You might say: "There is no such thing as an easy and cheap bathroom remodel," I add that when we use words like "easy and cheap" it is relative to the entire bathroom remodeling process. Of course, it's never fast and inexpensive when you're dealing with plumbing, electrical, flooring, and more--all in a confined space that is so crucial to our lives.
The smash-and-grab bathroom remodel is a dark secret for many people. When I did my first surface-level bathroom renovation, I never mentioned to anyone. It was not a feature of cocktail party conversation, put it that way. But I'll tell you: it was sure nice to have a clean, bright, and functional bathroom.
Given the sickeningly high cost of bathroom remodeling, it pays off to think outside the box a little:
1. Cover, Don't ReplaceThis is the guiding principle of any surface-level renovation, with the caveat that you never want to cover anything because it needs to be replaced.
For example, there is no better way to cover up the lower potion of walls than with easy-to-install wainscot. It's a pre-fab board that extends as high as 48" and will eliminate the need to fix any unfortunate wall dings and minor holes. But should that wallboard be speckled with mold and mildew, the last thing you want to do is cover it up. Unfortunately, you need to track down the source, stop it, and replace affected portions of wallboard.
2. Refinish Tub Instead of Replacing ItBathtub or shower refinishing is a prime example of "cover, not replace." If the problem is mainly cosmetic--a yellowed surface and some cracks and nicks--you can refinish your shower or bathtub.
Bathtub and shower liners--a staple of infomercials and the hidden secret of many nice-looking bathrooms--are actually not as cheap as they seem. Never a permanent fix, they will carry you through a few years. Liners require professional installation
3. Pre-Fab Shower Rather Than TiledDecided your tub or shower is beyond refinishing? Need a new one? The absolutely most expensive option is hiring tradesmen to build a unit out of tile from scratch.
Instead, consider pre-fabricated shower units.
If you absolutely must have that tiled shower, fusing a poly shower pan with the tile saves some hassle and a little bit of cost.
4. You Don't Need That High-End FlooringYou think you want that radiant-heat granite floor but you really don't. It's only 35 square feet we're dealing with here - sheet or square vinyl will do just fine.
5. Install Your Own ToiletDon't call in the plumber to switch out the old toilet with the new. Install your toilet yourself. It's much easier than you can imagine, the hardest part being physically moving the toilet into place. For that, get a friend.
6. Paint It YourselfDon't use a painter. Generally, for whole-house painting, I would recommend that you consider hiring a professional painter. But think of it: bathroom walls are taken up with mirrors, showers, tile, bathtubs. You're only dealing with a few square feet. You can paint the bathroom yourself in two days.
7. Resist the Urge to Move PlumbingDon't move plumbing. Moving water supply and/or drainage immediately drives up the cost of any remodel project.
8. Install Your Own Bathroom Vanity and TopBecause bathrooms are small, it's possible for you to buy nearly or fully assembled bathroom vanity units and vanity tops and have them in place within a couple of hours.
Vanity units come in certain sizes ranging from 24 inches to 60 inches wide. Coordinating tops (counters) can be purchased that even have sinks fused into them--no sink installation and caulking woes!
8. Design It YourselfWhole-house remodels, additions, and kitchens can benefit from the expertise of a qualified designer. But bathrooms?
Bathrooms, too, but if you need to save money it's possible to design your own. One factor in your favor is that you aren't moving fixtures around (see previous advice on this). Bathroom designers are good at not just the "pretty stuff" but at powering through difficult logistical problems (door clearances, etc.).
So, half of your design burden is instantly lifted. You're left with a few of the more "fun" aspects of bathroom design: