First person: 5 key steps to our $18,000 master suite renovation

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First person: 5 key steps to our $18,000 master suite renovation

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We hired contractors to frame out the whirlpool tub and install all plumbing.

It took us more than 10 years to create our master suite. When we built our home, we weren't sure how we wanted to design our second floor, so we put an exterior door at the top of the stairs and ignored it. When we finally did begin, we had a decade of living to guide us through the process. Here are five steps that were key to us successfully creating our dream:

1. We served as general contractor. We hired a contractor, who did all the work from framing and drywall to window installation and cabinetry ($3,885). We found the electrician ($1,500) and plumber ($3,800).

2. We did a lot of the work ourselves. My husband installed the underfloor heating system ($250) and laid the natural stone tile ($845). He installed the shower waterproofing system ($300). We hung insulation and did the priming and painting and buttoning-up work, such as installing switchplates and molding.

3. We let the pros do the heavy lifting. We stayed away from plumbing and electrical work. We had the electrician hook up the underfloor heating elements and add a second breaker box just for the remodel.

4. We saved with strategic shopping. Our brother-in-law owned a kitchen and bath design shop so we got rock-bottom prices on big-ticket items. He also drew up the blueprints. The two-person whirlpool tub for another job arrived in the wrong color so we got it for $500. The twin sinks were floor models for $25 apiece. The floor and wall cabinets and toilet were free hand-me-downs from their own powder room remodel. We also installed a set of double-hung windows and reused the original single window, creating a wonderful view of the woods behind the house. We reused our bedroom set, which we had bought a few years earlier knowing that we would move it upstairs.

5. We splurged on timeless items. We paid for a suite of brushed-nickel bath fixtures, including height-adjustable showerhead and tub spray wand ($2,102). We also shelled out for two lav sets and matching triple sconces and towel rings ($619). We brought the brushed nickel element from the bath into the bedroom with picture frames and accents and into the walk-in closet with drawer pulls. The 7-foot countertop is granite, as is the shower saddle and cap on the knee wall separating the tub from the toilet ($1,245). In the bedroom, we splurged on several bedding sets and duvets plus curtains to take us through the seasons. We installed allergy- and stain-resistant low-pile carpeting. The designer paint colors are reused in the bedside lampshades and in all the bath towels and rugs.

Start to finish it took six months of daily work, from rough-in to final accessories, to create the master suite of our dreams.

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