NYC Renovation Chronicles

NYC Renovation Chronicles: 5 ways to save on your bathroom renovation

By Yoel Borgenicht  | November 9, 2011 - 10:17AM

Renovating your bathroom is a great way to give your apartment an update. Plus, it's pretty easy to do it inexpensively. Here are my tips for improving the look of your bathroom on a budget.

1. Do your tile-buying in the outer boroughs.
The first trick to saving on tiling is simple: leave Manhattan. There are several reasonably priced tile stores in the outer boroughs. These stores have showrooms with ample selection often at a significant discount from what you would pay in Manhattan.

The drawback is the time it takes to get to one of these stores and the fact that the customer service is not always great.
One of our clients went to a Brooklyn tile store, and though they loved the selection and price, the salesperson stopped in the middle of serving them and told them that he was going to lunch and would take care of them when he got back. For this reason, a lot of my clients prefer the Manhattan stores for the convenience and level of service, despite the higher prices.

2. Re-grout the tiles instead of changing them.
If you are on a really tight budget, re-grouting your floor and wall tiles is a reasonably priced way to improve the look of your bathroom. A skilled worker can remove the existing grout with a sharp scraper and install new, bright grout that will make the bathroom look cleaner.
A homeowner can also try to do this themselves but if they are not experienced with the sharp grout removal tool they can end up scratching their tiles.

Re-grouting can cost anywhere from $475 to $1,500 depending on the amount and type of tiles.
3. Buy Ikea. Sure, the products will not last as long as all of their competitors, but you can't beat the price. 
The stylishness of their products has improved recently and some of them are quite appealing. I particularly like their sinks and vanities.
The Ikea stores in Red Hook Brooklyn, Elizabeth or Paramus, NJ offer reasonably priced delivery to Manhattan.

4. Re-glaze your bathtub.Replacing your bathtub can easily cost several thousands of dollars, partly because you’ll need to hire a licensed master plumber to replace the original piping, something that is mandated by most co-ops and condos. A much cheaper option is to hire a glazing firm to re-glaze your bathtub. This can cost between $350 and $475.
Keep in mind that the process that is used is nowhere near as resilient as the original glazing that was applied to your tub in the factory. Spray on glazing will last for several years but will eventually start chipping. If you drop something heavy on the surface it can scratch easily. That being said, a newly re-glazed tub looks almost new.

5. Be your own general contractor. If you have experience with remodeling and construction you can potentially save a lot of money if you act as your own general contractor. The caveat is that if not, you can cost yourself thousands of dollars learning on the job. 

Hiring the plumber, electrician, tile and painting professional directly may seem easy to some but bear in mind that all of these tradespeople need to be supervised to ensure that they perform the work exactly as per your specifications.
If you do not have experience managing a renovation project you will also not be able to tell if the trades people are cutting corners.
One client of ours called us in to rescue them after he realized that the so called “plumber” he hired was not licensed and his piping leaked through five apartments below. Of course, the plumber was long gone and the owner was left holding the bag for the repairs. 
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