20 Bathroom Remodel Ideas on a Budget: How-To’s, Cost & Mistakes to Avoid

Most homeowners have to remodel their bathrooms at one point in their lives. There could be a wide range of reasons for it. Maybe the space feels worn due to prolonged use. Maybe there’s this design idea you want to try. Or maybe it needs some fixing and you thought it would make more sense economically-wise to remodel it altogether.

Here’s the good news: Whatever your reason for wanting to do this work, it’s only going to increase your home’s resale value. Get it right and you can make a mint!

The problem? These remodel ideas are hard to come by and even harder to execute. Chances are you have a thousand ideas but have no idea which one to go for. Worse, you’re not entirely sure if you can afford it all.

But don’t worry. We’ve got your back.

In this article, we’ll delve into a wide range of remodel budget-friendly ideas that will inspire you in your bathroom project. Better yet, all are tailored for those who are on a shoestring budget!

Having a limited budget doesn’t mean that your remodeling project will be of subpar quality. Your budget may be limited, sure, but creativity and imagination knows no bounds. Want to make the most out of your project? All it takes is to get familiar with the available options and possibilities out there.

But first…

How much does it cost to remodel a bathroom?

Well, that depends. For one, you need to consider the room’s size. A medium-sized bathroom (5×7 foot), for instance, will cost around $19,000, according to a 2018 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine.

To give you a bird’s eye view of the total costs, here’s a breakdown of the fixtures involved in a project:

  • A vanity counter with a sink
  • Standard toilet
  • A standard-sized (30×60-inches) porcelain-on-steel bathtub
  • A recessed medicine cabinet with outlet
  • A single-level shower control

A high-end upgrade, obviously, will cost more, falling anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000. Upscale bathroom upgrades usually include room expansions, in-floor heating installations, heated towel bar additions, body spray, a frameless glass enclosure, upscale faucets, soaker tub installation, and many other things.

Wooden faucet in a modern bathroom

How much does it cost to remodel a small bathroom?

If you’re remodeling an 8×5/40 square foot bathroom, it would cost you around $6,500. The cost varies a lot, ranging between $2,000 and $17,000. If we’re talking high-end upgrades, be prepared to pay between $10,000 and $30,000. 

Want to know how they add up? Here’s a breakdown of different bathroom fixtures and their average remodeling costs (Please note that all prices are inclusive of materials, labor, as well as the expenses for removal and disposal):

  • Bathtub – $1,300
  • Shower – $900
  • Sink – $500
  • Toilet – $700
  • Countertop – $700
  • Floor – $900

Price of materials

Let’s talk about something most homeowners get antsy about: *cue horror music* the price of materials. To get a more accurate estimate, here’s a breakdown of each material and their average prices.

Tile Mirrors Paint Cabinets Lights
$18 per square foot $250.00 $300.00 $750.00 $200.00

White, tiled bathroom

Common mistakes to avoid when remodeling a bathroom

When remodeling, you want to avoid mistakes as you possibly can. Mistakes, after all, cost money, especially if you’re doing upscale upgrades. 

If, on the other hand, you’re buying a cassette toilet, a plasma cutter, an engine driven welder or a lawn tractor, there are also a bunch of mistakes you should be avoiding, the same way that there are mistakes to avoid.

Here are common mistakes you must avoid:

Mistake #1: Fixtures don’t match

When you’re remodeling, you don’t just pick any material or design that catches your attention. You want your bathroom to be remarkable? Then you need to make sure that all visual elements form a cohesive whole. 

Here’s one golden rule: when choosing materials, choose only two to three different types. Having more than that can make your room look haphazard. You don’t want the space to look like a showroom, don’t you? Remember, repetition brings more familiarity and comfort, but  you can mix it up a bit to ensure that the overall look doesn’t look monotonous or drab.

