Does a remodel have to be expensive?

Remodeling your bathroom might sound like an expensive proposition; however, with careful planning and the right advice, options are available to update a bathroom on a small budget. In fact, once you’re armed with some money saving bathroom renovation tips, you’ll find that when it comes to bathroom remodeling it’s surprising what is possible.

Every year Americans spend billions of dollars on bathrooms, according to the Market Forecast Report published by Kitchen and Bath Business magazine. Experts say, however, when remodeling your bathroom you don’t need loads of cash to build an attractive bathroom.

Bathroom remodeling on reality TV often shows everything ripped out with the designers starting from scratch. However, this isn’t necessary. We can pick and choose what to replace. If something is fully functional and not outdated, why knock it down and replace? By selecting only certain elements, you can make a dramatic change without being wasteful.

It’s important to update your bathroom typically around every 20 years. Benefits include increased home value, more storage, and an updated place to unwind. If you are looking to sell your home, certain renovations could also afford you a return on investment.


One of the most important things to consider concerning bathroom remodeling is where to focus your money.

It’s easy to spend upwards of $20,000 on a bathroom renovation. However, if you’re not independently wealthy, haven’t won the lottery (or play the lottery!), or just don’t have thousands of dollars in expendable income, you’re not out of luck:

Compromise. What do you most want to change?

Elements to consider when bathroom remodeling

Eschew rearranging

Avoid moving light fixtures and plumbing if you can. It costs about $5,000 each time you change the piping. Adding or replacing a window is also costly.

Keep your fixtures fixed

Fixtures themselves are expensive. If you buy an expensive sink, choose a more basic (read: cheaper) toilet and bathtub. Splurge on the focal point of the room and keep the rest simple. 

Let there be light

Change out Hollywood-styled lights from the ’70s for pendant lights above the sink.

Fiberglass and Acrylics

Prefabrication is your friend. Showers and bathtubs made of fiberglass or acrylics save money.

Cool countertops

Kitchens require a lot of square feet of countertop, which adds up if you choose an expensive material. In the bathroom, however, you don’t have as much countertop surface space – so you can splurge a little!

Tie the room together with tile

Tile is pricy. However, you can use it as a highlight rather than tile the whole room. Tile the floor and just around the tub. Use beadboard wainscoting or find a paint color to match your tiles. Take special glass mosaic tiles and use these expensive tiles as accents among many ordinary tiles. Even using tiles sparingly, you can still achieve the tile effect you’re after.

Decorate with care

Apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. This can mean white or a basic color like blue, pale pink, or yellow. Add a pop of color using paintings, pictures, soap holders, and towels. Have fun! 

In with the new

If an old shower door just won’t clean up, trade it for a shower curtain.

A dramatic change

If you had to pick just one item, vanities usually are the most noticeable element. If you want change, change up the vanity!

A winning strategy

A smart planning strategy when endeavoring on a bathroom remodeling project is to make updates gradually. This way your bathroom keeps up to date without ever depleting your wallet. 

