High-end bathroom remodel spending topped $57,000 in 2016, a long way past the roughly $17,000 national average for a midrange rehab project.
However, it is possible to go luxe within limits — to get a bathroom with bling on a budget, while walking the line between helpful bathroom remodel savings and necessary, renovation-making bathroom remodel expenses. The trick is knowing when to go big and when to pull back.
Clear Heads Beat Clearance Racks
Sure, a smart shopper can find high-quality merchandise at extraordinary prices, but it’s not always about looking for sales. Sometimes, you simply have to know which corners to cut, and areas where you should never skimp. How your bathroom functions should always be more important than how it looks. That’s not to say a beautiful piece of cabinetry can’t be part of a functional design, but it is to say that we’re establishing a ground rule for bathroom remodel expenses — function trumps style.
Spots to Splurge
- Toilets. The reason you’re most often in the bathroom is not the place to go cheap. Whether you’re going wall-mounted, one-piece or two-piece, it’s important to seek quality. First, know your rough-in (the space from floor drain to the wall), then consider rim height, bowl size, water-saving features and flush ratings in making your pick.
- Fixtures. From a design standpoint, sink fixtures should coordinate with shower and tub fixtures, and with the handle on the commode. From a durability standpoint, solid brass bodies last longer than brass- or chrome-plated or plastic-bodied fittings. Don’t worry, solid brass cores can be wrapped in a variety of finishes — from contemporary chrome to traditional polished nickel and, of course, gleaming brass.
- Countertops. Laminate is an inexpensive option and, for the most part, looks it. Solid-surface material (think Corian) is better, but can scorch and scratch. Granite is lovely and heat-resistant, but needs to be sealed against stains. Marble is similar, though more scratch-prone than granite. Quartz never needs to be sealed and is practically impervious to stains, but you’d better not set a hot curling iron on it. Everything has its pros and cons. For an upscale look, don’t use laminate, solid surface or tile. The rest is up to you.
- One luxury touch. What’s a remodel without some wow factor? You don’t have to go for the remote-control bidet, a stock-ticker in your mirror or a wall-mounted urinal. Yet how great would it be to have a defogging mirror? Or radiant heat floors? Or a towel warmer? or a toilet bidet?
- Accent tiles. We’ll get to the rest of the wall and floor coverings in a moment. Though the right wall tile, judiciously used, draws the eye where you want it to go. Though some glass or marble mosaics can go upward of $50 per square foot, the actual expense isn’t much when you’re only running a 6-inch-wide stripe around a 60-inch tub alcove.
Spots to Save
- Floor tile. Porcelain or ceramic are cheaper options than marble, limestone or granite, and they hold up well. Further, if you’re going with a more expensive accent tile, you’re going to want that to pop amid less assertive accompaniment. On the other hand, if you’re still trying to make a big impression with your floor tile, that’s often as much about configuration as about material.
- Lighting. Let’s face it — on a list of items that take a lot of abuse in the bathroom, lights aren’t. In fact, lighting remains above the fray, literally, and those components are generally inexpensive compared with other essential bathroom equipment. Just make sure there’s enough light above the mirror and in the tub/shower unit.
- Demolition. At some point, most of us are going to want a contractor on a bathroom remodel — but some serious bathroom remodel savings can be gleaned by a homeowner who’s willing to tear out the old bathroom himself or herself. If you’re nervous about it, tell the contractor of your plans to do the demo, and ask him or her for a few tips. Make sure you know where to shut off the water to the sink, tub and toilet and its bidet attachment; where to shut off the electricity if necessary; and exactly what needs to go. Why pay a contractor’s hourly rate for something that doesn’t require a contractor’s skill?
- Materials. If you buy the materials yourself, you will avoid what, in some cases, is a 20 to 30 percent markup by the contractor. Further, you’ll have more options than simply the contractor’s preferred suppliers. What’s more, you can do something funky if you’d like — a thrift-store mirror above the sink. An arm surplus locker for extra storage.
Clear Heads Beat Clearance Racks
Sure, a smart shopper can find high-quality merchandise at extraordinary prices, but it’s not always about looking for sales.