Save over $5k on your bathroom renovation with these easy steps

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6 min readWant to save thousands of dollars on your next bathroom renovation? Of course, you do! And the solution to saving $5000 or more on your project isn’t as hard as you may think. By following this simple guide, you can be your own project manager and cut up to 30% off the cost of a high-quality bathroom renovation.

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In Australia, bathroom renovations average around $20,000 – with costs quickly rising if your bathroom is larger or you choose high-end finishes. But how much of that $20,000 is hard costs and how much is your builder’s mark-up?

The typical builder adds a 30% mark-up to their costs – meaning that you can save $5,000 or more by being your own project manager. If your budget is tight, being your own project manager might turn your dream bathroom renovation into a reality. If you have extra money to spend, you can apply those savings to higher quality finishes. Either way, managing your own bathroom renovation is a great way to save money!

How to keep your bathroom renovation affordable

Project management isn’t for everyone, you need to be willing to work hard and stay on schedule. But if you’re not afraid of some hard work, then project managing your renovation could be the way to keep your bathroom from busting the budget.

Before you commit to heading up this type of project, it’s important that you understand what you’re getting into. Read through our step-by-step process and see if project management could be a good fit for you and your bathroom reno.

The five key stages to renovating are:

1 – Research

2 – Planning

3 – Pre-construction

4 – Construction

5 – Project completion

Notice how much planning and research is involved? That’s the key to successful project management. If you spend the proper amount of time planning and getting ready, then your project should run smoothly. If you rush stages one to three, then you might be in for a rough time.

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Stage 1 – Research

This first stage has you gathering information and inspiration for your bathroom renovation. and both offer extensive examples of beautiful bathrooms and should be your go-to place for inspiration (in my opinion). Also, check out’s Collections to create and share collections of bathroom inspo.

Collect your research in storyboards, divide them into different categories for each design decision you’ll face: tiles, vanities, toilets, colour schemes, shower screens, lighting, etc. Staying organised is key to successful project management, and that organisation begins in the research stage.

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Stage 2 – Planning

The planning stage is vital to the success of your project – so make sure you allocate enough time to properly plan your bathroom renovation. This stage consists of the following three steps:

1. Create a job file structure: Everything relating to your project needs to be at your fingertips. Start by creating a clear and orderly place to store everything relating to your project.

2. Draft plans: A set of plans is not optional. You and your contractors need clear instructions for every step of the process – no matter how big or small your project is. There are three options for getting plans drafted:

  • Pay an architect, professional designer, or a draftsperson to create your plans for you. This option, while more expensive, will ensure that your plans are easily understood by contractors and up to industry standards.
  • Use drafting software to create your own plans. There are many options available online, but I recommend EDRAW because it features easy to use drag and drop features.
  • Do it the old-fashioned way and design by hand on paper. This is a great option for those who like to have something physical to reference – just make sure your plans are drawn to scale and show every element of your new design.

3. Shopping: Sourcing products for a bathroom renovation isn’t easy. It often requires traveling to multiple sources and searching for and ordering the perfect fittings, fixtures, and accessories. It’s easy to overlook this step, so make sure you factor in enough time for browsing, comparing and purchasing.

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Stage 3 – Pre-construction

Pre-construction is the final step before work begins on your bathroom renovation. It’s the time to get every detail worked out so that your project goes smoothly. During this stage, you should have two main goals:

1. Finding contractors: Research quality contractors and begin collecting quotes. Make sure that you stay organised during this stage by tracking each quote in your project files.

You should also take this time to arm yourself with contract and licensing knowledge. Hiring contractors is a big investment and you want to be protected in case anything goes wrong. For more detailed information on contracts and licensing, consult the NSW Fair Trading Website (or with the local governing authority in your state).

2. Estimated timeline for completion: A smooth project relies on a clear timeline. Take the necessary time to create an in-depth schedule. This timeline will help you as you manage the stages of your job and schedule each contractor. Sometimes a simple excel spreadsheet is all it takes to track your progress, don’t over complicate things if you don’t have to.

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Stage 4 – Construction

After completing all your preliminary work in stages one through to three, it’s finally time for the real work to begin! If you have properly researched, planned, and scheduled, this stage should go off without a hitch. Put all your management skills to use and make sure that contractors are sticking to the budget and your timeline.

The essential part of this step is keeping in constant contact with your tradies. By knowing exactly where they are in the process, you can avoid surprises and difficulties later.

You don’t want to deal with the headache of a delayed bathroom renovation (especially if you’re an owner occupier), so make sure to put all your effort into managing your construction project.

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Stage 5 – Project completion

Stage five is the final step in your bathroom renovation. It’s all about finishing strong and ensuring that everything is completed and functioning properly.

When it comes to finalising the process, you should establish a defects liability period with your contractor. This period is a set time when you hold back a portion of the final payment to ensure that everything is working properly. I recommend holding back 5 to 10% of the contract value for a three month period. This gives you time to test your new bathroom and find any defects that aren’t immediately obvious to the eye.

A reputable contractor should be fine with a standard defect liability period because they’re willing to stand behind the quality of their work. If a defect is discovered, the held back funds ensure that your contractor will return to correct the error at their cost. If the contractor refuses to correct their defects, you can use the funds to hire someone else. Just make sure you keep detailed records of all your interactions with your contractors.

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Start saving!

Managing your own project isn’t easy. But with careful planning and attention to detail, you can get it right and save $5,000 in the process! Beyond just saving money, you will also learn a lot about renovations and hopefully have a little fun too. Project management isn’t for everyone, but it can be a rewarding experience and help you finally get that bathroom of your dreams.

For more bathroom makeover tips take a look at these luxury touches to upgrade your bathroom, affordable ways to upgrade your bathroom and super cool bathroom appliances.

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James Mason

Founder of Renovation Junkies, James Mason is a builder, blogger, YouTuber, power tool expert and all round nice guy. James has been in the building industry for over 21 years and loves being on the tools or online teaching people how to perform all types of DIY jobs and home renovation.

James set up Renovation Junkies to give renovators inside tips, tricks and guidance to managing the whole renovation process – simply and easily to give you the peace of mind and confidence to create your dream home, yourself.

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  1. Don’t forget to also keep an eye on all the trades at every single stage of process. This is something which we see a lot of owner builders struggle with.
    For example, make sure your renderer tapes up the windows and frames before starting the job, everyone on a construction site is usually in such a rush to get their part of the job done (time is money). A poorly done job from just one trade can lead to thousands of dollars extra spent down the line.


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