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Expert tips for building a budget-friendly bathroom

You’d think renovating your bathroom wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, “the difficulty with bathrooms is that they’re small spaces but need the careful coordination of so many trades – demolition, possibly framing, plumbing, electrical, tiling, carpentry, painting, cabinetry, counters, and so on,” says Virginie Martocq, a Toronto-based designer and the owner of Virginie Martocq Designs. Here’s what you need to know before starting. 

It will take you longer than you think

For an average four-piece bathroom, allow about two to three months to get your supplies ordered and delivered and for the design to be completed, and about a month for the work to get done, Martocq says. “Availability of material is another big one. You need all your fixtures picked out and ordered, and ideally your tiles, and cabinet, ahead of time,” she adds. Changing your mind after work begins is a no-no, as it can lead to ripping things out and re-plumbing and re-wiring. And if your general contractor doesn’t have the trades lined up to work they’re needed, expect delays. 

Go for non-slip tile

Large tiles are more modern and are easier to clean, but because you can slip on them more easily, go for something honed or textured instead. “A small tile with a lot of grout lines will be more slip resistant than a big tile, although grout is hard to keep clean and should be sealed after installation,” Martocq says.

Bathroom Interior stock photo
CreativaStudio | iStock

Consider bathroom vanities and storage in advance

Mirrors with recessed storage are a great idea – manufacturers make shallow ones that fit within the depth of a joist. “Nooks are great in showers,” Martocq also says, “and can be designed to be cool and interesting – think contrasting tile, for example.”

Know what to spend on

Budgets vary from low to extravagant, but there are some things everyone should be investing in. “Don’t skimp on anything that goes in the wall behind a tile. A faulty diverter down the road is a nightmare,” she says. 

Research fixtures

First, start with the type of fixture you want before narrowing down aesthetic specifics. “Know what design you’re after and if there are certain functions you want. For example, a single-handle faucet is great in a kid’s bathroom so they don’t have to set the water temperature each time,” she says. Put some thought into finished – antique bronze is trendy, as is matte black or white – but if you’re going for longevity you can’t go wrong with polished nickel and chrome.  

Get creative with your accessories

The fixtures you choose will often come with coordinating accessories, but Martocq advises staying away from coordinating mirrors and lights because they can make a bathroom void of personality. Instead, opt for something that will really stand out, like a vintage towel hook, for example – don’t worry if it doesn’t all match, as long as it works with the overall look. 

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