Budgeting for a Bathroom Remodel

Get tips for figuring out how much you can spend on your renovation project
Older Couple on Computer

Older Couple on Computer

A senior couple sits together on a sofa. The woman has a laptop computer to research budgeting options for their bathroom remodel.

Photo by: Stockbyte


Budgeting for a remodeling project can be a real test of your self-control. Sure, you can create a spa retreat in your master bedroom, but does that mean your family will eat cereal for dinner for the next 15 years? And will your "big ideas" cancel out plans for other home remodeling projects? Remember, a stellar bathroom truly is a luxury island if set within a home in disrepair.

The Big Question

Setting a budget for your bathroom renovation requires meshing your vision with your bank account

  • What do you want?
  • What can you truly afford?

So, approach the bathroom budgeting process with a realistic attitude. The good news: There is almost nothing you can't do on a budget because manufacturers offer a wide range of fixtures and finishes that can accomplish your goals.

Do your homework. Begin by researching all of the options available on the market today—flip through magazines, refer to our handy slideshows, check out local home improvement trade shows, talk to professionals at bathroom showrooms. Dream up your wish list, then revise that into a reality list with price tags.

Get real. "When you are hiring or interviewing a professional to do a bathroom remodel, make sure the number they are giving you is realistic," says Cameron Snyder, president, Roomscapes Luxury Design Center, Boston, Mass., and past-president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Be wary if one designer quotes the project at $75,000 and another claims he or she can complete the same job for $40,000.

"You need a hard number," Snyder says. This is accomplished only if you choose all of your materials before the project begins, which is the best way to go about a bathroom remodel, he adds. "A contractor's allowances may not be realistic, and that's where a $30,000 project can become a $50,000 project."

Expect the unexpected. The one sure thing about any remodeling project is that you will spend more than you planned. The key is to keep that overage within reason. There's a fine line between splurging and blowing your bank account—in fact, a single decision on a fixture or finish can cost you thousands more than you thought you'd spend.

Then there's the tear-out and all of those surprises that can crop up behind the walls. "What kind of drywall repair will it need?" says Lori Carroll, president, Lori Carroll & Associates, Tucson, Ariz.

Budget Bathroom Remodels

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Selective Splurging

It's OK to splurge on one or two items in your bathroom as long as you look for ways to save in other areas. RMR user KarenSpirit saved money on her bathroom remodel by purchasing a slightly damaged claw foot tub for $90 and a $900 vanity on eBay. This allowed her to splurge on seamless shower doors, which make the room feel spacious and luxurious.

All About the Lighting

Sometimes, the simplest update can make a world of difference. Try replacing the light fixture in your bathroom for an easy transformation that has the ability to change the entire mood of the space. Design by RMR user Hill Custom Homes

Little Changes

Just a couple of simple changes, like the brand new Suneli sink and neutral glass tiles featured here, can make a huge difference, as they did in the spa-inspired redesign by RMR user joeyboti.

Fabric-Covered Vanity

Covering your existing vanity with fabric is an inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing alternative to replacing your bathroom’s cabinetry. RMR user TheYellowHouse paired her fabric-covered vanity with a fresh coat of paint and new bathroom accessories.

DIY Installation

Although it may take longer to finish, tackling a bathroom remodeling project yourself will save you a ton of money. RMR user lindseyraedesigns spent nine weeks adding sleek modern flair to her bathroom with new paint, flooring, fixtures and tile.

Mix and Match

Remodeling on a budget is no easy feat, but RMR user nkr does it with style, incorporating mismatched but complementary furnishings and decor for a cool, collected-over-time look.

Light and Bright

A large bathroom that was stuck in the ‘80s was given a fresh, French twist by RMR user Hill Custom Homes. Light colors create warmth and make the room feel even larger, while simple touches like the black and white tile and delicate chandelier lend a romantic vibe to the space.

Inexpensive Alternatives

Look for low-cost substitutes to save cash on your bathroom remodel. RMR user 95818 painted this bathroom's original cabinetry and installed elegant marble tile countertops, rather than a pricey solid marble slab, to save money without sacrificing style.

Reuse Existing Features

Save money on your remodel by refreshing your bathroom's existing features instead of purchasing and installing new ones. RMR user mmopt added new molding and shelves to an existing bathroom vanity, then topped off the remodel with a fresh coat of paint and a pair of inexpensive mirrors.