Mistake #2: Not too much light

Lighting fixtures not only make your bathroom more convenient and functional, but they also add to its visual impact and mood. To pull off your lighting, make sure that you have a lighting plan. Ideally, a lighting plan needs four layers of light: decorative, accent, ambient, decorative, and task.

well-lit bathroom

Mistake #3: Poor ventilation

Nothing is more frustrating than seeing black streaks of mold crawling all over your newly minted walls, floors, and ceiling not long after you finish your project. If you experience this problem, chances are it was caused by poor ventilation. To avoid this scenario, make sure that you have an exhaust fan or some sort of ventilation system running while your bathroom is undergoing a remodel. 

Mistake #4: Picking looks over functionality

Homeowners sometimes get carried away when designing their bathrooms that they forget about functionality. This is a disaster waiting to happen. A bathroom is made for a specific function, after all. A beautiful one won’t be doing you any favors if it’s mostly inaccessible, unsafe, and uncomfortable.

Mistake #5: Not having a clear remodeling plan

When carrying out this project, you don’t just wing it and hope for the best. If you want every aspect of the project to run smoothly, you need to draw up a plan. And not just any plan. Make sure that it’s clear and specific so you can have amazing results. It’s a document that serves as a guide that will inform all tasks in the project, after all, and leaving some things to interpretation can have disastrous results.

Mistake #6: Not setting aside a reserve budget

Like any other complex project, a remodel may have unexpected expenses that can wreak havoc on your budget. To avoid bill shock, you must set aside a reserve fund for such expenditures. The last thing you want to do is put your bathroom remodeling project to a halt just because you don’t have the money to pay for it, or because you’re not sticking to the budget you set. 

Ideally, you must set aside at least 10% of the total budget. That way, you can relax easy in knowing you can pay up when there are unpleasant surprises. And even if the initial budget pans out, it’s always nice to know that you have some extra money stashed away somewhere.

Mistake #7: Picking the wrong materials

Using the right materials is essential to any home remodeling project, especially if it involves the bathroom. Obviously, they are prone to moisture, which could lead to water damage. As such, picking wood over more water-resistant materials like  tile, acrylic, laminate, glass, etc. will have less than ideal results.

Don’t just pick a material for its water-resistant properties. Also, consider if it dries easily. For one thing, water-resistant material that collects water can cause drainage issues.

Bathroom Remodel Ideas: How to remodel a bathroom on a budget

So, do you already have a set budget? You’ve already got your priorities straightened out? Good! Let’s go over 20 bathroom remodel ideas that will help you explore the wide range of possibilities out there, while doing so on a budget. Feel free to grab a pen and paper so you can take notes!

1. Buy used materials

The old cliche, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” applies here. You can save a lot more if you buy used materials or fixtures instead of buying new ones. Not only are you able to buy materials at a fraction of the price, but you’ll be doing the environment a favor as well. Classified sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, Swappa or eBay can sell you used materials and fixtures for bargain prices. 

Buying used materials comes with some responsibility, however. You don’t want to buy a used vanity only to find out it’s in its initial stages of water damage. Before you buy from someone, check if that person is already trusted within that online community. As much as possible, avoid paying without seeing the item or items in person. And as much as possible, stay local when making online transactions.

2. Don’t replace your tub, just refinish it

Most people tend to replace their bathtub if it looks worn out after long use. In reality, a refinishing job is all it takes to make the bathtub look good as new. Buying and installing a new bathtub can put a serious dent in your wallet. For one, the average cost to install a new bathtub is about $2,500, whereas refinishing a bathtub will only cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000. You can even go cheaper by going the DIY route! 

Outdoor bathroom

3. Install a prefabricated shower stall

Prefabricated shower stalls are easier on the budget than tiled showers. For starters, tiled showers require you to hire a contractor or to build the shower unit with tile from the ground up. Obviously, that’s not the case when installing a prefabricated shower stall, at least when you’re installing DIY options such as the interlocking mutti-piece units and wall kits only types. 

