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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

How to Remodel Your Bathroom on a Tight Budget

Written by Posted On Monday, 12 February 2018 14:36

Although they are usually the smallest rooms in the house, bathrooms can be complicated and pricey to remodel. Beth Buczynski of NerdWallet.com reports that the average mid-range bathroom remodel costs $18,546 but recoups only 64.8 percent of that cost in the resale value of your home. Wanting to be rid of those avocado green tiles from a bygone era is understandable, but if you’re planning to start your remodel with a stick of dynamite and rebuilding your luxury master bath from the rubble, you might find yourself taking out a second mortgage to pay for it. Here are some strategies to help plug the drain on your finances.

 

Buczynski says the first step is to make a list of “must-haves,” renovations that are non-negotiable. Focus on things that are broken, inefficient, or extremely outdated first. Anything that is not absolutely essential goes on your “wishlist,” projects you can tackle if you have money left in your budget.

 

Once you have a clear idea of what needs to be done, consider whether you need to hire someone else to do it. Sarah Szczypinski of Creditrepair.com advises homeowners to go DIY whenever possible. Take advantage of free tutorials on YouTube as well as resources offered by home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Unless you are remodeling your entire home or doing a major overhaul that involves knocking out bathroom walls, hiring a professional designer is usually not necessary.

 

If you’re not exactly Bob the Builder, there are still plenty of smaller tasks you can do yourself. Buczynski points out you can save up to $1,000 by doing your own painting, which might be a small job if most of your bathroom is tiled, and removing old fixtures before the contractor arrives can save you hundreds of dollars in labor costs. Another way to save is by hiring a contractor but buying your own materials.

 

It’s important to recognize what tasks require a professional. The last thing you want is to get in over your head (literally if your poor plumbing skills cause a flood) and have to pay someone a fortune to fix your mistakes. If you’re replacing your entire sewage system, for example, don’t take any chances. Hire a company that uses the least invasive methods possible, such as this south San Francisco plumber, who uses a trenchless process to replace sewer pipes without having to dig up your entire yard.

 

To get your money’s worth, Szczypinski emphasizes the need to research contractors thoroughly: “If you are hiring someone to do specific and complicated work, it’s vital to check their credentials and references before beginning the project. Consult the Better Business Bureau and your state’s business licensing website. It’s also important to investigate work ethic and friendliness. Rely on your fellow customers’ opinions by browsing Yelp or Angie’s List for reviews.”

 

Once you have compared three or four contractors and made your final choice, don’t neglect the details of the contract. Your written agreement should establish a clear timeline for completion of the project and include not only an estimate but also a maximum cost the contractor will not exceed.

 

Because tearing out old fixtures and installing new ones accounts for the largest percentage of total remodeling costs, the easiest way to save money is to repair and restore old fixtures instead of replacing them. In his article on thespruce.com, Lee Wallender recommends resurfacing techniques for areas that have cosmetic damage but no underlying mold or structural issues. Reglaze an old cast iron tub to save the cost of buying and installing a new one. Cover the lower section of walls with pressed board wainscot to give the room a fresh look.

 

When you do replace fixtures, keep labor and customization to a minimum. Opt for prefabricated shower units instead of hiring someone to build a shower out of tile. Look for pre-assembled vanities with sinks already installed to save hours of caulking.

 

Unless the layout of your bathroom is a labyrinth fit for a minotaur, avoid relocating fixtures that require moving pipes and electrical wiring, especially if your bathroom is on the second floor or higher. According to Consumer Reports, relocating a toilet just one foot might set you back $1,000. If you only need to shift the toilet a few inches to make room for something else, install a cheap offset flange instead.

 

The aisles of home improvement stores are chocked full of enticing items that have cheaper, more practical, and nearly identical alternatives. Consumer Reports advises against shelling out extra bucks for bathroom paint; any indoor satin or semi-gloss enamel with good mildew resistance will perform equally well. Wallender points out vinyl plank flooring will give you the look of hardwood at a fraction of the cost, while Josh Garskof’s article in Time advises homeowners to opt for stone-look porcelain tile rather than real stone, which is also more expensive to install.

 

According to Bankrate.com, the difference in cost between fixture models can be dramatic: a toilet can cost $130 or $780, and a shower can run from $450 to $10,000. Don’t assume that more expensive models are better. Consumer Reports maintains that the only toilet feature worth investing in is the unit’s ability to clear the bowl with one flush and avoid clogs that require a plumber’s future intervention.

 

If you are designing your own bathroom, you’ve probably pinned countless remodeling ideas to your Pinterest board, but beware of investing money in the latest trends. That mason jar chandelier won’t be trendy forever. Stay away from passing fads and pet projects, especially if you are planning to sell your home in the near future. You don’t want to have to do another remodel just a few years down the road.

 

How are you remodeling your bathroom without breaking the bank? Let us know in the comments.

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