Tips & Tricks | Creating a Bathroom on a Budget
I’m going to start by saying, we went over budget on our bathroom. Our bathroom wasn’t even on our early renovation roadmap. Possibly not instilling confidence with that start am I? We were in the final stages of completing our extension and all of a sudden our bathroom looked like something out of a crack den in comparison with the rest of the house. The carpets had seen all that two virus-incubating, toilet-training children could throw at it. Or throw up on it. And yes, you read that right, it was carpeted.
The reason we couldn’t stay on budget was that the walls had seen better days and in the end we decided to pull the plasterboard off and start again. So we had all good intentions of a bathroom on a budget, things just conspired against us.
It has taught me a few things and working with plumbers and tilers over the years has made me understand more about what causes that dreaded sharp intake of breath and ultimately add extra costs to bathroom remodels. In a bid to help others save money and have a bathroom you want to wash in, not hide away from, here's my top tips.
Materials. This may be the easy one. Ask to use your tradesperson’s trade discount. Be upfront and ask them where they get their discount and shop for your tiles or sanitary ware there to get some money off. This can be substantial when you’re completely renovating a bathroom and I’ve never found a tradesperson who has objected to this.
Plan, plan, plan. If you plan well in advance you can take advantage of sales or take time scouring for a vintage piece. This is particularly handy if you have a specific bath or basin in mind for instance, and you can’t take advantage of your tradesperson’s discount for it. There are always bathroom sales, so bookmark your favourite items, sign up for newsletters and notifications so that you can pick up what you are after for a lot less. This worked well for us, we had around 3 months of waiting before we could begin and in that time there were plenty of offers and then we stored the items in our garage until we were ready.
Consider an upcycle. There are so many beautiful second hand and vintage washstands and furniture on eBay or in charity shops that can easily be tidied up. If you convert a set of drawers or sideboard for example, look for local stonemasons and companies selling worktops to grab an offcut of marble or stone for the top. Check local reclamation yards for sinks. Whether you’re more of a mid-century modern type of homeowner or a Victorian lover at heart this is such a great way to add character and style as well as being more sustainable and allowing you to keep within your budget.
Re-use what you have. A big difference can be made by just changing tiles or adding a new/second-hand vanity unit or even just adding decorative touches. Think critically, do you really need to change the toilet, could it just need a new seat? Could you repaint/restore the bath? Do you have a mirror in another room that would look great above your basin? We saved money by keeping the bath but restoring it and painting it. You could feel very differently about a bathroom by just completing a couple of jobs rather than replacing everything.
Layout. One of the biggest costs when renovating a bathroom is a change to the plumbing. If you want to move the bath or the toilet, more often than not, this can add serious costs to your project. Lifting a floor up, running new pipework, it starts to increase labour and complexity and where possible avoid this if you have a tight budget. A soil stack being moved just a few inches could end up costing hundreds of pounds. It can depend massively in terms of the flooring you have – concrete or wood, or whether it’s an external or internal wall but if you keep the toilet, basin, shower, bath where they are this will keep the costs down.
Tiling. The more complex your tiling pattern, the more it will cost. Tiling a wall with square or rectangular tiles in a straightforward pattern costs far less than a herringbone design for instance. It simply comes down to the time it takes the tiler to complete the job. Tiles are also expensive and form a large part of a bathroom cost so keep it to a minimum, avoid going floor to ceiling all around and keep to the areas you actually need them – the shower area and behind your bath.
Save or splurge? Always splurge on items such as taps. The things you use everyday, that get turned, pushed or pulled. Its a false economy buying something cheap that cannot withstand everyday use and only needs replacing a short time later. You can then save on everything else!
Trades. Goes without saying really, but find a good plumber preferably recommended by someone you know. Life is so much easier if you have a knowledgeable and trustworthy plumber. Personally this has been the most challenging aspect for me, I seem to be a magnet for cowboys who leave me with leaks, incorrectly laid tiles or damage of some sort. Which again can cost more money to rectify. A good reliable plumber will be able to advise you on how to keep costs down and the best way to plan your space.
Choose something that will last and that you love. Don’t be too trend led. There’s 2 issues with being swept up in the latest trend. Firstly, suppliers know what is the latest fad and these options tend to be more expensive. Secondly, if you fall out of love with your bathroom within a year, it will cost so much to replace it and so you either end up living with it and feeling miserable about it or spend more money re-doing it. Instead, add interest and fashion through accessories like your towels, pictures, shelves – things you can change around. Keep a pinterest board or Instagram collection of the bathrooms and styles you love, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging of images/colours/styles that you prefer – this is your basis or foundation to work from. When I look at mine, its most definitely modern country, I like colour but muted and not too dominating, I like pops of pattern but not too overwhelming, I like classic but not frilly. Be sure of your style, and this will avoid costly mistakes.
Trust your design instincts. When you’ve worked out what you want, don’t be deterred by a plumber. Good plumbers are practical, know how to plan a bathroom effectively and can create an amazing space for you. They do not however always know what’s best in terms of colours and design. The amount of times a plumber has questioned my choice of tile or the way I would like tiles laid, or the colour; it gets right on my wick. Don’t compromise; similar to the last point, you don’t want to regret a choice having been influenced incorrectly by someone else resulting in costly mistakes.