With careful planning and creative ideas, you can have a custom-looking bath for less.

Magazines are a great source of inspiration for any home-improvement project, but one of the most frustrating things about tearing out ideas is that when you go to check prices, you find out the renovation or addition will actually be quite costly.

That's exactly what happened when the homeowners were planning this new bath. But by addressing each issue as it came up, they were able to solve every cost and design problem and get the look they wanted.

The homeowners loved the glass mosaic tiles they had seen in many magazines and wanted that look for their new master bath. However, when they priced the real thing at a local tile store, the couple found that it would cost anywhere from $25 to $30 a square foot just for the materials. That price was definitely not within their tight budget, so they started to search for alternatives to achieve the same look.

After a little research on the Internet, the homeowners found a company that manufactures 1- and 2-inch-square and hexagonal tiles much like you would find in an older house. The tiles came in a wide array of colors, and the price was around $3 per square foot. Their first inclination was to use the hexagonal ones, but this style was harder to get and more expensive in the cobalt blue color the couple had already selected to match some of the real mosaic tiles. They chose the square one instead, which had the added benefit of being available in 11- x 17-inch sheets, making it less expensive to install. Wood Paneling
The other bath in the home has a 36-inch-high tile wainscot on the walls. The homeowners wanted to copy that look in this bath for cohesiveness. But again, when they priced it, the couple realized that it was too expensive. As a nod to the tile in the older bath, their builder suggested they use wood paneling to create the same effect. So they incorporated 1 x 6 V-groove paneling to cover the lower 36 inches of the wall and painted it to match the fixtures, trim, and cabinets. The wood wainscot is a detail similar to tile, is more durable than gypsum drywall, and costs a fraction of what tile does.

This room shows that with a little research and creative thinking, you can have the bath of your dreams.

Problem: Once the bath featured on page 40 was finished, the owners noticed it took a long time for the water to get hot. The reason for this wasteful annoyance was that the new bath is far from the hot-water heater.

A plumber determined the ideal solution would be to put a loop in the hot-water line to keep hot water circulating in the system. The cost of the recommended loop was around $2,000.

Solution: Frustrated and out of money, the husband decided to do some research of his own. On the Internet, he found two pumps that seemed promising.

He reviewed how each one was installed, decided which would work best, and ordered it to the tune of $238 plus shipping. The essential difference in the two pumps was that one is installed at the hot-water heater and the other under the farthest sink from the hot-water heater.

Because his hot-water heater was in an odd place, he ordered the pump that went under the sink. It took about 45 minutes to install, and now they have hot water in about 30 seconds. He had to add an electrical outlet under the sink at an additional expense.

After living with the pump for a year, he offers two cautions.

1. If you turn on the cold water when the pump is running, some lukewarm water will come out of the faucet before it gets cold. According to the manufacturer, this is normal.

2. You might notice a funny taste to the water for a couple of weeks, but it will get better.

Neither problem would likely occur with the pump that installs at the hot-water heater.

Visit www.grundfos.com for more on the pump installed at the hot-water heater and www.autocirc.com for the other one.