Spend & Splurge – How to Renovate a Bathroom Without Going Overboard


SOURCE: Jillian Richey Design


If you’re wondering if it’s worth the expense to renovate a bathroom, know this. A bathroom renovation ranks 2nd as the most important upgrade in your  home. It falls just below kitchen renovations. That doesn’t mean it has to be a massive expense though. It’s possible to achieve a high end look without all the expense of a high end renovation. It requires careful planning and a bit of education about where to splurge and where you need to reel in your spending. I’m sharing my design tips that I use with clients who are renovating. This is my list of splurge and save that might help you plan your own renovation.







I sometimes hear people say they can’t afford the more expensive cabinetry and they want to upgrade in a year or two when their funds are replenished. Changing cabinetry, even if just a simple vanity is going to have the potential to cause issues. You’re impacting the countertops, the plumbing, the flooring and the backsplash tiles. So what seems like a simple switch can have a big impact on the space.

Instead, invest in high quality, classic cabinetry that will stand the test of time and not need to be upgraded for years. This will give you years of use and will look great regardless of how much wear and tear the bathroom receives.

You also want to maximize the storage in your cabinetry and this costs extra money as well. Drawers are essential for staying organized and they tend to drive the price of a vanity up. It will be an appreciated addition once you’re living in your new space though so consider the future when budgeting.



SOURCE: Fireclay Tile


No it’s not sexy but a great exhaust fan will effectively remove moisture from your bathroom. Without it you’re more prone to mold and mildew growth on tiles, grout and paint. You don’t necessarily need to take a master class in exhaust fans but be sure to speak to your designer and your contractor about budgeting for a really good fan.



SOURCE: This Is Our Bliss

If you live in Canada or another country that experiences winter, you’ll understand why this matters. Where I live we have a long winter and it’s cold! In-floor heating is something you’ll be grateful for every morning during those winter months.

While it’s a splurge it doesn’t cost as much as most people think when it’s planned in advance. The biggest cost comes when someone decides they need to have that after their bathroom is finished. There’s no other way to install in-floor heating besides ripping up the existing floor.

If you plan for this at the right time (as you’re about to renovate a bathroom) you won’t be out of pocket in any significant way. 





This is the eye candy in the room. I often refer to hardware as the jewelry in the space because it does the same thing as that beautiful gold necklace on a perfect outfit. It just makes everything look better and adds the perfect finishing touch.

In case you’re wondering what’s the difference between a big box store knob or pull and that from a higher end retailer, it’s the finish. The finish on higher end splurge items looks more elegant and glamorous than their cheaper counterparts. And the best part is your vanity won’t require a lot of them. 

Since we hope to only renovate a bathroom every decade or so, it’s important to note that the finish is also more long lasting on splurge hardware. That means you won’t need to replace this in the near future because of chipping or fading of the finish.





There’s a tub for every budget but unless bathing is a super important ritual in your life you should opt to save on this. There are plenty of busy families that never utilize a tub at all but you do need to have at least one in your home for resale. 

Save the money on this for something that you love or use daily. The only exception is when you have the space for a stand alone tub and you’ll use it a lot! If that’s a high priority then this might be worth the splurge. Stick with acrylic, whether it’s a typical apron tub or a soaker tub and you’ll save a small fortune over those made from composite materials.



SOURCE: Studio McGee

Don’t move your plumbing unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is one of the most expensive upgrades when you renovate a bathroom. This change can force you to forfeit all other splurges if you’re not careful. There is an immense amount of labour involved because the plumbing will need to be rerouted and this is extremely time consuming so labour for the plumbers will skyrocket on your project. 

Instead, speak to your designer about the layout and what you’re not happy with. A great designer is skilled at space planning and will make the most of your space without requiring plumbing relocation. 



SOURCE: Lindye Galloway

If you’ve visited a bath and kitchen showroom recently you’ll likely have seen all the high tech toilets on the market. It can be enticing to think about warm toilet seats with lids that automatically open but you’ll pay a hefty price for those upgrades. And let’s face it, after the first few uses you’ll likely be over the fascination of it all.




If you love reading shelter magazines you’ve likely spent time admiring beautiful tiles. A well designed bathroom or kitchen will include beautiful tiles and our first instinct may be to think they’re expensive. That may have been true at one point but now the market is saturated with great tiles at every price point.

Since there are so many reasonably priced and beautiful tile options it hardly makes sense to splurge. We’ve seen a resurgence of popularity in porcelain tiles thanks to the high tech printing methods that allow them to mimic stone. Spend some time doing your research and looking at the high and low options on the market before you set your heart on the expensive tile store.

If you’re planning to renovate a bathroom or a kitchen and would love to have a designer, contact me. I’d love to speak to you about being part of your project.


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