Want a designer shower without a designer price tag? Learn how to to save money on a custom shower remodel (without sacrificing the design).
We just finished the showers at our Sunrise Farm project, and I’m so pleased with the results. We were able to achieve a luxurious, classic look without too high of a price tag that is normally associated with a custom shower.
Granted, a significant portion of the budget was spent on labor, but once you find a tile installer whose work meets your (high) expectations, it’s hard to accept anything less. We briefly considered DIYing the shower ourselves; after all, I have plenty of experience installing floor and backsplash tile. But shower tile is a whole other beast; there’s waterproofing and slope and curbs to think of. So because it’s a wet space – and this is our long-term home – I wanted things done absolutely perfectly. In retrospect, it was the right decision, because the tile installer spent three days just straightening our janky shower walls before even getting to the fun stuff.
So maybe that’s lesson number 1: If you feel uncertain about your DIY capabilities – even if you’ve installed tile before – hire out the labor to avoid having to re-remodel the shower.
Below I’m sharing six more ways to save money on a custom shower without sacrificing aesthetics. If you’re looking to do things as affordable as possible – this post is not for you. There are dozens of ready-made shower parts you can opt for – shower walls, shower pans, etc. – that could significantly cut costs. But they would also sacrifice style, and that’s not what we’re after here.
Today’s post is specifically for those who want a designer shower without the designer price tag. Thankfully there are tricks for achieving this look, and today I’m sharing these tricks with you.
1. Keep Plumbing in the Same Location
One of the easiest ways to save money on a custom shower – or any project for that matter – is to keep plumbing in the same location. Moving plumbing lines typically equates to higher labor costs than keeping the plumbing setup as is.
On average, it costs from $500 to $1,000 to move a plumbing fixture around three feet or more. This varies, of course, depending on if your plumber needs to move anything around to connect to your drain, vent, or water lines. Keeping your plumbing in the same location can help save money and allocate those funds towards other things.
2. Use Classic Tile but Choose an Interesting Tile Layout
Subway tile has been around since 1900s and is still very much loved today. Its simple design has a timeless appeal. Besides, there’s a lesser chance you’ll tire of it in a couple of years than if you were to choose an on-trend tile. Best part? Subway tile is one of the most economical tiles on the market. The trick is to choose an interesting tile layout and use matching trim pieces to complete the look.
Traditionally, subway tiles are applied in a brick bond pattern, but there are dozens of alternative patterns that offer a fresh take on this classic shape. For the Greystone master bathroom, we went all out with the layout design, and it was beautiful. But the Sunrise Farm master shower is much smaller than the Greystone, so I opted for a less-intricate design so as to not overwhelm the smaller space. All I added was a soldier-style border on the bottom and top of the shower walls. This extra detail achieves two purposes: makes the shower feel taller and adds visual interest to the shower.
I’m working on a separate post on using subway tile in interesting patterns. Stay tuned!
3. Bring Tile All the Way to the Ceiling
Speaking of tiling, bringing tile all the way to the ceiling makes the bathroom feel larger.
But how does that save you money, you ask? Showers tiled to the ceiling are not the standard; for whatever reason, they’re considered an upgrade from the standard 72″ tiled shower. With subway tile being so affordable, you can achieve this upgraded look for less!
Plus, tiling to the ceiling prevents damage to the drywall that is otherwise left exposed. So by tiling to the ceiling, you’re saving on future maintenance.
4. Forgo White Grout
Now, hear me out. I’ve used white grout for numerous projects, and I love, love, love it. But as I get older, I start loving less and less the extra maintenance white grout requires. White grout is extremely forgiving in terms of making small tiling mistakes, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s a pain to keep clean.
So although a light gray or beige grout is technically the same price to buy and install as white grout, forgoing white grout will save you money (and time!) in maintenance.
Besides, if you look through the most classic examples of subway tile in Parisian bistros or the metro, none of them have white grout. A late night deep-dive into Pinterest convinced me to go with “Platinum” for the Sunrise Farm showers.
5. Use Polished Brass Plumbing Fixtures
Enough about tile; let’s talk about plumbing fixtures.
There’s no denying the classic appeal of brass. However, most designers will tell you that unlacquered brass is the only acceptable brass. Don’t let the “knob snobs” tell you that unlacquered brass is superior to its polished equivalent. If we’re being honest, most of us don’t like the patina of unlacquered brass anyway, and given the chance to install it in our homes, we’d be polishing that unlacquered brass weekly back to its shiny glory. Enter polished brass. It doesn’t darken like unlacquered brass does, and it costs far less, too.
Luxury brands like Kohler, Rohl, Randolph Morris, Strom Living, Perrin & Rowe, Waterworks, and so many others offer plenty of polished brass plumbing options. The warm color and highly reflective quality of polished brass make a luxurious statement. Reminiscent of fine jewelry, it’s perfect for enlivening a traditional scheme.
Make sure to choose classic plumbing fixture shapes, though. Otherwise, the high shine combined with an outdated design won’t achieve the timeless look we’re after.
6. Amazon Warehouse Deals, or Open Box Program
Please tell me you’ve heard of warehouse deals at Amazon (and other retailers). The Amazon Warehouse offers great deals on quality used, pre-owned, or open box products, and you can shop all options on the Warehouse Deal main page.
I found the Kohler polished brass shower drain, which retails for $110 – at more than half off brand new! I’ve bought that exact Kohler shower drain before and paid the standard price, and I’ll tell you, it’s a hard pill to swallow. $110 for such a small part – only because it’s polished brass finish? Finding it on Amazon Warehouse for less than $50 was definitely a win.
Now, saving $60 isn’t life-changing, so let me give you another example. I recently purchased a kitchen faucet – which retails for $610 – for only $85 on Amazon Warehouse, and it was brand new!
I tell you, you can find some really good deals there.
Great post! I’ve been thinking about if I’d like living with patina…. Tell me about putting a window in a shower. Do you treat the interior of the window so it doesn’t peel or mold over time? Thanks!!
Thanks for reading, Krista! There’s a couple things to be considered when adding a window to a shower. Choose vinyl or fiberglass – not wood. Add the correct pitch to the window sill for proper drainage, so there’s no standing water. Install a good ventilation fan. Use high-quality caulk. Install the window at least 60 inches from the floor. These are some tips that come to mind. I’ll add this topic to the content calendar and cover more details; thanks for the idea!