4. Install the new toilet yourself

Hiring a plumber to install your toilet can be expensive, costing you anywhere between $100 and $200. But if you feel you are strong enough to carry a toilet bowl, then you might want to consider installing your new toilet by yourself. 

5. Take it easy on the tile

Tile can be expensive if you’re not careful. To give your wallet a much-needed break, limit the amount of tile you use in your project. One great way to save up on tile is to create a feature wall and install it behind the sink, perhaps even a farmhouse-inspired sink. This way, tiling up the rest of the room wouldn’t cost a fortune. Adding some beadboard or paneling towards the center of the wall can also add a nice contrast and balancing effect to the tilework if done properly.

If you’re going to use tile, use it on areas that are more prone to foot traffic. You can also mix and match cheap tiles with premium tiles. With the right design or pattern, cheaper tiles can be used as an accent that can make your premium tiles stand out.

Make sure you read this guide on epoxy and tile.

6. Upgrade the lighting

Upgrading your lighting not only scores you more points in terms of convenience and functionality, but it also adds to the atmosphere and ambiance of the room.  If the lighting fixtures are dull, it’s about time you give them an upgrade. If you want something modern yet cheap, you can never go wrong with monorail lighting. Multiple bulbs, with proper placing, can reflect off the side mirror in a way that produces a stunning yet relaxing effect. A light bar isn’t a bad idea if you want to add some modern flair. 

P.S. If you’re using a mobile home or trailer, make sure to hire a mobile home contractor to help you with the lighting upgrades. Mobile homes have different electrical requirements than regular homes, after all.

7. Paint the interior yourself

Painting the interior doesn’t require much skill. You can do it well even if you have zero professional experience, especially when you’re working with a small space. For better results, always use premium items. You also want it to be highly resistant to mold and mildew, so we highly recommend that you use high-quality paint with a satin finish. Since you’re probably an amateur at this, take your time and do it gently and carefully. If you want to paint like a pro in no time, this comprehensive guide should be able to help.

8. Install your own vanity tops

It’s not difficult to install vanities and tops because they’re already pre-assembled for you. As long as you’ve already done the measurements and figure out how they fit into your entire plan, installing vanities and tips is a painless task, and as such will take you only a couple of hours to complete. You can also buy solid-surface countertops and place them alongside your vanities so that fixtures like faucets and sinks can be easily shared. 

Whether you’re remodeling your bathroom, buying a car lift, chest freezer or recirculating pump system, it’s obviously important that you find the one that best matches your needs at home. 

modern bathroom

9. Re-grout the seals around your tiles, sink, etc.

If the caulking has seen better days, you may need to re-caulk the seals again. Caulking might be resistant to water, but they’re not immune to wear and tear. They will eventually crack, wear out, and get discolored. Regrout them again and your bathroom will look good as new. Moreover, regrouting prevents fixtures and materials from incurring water damage.

P.S. If the caulking is severely damaged, the best course of action is to hire a shower tile repair contractor.

10. Add seating

If there’s still room, why not install a stool, small chair, or bench? It is, after all, a good place to relax, and having a bench (preferably near the shower) makes your bathroom become that place of relaxation you’ve been dreaming of.

11. Remodel with the environment in mind

The alarming increase in our carbon footprint on the planet over the years, it’s time that we remodel with the environment in mind. We owe it to the planet and ourselves. That said, going green doesn’t only benefit the environment, it’s also amazingly practical. For example, using low-flow toilets, automatic faucets,  and dual-flush systems helps us conserve water, thus saving you money.

You can also save on your electricity bill by using a solar-powered hot water system or tankless water heater. 

12. Design it on your own

When remodeling, you might have your own ideas on how you want the end result to appear. In that case, it shouldn’t hurt if you design the space by yourself. If your creative ideas are in a jumble, you can come up with a more specific design by doing a layout first. Just don’t forget to factor in important fixtures, as well as plumbing drains, vent stacks, and water lines into the equation (you will need to hire a plumber for those). And as explained earlier, don’t sacrifice functionality for looks.

