13 Practical Ideas to Cut Your Costs of a Bathroom Remodel
Has a bathroom remodel EVER COST LESS than expected?
I bet the resounding answer to this is a big fat NO! And with rapidly escalating material prices and bathroom remodeling contractors as scarce as toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s a fair to say bathroom remodeling costs aren’t going down any time soon. And as a matter of fact, the average cost of a midrange bathroom remodeling project in 2021 is a whopping $24,424 according to the remodeling industry’s Cost/Value Study.
So, if your bathroom is practically begging for an update and you (a) aren’t made of money and (b) aren’t the second coming of Bob Vila capable of taking it all on by yourself, you may be wondering how in the world you’re going to get this project done without draining your life savings?
And as a guy who leads a business which has wholesaled tens of thousands of bathroom products nationally (and installed countless bathroom remodels in Cleveland Ohio), I can tell you I’ve seen plenty of ‘nightmare on Elm Street’ situations where people been ‘taken to the dry cleaners’ (as they say) in the process of remodeling their bathroom.
So, the real question is how can you keep the lid on (or dare I say reduce) your costs of renovating the bathroom, yet still get an uber-cool finished result? Your answer is in taking advantage of 13 practical ideas to chop down the costs of bathroom remodeling. Let’s check out these ideas.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #1 – Use thinner frameless glass shower doors
One of the reasons you may be doing a bath remodel in the first place is you’re sick and tired of laboring over framed glass shower doors with the disgusting track at the bottom you GET THE OPPORTUNITY to clean (OK – I’m being sarcastic here).
And even though you can’t afford the top-of-the-line shower doors – you certainly don’t want to ‘make the same mistake twice’ and buy a cheap framed shower door you have to clean ever again.
It’s for this reason I’d recommend a frameless glass shower door with thinner glass. You can get a nice ¼” thick or 5/16” thick frameless glass sliding, pivoting or bypass door yet save money vs. the luxury doors which are 3/8” or ½” thick.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #2 – Use grout free wall panels vs. tile
Maybe you’re dealing with a ceramic tile shower today with disgusting moldy grout joints. Or you’re putting up with a fiberglass one-piece shower surround the builder slapped in. It has stains you can’t get out no matter what ‘potion’ you try.
You want a lower-maintenance alternative to tile, but a higher quality product than a cheap fiberglass surround. Oh – and you DO NOT want to sacrifice looks either.
If you think finding this product is the impossible dream, I’m here to announce to you it’s not. And as a matter of fact, you can even get a ‘fancy-schmancy’ look like this white herringbone tile design AND have zero maintenance to go along with it.
This product – in case you haven’t heard about them – are laminate shower wall panels. They’re simple to install with a click and lock feature (like laminate flooring). And best yet – they have a lifetime guarantee. Isn’t it time to say ‘bye-bye Felicia’ to expensive tile showers which your contractor refuses to guarantee?
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Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #3 – Don’t move plumbing or walls
It didn’t ‘sound’ like a big deal to move your toilet to the other side of the room UNTIL your bathroom remodeling contractor told you what was involved and dropped the bomb (‘er gave you the price) of the cost it would add to the project.
Structural changes (moving plumbing and walls) in a bathroom remodel cost big bucks. If your goal is to keep the lid on costs, see if you can make your existing layout work with more thoughtful products before juggling your bathroom around.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #4 – Learn ‘custom’ doesn’t always mean your costs will be higher
Yes – I know you get the ‘heebie-jeebies’ (whatever the heebie-jeebies’ are) whenever you hear your contractor or supplier utter that ultra-scary word ‘custom.’ However, on occasion buying a ‘custom product’ can be cheaper than buying a ‘standard product.’ And if you think I’ve ‘gone off the rails’ here, let me explain.
Let’s say you have a concrete floor and bought a standard shower pan to save a few bucks. Then you find out the shower drain in the standard pan is in the wrong location. Your contractor will have to cut the concrete to get the ‘standard pan’ to work. So, your ‘cheap pan’ suddenly becomes an expensive pan when you add the labor costs to get the drain in the right place.
It’s in these instances you could be better off with a custom cultured stone shower pan or a solid custom PVC pan which is built to allow you to reuse your existing drain location (eliminating the need to cut through the concrete floor). Although you’ll pay more for the pan – you may more than make up for it with lower labor costs (not to mention the excessive dust) to install the shower base.
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Click here to request free samples of our Shower Base Products.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #5 – ‘Fake out’ a custom size to become a standard size with thoughtful reframing
My customer thought she was ‘cooked’ when she showed me her drawing of a 5’8” (68” wide) x 38” deep shower. She’d been told she HAD TO HAVE a custom shower pan and wall system because neither the depth, nor the width of her shower was standard. And what she was told was true……BUT…. here’s what she wasn’t told.
