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How to Save on a Bathroom Renovation (and where you shouldn't!)

No matter what your budget is for a project, everybody has one. Big, have to set the budget somewhere. After mini renovations for both of our bathrooms, as well as working with many clients trying to update their spaces on a budget, I have really honed in on where and how to save some money, plus also where it's worth it to spend! You don't have to spend tons on everything to get a higher end look, but there are places were you don't want to skimp and details that should not be overlooked.

Here are my top ways to save on a renovation:

1. Work with what you have.

So you want to renovate, but the quotes from contractors to replace EVERYTHING are way beyond what you'd like to spend. While I would never advocate to work with something you HATE, prioritizing which things need to change and which would be okay to keep is real life for most people. Working with your existing floors or vanity (like we did) or saving your tub can allow you to spend more elsewhere. This is especially true for plumbing and electrical layout. If you can't do plumbing and electrical work yourself, the labor to move those things around is going to add up quick. Can you keep your toilet in the same spot? That will save you big.

2. Do the labor yourself.

Hands down, labor is your biggest expense with a renovation. Depending on your location and who you hire, you can expect to pay 3x the cost of materials for the labor. Obviously, if you can do the labor yourself, that's huge savings! For our master bath, we paid for professionals to do the plumbing, electrical, structural, and tile work (see why here) but we saved quite a bit by swapping faucets, mirrors, hardware, and baseboards ourselves.

3. Get creative!

If you have lighting or hardware that's a good shape or style you like, but maybe it doesn't match your other finishes or it just looks dated, spray paint it! Metallic looking spray paints can be a bit tricky (there are one million gold spray paints to choose from), but matte black spray paint is pretty consistent, and touches of black look great in every space, mixing well with any metal. In our master bath, the lights I was looking at were hundreds of dollars each, which was beyond our budget. I found something similar, but the finish was bronze, so I just spray painted them black (those lights were only $50 each, and now they perfectly match the cabinet pulls!). Another simple, creative fix is to decant all your products into prettier containers. I put our soap, shampoos, and face wash in amber pump bottles to play off of the dark wood vanity, which really ties the whole space together and is way prettier than the plastic bottles they came in.

4. Choose styles that are simple, but pay attention to proportion and finish.

The faucets we swapped on our sinks were under $100, but matching the finish to the mirrors and shower fixtures is an upgrade. I also wanted these to feel sleeker and more modern than what we had before, and I love the curve of the taller spout, which is really great with the taller mirrors. The mirrors are just a simple rectangle with a chrome frame (you'll pay more for something with well-designed details), but the proportion works with our taller ceilings and makes the room feel larger, plus that simple edge will never go out of style.

So what about spots in your bathroom where you shouldn't skimp? Or ways to make your space look higher end without totally blowing the budget?

1. Take your tile to the ceiling.

Yes, you'll pay more for material, but the labor cost will be pretty close to the same, and your space will feel larger and more grand, carrying your eye all the way up. You can choose a fancy tile if you want to make a statement (and have the cost in your budget), but even a simple tile going all the way to the ceiling feels more polished.

2. Pay attention to shower fixture function.

Did you know that different fixtures have different flow rates? If you like high pressure on your fixture, don't settle for something with a low flow rate! Do you like a steam shower? Jets? Massage spray? Thermostatic controls? If you're already renovating your shower, the cost to put in a cheap fixture and a nicer one is going to be about the same, so get the function that you like! Ultimately, the function is going to be what makes your experience more luxurious.

3. Don't skip the details.

If you're spending thousands on a renovation, you may get to the finishing touches and feel like you can't afford to paint, change cabinet knobs, or your towel bar. Don't skip those parts! Likely, you'll need a few hundred dollars for some artwork, new mirrors, or new hardware, so plan ahead and make these items part of your budget. That's what really makes a room feel finished!

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