Alexis & Taylor in Bathroom

Bathroom Renovation: Where to Spend? Where to Save?

Every home has bathrooms, and like it or not, bathrooms age and eventually need to be renovated. Some people are prompted to renovate when a toilet breaks and needs replacing. Others are frustrated by a short vanity, ineffective storage, or a strange layout that keeps a bathroom from functioning optimally. And some renovations happen because a bathroom is just dated and looks old.

A beautiful and functional bathroom makes a massive difference in the way your home looks, feels, and operates. Like any home renovation, there are endless options for customizing your bathroom. Also like any home renovation, there are some areas where you can save money and some areas where it makes sense to spend – lest you risk paying in the long run!

A mix of high-budget and cost-effective items delivers an elevated bathroom experience without an elevated price tag. Here are some tried and true tips to ensure your bathroom renovation is a success for years to come.

Spend on These Bathroom Renovation Components


Lighting plays an important role in a bathroom’s ability to function properly – particularly when it comes to your shower and vanity areas. To create a light and bright space that eliminates shadows and ensures safety, bathrooms require both task and ambient lighting. Ambient lighting may take the form of evenly spaced can lights or a ceiling fixture/chandelier with multiple bulbs. In addition to your overhead source, you need lighting at the vanity to help with activities like applying makeup. We recommend wet location fixtures to illuminate your shower.

Plumbing Fixtures: Toilets, Shower, Faucets

Shower, sink, and toilet problems can derail your day and sometimes even your week or worse. It’s important that your shower, faucets, and toilets work well and consistently. The best way to ensure this is to purchase from reputable, well-known brands including Moen (economical), Delta and Kohler (mid-range), and Rohl and Newport Brass (high-end).

Important note: While you can find these brands – even with the same product names – at discount stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, know that they may contain plastic parts. To ensure you receive the highest quality products, we recommend purchasing your plumbing fixtures from a plumbing supply company.

Shower Glass

If you are going to use shower glass, there’s simply no substitute for a tempered (shatterproof) ⅜-inch glass enclosure. We recommend a frameless style that keeps the shower area looking open and exposes your beautiful tile. Your contractor or a reputable glass vendor will guide you on this custom purchase. If shower glass falls outside of your budget, a simple white shower curtain delivers a clean look at an affordable price.

Tile Quantity and Installation

While you can find beautiful tile at an affordable price, the part you don’t want to skimp on is the quantity and installation. Tile plays an important role in protecting your walls from water damage. For this reason, and to enhance the overall appearance, we encourage our clients to tile showers all the way to the ceiling rather than stopping short and leaving a foot or so of exposed sheetrock.

More important than the quantity of tile is hiring an excellent installer. The installer places and grouts tile so that the tile looks its best, and applies waterproofer to protect your home from leaking, flooding, and molding. Cutting corners here could cost you greatly.

Exhaust Fan

Simply stated, a beautiful bathroom that does not ventilate properly is a disaster waiting to happen. Excess moisture contributes to mold problems which can be exorbitantly expensive to address. It’s critical to examine your exhaust fan during your renovation project and replace it if it is old or cruddy.

Save on These Pieces for Your Bathroom Renovation

Wall Accessories

When it comes to bathroom accessories like towel rods and toilet paper holders, choose the finish and look you like! These items don’t need to come from the same collection as the fixtures you use for plumbing. Their function is simple, so the quality level is less important. You will want to install them properly, but you can find stylish accessories at stores like Home Depot, Anthropologie, Hobby Lobby,, and more.

Pro tip: Details matter! Don’t ignore light switches, outlets, and vent covers. These small items are inexpensive to update and make a huge difference.

Countertop Materials

While countertops play a leading role in kitchens, they play more of a supporting role in bathrooms where tile and mirrors steal the show. When selecting your countertop, choose a color that works best with your overall design scheme. You still want a good quality stone like quartz or granite, but keep it simple and let your other finishes shine.

Porcelain Sinks

You can’t go wrong with an undermount porcelain sink. That’s why we recommend clients keep it simple and stay away from specialty materials or vessels that can make a watery gunky mess. Brand names aren’t important here either. Just select the size and shape you need and you are all set! Countertop fabricators often include the sink in the cost of the top or pre-made vanity.


The most practical tile for floors is porcelain and you can use any material you like (porcelain, marble, ceramic, or glass) on the walls. Durability is most important on the bathroom floor where you are walking. Just remember to focus on quantity and installation. If you don’t plan to seal and maintain your tiles regularly, it’s best to avoid natural stones like marble or limestone.


The only reason you need custom cabinets in a bathroom is to fit an unusual space or if you want something special. Otherwise, standard cabinets or high-quality free-standing vanities (that often come with a countertop and a sink) are the way to go. We love using inserts to make cabinets more functional on the inside.


Unless you are someone who takes a bath regularly and wants jets, go with a soaker tub. You’ll see significant cost savings on not just the tub itself, but also on the installation. Choose a tub that fits nicely in your space and sits comfortably.

Important Bathroom Renovation Tip

If the layout of your bathroom does not function well and you decide to reconfigure, keep costs down by leaving the toilet and floor drain locations in place. Sinks and shower heads, on the other hand, are often more accessible and easier to move.

Not sure if you need to change the layout of your bathroom? This is a great time to seek professional guidance. We can help you make a decision you will be happy with for years to come. Just reach out.

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