By reframing the opening to 5’0” (and putting a ‘ledge’ for soap, shampoo, or towels in the back) this shower can use a standard 60” x 36” system. This ‘reframing’ not only provides a convenient place for storage inside the shower – but will dramatically cut the cost of a glass shower door and allow the use of a standard shower pan.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #6 – Use corner shelves vs. recessed niches
I’ll admit I like the look of a recessed niche (a shampoo or soap storage cavity built into the wall) more than corner shelves. However, sometimes in a remodel you need to know ‘when to hold them and when to fold them.’ Or as the Rolling Stones would say, “You can’t always get what you want, but you CAN get what you need.”
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And you need storage – and boy do you need storage if you live with my wife or daughter! And I’m here to tell you niches (especially tile niches) WILL be more expensive than corner shelves.
So, if you need a small (yet important) place to shave a few bucks off your remodeling job, choosing corner shelves over recessed niches is one place you can do it. Although I’ll warn you DO NOT BUY those stupid metal corner shelves where all the soap falls through the holes. Those ‘bad-boys’ I see in hotel bathrooms all the time make me wanna scream, how about you?
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #7 – Save by sprucing the cabinets and splurging on the ‘jewelry’ (‘er vanity hardware)
To keep the lid on your remodeling costs you’ll need to stop the spending somewhere – the question will be where? And if you have a God-awful looking vanity, by all means replace it. However, if you have a vanity which is in good shape, but the color or stain doesn’t work with your new décor, consider repainting it. Then generate pizzazz by adding stylish handles to this vanity. This is an effective way to add ‘style on the cheap.’
Image Source: www.schoolhouse.com
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #8 – Don’t ‘buy as you go’
A failure to plan (and to buy products early) can be costly. Before you do anything create a floor plan for your remodel. Figure out what sizes you need. And once you know the sizes buy the materials BEFORE you start the work. This will prevent you (or your remodeler) from having a ‘half-finished’ job for months on end given the crazy supply issues in the world today. In addition, you won’t need to absorb the escalating costs we’re seeing also.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #9 – DO NOT pay a professional bathroom contractor to remodel your ENTIRE bathroom
I know many bathroom remodeling contractors may be gritting their teeth while reading this, but here’s what I mean. In most master bathrooms the most difficult part of the project is the ‘wet area’ (by this I mean the shower replacement or tub to shower conversion you’re doing). This is the part of the remodel which requires you know what you’re doing. And as the saying goes – “A wise man (or woman) knows what they don’t know.”
So, if you’re not a plumbing expert AND your existing shower or tub is a M-E-S-S, one option is to hire a bathroom remodeling contractor to do the ‘wet area only.’ You can finish up painting the walls or repainting the existing bathroom vanity (assuming it’s in OK shape). And if you need better lighting DO bring in a professional electrician so you don’t end up looking like the guy below and think you’ll ‘experiment’ and figure out this electrical stuff on your own.
Simply put the smart approach is…
Use experts where you don’t have expertise. Roll up your sleeves and do the simple stuff yourself to save a few bucks.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #10 – DO NOT put your money where you butt is!
I’ve got nothing against fancy toilets, but do you really need one with an automatic lid or one which plays music?
Toilets are all about function (and could also be about safety for someone with limited mobility). So, if you need a toilet which is taller to make it simpler for a family member to transfer to their wheelchair, make this investment. But if you think the ‘throne’ is the best place to get fancy and spend a lot of money – I’d argue there’s much better places to get a better bang for your limited bathroom remodeling bucks.
Put your money into contemporary shower wall panels (like you’ll see below), or a stylish shower glass doors or vanity fixtures.
Bottom line – put your money where it’s noticed.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #11 – Be smart. Prevent the ‘re-remodel.’
OK – I know the term ‘re-remodel’ IS NOT a word you’ll find in the dictionary, but IT IS something which can and DOES happen to people. And if you’re not sure what a ‘re-remodel’ is, and how it could become your nemesis, I’ll explain.
You see a ‘re-remodel’ is when you do a perfectly nice (and cost-effective) remodel only to find out due to unforeseen ‘life events’ your shower (or bathtub) no longer works for you or your family.
This unforeseen event could be a sudden illness or tragic event.
What I’m NOT recommending is you remodel your bathroom to be the spitting image of your local hospital bathroom. What I AM RECOMMENDING is you use ‘smart products’ which allow you to pivot the bathroom (no glass shower door pun intended) if you need a space which can accommodate someone’s whose mobility has gone in the wrong direction.
Here’s 3 smart choices you can make to prevent the ‘re-remodel.’
