Remodeling a Bathroom on a Budget

by on December 9, 2011

Whether you’re looking to increase resale value, help sell your house, or just are in need of a new bathroom, remodeling a bathroom can add value to your home and is considered one of the more likely ways to get the money back from your remodel.  Depending on where you live and who’s estimate you use, somewhere between 50 – 90% of the value of the remodel is added to the value of your house.  The more extravagant the remodel, the less return you get.  So, if you reall want to add value to your house, then you should remodel your bathroom on a budget.  By finding ways to do things yourself and save money on the remodel, you can actually add more money to the value of your house than you spend on the remodel.  Here are some of our suggestions on how to remodel your bathroom on a budget.

Formulate Your Remodeling Savings Planbudget bathroom remodel

There are literally two ways to save money on a bathroom remodel.  You either save money on the labor, or you save money on the materials.

Lower Your Labor Budget

When it comes to labor costs, you either reduce the costs you pay someone, or you can do some or all of the labor yourself.  If you are a do it yourselfer, or want to at least take on some of the burden of the remodel, your time and skills can save you thousands of dollars on the project.  Below, we give some specific ideas on how to do some or all of the remodel yourself.  If you are not very handy or for whatever reason can’t work on the remodel yourself, then it is up to you to hire the lowest cost contractor that provides the best quality work.  Or, you could hire multiple people to do the work themselves while you coordinate the entire project.  In effect, you would be the contractor on the job and would hire the individual subcontractors.  By doing this, you could cut out all of the costs and markups that are passed along through a hired contractor.  Because a bathroom remodel may require plumbing work, it is likely that you’ll at least need to hire one subcontractor even if you do most of the work yourself.

Finding a low cost contractor that is good can be difficult.  Start by asking friends, family, neighbors and colleagues for referrals.  Also, do your own research and call around to find reasonable contractors.  Checking with craigslist and on bulletin boards at the local lumber yards can yield good results.  The important point here is that you get as many quotes as possible, and don’t jump at the first quote.  If a contractor is busy or does not want to do your type of work, they often give inflated quotes.  Find someone that wants the work and gives a fair quote.  Also, make sure you negotiate with any contractor on the price.  If you are looking to do some of the work yourself, make sure that your contractor is willing to work with you and that they have a mechanism to easily remove the work you do from their billing structure.

Lower Your Materials Budget

To reduce the cost of materials during a bathroom remodel done on a budget, you can either find really good prices on the materials, or you can lower the quality of the materials that you use.  Hired contractors often get commercial discounts on the fixtures they use.  However, that doesn’t mean that they pick out the most cost effective materials or get better prices than you can find yourself.  If you are looking to lower materials costs, the best way is for you to research, shop around, and purchase the materials yourself.  A good example of how to find low cost materials is to go to a flooring store and buy the materials (tile, vinyl or wood) from their clearance department.  Our local flooring store is very expensive, but if you go to their clearance warehouse, you can pick up enough quantity of the items you need (especially for a bathroom size remodel) for nearly 80% off.  Almost all fixture companies have clearance sections and most big retailers like Home Depot have sales that can save you a lot on your materials as compared to what a contractor would pay.  Plus, your contractor actually charges you for the time it takes them to shop for and pick up those items.

The other way you can save money on materials is to reduce the quality of the materials you choose for your remodel.  We’re not saying to go buy the cheapest stuff you can find, but rather, make sure that you buy the same type of quality materials that are in the rest of the house.  If you own a non-luxury home and decide to upgrade the bathroom with jacuzzi products and Italian marble, you would never recoup the money you spend.  Likewise, if you have a luxury home and remodel your bathroom with the cheapest fixtures you can find, it will actually lower the value of your home because the bathroom would not match the rest of the home’s luxury quality.  Try to match your remodel with the rest of your home.  Most people want to treat themselves to something nice when they remodel, which is fine.  Just don’t get too extravagant and try to think of your purchases through the eyes of a potential home buyer.  Now that you’ve got your remodel budget plan ready, it’s time to save money by doing what you can yourself.

Do Some or All of the Remodel Yourself

This is by far the most effective way to remodel a bathroom on a budget.  Once you know what you want done to your bathroom.  Start figuring out what you can do yourself.  Make sure you contractor (if you have one) is willing to work with and hopefully give you some guidance as to how to get things done.  Here’s a list of projects that you can do to help you reduce the costs of your bathroom remodel.  The list starts with the easiest projects and moves toward the tougher.  Each project can save you money.

  • Haul Away. Hauling away all of the garbage during contruction and demolition debris can be expensive if you pay for it. The cost of the average dumpster is several hundred dollars and can exceed $1,000 in some areas. Borrowing a truck or trailer or even renting a U-Haul to haul the debris away can save you a lot of money on your budget bathroom remodel.
  • Demolition.  Not just the most fun part of project, but a very big money saver if you can do it.  Demolition for a bathroom remodel means taking out all of the fixtures, vanities, cabinets, toilet, floors and maybe even the bathtub or shower itself.  Some remodels even need new drywall, so that could be included too.
  • Install Fixtures.  Installing the toilet, faucets, mirrors, light fixtures, towel hangers and toilet paper holders can save quite a bit of money and aren’t too hard to do yourself.  Depending on your skills and resourcefulness, setting up the drain for the sink may or may not be an option.
  • Install Floors.  Because bathrooms are relatively small, installing flooring is pretty forgiving.  Installing vinyl is very easy and can be done by almost anyone.  If you want to install tile or wood floors, you can also do that yourself with a little research and perhaps help from a friend.  Make sure you check with your contractor before you do any of this so that you know how to handle the areas underneath toilets and vanities.
  • Tiling.  Learning to tile your shower or bathtub area isn’t extremely difficult, adds a nice look to your bathroom, and can save you a ton of money.
  • Plumbing.  Plumbing is perhaps the most difficult part of remodeling a bathroom.  Many states do not allow non-licensed individuals to work on plumbing, so check with your state and local ordinances.  If you can work it out, try to get all of your plumbing projects ready at the same time, so you don’t have to pay the plumber for multiple trip charges and the extra time it takes them to set up and get started each day.

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