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The Do’s and Don’ts of Saving Money on a Bathroom Remodel

Posted on Aug 31, 2017 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

By Denny Conner, CRD Design Build

Q: How do I save money and still get a quality bathroom remodel?

A: When people contact us about remodeling a bathroom, one of their first questions is often about price. How much will it cost to turn a dated, worn-out space into a sparkling bathroom that looks great and suits your needs?

The total cost is based on many variables, but it can be higher than many people expect for such a small room and much more than the "fantasy" prices shown on reality TV.

That said, the amount you spend is within your control. Here are a few tips for minimizing your costs without cutting corners.

DO hire a designer

If your goal is to save money, it seems counterintuitive to hire a pro right at the start of your project. However, with a professional designer on your team, you will begin with a solid plan and a realistic budget, potentially avoiding expensive mistakes during construction. A professional designer will also help you navigate the numerous design decisions that pop up during your project. Hiring a contractor to start work without a fully thought-out plan is a recipe for disaster.

DON'T move the plumbing

While certain major bathroom renovations include the relocation of a toilet or tub, you'll save money by leaving them where they are. If you're remodeling a standard 5-by-7-foot bathroom, the basic layout you have is likely the only one that will work in your space. Even if you don't move fixtures, you will have plenty of opportunities to choose new ones to make your bathroom just right for you.

DO consider your tile options

Tile is durable, cleans easily, and has endless design possibilities. That's why it's such a popular choice for bathroom remodels. But if you want to keep the cost down, choose your tile wisely. Designer or artisan tile can add a one-of-a-kind look to your bathroom, but an interior designer can recommend lower-priced tile options, creative patterns, and interesting grout colors that will produce just as much pop for less.

Also, consider reducing the amount of tile. There's no reason the tile in your shower surround needs to reach the ceiling. And for walls away from the shower or tub, consider other materials, like painted wood bead board.

DON'T skimp on storage space

If you're trying to save money on your bathroom remodel, it's tempting to choose a smaller vanity or skimp on shelving. Please don't. Bathrooms need to be functional spaces and ample storage for all your stuff is a must. We've all seen bathrooms where every square inch of counter space is covered in cosmetics, hair products, and toothpaste tubes. To save money on cabinetry, consider lower-cost open shelving options.

DO choose quality plumbing fixtures

Bathroom plumbing fixtures vary widely in price and quality. As a rule of thumb, always choose the highest-quality fixtures your budget allows. They don't have to be fancy, but you do want them to last, especially if they are installed behind your walls, like your bath mixing valve.

DON'T forget about paint

Paint is a low-cost upgrade that can add lots of personality to your bathroom. Work with your designer to find the perfect color for an accent wall. Here's a tip: Keep your tile color neutral so you can update your paint color whenever you like. (It's way cheaper than re-tiling!)

DO choose cool light fixtures

Why do bathroom light fixtures tend to be an afterthought? With little effort, you can find fixtures that will make a statement for under $200. For general lighting, well-placed LED can lights can really brighten up your bathroom.

DON'T spend a fortune on your sink

Unlike kitchen sinks that really take a beating, bathroom sinks see relatively light duty. Skip the name brands and search online for a basic ceramic undermount model. Nobody will know the difference and you can put the savings into more decorative elements.


Denny Conner is the president of CRD Design Build and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. HomeWork is the group's weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you'd like answered by one of the MBA's more than 2,800 members, write to


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