How to Get Your Dream Bathroom for Less
Creating a super-stylish bathroom needn’t break the bank. These insider tips reveal where to save and where to splurge
Make a wishlist. What do you need in your new bathroom? What do you want? Then consider which items should be assigned more of the budget than others.
Confused about where to spend and where to save? Our bathroom experts have the answers.
Professional advice from: Gary Fullwood of Gary Fullwood Designed Living; George Poole of BathroomsByDesign; Lucy Hyner of Style Ideas
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If at all possible, retaining the original layout of a bathroom can help to reduce the cost of a refurb considerably. “It isn’t just a matter of moving a few things around,” Lucy Hyner explains. “Reworking a layout means ripping up and replacing tiles, extra plumbing costs due to moving pipework, and new paintwork if things don’t go to plan and you get a slight leakage.”
All this will expand your labour bill. Moving a soil pipe is typically the most expensive rearrangement, so if you can avoid this, it should reduce your fitter’s fee.
The good news is that new bathroom fixtures can, almost painlessly, be installed where previous ones once stood. “And there will be no need to disrupt any plumbing or electricity supply,” George Poole says.
As a general rule of thumb, floor-standing sanitaryware is cheaper, simply because more build work is required for wall-mounted models, which hang from a frame embedded in the wall.
Unfortunately, floor-standing fixtures tend to occupy more space, so careful consideration needs to be taken if square inches are at a premium. However, shopping for short-projection designs – ie, space-saving, compact – is one way to solve this.
Buying a whole bathroom suite is often more cost-effective than sourcing pieces individually. Also, consider forgoing strong trends and opting for a classic style that won’t date instead.
Typically, a frameless shower enclosure is more expensive than one with a frame. The good news, though, is that you can still achieve a minimal look by shopping around for a slim frame and glass that’s just 8mm or 10mm thick. “Combining this with a slim, low-level shower tray will still give you that minimalist, expensive walk-in shower feel,” Gary Fullwood says.
However, if a seamless aesthetic is top of your list of priorities, go back to your budget and work out where you can save elsewhere in order to splash out on a frameless design.
It can make financial sense, too, George says. “Frameless shower enclosures are generally longer-lasting than framed enclosures, due to their reinforced glass and easy-to-clean surfaces,” he explains. “Frameless shower enclosures also offer more versatility than framed ones, as you can potentially create a shower area consisting of a single glass panel.”
Generally, an exposed shower system (as seen here) is less expensive than a concealed one. This is because the latter, to create a minimal aesthetic, has all the pipework hidden in the wall. The extra work involved in doing this is what will typically ramp up the cost. In comparison, exposed systems are quick and easy to install and can look just as beautiful. Shop around – there are plenty of different designs out there.
Think carefully, too, about the showerhead. Swap inefficient, water-hungry models for eco-friendly designs that will have lower running costs.
Looking for the right company for your renovation? Read reviews of local bathroom designers in the Houzz Professional Directory.
Why budget for a separate bath and shower when a shower-bath combines the convenience of both? Alternatively, do away with the bath altogether and spend extra money on a sleek walk-in shower with a flush-to-floor tray and simple glass panel.
If you have enough space for both bath and shower, but use the bath infrequently, don’t fritter away precious funds on an expensive model when an affordable acrylic bath will do. Opt for a more affordable fitted design over a freestanding one (although manufacturers are working hard to bring down the price of stand-alone tubs, so do your research) and choose a nice bath panel – wood strips or floor tiles carried upwards can both look smart.
While there may be elements of your bathroom where a less expensive option will work well, don’t skimp when it comes to buying brassware, as it needs to be tough enough to withstand everyday use. Invest in a reputable brand that uses quality materials and offers a generous guarantee.
“While customers should spend within their means, they should also assess the cost-effectiveness of their purchases,” George says. “Skimp on quality now and you might be stung with repairs and replacements later on. Whereas if you invest correctly, fixtures and fittings are more likely to stand the test of time.”
Online shopping is undoubtedly convenient, enabling you to compare prices and products easily. Although great for research purposes, Gary stresses that it’s always good to touch and feel the quality of a product before you buy it. “Also, you get to build a relationship with the company,” he adds.
If buying online, thoroughly research the product you are considering; remember, looks can be deceiving. Don’t forget to research the company, too, to help you assess quality.
Alternatively, cash in on sales and special offers. Many bathroom retailers run seasonal promotions and sell off ex-display items. Even though it may take a little longer to get everything you need, it’s a good way to get quality fittings at reasonable prices.
If you don’t have the cash for a complete bathroom update, cosmetic changes can work out to be a cost-effective solution. “A new coat of paint can go a long way to improving the appearance of a bathroom,” George says. Make sure you pick a finish that’s suitable for hot and steamy conditions.
“Even the way you accessorise your bathroom can make a big difference – towels, plants, ornaments. Being creative is a tool homeowners should exercise,” he adds.
Update the handles on your cabinet doors and theme your scheme with a new pedal bin and toilet-brush holder. Add hooks on the back of the door for dressing gowns. Small, subtle changes can make the world of difference.
Vinyl flooring comes in two formats – sheet or luxury vinyl tiles (LVT). It can be an affordable option that’s also moisture-proof and long-lasting, thus great for a bathroom. What’s more, it comes in a wide range of designs including wood- and stone-effect.
Read more about choosing and installing vinyl flooring.
Porcelain tiles can be another cost-effective solution – rather than, say, marble or wood. Durable and easy to clean, they now also come in designs that replicate the look of natural, more expensive materials, but they require comparatively little TLC.
Do bear in mind that the smaller your tiles, the more they’ll potentially cost to lay. If you fancy a small, mosaic type of tile, sheet mosaics will cost less to install than tiny, labour-intensive individual tiles. Equally, the more nooks and crannies you tile, the more your tiler has to cut your chosen tiles, and the longer the job will take.
To see more from any of the designers whose photos are featured in this article, click on the image, then on Learn More if you’re in the app, and follow the links to the professional’s profile.
Never underestimate the importance of quality installation. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your bathroom, if it’s fitted badly, you’ll have to splash the cash to correct mistakes.
Some bathroom showrooms offer an installation service or are happy to recommend local tradespeople. Always research any recommendations and check out their customer reviews and testimonials, even when they come from a showroom. “A sign of a good installer is that they will have 5-star reviews across multiple platforms,” Gary says. “It’s also advisable to ask to look at some of their previous work and speak to their clients.”
Another way of finding a reliable installer is to go with recommendations from friends or family. “This way you can easily see the work that’s been completed,” Lucy says. “We recommend getting around three different quotations to make sure you’re getting the best possible price and work quality. It’s always a good indication if the installer is willing to take you to view his previous work. Never be afraid to ask.”
However, it always pays to be prepared. “Unfortunately, unseen costs cannot always be avoided, as no matter how good the installer is, things can still go wrong,” Lucy adds. “You should always allow for a contingency budget.”
How have you saved money doing up a bathroom? Share your tips and ideas in the Comments.