As to doing design layouts, you can take advantage of current technology by using a bathroom remodel software. If you’re having some difficulties putting all the design elements together, you can create a mood board on Pinterest for inspiration.

13. Use a sliding door

You’re better off using a sliding door instead of a swinging one if you want to save space in your bathroom. Having to open a swinging door not only takes up space, but it also requires a lot of effort. Sliding doors, on the other hand, open new possibilities in terms of diversity of space and functionality, especially when you want two mini-rooms to be made into one. To top it off, a nice sliding door also blends well with your interior design.

14. Go minimalist

You want to remodel in a way that won’t break the bank? Pull a Marie Kondo! Get rid of clutter and other stuff you don’t need. Having two cabinets where one would suffice only takes up more space, and having too many colors will only assault the senses. Remember, when it comes to interior design, “less is more.” Restore an atmosphere of calm and order by removing all the clutter.

15. Emphasize one visual element

By creating a focal point in one part of the bathroom, you can afford to be less extravagant when it comes to the rest of the room. You can make your bathtub “pop” by painting it a bright yellow color or any color you feel will bring out your personality. The focal point could be a vanity that comes with crystal sconces, a mirrored wall, or a vintage poster. —anything that draws the eye and will make the space look spectacular.

16. Buy a fan and timer

Proper ventilation is essential in maintaining optimal airflow inside the bathroom, and getting a fan and timer can help tremendously in this regard. Want to ensure that it is well ventilated at all times? Then go buy a fan timer, preferably one that comes with a one-hour setting. If you have kids who aren’t physically capable of opening a fan timer, then you’d do well to buy one that comes with a motion sensor.

17. Breathe new life into old baseboards

Instead of replacing your old baseboards, why not just breathe new life into them? If your baseboards look dilapidated, you can patch and repaint them until they look good as new. Patching up baseboards is not as hard as it looks. Just apply putty in the little holes with your index finger and make sure to smooth it out with the palms of your hands. Once it’s all patched up and there are no bumps and lumps left, repaint everything again.

18. Upgrade your lighting

Believe it or not, upgrading your  light fixtures is as easy as changing a lightbulb. It’s fairly cheap, too, at least if you know where to look. For one thing, there’s no shortage of cheap but beautiful vanity lights out there. You can buy vanity light kits for under $30. If you want to give your home a Victorian vibe, for example, you can buy this Vanity light industrial metal wire cage wall sconce. If you want something elegant and vintage, you can go for the vintage Edison lightbulb. If you want something more modern, you can never go wrong with the JoosenHouse Stainless Steel Bathroom Wall sconce

19. Use alternative materials

Instead of using standard bathroom materials, try unconventional ones instead. Why use tile when you can use Plycem (a cement board reinforced by fibers that are typically used in modern construction) instead? You can also stone resin in place of shower floor tile as well. For one thing, stone resin is highly resistant to cracks and mold, not to mention that it feels warmer underfoot than tile.

20. Go on a price hunt

While home improvement stores and supply stores are still the best places to buy materials and fixtures, some supermarkets like Walmart and Target also stock up on these products, too… and at very affordable prices. Make sure to drop by the Accessories section the next time you pick up your groceries. 

Lastly, don’t forget the internet! Doing a local search on Google will probably yield pleasant surprises. The same way you will want to price hunt when it comes to your remodel, we can also help you make sure you get the right deal on lawn tractors, extension cords by length, engine driven welders or cassette toilets. Did you know that you may need different extension cord gauges depending on the project you’re looking to undertake? For guides on different wire sizes, make sure to check out this guide on SAE to metric and this wire gauge size guide, too.

Hungry for more information? Make sure to read the article that follows this one: Easy & cheap bathroom update ideas, and if you have any feedback on any of the article we have available here, we’d love to hear it.

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