Budget-smart bathroom remodeling

Bob Vila

As with any home improvement project, it’s smart to approach bathroom remodeling with special attention to budget—particularly since the national average for a bath redo is around $16,634, according to Remodeling magazine's 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report.

But a new bath will not only provide greater comfort, appeal and usefulness for you and your family, it will also offer a good return on investment. A mid-range bath remodel can see a 70% return — even higher in certain regions of the country.

You can do a lot to control expenditures as you plan. Here are five "budget-smart" tips from the pros to help you plan your best bathroom remodel:

(Photo: Delta)

Go with classic style. Choose fixtures and materials that are classic, in timeless colors and made from high-quality, natural materials. Ornate decorative tiles, vessel sinks and bright, bold colors may appeal to your taste, but not a prospective buyer.

Wall color can be changed easily enough, but avoid permanent fixtures and materials that are too exotic or extravagant. The investment will be more recoverable if you stick with the classics.

Consider stock options. Take advantage of stock cabinetry and vanities that come in standard sizes, which lowers the price. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's have a full array of bathroom cabinetry. Look for well-built, solid wood cabinets to make certain they will hold up to bathroom moisture conditions and daily use and abuse.

Use tile selectively. "Tile is really the thing that makes a statement in a bath," says Julie Williams, CKD, CKB, owner of Julie Williams Design in Novato, Calif., but it can also add considerable cost. "Consider finding an affordable field tile and combining it with more extravagant accent tiles," she adds.

Evaluate space and needs. Check out adjacent closets or hallways to see whether you can annex some extra square footage. Or rethink how you use current fixtures. "In master baths, lots of people are foregoing a tub in lieu of a bigger shower and more space," says Anissa Swanzy, co-owner of SKD Studios in Lusby, Md. "They realize it takes a lot of water to fill a tub, and they don’t have time to soak anyway."

Put your money where it counts. Most professionals agree that you want to put your money into permanent things, like good solid cabinets that meet storage needs and any plumbing behind the walls. "No one wants to break through a beautiful tile wall to fix the plumbing," says Nanae Nakahara, CKD, CKB, owner of Elegance Redesigned in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When planning your remodeling project, take advantage of online tools. For a ballpark figure of what a bath renovation costs in your area, check out the bath estimating tool on Improvenet. For space planning, consider Kohler's virtual bathroom planning tool as an alternative to playing around with sketches on paper.

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