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With average bathroom remodel prices across the US hovering around $12,000-18,000, its important to ensure that your money is put to good use.
Between selecting the best design, materials and hiring the right professionals, it can be a challenge to allocate your funds in the most effective way.
Too often, lack of planning and information can result in unexpected costs that spiral out of control, and lead to disappointing results.
Steer clear of these 7 remodeling mistakes to ensure that you stay within budget, and actually get the bathroom you have been dreaming of.
1. Cost of moving bathroom fixtures
One of the highest bathroom remodeling costs is new plumbing. When you choose to move the toilet, sink or shower from its original location, you immediately blow up your original budget by thousands of dollars. Consequently, its important to figure out whether this is a true necessity that will greatly improve the value of your bathroom.
Perhaps you can achieve the look you want while keeping these big fixtures in place. For ideas, browse through online bathroom photos that have the same layout as your space. The money you save can be used for purchasing beautiful, better quality tile, lighting and other decor items.
Potential loss: $3,000 – 10,000+
If moving fixtures is an absolutely necessary part of your new bathroom layout, make sure hire a licensed plumber, who has good references. We recommend not DIYing this part of the remodel, and leaving plumbing to the pros.
2. The cost of changing the original remodeling plan
To make sure that your vision can actually be executed, its important to draw a very detailed plan of how your new bathroom will look. If you are doing a major renovation that requires moving fixtures, demolishing walls, etc, its recommended to hire a designer to help you draw up a clear plan that includes everything you want. A designer may charge $400-650 for this service, but this cost is well worth it.
The lay out should take into account the position of doors, windows, plumbing and electric wiring. You don’t want to rush into the remodel, tear down walls, only to realize that its not looking exactly like you expected.
Changing the initial remodeling plan once the work has already begun leads to very high and unexpected costs, as well as frustration both on the side of the remodeler and you as a homeowner.
Potential loss: $2,000 – 12,000+
3. The cost of hiring pros WITHOUT agreeing to a fixed-price contract
The most common mistake that can turn into a bottomless money pit, is failing to set a fixed-priced contract with the pros you hire. With each contractor, it is essential to discuss and put in writing a detailed contract that specifies the following:
-itemized list of tasks that a contractor agrees to perform and their costs
-itemized list of materials and their costs
-have a clear change – order policy
All too often, whether intentionally or because unexpected things do come up, a contractor will slam you with high fees for a new job that needs to be completed before the project can resume. Also, material prices can go up, sending you over the planned budget. A contract can help protect you against most of these things.
Last but not least, its essential to hire a contractor who has a valid license, experience with bathroom remodeling and stellar references.
Potential loss: $1,000 – 15,000+
4. The price of putting beauty before function
Its very easy to get carried away with the exciting task of designing your dream bathroom and totally forget about functionality. This is a big mistake, as your bathroom should first and foremost be easy and comfortable to use.
What good would it be to end up with a bathroom that looks gorgeous, but has a poor layout; all the essentials are positioned awkwardly and you bump against the sink every time you come out of the shower? When planning your new bathroom design, think in terms of:
None-slip flooring is essential in a bathroom to ensure safety, especially if you have small children or elderly people in the family. Look for tile floors which specify that they are slip resistant. Its particularly important to install these tiles in the shower stall.
Potential loss: $3,500 – 10,000+
5. The cost of sub-par installation
To save money, you may be tempted to hire contractors that offer the lowest quotes. After all, how bad could it be? The reality is that there are reasons why some contractors offer such dirt cheap services:
-They do poor quality work due to lack of care and/or experience and don’t have very good references
-They don’t have proper licensing and insurance
-They hire illegal workers to cut costs
-They are not in the business for the long haul, don’t care about their reputation, and you will be hard pressed to find them if a problem arises.
Its best to stay clear of these “businesses”, especially when it comes to doing finishes, such as tile, painting, any kind of decorative moldings, etc. These features make the bathroom attractive and you will be looking at them every day. Imagine that your tile will be an eye sore rather than a pleasure to look at.
Unfortunately, even the most expensive materials can look ugly and cheap, when installed unprofessionally. Sometimes the finished result can be so disappointing, as to leave you no choice but to re-do it. Needless to say nothing is more expensive and wasteful than having to do the same job twice.
Its also critical to hire licensed pros for any electric or plumbing work. These tasks absolutely must be done to code and with permits, to ensure your own safety.
Potential loss: $2,000 – 10,000+
6. Failing to set aside reserve funds
No matter how hard you try to control your budget, unexpected expenditures always come up. If you don’t plan ahead, you may end up in a situation where you suddenly run out of money and have to stop the remodel before its complete.
To avoid this, its recommended to set aside an additional 10-15% of the total remodeling budget into the budget. This will be your reserve! If you end up using it, you will be happy and relieved that you thought ahead. If you don’t end up needing it, you will feel good about having extra cash left over.
