We Paid Cash: Master Bathroom Renovation

We paid cash!

A testimony submitted by Erin from Gourmet Frugality

When we bought our house almost two years ago, we knew that we needed to renovate the master bathroom. Besides being teensy-tiny, it was also a relic from 1976. One time in the minuscule shower told us that it was also unusable. The shower leaked into our kitchen below!

After saving up to put at least 20% down on our house, though, we just didn’t have the spare cash available to undertake a renovation. So, we waited. Over the next year, we got pregnant with our second child and we knew that it still wasn’t the time to sink that much money into our bathroom.

In the meantime, we saved up as much money as we could, not just for our bathroom but because we knew I would be staying home with the kids once our second was born. We made do with using our hall bathroom but all the while dreamed of having a nice master bathroom to use.

In March of 2011, on the day I quit my job to stay home with our kids, the company my husband and I worked for paid out bonuses to all of its employees. We were overjoyed because we knew exactly where that money was going. But that’s where the work started!

We started interviewing contractors in March. We wanted to find someone who charged a reasonable rate but who would do an excellent job. We also had to fit our “expensive” tastes into our cash budget. After four months of meeting with contractors and agonizing over materials choices, we made our decisions and went forward with the renovation.

Work started on July 1st and after four weeks it was finished. The transformation is incredible. We are so happy to have a beautiful bathroom to enjoy but we are even more thrilled that we don’t have the burden of going into debt to pay for it!

Erin Cathcart is a stay-at-home mother of two wonderful children. She blogs over at Gourmet Frugality where she helps people feed their families excellent food on a beans-and-rice budget.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. Heather says

    Your master bathroom is beautiful! It’s so encouraging to read inspirational stories such as this. It’s hard to be patient, but the end result was obviously worth it. Congrats!!

  2. Elizabeth says

    Very nice bathroom :) One day I hope we can redo ours… I just hope it doesn’t take 4 weeks we’d be a very stinky family! LOL :) Very pretty though :)

  3. says

    That looks beautiful! We ought to talk to contractors to get a feel for how much a bathroom renovation would cost where we live….I have no idea how much something like that would cost.

    Thanks for sharing, and enjoy!

  4. chelsea says

    Such a lovely bathroom! I know exactly what you mean about the tiny 70s bathroom- our house was built in ’73 and the master bath has blue tile and one sink! So retro! I believe our closet is bigger than the bathroom. We don’t mind it too much because we’re never in there at the same time, but I would love to renovate it one day.

  5. says

    I love how your bathroom looks and that you paid cash for it!! Yesterday, we started work on our long-awaited bathroom renovation. We are also paying cash.

  6. says

    awesome work! I love the modern design. Our shower leaks down into our kitchen as well. My husband cut out a hole in the ceiling so now when he takes a shower (doesn’t leak when I do..hum) I put a towel on the floor. Someday we will afford to fix it..but for the past 3 yrs this way has to work.

  7. lisa says

    any more info. or photos? We need to do this desperately and your dimensions look similar. I would love to know more specifics about your choices.

    • says


      My husband did a Google search for bathroom contractors and we put together a list of the best ones to interview. I think we interviewed 5 or 6 of them and there were 2 that really stood out as high quality people. After much discussion, we settled on one of the two.

      How you choose your contractor will really depend on your end goal. Our goal was for a very high quality bathroom and a seamless experience with our contractor. We wanted him to handle as much as possible (since we have a 2.5 year old and a 10 month old) and wanted him to be trustworthy.

      If your goal is the lowest possible cost, that will be something else entirely. We could have had a contractor do the bathroom for 2/3-1/2 of the cost of what ours ended up being but we didn’t want to take the chance of shoddy work or someone who would steal our hard-earned money.

      I really recommend interviewing several contractors and carefully checking out their references. Call the Better Business Bureau and your town’s building office and ask if they have had any trouble reported about the contractor. You are putting a lot of money into the contractor’s hands and you want to be sure you will not be swindled.

  8. waterchick says

    I would love to read a list of questions that you presented to the contractors and how you determined who would truly do an excellent job. We need to remodel our master bathroom as well, but are making due with what we have for now. We met with a city employee who works as an architect. He wanted $600 for plans and estimated the bathroom of our dreams to cost $25,000—yikes! After meeting with him, we pulled the plug & figured we would probably do some of the remodel ourselves…but in actuality, I would just love to hire this job out. But I need some great questions to interview them. Do you have any tips to share? Thx!

    • says


      Since people have been so interested, I am planning a blog post in the next day or two that answers many of these questions.

      But briefly, to be honest, it will be very expensive to have a contractor do your bathroom. The median cost of a bathroom renovation (even a tiny one) is $15,000. If you tend towards quality materials, your cost will only go up from there. You could find a contractor who will tell you that he will do it for $10,000 or less, but you will most likely find yourselves presented with many change orders during construction that just make the cost go up and up. Unscrupulous contractors underbid jobs by leaving out parts of the job in the estimate or making their estimate deliberately vague.

      I suggest going over the estimate with the contractor you choose in great detail. Make sure that he has included allowances for all the major expenses of a bathroom renovation: demo, cleanup, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, framing, drywall, tiling, floor tile, shower tile, shower hardware, shower doors, toilet, vanity, mirror, sink, sink hardware, etc. The crooked contractors will leave out things like the toilet or will give you such a small allowance for the tile (expect a cost of between $1-$15 per square foot of tile depending on your taste).

      I think one of the most important things to make sure of is that the contractor pulls a permit with your city building office. Many contractors don’t do this and homeowners don’t realize that they need to. Even if it’s not required by your city, I would still have them pull the permit. By having a permit, the city requires several different inspections during the construction process that at least do a small part in protecting you from shoddy work. If at all possible, make much of your payment to the contractor contingent on these inspections passing. Our contractor had a payment schedule that was contingent on inspections and this was one of the things that made us choose him.

      This is getting very long winded so I will save the rest for my blog post. I hope I’ve helped!

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