractor or design company.
Choosing Expensive Options When Simple Ones Work Better
Assuming that the expensive bathroom remodel option will take care of all of your problems is not always the correct assumption. Contractors, home improvement stores, supply houses, and many others may drive you toward purchasing higher grade and more expensive materials and services. While their intentions might be honest, it results in a higher overall cost to you.
For example, a frameless glass shower is solid and attractive. Often resulting in higher resale value for your home, a frameless shower dresses up your bathroom more than other types of shower stalls. However, frameless glass showers are more expensive than framed glass showers or other shower stall units. If a framed shower unit can work for you, consider how much the extra cost of a frameless version is worth to you. This applies across the board with natural stone counters, quartz counters, stone floors, solid wood cabinets, designer paint, and a host of other premium products.
Replacing Items Rather Than Repairing Items
Maybe the tile shower surround just needs regrouting rather than a full replacement. Or the vanity can be painted rather than ripped out and replaced. Everything is more difficult to replace when you are remodeling a bathroom. For one, bathrooms are embedded deeper into the house than other rooms, making it harder to extract demolished materials. Similarly, it is much harder to bring new building materials into the house. And you often have to carry items through rooms that you want to keep clean.
Bathroom materials, too, tend to be more expensive. So, if you can keep any item and refurbish it, you save money. Some examples include the following:
- Refinish your bathtub or shower
- Reface or paint cabinets
- Reglaze the sink
- Refinish the countertop
- Regrout the tile
Ignoring Bathroom Ventilation
A bathroom fan is often the last on the list of priorities when remodeling a bathroom. But poor ventilation has a domino effect. Moisture-laden air in the bathroom can cause pervasive mold or mildew that can ruin other remodeling work. Newer bathroom ventilation fans are a vast improvement over old ones. They are quieter, more powerful, and more effective. Heat lamps are another way to reduce moisture in your bathroom.
Installing the Wrong Type of Bathroom Flooring
When remodeling, think in terms of flooring that is appropriate for bathrooms. Ceramic tile, porcelain tile, luxury vinyl plank, and sheet vinyl flooring tend to work best in the bathroom because they shed water. Solid hardwood, engineered wood, and laminate flooring rarely are your best options for bathrooms. In a pinch, site-finished wood flooring can be made to work for a while, but decay is inevitable. Any kind of stone in the bathroom will need to come pre-sealed or be sealed by you. Plus, natural stone will need occasional resealing to keep moisture from permeating into the surface of the stone. Choosing the wrong type of flooring for bathrooms compromises not just the flooring, it compromises the underlying structure of subflooring, underlayment, and joists.
Entirely Doing the Bathroom Remodel Yourself
If you are handy with common household tools, you can probably take on projects like installing bathroom flooring, laying ceramic tile, painting walls, installing a bathroom vanity, adding a GFCI outlet, and even running branch circuits.
But when it comes to advanced activities such as building an entirely new shower stall, installing whole-bathroom wiring, or doing a premium-quality tile surround job, consider whether you are truly up to the job. Many bathroom remodeling projects will, in the end, be less expensive and less frustrating if you call in the professionals from the start.
Starting With the Primary Bathroom Remodel
If your house has two or more bathrooms and all need remodeling work, it makes complete sense to begin with the largest, most heavily used primary bathroom. Or does it?
About This Term: Primary Bathroom
Many real estate associations, including the National Association of Home Builders, have classified the term "Master Bedroom" (or "Master Bathroom") as discriminatory. "Primary Bedroom" is the name now widely used among the real estate community and better reflects the purpose of the room.
Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge to make The Spruce a site where all feel welcome.
Unless you are a highly experienced do-it-yourselfer, your first bathroom remodeling project will be a learning experience. Mishaps will happen. Paint will spill. Toilets will leak. Instead of starting with the most visible bathroom, start with a smaller one: a powder room or a kid's bathroom. The smaller spaces in these bathrooms mean that they are easier, cheaper, and faster to remodel.