Potential loss: $2,500 – 8,000+
7. The price of using the wrong materials
When you shop for materials, the most important thing to keep in mind is that they need to be highly durable and water resistant. While you may love the look of wood, wallpaper, certain types of stone tile, etc, they may not be the best choices for a bathroom.
Imagine how disappointed you will be to discover one morning that your wood vanity or floor is starting to warp, the wallpaper or paint is peeling, metal accents are rusting, etc. While this mistake may not be apparent for some time, soon enough you will start to notice moisture related problems that will require costly repairs or replacement.
To avoid this, select water-resistant materials that are rated for use in bathrooms, and don’t forget to install a strong exhaust fan that will help rid the space of excess moisture.
Potential loss: $500 – 5,000+
$7,210 - $14,612
How to remodel a bathroom on a budget
Here are easy steps you can take keep your bathroom remodeling cost under $7,000 for a standard size bathroom. If you are planning to remodel a small bathroom you can get away with spending under $5,000.
Say “yes” to paint and “no” to tile
– Repaint walls and ceiling instead of doing tile. Painting a bathroom can cost under $400, and a lot less if you do it yourself. Most painting pros charge around $2-3.5 per square foot to paint one room. The cost difference between installing wall tile and painting can easily be at least $1,500-2,000
Go for cheap tile instead of high-end
If you are going for tile (walls, flooring shower stall, etc) consider getting plain ceramic or porcelain tile for the bulk of the square footage, and getting expensive tile only as an accent. This can be a line around the bathroom, an accent wall around the vanity, or one wall in the shower stall. Budget ceramic tile can cost as little as $1.5-2 per square foot. There are many home improvement outlets that offer great discounts on expensive brand name tiles, and you can often save as much as $40-50% off.
Shop Home Depot rather than a bathroom showroom
You local big box store (Home Depot, Lowe’s) can be your best friend when it comes to saving money on fixtures and accessories. They have everything you need for your new bathroom (sink, shower head, faucet, toilet, tub, lighting, towel bars, etc) for a very reasonable price. You can get all major fixtures for under $1,000.
Another great place to shop is Amazon or Wayfair. They have a huge selection of designer-looking bathroom accessories, fixtures, and lighting at a very reasonable cost.
And of course there is IKEA, when you are are really hard pressed for cash. However, IKEA products have a certain look, that many people consider “cheap” and the quality is often nothing to rave about. Still, it can be a great option to keep in mind and its certainly worth it to take a trip there, just even to compare prices to other stores.
Contrast this to shopping at a bathroom show room, where you have a selection of high-end brands and products designed for luxury remodels. Here, a toilet alone can easily cost you $1,000+. There is really no price limit on high end fixtures. However, while many of them are beautiful, you often cannot tell much of a difference between a $450 acrylic tub and a $4,000 one. The same goes for all other fixtures.
Prefabricated instead of custom built
You can save thousands of dollars when you install prefabricated products that come ready to be installed, as opposed to custom building. This goes for items such as:
– shelving and cabinets
– shower enclosure
For example, you can buy a shower enclosure at Home Depot for under $900 (various options and designs are available). However a custom built walk-in shower will easily cost at least $3,000.
Splurge on items that bring comfort and pleasure
Lets face it, you spend a lot of time in the bathroom, every day. This means that doing your routines and being in that space should feel good! When money is tight, we recommend splurging on one or two things that would bring you the most joy every day and will enhance your daily routine. Here are some things to consider:
– An electric radiant floor mat near the shower, so you step on a warm floor instead of a cold wet rug.
– A powerful rain shower head (maybe one that has lights:)
– A bidet attachment to the toilet
– A towel warmer bar
– A huge mirror
Remodeling a bathroom when selling a home
If you have an old bathroom and need to renovate it in order to put your house up for sale, funnel your money into cosmetic improvements that make an instant impression:
– Fresh paint (make sure there are no ugly stains anywhere)
– Replace any fixtures that show signs of rust or mold. If you can clean them well, you don’t have spend money getting new ones.
– Bright lighting makes a big difference. If your bathroom is not well-lit, consider installing more light fixtures throughout the room.
– Get rid of anything that looks visibly old and very used.
– Replace old flooring. While this may be expensive, old floors make a very poor impression and make the whole room look dated. You can install inexpensive large size porcelain tile, laminate or engineered wood floors that are waterproof.
– Make sure you have a coordinated color scheme throughout the bathroom. The color of your floor should go well with any tile you have as well as wall paint. Off white, light beige, and other neutral calm colors are the best.
– Buy matching towels, bathroom rug and curtain. This gives a luxurious vibe to the space, reminiscent of high-end spas.
– Replace old door knobs, cabinet handles, curtain and towel bars. These are not expensive updates, but new accessories are instantly noticeable.
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