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When I renovated my primary bathroom recently, I learned some money-saving tricks that I wish I’d known long before I started my first Pinterest board for the project. It’s so easy to get swept away by beautiful inspiration images online, but what matters most when you’re planning a project is determining what’s best for your space and budget.
I’ll give you an example: The biggest expense of my bathroom renovation was a new walk-in shower, which was constructed in a former front hall closet. Adding it to the floor plan surely increased my home’s functionality, but I didn’t initially realize how much it would cost.
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That’s because I worked with a contractor who quoted a price for the labor based on the original design plan, but then it was up to me to provide all of the materials. While this approach is common, it can put a lot of pressure on the homeowner to crunch the numbers correctly.
And most of us, no matter how much time we spend sourcing photos online, are really figuring things out as we go.
Thankfully, I did a ton of product and design research prior to this process, and it paid off. I took those lessons to make a necessary change in my bathroom’s layout and materials, and that saved my family thousands in the long run. To help you to hopefully do the same, I’m sharing the top three things I wish someone would have told me before I started designing my bathroom shower.
Avoid a custom shower door.
Every single bathroom shower I originally saved to my vision board had either a half-wall or frameless panes of glass. So, naturally, I planned to have something similar in my own design. When I couldn’t find anything but a sliding glass door online at major retailers, I took a trip to a local showroom and learned that any custom-cut or specialty-size door can increase a bill by thousands of dollars. Needless to say, I forgot this idea on the spot.
Instead, I found an extra-wide door that would span my shower’s threshold, which meant I didn’t have to place a special order. My backup plan, though, is one to remember: You can build symmetrical walls to narrow your shower’s entrance, even if they just end up being a few inches wide, making it so you can install a standard shower door inside the space. My contractor confirmed that this is a rather standard workaround. Plus, the labor and materials needed for these walls are a mere fraction of the cost of a custom shower door.
Skip the built-in shower bench.
There’s something about having a place to sit or lean against in the shower that feels like being at a spa, which is why installing benches is so popular. I just want you to know there’s another way to do this, and I actually think it’s a lot more stylish. I was forced to rethink the bench idea when I nixed the custom shower door because I couldn’t have one without the other. This led me to a movable teak bench. Compared to a built-in bench, which requires a ready-to-tile base that I didn’t budget for, this swap also saved me in extra tile costs as well as the labor required to cover it.
Streamline your shower system.
Multiple shower heads, rows of handles, and dual-functioning sprayers can easily turn shower stalls into human sprinkler systems. But that’ll cost you. Remember this: The more pieces in your shower set, the more you’ll typically shell out in materials and labor. Have a thorough conversation with your contractor about what you need, and then make sure it’s all in your hands before any plumbing work begins.
Once I learned I was going to have to pay more for extra piping, I ditched the idea of a ceiling shower and a wall shower. Separate hot and cold handles also turned out to be a dream deferred, as separating them is equally expensive. Overall, I paid close to $300 for my set, and I went ahead with streamlined plumbing, shaving hundreds of dollars off those expenses.
While I was able to figure out these solutions on the fly, I would’ve preferred to avoid these obstacles from the start. If you’re renovating your bathroom, my best advice is to have a plan that’s agreed upon by your contractor, and then go over your shopping list in detail together (more than once!).
This level of communication will ensure that you’ve properly budgeted — and your contractor has properly scoped your project — so that you can finish your renovation on the same page. After all, taking your own “after” photos is great, but saving money is better.
March is Smart Spending Month on Apartment Therapy! We’re here to help you put your hard-earned dollars and cents to use — the right way. Head over here to learn how to do no-spend challenges, buy a home for below its listing price, and so much more.
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