How to Remodel a Bathroom on a Budget

When thinking about remodeling, there are two rooms that can be a real challenge to the budget – the kitchen and the bathroom. Both have lots of plumbing and electrical needs, and the bathroom may have such costly issues as tile work and more. It can feel like a no-win situation if you are eager to remodel a bathroom on a budget, but we have a few strong tips (backed by experts) that will let you refresh the look and function of the space, without also emptying the bank account.

Look at the Layout… But DON’T Change It

If you are eager to hear what design and home improvement experts would say is the number one tip for saving money on a bathroom remodel, it is this: Don’t tamper with the layout.

By not changing up the layout, or adding on, you can bring costs way down while still making some pretty major changes. After all, the floor plan or layout is what exists before you start any project, and if you stick with that as the foundation of the work, you won’t see the budget creeping up higher and higher.

Consider that a lot of people fall in love with a product, like a new tub or vanity. Then, when it comes time to work that item into the bathroom remodeling project, they either have to forget about it OR invest huge sums to make it work. If your goal is to limit the budget, then you need to work within the existing layout. Don’t try to “shoe horn” an oversized shower enclosure or gorgeous soaking tub into a space that just cannot accommodate it. Either the bathroom will become small, dysfunctional, and expensive, or it can remain functional and within a budget.

89 Inch Double Sink Bathroom Vanity with Offset Sinks

89 Inch Double Sink Bathroom Vanity with Offset Sinks

Don’t Move Plumbing

In line with sticking to the existing footprint is the goal of leaving plumbing and fixtures in place. Yes, it might be ideal if you could move the toilet and sink, or switch the placement of the shower, but if it means tearing up floors and walls to install new plumbing, the budget will skyrocket.

As writer Cheryl Freeman discovered, “Changing the layout of the room entirely, or even marginally, to accommodate plumbing in different areas of the room could significantly raise the cost of a renovation, especially when considering installation costs. So it’s recommended you try to use existing plumbing and not drastically change the layout of your room.”

Read How Much Should a Bathroom Remodel Cost

DO Eliminate the Tub

One step that you can take to give your bathroom a more modern update is to eliminate a tub altogether. Spacious and contemporary shower stalls with glass doors and lots of room are a wonderful alternative to a tub and shower combination. You’ll save water by avoiding long soaks in the tub, and you save your back by being able to more easily clean the space without crouching down on hands and knees.

Doing this lets you keep the plumbing and general footprint of the bathroom, but really boosts the modern esthetic and functionality (as well as safety) of the bathroom.

Cost-Effective Materials

Earlier, we mentioned tiles and how they can be incredibly expensive to install or replace. This is only one material that is a bit less cost-effective. If you are in love with the idea of a tiled bathroom, however, you can be a bit more savvy about using them and go with a half or partially tiled room.

For instance, you can purchase affordably-priced tiles and do a single wall or a half-wall surround of the tub or sink area. You should also go with ceramic tiles rather than more modern marble or stone tiles that can be extremely expensive.

Materials are not limited to tiles alone, and you always want to stick with the durable and affordable options such as porcelain over anything else. With countertops and cabinetry, it is the same. You can still upgrade to a more luxurious-looking space without breaking the budget.

Silver and Gray Mosaic Aluminum Tiles

Silver and Gray Mosaic Aluminum Tile

Read Pre-Planning Your Bathroom Remodel

Shop Floor Models

What should you do if you are in love with something that is made of more costly materials or is at a price point well out of your budget? One trick that experts use is to “shop floor models”. Walk through any big box home improvement store, kitchen and bath store, or shop that sells bathroom cabinetry and other supplies, and you’ll see floor models. These are display pieces that are rarely damaged and yet can be purchased at a steep discount.

If you are going to do this, also consider sale items, clearance items, and “entry level” items that are new products typically available at lower prices for their introductory period. Also, shop around online before committing to one floor model. Sometimes, online sales can get you a brand new sink, toilet, double sink vanity or other item at the same costs as floor models. It all boils down to asking about floor models and doing some rapid-fire online comparisons to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

48 Inch Single Sink Bathroom Vanity in Dark Gray with Barn Door Style Doors

48 Inch Single Sink Bathroom Vanity in Dark Gray with Barn Door Style Doors

Reuse When Possible

Lastly, we’re all told we should be reducing, reusing and recycling. This is great advice when looking to remodel a bathroom affordably. As Freeman also wrote, it is cost-effective to save “the decent things,” but then she warns about going too far. She says, “if you hang on to every last screw or tub stopper, you’re defeating the purpose of planning a lovely new bathroom.”

For example, leaving the ceiling sheetrock or materials is fine, but don’t leave the outdated fan. Save the old faucets if they look and function well, but not if they will cost more than new bathroom fixtures to clean and reinstall. Don’t save the old toilet as it may not perform well over the long term, may not match the new style of the room, and may use more water than desired.

Also consider factors such as LED bathroom lighting to save money over the long term, using quality paint that can be updated easily and regularly, swapping out linens and certain fixtures, and using accents to give the space an updated appearance. With simple steps and strategies, you can keep your budget low and your outcomes amazing.

Remodeling a bathroom for Under $500 | DIY | How To | Modern Builds | EP. 67

More Great Resources on How to Remodel on a Budget:

How to Refresh Your Bathroom on Any Budget

15 Cheap Bathroom Remodel Ideas

Before and After: 30 Incredible Small Bathroom Makeovers

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