How to Remodel Your Bathroom on a Budget

Do you want to give your bathroom a fresh, new look? Are you wavering on buying a home because the bathroom is unattractive and outdated? Are you hoping to sell your home, but you know you’ll get a better price if you update the bathroom? While the bathroom can be one of, if not the most, expensive rooms in the home to renovate, it's really about making choices that don't cost you an arm and a leg. There are many ways to get around the expense of the bathroom, provided you plan cleverly and put in the effort yourself. Look over these ideas for remodeling your bathroom on a tight budget.


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    Check the tiles. Old tiles, cracked or broken tiles and missing grout let down the look of the bathroom. Fix everything that needs fixing first and you will be amazed at the improvement. It doesn't take long to learn how to tile and fix grout either––a little trial and error practicing and you'll soon feel comfortable doing it yourself. The main thing with tiling is to have patience and to observe accuracy without compromise––it's not a job you can rush.
    • Sometimes changing the color of the tiles can completely change the feel of the bathroom. The effort to do this can be well worth it, and tiles are generally quite affordable for the budget renovator.
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    • If you need to fix the grout, see grouting a tile floor, regrouting tile, whitening grout and cleaning grout.
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    Repaint the walls. A new coat of paint transforms a room. If your bathroom walls are covered in wallpaper, remove the old paper with a steamer (you can rent one for the weekend.) If you're painting over paint, remove all flaked, sticky, dirty areas by cleaning and lightly sanding over them. Ensure that the walls are free of mildew and damp before painting––if you do have recurring mildew, check the source and add mildew inhibitor to your paint.
    • Place painter's masking tape over all edges you don't want painted (moldings, tiles, wood, etc.) and cover furnishings, the tub and shower, etc. with drop cloths to catch paint splashes. Paint stains cheapen the finished look, so avoid them in the first place.
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    • Neutral colors are best for longevity of bathroom style, particularly when selling the house. Stick to creams, beiges, whites and other low-key colors and use accessories to add splashes of color to the bathroom.
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    • Consider contrasting paint colors to highlight areas, such as window sills and bathroom cabinets, where relevant and appropriate.
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    • Wait for the sales on paint if you're really wanting to save a lot. If you know a painter, you might be able to get trade prices if he or she is willing to help buy it for you.
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    Refurbish wood cabinets. Sand the wood on your existing cabinets and stain it, or sand the wood and repaint it with a color that complements the bathroom walls. Be sure to use waterproof latex paint and consider using white paint.
    • Fix any dents or broken parts of wood cabinets before painting, staining or varnishing them. Dents can be done using wood putty of the same color and then painted over. Loose parts should be nailed or glued back into place firmly. Anything loose should be screwed back on the wall or other backing to avoid any further loosening.
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    • You can add splashes of color to your remodeled room with towels, curtains and rugs.
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    Refinish the wood trim around the windows and floor. Instead of buying new lumber, remove the old trim carefully. Remove the paint with a heat gun, sand the pieces and repaint or apply a varnish. The trim will look new at a fraction of the cost.
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    Replace your hardware fixtures. Buy new cabinet and door handles, new towel racks and new light fixtures. Add a new mirror and your bathroom will have a whole new look. New doesn’t have to be “brand new.” Shop around at flea markets and thrift stores, check Freecycle or online auctions, and you can find both antique and modern fixtures for a bargain.
    • Never underestimate the power of changing door handles. A dingy old cabinet that is repainted and has a total handle change (using modern handles) can look like a completely new cabinet!
    • Feel free to improve on used finds––paint, varnish, mosaic and other finishes can turn them into something amazing.
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    Buy a do-it-yourself plumbing kit. You can upgrade your shower and tub fixtures in an afternoon. Most of these kits come with a very detailed set of instructions.
    • Changing the taps/faucets, shower head and soap holders can really lift a bathroom. Be sure to match the colors though––having some brass and some silver looks mismatched and is something that you can easily remedy.
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    • What do you do if you want to replace, say the shower cubicle, but not the bath, but the colors are a mismatch? Try painting or re-tiling with colors that do match, to draw away the eye from the mismatch. In the case of bathtubs, these can be repainted using specialist paints and a lot of grunt. Even plastic or acrylic bathtubs can be recolored if need be.
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    Use your existing flooring. People always look closely at a bathroom floor because it shouts hygiene (or lack of it). Therefore, it pays to have it present in the best way possible.
    • If your bathroom has a wood floor, rent a sander for the weekend and refurbish the floor. After sanding, apply 2 or 3 thin coats of varnish; your floor will look brand new.
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    • If your floor has one or more layers of old linoleum, you can remove the linoleum (using a sharp utility knife) and either refinish the wood floor underneath, or replace the linoleum with inexpensive vinyl tiles.
    • For tiling, see above.
    • Number one rule––always remove carpet from a bathroom, especially if you're selling the place. While it was fashionable some decades ago to carpet bathrooms, it's never appealing to buyers due to the moisture and mildew factor, as well as the presentation. Tiles or wood flooring make far better options for the floor of a bathroom.
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    Accessorize. Replace all your towels, curtains and rugs. Buy a new shower curtain and curtain rings. You can purchase everything separately, or shop for coordinating sets. Add a few pictures or plaques on the wall (but don't overdo it). Buy a new hamper and wastebasket. An assortment of new accessories can uplift the look of your bathroom even if you don’t touch the walls and floor.


  • If you're planning on selling your home, ask a real estate agent to make suggestions about bathroom improvements that are a must for improving the sale prospects. Focus only on the things that seem to really be of concern and leave the rest as they are.
  • You can refresh a shabby linoleum floor by bleaching it to get rid of stains and grime.
  • Some hardware stores and home improvement stores offer free “how to” classes on everything from painting to tiling.
  • Avoid cluttering your bathroom with toiletries, pictures, gimmicky things, etc. This makes a bathroom look less spacious and puts off potential buyers (and guests).
  • If you buy new tiles for your floor or tub enclosure, buy enough to have extras on hand in case you need to make repairs in the future.


  • Don’t skimp on the paint. Spend a little extra and get a good quality paint that is mildew-resistant. Apply a primer and at least two coats of finish color.

Things You'll Need

  • Plan for the renovation (write it all down and draw diagrams to guide you)
  • Cleaning gear
  • Suitable power tools
  • Grout and tiles
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Bathroom accessories

Sources and Citations

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