The Simplest Ways to Save Money on a Bathroom Renovation
Make smart decisions when it comes to plumbing, lighting, tile, glass, and mirrors.
Before you talk to any contractor, says Leslie Eiler, designer manager at CRD Design Build in Seattle, Washington, realize that "scope is key." Are you getting a brand-new bath or reworking an existing one? Is it a full bath or a powder room? "If a bath remodel is a renovation versus a full gut remodel, it will naturally be a lower price point," she says. "A full gut remodel often includes relocating or upgrading electrical and plumbing—both of which are expensive trades to work with and not something easily DIY-ed." Ahead, we ask the experts about some of these affiliated costs and how to save on them.
What makes a bathroom cost more?
Chipping away at the cost means knowing what materials and layout would make it more expensive. According to HomeAdvisor, the average bath-remodel costs $10,768, but our experts say you'll probably pay more than that. "Granite and quartz countertops tend to be higher in price than cultured marble or laminate countertops," says Keran Clough, who handles business development at Swartz Kitchens & Baths in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
A delay in delivering materials also causes the price to spike. Look for a contractor who starts work when all materials are in—and make it clear up front what design you want. "The biggest factor [in a bath costing more] is costly delays caused by a homeowner not ordering enough material or the incorrect materials," says Eiler. "Most builders will charge some type of fee when a homeowner's snafu delays their progress."
Look for second-hand first.
Source second-hand, gently used, or repurposed furnishings, materials, or appliances whenever possible. You can do this via Facebook Marketplace and at Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore stores. "Many large kitchen and bath dealers have closeout areas where customers can purchase cabinets that may have been discontinued or were ordered incorrectly," says Clough.
"Bear in mind that reused or salvaged materials do not have a manufacturer's warranty nor will a builder cover the item if it fails," Eiler cautions. When shopping used, less of a risk are aesthetic items like antiques or furniture—they don't need to "work" like a faucet or toilet.
Work your designer and contractor connections.
There's a tendency to hire a local handyman (or a seemingly handy friend) but a contractor and designer keep the job on track. Acting as the go-between can constitute a part-time job. "Time and again, we see frustrated homeowners get in over their heads trying to DIY a bathroom remodel," says Clough. "They hit a stumbling block that brings them to us. In the end, it costs them more money and time than if they'd worked with a pro from the get-go."
Contractors and designers have access to more product choices and often refer customers to a sub-contractor, explains Cee Edwards, president of Markraft Cabinets in Wilmington, North Carolina, that can pay off. "Due to the volume and work we send to them, you can potentially get our pricing or better pricing [on fixtures, plumbing, lighting, tile, glass and mirrors] than you calling them directly," he says. Adds Clough, "Our strong relationships with the manufacturers also mean shorter lead times and stronger warranty protections."
Know where can you cut costs.
Avoid custom work unless you're the one doing the customizing. "Adding decorative feet to the bottom of a vanity cabinet or doing a floating vanity with no toe kick underneath, [means] not having to go to a custom-furniture piece," says Edwards. And know where to add top-notch design where it won't affect your pocketbook. "Lighting can make a huge impact on a space looking and feeling high-end," explains Eiler.
"Another great design trick is using color to achieve a high-end look. Gold and chrome fixtures and hardware are still very hot, as are black, blue, and even green cabinets," says Clough. "Plywood boxes cost more than particle board. Certain wood species like maple, cherry, and Knotty Alder wood command higher prices than oak or poplar. There are [also] so many affordable tile options now that mimic the look of [high-end] marble and other stones."
But the best way to cut costs is to hire wisely. "Work with professionals who have lots of experience with bath remodels," says Clough.