When renovating a home, there are two places I will always put my money, a kitchen and bathroom renovation. Done right, you not only up your home value tremendously, but make living in the space a whole lot more enjoyable. If you’ve been thinking about a big or little remodel, I hope these bathroom remodeling tips will steer you in the right direction.
Bathroom Remodel: Tips to Help Save While Renovating
So you might be wondering what qualifies me to share information on a successful bathroom remodel. In the past 8 years, I have remodeled 9 bathrooms in homes we have had or currently own, as we have moved several times. These have been a range of budgets, demolition, face lifts, and complete re-do’s. From half baths, to full primary bathrooms, each one was unique and ended up with tons of personal style. And each one made resale much easier and added to the bottom line.
We also added a basement bathroom from scratch, where there wasn’t one before, so let’s make that 10. I have also worked with many clients, designing and styling their bathroom remodels. So when I say I’ve been there and done that, I mean that both personally and professionally.
How to Design a Bathroom Remodel
A bathroom is important to a home, especially a primary bathroom. This will be the space that you spend much time in, readying yourself to take on the world. When you take time to remodel, you want your space to serve your needs.
Whether, you work with an interior designer, a licensed contractor, or plan to do much of the work yourself, making a plan first is key. Take the time to think of your needs and desires, make lists, and draw plans. A bathroom that functions well will bring much happiness.
Things to Consider When Remodeling a Bathroom
Consider your budget
Budget is top priority in many bathroom remodeling projects. Budget determines what you are able to do in the space. Whether you have a few hundred dollars to many thousands, this will be the driving force of your bath decisions.
Let me say, if you have the money to spend, the bathroom would be the place to spend it (or a kitchen). But reality is more important and debt is never worth it, so make choices within your budget. There are many budget friendly options that can make a huge difference, which I will share below.
Develop a bathroom layout
First, let’s talk about layout. The most budget friendly bathroom remodeling ideas will begin with you keeping the current layout. When using existing plumbing, you can focus on finishes and decor.
Have plans drawn up if changing the layout. Consult a professional plumber to help you determine if your ideas can become reality and at what cost. Plumbing costs can really change a budget, but can also be the most important place to spend dollars to get the bath you want.
Think of how you will age in the space as well. Many homeowners stay in their homes long term, or end up having aging parents come to stay. Will you need safety bars for proper accessibility? A walk-in shower versus tub would require a bit more space and need proper planning.
Do you want a bathtub or other custom details?
Many people are ditching the bathtub these days, in favor of larger showers and a wet room. I still love a bath, as many do, so consider resale or how long you plan to live in your home when making this decision.
Would the style of the home and bathroom allow for a freestanding tub? Do you want it to be a focal point in the room? Do you need a tub for bathing children? What luxuries are on your list; a magnifying mirror, a towel warmer, or laundry chute?
What to keep, what to get rid of
When planning a bathroom renovation, an important decision is what to keep that is currently there, and what needs to go. What can be recycled, reused, or refaced or what has to go? Reusing items that are currently available and adding slight updates is a great way to save on the budget for your bath.
You’ll also need to consider if there is an item that needs to stay for budget reasons, and how that affects other design decisions. There are ways to work around utilizing what is there, even if it is not in your dream color palette.
Who will be using the bathroom?
When updating an existing bathroom, consider who will be using it. Is it a primary bathroom for just the owners of the home? Or the main bathroom used by many family members getting ready at the same time? A full bathroom used by overnight guests or a half bath everyone uses? These answers can steer you properly to the best budget and design choices.
Consider the height
Counter height for vanities has risen in past decades. Vanity height is always best a bit higher, even for a bathroom used by children. After all, they won’t always be little, and can use a step stool during their growing years.
Toilet height has come up as well. A chair height toilet is much easier for many to use, and necessary for those aging quickly. Once again, for children, there are many temporary additions that can help them use higher toilets and vanities while they are little.
If you have natural lighting in the bathroom, that is a huge plus. I love to add a dimmer switch on overhead lights, and a variety of lighting in the room. Wall sconces, chandeliers, ceiling lighting, and even built-in night lighting, are all great options for bathroom lighting.
Medicine cabinet vs. cubbies
This is one feature that gets a lot of controversy. Do you love a closed cabinet for storage to hide all your bathroom necessities? Or could cubbies be an added benefit serving as a design element too? This is personal preference and something to consider. I’m team cubby for sure!
If you’ve ever walked into a dated bathroom with carpet in it, then you know how important floor coverings can be to the bath. In a small bathroom, the flooring can be a place that establishes the color palette and becomes a strong design element. It can also be a place to save by using affordable ceramic tile or vinyl, then jazzing it up with a throw rug. This can make a big difference in your budget.
Maybe you were dreaming of heated floors since you live in a colder climate? Those can be very cozy during the winter months! Flooring materials will be one of those things to strongly consider your options during the budget planning phase.