Sell to Save on Your Remodel

Searching for bargains and selling old bathroom materials will help you save money on your remodel. RMR user shenobie spent less than $100 on a bathroom remodel by purchasing materials that were on sale and selling the bathroom’s old vanity and hardware to recoup some cash.

Mirror Molding

Instead of replacing your bathroom mirror, dress it up by adding decorative molding around the edges to create a custom, high-end look. RMR user SimplySophisticated updated a half bathroom with new molding around the mirror and a fresh coat of paint.

New Paint and Accessories

Refreshing your bathroom’s design does not have to involve large-scale demolition or elaborate installations. RMR user jacklizamom updated her bathroom with a clean, fresh coat of paint, a matching shower curtain and new accessories.

Online Bargains

Save money without sacrificing style by scouring the internet for bargain-priced materials for your bathroom remodel. RMR user perri achieved a sleek bathroom for less than $700 with discount purchases and eBay finds.

Statement Wall

Though this bath by RMR user SharonRPayne exudes glamour, the tiled wall is what first grabs your attention. Adding a focal wall using tile, wallpaper or even a contrasting paint color is a great way to add an interesting design detail without spending a lot of money.

Sleek Storage

With the addition of sleek storage and a seamless shower, RMR user Tenhulzen Residential created a space that feels much more open and relaxing. Various lighting options highlight the individual areas throughout.

Express Your Inner Artist

Like painting? With the purchase of inexpensive paint and supplies, you can dress up your bathroom's walls with a bold mural or stenciled pattern. RMR user KarenSpirit transformed her friend’s powder room by hand painting these larger-than-life blooms, which add unique flair to the space.

Give It a Facelift

Rather than replacing the bathtub, RMR user Tenhulzen Residential simply added a new deck with a single step and stunning tile surround, which adds much-needed texture and warmth to the space.

A Few Fun Touches

A bold area rug and gorgeous starburst accessory give this midcentury bathroom an instant facelift. Brightly-painted walls and cool, gray tiles add to the youthful vibe created by RMR user mstupski.

Simple Upgrades

Consider ditching the builder-grade vanity mirror and replacing it with a more detailed, stylish alternative like the stunning round mirror RMR user sandy herron chose to complete this cozy powder room.

Personal Touch

You don’t have to redo your entire bathroom in order to make it your own. Try adding special touches that show off your favorite things, like RMR user Ken Gregory did here by adding his old golf clubs above the stone wall.

Sincerest Form of Flattery

Take a cue from your favorite designers. Finding inspiration in Candice Olson’s bright, fun designs, RMR user Luka82271 turned an out-of-date bathroom with an awkward toilet alcove into a light, airy space with a sweet feminine touch.

Do-It-Yourself Style

A very basic before is given a budget-friendly, DIY makeover. An eye-sore shower door was replaced with a simple rod and cute, colorful curtain, while well-placed, inexpensive decorative details really step up the style.

Fake the Look

RMR user marlenacav wanted a classic clawfoot tub to complete her Victorian bathroom remodel. She opted for an acrylic version which saved her money, looks great, and made the trip up to the second-story bathroom a piece of cake.

Double-Duty Furnishings

If you have a large bathroom to fill, consider borrowing furniture and decor from the rest of the house. A decadent lounge chair and classic wooden shelf fit right in in this Asian-inspired bathroom by RMR user ruggled.

Plan to add a 30-percent cushion to your budget, suggests Brian Johnson, principal, Collaborative Design Architects, Billings, Mt. He estimates that a bathroom remodel using a licensed professional designer and contractor can cost $175 to $225 per square foot on the low end. "I tell clients if you add a bathroom, it's $8,000—that's where we start," Johnson says. "But it's hard to say because there are so many customizations." For instance, Johnson has designed bathrooms for clients in the $600 per square foot neighborhood.

A do-it-yourselfer can spend $75 to $100 per square foot on materials, Johnson estimates. Again, this is a round number not based on personalizing the space or adding bells and whistles (shower sprays, heated floors, custom medicine cabinets, etc.). For example, a DIY project for a 5 x 8 foot bathroom (40 square feet) could cost about $4,000 at $100 per square foot. Then, add that 30-percent overage allowance, and a realistic budget is $5,200.

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