- Use a 2” or 3” high low profile shower pan a standard height step-over curb so it’s simpler to get into the shower, even if someone’s mobility isn’t the greatest.
- Use ‘backer boards’ behind the shower surround so grab bars can be added – if needed -down the road.
- Add pull out drawers so things can be accessed in the vanity if bending over is a problem.
Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #12 – Consider a ‘walk in’ shower to save money and reduce cleaning
Since walk in showers use less glass than a full enclosure, they also save money. And when you use a pivoting shower screen in a space where a 60” tub used to be, you’ll have a trend-setting AND money-saving bathroom. And the ‘cherry on the top’ you’ll have less to clean. Now, that’s a ‘trifecta’ for you!
(Long term) Cost-cutting bath remodel idea #13 – Add an exhaust fan – or get a replacement fan which doesn’t sound like a bulldozer
I know loud exhaust fans are annoying – and installing a new exhaust fan WILL NOT be free. However, I’d argue an exhaust fan can be one of the ‘cheapest insurance policies’ to a bathroom remodel which stands the test of time.
Image Source: www.soundproofliving.com
You see –most bathroom problems (deteriorating grout joints, pitted fixtures, and deteriorated wood) are caused by moisture. When you reduce moisture, you make EVERYTHING last longer. The road to less moisture (and a longer lasting remodel) is an exhaust fan to get moisture out.
I know in the past, the biggest complaint about exhaust fans is they were obscenely loud. Fortunately, these units have gotten so quiet, they’re now the unheard heroes everyone should consider in their next remodel (or anyone who’s planning to stay in their home a while at least).
Which of these 13 cost-cutting ideas make sense to you? How can I (or my team) help you with your bathroom remodel?
I know there’s a lot to digest to develop a game-plan for a bathroom remodel. You need to pick products. You need to pick a contractor. And ‘gaining consensus’ in your own home can be harder than getting Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to agree on ANYTHING! So, how can we help?
Well – if you need design (or product) input on bath or shower products call me (or my team) at Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888 or click for a Free Design Consultation. We offer lines of grout free shower wall panels, shower bases, glass shower doors and bathroom accessories.
And if you’re looking for a Cleveland bathroom remodeling contractor, our Bath Doctor division would love to help. Call 216-658-1270 or click for a Free Estimate.
Lastly, if you’re a remodeler or builder and want advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), read my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now to make money in your business. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog. If you’d like to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call and ask for Mike at 888-467-7488.
To connect on LinkedIn, go to @MikeFotiLinkedIn.
Thanks for reading,
Michael- thanks for your question. I’m glad the article was of value to you.
The glass wall panels that are 3/8” thick can be as large as 60” long.
For securing, what is often done is U-Channel at the threshold and a clamp on the wall.
In addition, if you wanted a ‘glass wall’ which is even longer than this you can go with a glass block shower wall. Thanks -Mike
Thanks for all the great tips to consider Mike! We want to convert an enclosed 36″ x36″ glass shower to a larger walk-in shower (no door) that is 42″ in breadth and 96″ long. Depending on thickness, how long can a piece of standing glass be? Partner wants to have something like 60″ long glass wall that is only mounted to floor and one end to a wall. The glass will be 78″ tall, but not connected to ceiling (bathroom has too high a ceiling). Just eyeballing it, seems like 36″ is longest run length a piece of glass can have under these circumstance, if it is not combined with a partial free-standing wall. And, what is best way to secure to floor and wall?
Grace – first I’d like to thank you for using the laminate panels in your bathrooms – I hope you like them!
Regarding the U channel there can be varying opinions on this. A U channel at the threshold can do a better job of retaining water. For the vertical wall the U channel can be used to cover an uneven tile job. I like the look of the clamp though. I hope this helps.
Having trouble deciding on u channel or clips for my fixed glass shower panels.
I have your fibo laminate panels in both of my bathrooms.
My concern is less water where it’s not needed. Was going with u channel but shower door consultant said clips are better.
Evgeni – there are ‘acrylic liners’ you can use over your shower – but quite frankly – I’m not a fan of this process as I’ve seen cases where water has gotten between the old liner and the pan. You could try to regrout the shower with urethane grout which is better than sanded grout.
Beyond these ideas – when budget permits – I’d change out the old tile shower pan for a stone or acrylic pan. Let me know if me or my team can help further – Mike (877-668-5888)
Great article. Would you possibly have an extra idea for someone who has problems with or is tired of their tiny ceramic tiles shower floor (lots of grout) but does not want to go through the hassle and expense of taking it out in order to replace it? Perhaps something that goes right on top and does not involve grout? I imagine that would be easier and more cost effective.
Cynthia – we certainly do ship the panels. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 and our team would love to help you – Mike
Do you ship the panels? I live in North Carolina and would like to use them in my shower.