Bathroom Renovations on a Limited Budget

Bathroom Renovations on a Limited Budget
  • Opening Intro -

    Bathrooms wear out fast, from frequent use and due to moisture that seems to penetrate everything.

    Buy a new house and within 10 years, your main bathroom will show signs of wear, requiring a refreshing to bring it back to “like new” status.


If you’re planning a bathroom renovation, your personal budget is one of the largest considerations for this project. A well worn bathroom may need to be gutted, with tub and shower, sink, toilet and tiling removed. In some cases, plumbing and electrical connections must be updated especially if you bring in a whirlpool, add in a double sink or need improved ventilation.

We’re not going to look at complete renovation, rather this discussion centers on an update constrained by financial limitations. Instead of paying what could amount to a $10,000 plus renovation, we’re looking at a project that should cost you under $2,000, or under $1,000 if you do it yourself.

Let’s explore how you can get your bathroom renovation accomplished for less money:

Establish a budget – You want to save money, but renovating inexpensively should never mean substituting quality materials for inferior nor should it mean using the services of someone who ignores local building regulations and flouts safety considerations.

You and your spouse should take a look at your bathroom and write down a wish list of all things you’d like to have replaced. Include even the pricier “dream” items you would like to have replaced. If something costs too much, you can take it off of the list or modify your budget accordingly. Be specific too: if fixtures need to be replaced, then identify what you want in its place For example, if you want a Moen faucet, a granite counter top or light brown walnut cabinetry, then write it all down. The initial stage of planning allows everyone to include what they like before whittling the list into something practical for your budget.

Put together a plan – You don’t need planning software to design a renovation, unless your bathroom update is extensive. Instead, draw a simple sketch of the bathroom, marking the various components slated for change. These may include painting the walls, replacing tile, swapping out fixtures, putting in a light or installing a new cabinet.

Consider taking “before” photos of your bathroom and using these pictures as part of your plan. This can be particularly helpful if you go to your local home renovation store to speak with a salesperson. You can “show” what bathroom looks like and he can “tell” you what is needed to get the job done.

Shop around for bargains – The cost of materials will go far in helping you determine whether you stay within your budget or go over it. Labor is the other cost that may need to be factored in.

Though home renovation stores offer good value, you may find your best deals by shopping discount stores and supply houses directly. Further savings can be realized if you choose items which have been discontinued, but are still usable and would look quite nice in your bathroom. For example, that over the sink cabinet with cherry finish may have been popular in 2009, but has since been replaced by a different style. That means the price has been slashed to clear inventory, allowing you to save half or much more by choosing a style that was popular just a few years ago.

Pick and choose jobs – Homeowners find themselves getting into trouble when they undertake jobs they clearly cannot handle. You may be able to swap out a toilet or a sink, but running plumbing or handling electrical lines may be best left for professionals. That means honestly assessing what jobs you know that you can handle and which jobs must be outsourced.

Expect to revisit your budget if problems arise. Ripping up the tile may be something you can handle, but if the floor underneath has been damaged by water or needing to be re-leveled, may be best left to a contractor. A back up plan, perhaps one funded by a home equity loan or line of credit can offset these sort of surprises and pay for a more comprehensive bathroom renovation.

Make good use of what you already have – Clearly, the best way to keep your budget in line is to make use of what you already have in place. That may mean using existing cabinetry, but replacing knobs, refinishing doors and painting over woodwork.

If your bathroom mirror is in excellent shape, instead of replacing it, you can add a frame around it. A new bathroom window with opaque glass for privacy can dramatically change the “look” of your bathroom, bringing in natural light while affording you the privacy you want. If bathroom linoleum is not damaged, you can lay fresh tiles over it, saving you money.

Once you put your bathroom plan in place, you may discover that a more comprehensive renovation is what you want. After the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important selling feature in a house, something to keep in mind if you eventually expect to move on.

See AlsoKitchen and bath spec plans.

Photo: SXU



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Categories: Bed and Bath

About Author

Krayton M Davis

Executive Manager: LetsRenovate Team