WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Can you help this reader with frugal bathroom remodel advice?

Posted May 15, 2012

One of our fellow Smart Shopper blog readers, Jennifer,  is remodeling her bathroom and needs some advice regarding contractors, cost and frugal tips. Can you help her?

Jennifer, I have also included 3 articles in the box above regarding the average cost of a bathroom remodel. Most figures fall in the $10,000 - $30,000 range. The top article has some very good advice if you want to do more of the work yourself and look at the most frugal options.

Here is her request for advice:

"I live in Sanford but I've not had much luck with the local contractors as of yet. I need a general contractor for structural repairs (subfloor) and prep work for a plumber and tile installer. Seems like once they find out I'm on a limited budget they lose interest.

We are repurposing the tub, toilet, and cabinets to save money. I have offered to do some of the work (demo mostly) to keep cost down and set $5000 aside to get the rest done by a professional. The anticipated material cost is around $2000 leaving what I thought would be enough for labor. I have even invested $1000 already in faucets, light fixtures, and accesories.

Am I foolish to think I can get this done for $6000 total investment? Maybe I just need to take classes at Lowes until I am able to tackle this job myself too. Bloggers, if you can suggest a solution I would love to hear it. Thanks for any input you have to offer. This is my first attempt at a professional re-model."

Thanks to all who can offer any advice!


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  • qahomeproducts May 16, 2012

    Acrylic bath systems are an ideal solution to upgrading your bathroom without extensive cost. We offer full acrylic bath systems, wall surrounds, replacement bathtubs, and shower bases. As the area's exclusive dealer of Bathwraps brand acrylics, we have the product to meet your specific needs! For more information visit http://qahomeproducts.com

  • support12 May 16, 2012

    Hi Jennifer,

    That's a tight budget to do a bathroom renovation but can it be done. I would recommend NOT moving any plumbing in order to keep costs down and remove the need for a plumber. If the tub, toilet, and cabinets are to be reused, you should be able to reconnect the fixtures yourself once floor repairs have been made. Make sure any new fixtures will be compatible with the existing plumbing orientation.

    If the floor is the only issue, demo only the floor and around the tub if needed (assuming a built in tub and water damage- which is possible).

    Although your heart may be willing, you may want to have someone cutting through the sub floor to expose the floor joists and doing the repairs at the same time.

    You can do the installation of fixtures, tile, and painting if you run out of budget.

    Good luck

    Brad Thomas
    Classic Clawfoot Tubs

  • jgjkhelme123 May 16, 2012

    Go to the BBB website, put in your area and what you are looking for.
    Go to your local home improvement stores, they usually have some ideas of local gc's that may be able to help you out.
    Ask at your church, community center, civitan, library if they have any names for you. Alot of these places will want to help out the local businesses.

  • sunandsea May 15, 2012

    we recently did upgrades to our bathroom and one item you might want to check into is a water sense toilet. The city of Raleigh offers a $100 rebate, if you buy a certified water sense toilet....Possibly, Sanford has the same incentive. We kept our existing cabinet and tub and just painted, resurfaced the tub, new light fixture and toilet and other accessories....that might be an option for you to save money.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper May 15, 2012

    Great advice everyone! Thanks for helping her out!

  • lilypony May 15, 2012

    Check with your town to see if you need a permit is #1. People may say you can get away with it - DON'T. You probably won't need one anyway but always ask.

    There's a lot to be saved by doing your own demo. Don't whacking walls with sledgehammers like on TV, even though it looks fun! Cut things out in managable pieces.

    When the time comes to hire help, look into a professional handyman. Make sure he's insured (call the agent on his certificate to verify he's paying his bill). Get references too! They're skilled at many things and usually charge hourly so you may be able to work in tandem to save time.

    As the others said, check the Habitat ReStore for stuff. If you don't find it, go again. There's something different every day. Also Lowes/HD will usually have affordable closeouts cabinets etc.

    I have a construction company in Raleigh. This is the advice we give people with smaller budgets. I've had people call months later to thank me for the advice, or to ask for more help!

  • quemaster May 15, 2012


    It can be done. Another option on cabinets, etc. is to visit the Habitat Restore. They have some awesome things and are great for remodeling. Most is gently used but they do get new items all the time. It is a place you have to check regularly. This can save a lot on hardware.

    As for professional work, if you are handy at all you'd be surprised at how much you can do. It is not nearly as difficult as you'd expect. Might take longer than you'd want but you'll know how it was done, where everything is and know it was done well.

    One option is to check with your insurance agent. They may know tradesmen that can help or will be willing to help. The may even be able to put in a good word for you. Also, check with your church for ideas and even call the high school and ask the PTA and Band Director if they have parents they'd recommend. Check with Lowes, Home Depot and local hardware stores for suggestions, too. Good luck!

  • yankeenc May 15, 2012

    I redid my bathroom for $7,000. That did include new cabinets, new toilet, new tub, and new tile on floor and around shower. I bought the cabinets, tub, toilet myself. I picked out the tile at the tile installer's warehouse. I did demo myself. First I did the demo. Then I hired plumbers to come install the tub. They took it out the box and moved it into the bathroom and installed it. Once the tub was installed, the tile installer I had hired came in and put down new subfloor and new wallboard around the new tub and new plumbing. Two days later, they came back and installed the tile. After that was done, my boyfriend installed the bathroom vanity and toilet and hooked the existing plumbing back up to the vanity/toilet. Don't hire a general contractor. Do all the subbing yourself and hire individual craftsmen - a plumber, an electrician (if needed), and a tile installer.

  • ncsugirlie May 15, 2012

    Hi Jennifer. I know what it's like to be on a budget as we are finishing our bonus room right not. Fortunately, we have several friends that do different things that have saved us on labor cost (if they even charged anything). Therefore, my husband has bought a lot himself so far. We have a real good friend that is a licensed plumber. He works for a company full-time, but does it on the side, too. Not sure what he charges, but I'd be willing to check for you or get you his number. I also know a reasonable tile guy that did the backsplash over my tub, shower, and in my kitchen. I had to purchase the tile myself. I went to Best Tile and was determined to find something at a reasonable price or in their discount section and then this guy just charged labor. I'd be glad to get you his contact info. Feel free to email me at danachristman@gmail.com if you need more info.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper May 15, 2012

    Here's a response from vlynn from another thread where this question was originally asked:

    "Jennifer, you have the same problem I had with my remodeling plan: big ideas, but not enough cash! I tried to do the same thing, saving money on fixtures and items by buying them myself, but lots of contractors will not guarantee anything if they did not purchase the items. Most of them told me that they would not offer a waranty on anything I purchased. It was very difficult to find anyone willing to work on just a labor basis. I guess they make too much money on the materials to want to leave them out.
    May 15, 2012 8:56 a.m"