Save + Splurge
Budget friendly choices
Bathroom remodels can easily get off the rails once you start shopping for all the bells and whistles that can make a bathroom renovation quite fabulous. If I’m working within a pretty tight budget, here is what I don’t mind saving on:
floor tile – there are plenty of good looking floor tiles that are budget friendly, and I usually like to keep the choices classic. You can always splurge on layout or size, but this is a great place to save.
shower tiles – depending how large your shower is, and where it is located in the bathroom, the shower wall tiles can be a great place for budget options. I love a good subway tile, and they come in many affordable sizes and finishes. For me, I love a smooth rock tile on the shower floor. It feels very spa like and provides traction in wet areas.
new toilet – yes please, and ew. Adding efficiency, chair height, and newer details can be a great addition to a bathroom. Big box stores provide many price points for savings as well.
decor items – I like to use decor items from around the house, that can look great in the bathroom. Artwork, vintage collections, and mirrors can pack a good design punch and be soft on the budget.
lighting – there are many great options and price points for lighting. Of course, you can go crazy but if you’re on a tight budget, lighting is a great place to save without sacrificing style.
sinks – basic white sinks are always in style and come in many shapes. There are even many budget friendly vessel sinks to choose from. Vintage choices will add a ton of style and can save on the budget if you’re a savvy shopper.
A bit of luxury
Working with a tight budget, you can still splurge a bit on some higher end materials to give the room a bit of luxury. This can even elevate budget choices. These items are:
glass doors – nothing elevates a bathroom remodel for me more than a thick, shower glass door. Custom fitted and worth every penny.
proper ventilation – bathroom ventilation is extremely important to control moisture. Make sure all fans are up to code and ventilated properly.
plumbing fixtures – the fixtures are the jewelry of the bathroom remodel and I do love good jewelry! I choose a classic finish and style. There’s nothing like high quality fixtures. Match your finishes on fixtures to the details on your custom glass door.
window treatments (if there are windows in the space) – in general, window treatments can make or break a space for me. I prefer to splurge for this element whenever possible.
tile details – budget friendly choices can be amped up with higher end details. Splurge on a trim, or border tile that can elevate other budget materials.
proper electrical – there are few things more important to me than proper electrical. This affects the function and safety of a home and needs to be up to current safety code. Electrical is mostly labor costs, and should be done right, by a licensed electrician .
freestanding vanity – when space allows, a freestanding vanity adds great style and can many times, be more cost efficient than replacing all parts individually. Find one with the sink shape you desire, and the surface material you want. They come pre-drilled for plumbing fixtures, which are generally sold separately. I find a freestanding vanity also makes a small space feel larger and elevated.
square footage or wall adjustments – adding square footage or adjusting walls to open up the room is always money well spent. Walls can also be added to create built-in shelves for storage or a private toilet closet, if desired. If your bathroom is a small space, it doesn’t have to stay that way if there is a bit of square footage from a neighboring space that can be taken for your bathroom remodel.
Major Budget Helps
Purchasing elements for your remodel second hand can be super cost effective. A vintage dresser turned vanity can help with the budget, along with vintage lighting. Many items such as large mirrors, sinks, or cabinets can be found used and in good condition. Overstock high end tile that can be mixed with cost efficient choices will not only create a personal style but be budget friendly as well.
Hiring an interior designer for a consult before a remodel can also save you time and money and eliminate making wrong choices later. Find one who you know understands the style you prefer and take great notes during your meeting.
Trend or Classic?
I know you’ve been eyeing that trend bathroom feature that is currently all the rage. This is an area I would advise to tread carefully. It is much better to keep your main bathroom fixtures classic, and use trends in items that can be easily switched out later. Main fixtures that are attached and costly such as tile, tub, shower enclosures, double sinks, vanity, and higher end plumbing fixtures will last through time if kept classic.
Save your trend choices for paint, wallpaper, ceiling color, general color palette, decorative lighting, and accessories. These are lower cost to switch out, and can easily be updated in the future or personalized when the house is sold to a new owner. Everyone appreciates the chance to make the space their own when the basics are neutral.
Storage Meets Style
I love when there is space in a bathroom remodel for a piece of furniture. Using something vintage can add storage and style to your space and bring a cozy warmth to the space not generally found in a bathroom.
What We Started With
The bath we started with in our current house is a world of difference to how it looks today. We began with a giant jetted tub that took up half the space, a toilet in the center of the room, a shower that felt like a cave, and an overbearing storage cabinet. The mirror was unnecessarily tall, the ceiling peeling a bit due to poor ventilation, and boring walls.
I dreamed of a beachy, coastal bathroom that was bright and happy and much lighter feeling than it was. Since 2 of those 9 bathrooms I had recently renovated were our primary bathroom remodels, I knew instantly what we would want and what the house needed. The shower needed to be opened up, tub switched to one that didn’t take up so much space, and a definite overhaul of function and style. I would create my perfect Cape Cod inspired bath.
Where We Ended Up
We kept the vanity, trimmed out the mirror, and added a coastal inspired vanity light. The shower was retiled, adding a corner bench, and a glass door and wall. Light poured in from the windows and reflected on the mirror bringing in even more light. All electrical was updated, and new added where it could be.
The toilet was moved to the back wall, where it is a bit hidden by the door and furniture when someone else is at the vanity. A smaller soaking tub was added, walls covered in paneling, and a wall opened up as passage to a new closet space with a window for even more light!
This has turned out to be one of my favorite all time baths, with an efficient sized shower, great light throughout, and little details I love. My built-in cubbies add style and practicality, and I loved repurposing the secretary that provides storage and display.
Final Tips on Bathroom Remodeling
Money spent on a bath remodel is money well spent and value added to your home. Whether you prefer showers or a tub, make timeless choices that will up your resale value, even if you plan on staying long term. You will benefit from classic choices if your style shifts in the future.
Check out my favorite bathroom must-have! This is a great way to keep your counters free of overflowing toothpaste, with self-closing caps. Check them out here! Put your bath re-do at the top of your remodel list and you will reap the rewards in so many ways! For great bathroom design inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards here.