More money saving bathroom renovation tips

  1. Paint beadboard wainscoting bright white to showcase architectural detail. It’s more cost-effective than wallpaper too.
  2. Save money on your water bill by replacing your toilet with a WaterSense-certified model. Pre-1980s toilets can use 5-7 gallons per flush; today’s models use as little as 1.28 gallons.
  3. Find or create an embroidered monogram and use fabric glue to attach it to your shower curtain for a personalized look.
  4. Use special mosaic tile surrounded by more affordable decorative tile to outline the perimeter of the room.
  5. Transform an inexpensive nightstand into a vanity. Treat it with a lacquer to make it water-resistant.
  6. Decorate with art. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Find an image on the internet and print it or print a photograph you took. Or, look for a piece the next time there’s an artist’s market.
  7. Replace flooring with luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) or plank vinyl.
  8. Don’t cover and replace. Do refinish if it’s a cosmetic issue.
  9. Bathtub and shower liners are an excellent way to get you through a few years if you can’t afford to replace it now. They aren’t as cheap as they seem on TV.
  10. Employ pre-fabricated shower units to save money.
  11. Pair poly shower pan with bathroom tile.
  12. Wrap fabric around a sink to make a vanity.
  13. Use inexpensive alternatives like marble tiles versus a solid marble slab.
  14. Switch out features rather than taking out and replacing the whole thing. Reuse vanity mirrors and switch out the table. Change the light fixtures but leave them where they are.
  15. Add decorative molding around an already-existing mirror.
  16. Make a focal point such as a tiled wall.
  17. Paint your bathroom using your imagination or stencils.
  18. Give your bathroom a personal touch by adding items that reflect your personality (i.e. using golf clubs and balls for decoration).
  19. Look at your favorite designers and ask how you could accomplish the same thing for less.
  20. Replace the toilet seat and lid rather than the whole toilet, to get a new look without the cost of replacing the whole thing. It’s less wasteful too.
  21. Go to flea markets, resale stores, auctions, antique stores, rummage sales and find pieces you can salvage and/or dress up. Look for leftovers online. Some people buy too much and sell at a discount. Check eBay and Craig’s List. Then buy at full value what you need to finish off your project.
  22. Repurpose a dresser into a vanity.
  23. Use alternatives to tile like beadboard, wooden panels, board and batten.
  24. Add open shelves to add storage and give the illusion of more space. Open shelves are cheaper than cabinets.
  25. Add more lighting.
  26. Add a skylight.
  27. Paint your counter a shiny black to give the look of granite. It doesn’t look like granite, but it has a similar effect.
  28. Use materials meant for outside inside. For example, use landscape rock rather than rock tile for the bottom of your shower.
  29. Buy an industrial silver table from a restaurant supply store and use it as a vanity.
  30. Instead of using traditional materials, use Plycem in place of tile. A silicon-infused concrete, Plycem is usually used underneath flooring. But who’s to say it has to be? It’s cheap and uses recycled material. Or, use cement instead of granite.
  31. Make a cabinet with a translucent acrylic door covered with a layer of translucent film and put a florescent light behind it. It glows in the dark and looks like a decoration you would find at an upscale restaurant.
  32. Save time. After all time is money, right? Put a plug inside your vanity cabinet and hang your hair dryer on an inside hook and it’s ready to go.

DIY versus professional when bathroom remodeling

When bathroom remodeling, what is possible to DIY and what should LJ’s Kitchens and Interiors be contacted for?

To answer that, first ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is it worth my time?
  • Is it worth my effort?
  • Is it safe or risky?
  • Do I have the knowledge and skills or, if not, could I figure it out?
  • How specialized is the equipment I will need? Do I have the proper equipment or could I borrow it from a neighbor or rent it?
  • Is it a legal requirement to have it done by a licensed professional?
  • And, probably the most important question: Will I realistically finish it?

It’s all you

You can paint the walls by yourself. Usually there isn’t that much to paint, so it’s doable.

You can also install toilets and vanities. You can lay floor tiles. Check with us first (more on that later), but demolition can be another DIY job. You can even relieve some stress and invite friends over and have a demolition party if you have a lot to do. Just remember to provide pizza!

In sum, you can tackle these bathroom remodeling tasks on your own; although, LJ’s provides and would be happy to do these services for you as well:

  • Painting
  • Installing toilets
  • Installing vanities
  • Lay floor tiles
  • Demolition (sometimes)


Another option when bathroom remodeling is to do part of the project yourself and leave the more complex parts to LJ’s. That way, you save money, stay safe, and get highly-skilled things done right the first time.

Trust your bathroom with us

Other jobs, however, are more complex and best left to professionals. These bathroom remodeling tasks require specialized knowledge and skills. There are also home improvements that must be done by a licensed professional.

The following are difficult and/or illegal to do yourself:

  • Removing asbestos insulation. While this is possible to do yourself, there are regulations for how it can be removed. It is also a danger to you and your neighbors. Realistically: To be safe and avoid violating regulations, have a professional do it.
  • Removing lead-based paint. Banned in 1978, many older homes contain toxic paint. While not a problem when undisturbed, if the paint is peeling or in the process of being removed, the lead can contaminate the dust in the air and cause lead poisoning.
  • A licensed plumber is required to replace a hot water tank. This is a good policy because professionals know how to avoid creating carbon monoxide emissions.
  • Wall demolition. Talk to us first before breaking down walls. Some cities require permits for structural walls. If you start whacking away before you find out, you could do structural damage to your house.
  • Adding or replacing lighting fixtures. If you have a house fire and you didn’t get a permit and have it installed by an electrician, your insurance company might deny your claim and you’ll be paying not just for the light fixtures – but for your entire house!
  • Adding a skylight. The manufacturer’s instructions must be perfectly followed or the warranty could be voided. Plus, it’s difficult and dangerous to do.

Ready to see your new bathroom?

Let LJ’s expertise in bathroom design bring your space up to date. Our staff loves bathroom remodeling! We have experience designing for any sized budget. Contact us today for all your bathroom design needs!