Bathroom Renovation for a Small Budget

A bathroom renovation on a small budget may be a necessity, but it also has the ability to bring out creative ideas that tells so much about the owner. That “uniquely you” flair that is attractive and lasts far beyond the latest trend!

Find out all about the latest and greatest new bath reno ideas and projects with your local contacts here.

Several years ago we completely renovated our second floor main bathroom to get rid of everything to include the 1970’s pink carpet. We stripped it right back to the walls and replaced all electrical, plumbing and insulation. The finished product was beautiful and well worth the effort.Bathroom Renovation - Antique Vanity -

Recently my wife announced that the bathroom could use a renovation!! I quickly replied “what do you mean needs renovation”. An “update not a complete renovation”, she quickly stated.

My near heart attack and the bathroom update conversation faded from our memories until some weeks later while spending a weekend at a cottage, it all came screaming back!

The door to the cottage flew open and there she was totally excited telling me to hurry up, get my boots on and bring the trailer as she needed to show me something. This is not good I thought as I was dragged down the street to a yard sale (don’t get me started about my wife’s ability to find a yard sale pretty much anywhere!)

“There it is our new vanity” she cried and pointed to an old dresser with broken doors, missing legs and peeling paint! The seller was so excited to hear my wife’s plans that they gave her the dresser. I had nowhere to turn and the free dresser was soon on the way to the workshop.

I repaired the drawers and legs, modified the upper drawer and added a sink we purchased from re-use store to create an amazing (yes I will admit it) vanity. A fresh coat of paint to the walls and a new shower curtain moved our bathroom out of the last decade all for under a few hundred dollars.

10 plus 1 ways to complete a bathroom renovation, without breaking the bank

Wall coverings

Paint is likely one of the easiest and cheapest ways to put life in your bathroom. It could be simply the walls or the cabinets but a fresh coat of paint can do wonders. Take the time to do minor repairs to surfaces followed by a good quality primer for a professional looking job. Paint color can really set the mood and say so much about your style. Find out more about paint colors and mood in our related article.

Wallpaper is a forbidden topic for most guys but this isn’t your grandma’s style wallpaper. Modern wallpaper has a wide range of textures, patterns and colors but comes at a price. Taking the time to look for discounted wallpaper on-line and in retail outlets is well worth your time. Manufacturer’s seconds or damaged areas can be cut out depending on how you’re using it. Stencils are a great way to use paint and get the wallpaper look for a fraction of the cost.

Wainscoting can make a bold statement and is relatively cheap and easy to install.


Trim is a dead-give-away as to the age and quality of the house. I have historically fought to not paint natural wood trim but coming around with my wife’s insistence and seeing the results. Trim is a good DIY project especially if it is paint grade, just take your time and use the best tool in the tool box….patience! Heavier and taller profiles will get your tired bathroom screaming. You can look at the re-use/discount store but often modern profiles are limited.


A door, in good conditions, believe it or not is important aspect to your bathroom and personal privacy. Interior doors are relatively low-cost items to buy new, you can look at the re-use however you may spend more time “making it work” then installing new. If the door is in good shape but needs some updating, a fresh coat of paint and new hardware may do the trick.

Don’t throw away that old door re-use it. My wife took a 100 year old raised panel door and used it as the back drop for a seat/storage/towel rack. This historical piece now creates conversation every-time a guest comes to our house.


New face plates, switches or receptacles is an easy and low-cost update for a DIYer, just remember safety. This is where I am required to tell you to consult licensed professionals when doing any electrical project.


1970’s green toilet, if you can work with it consider upgrading it to conserve water. There are lots of aftermarket devices like dual flush converters or water displacement systems to save you money and our water.

If you must replace the toilet buy one that fits the exiting rough in placement. Buying quality, well-known brands will ensure you can get replacement parts years to come.

In our original bathroom renovation I purchased a toilet only on price and appearance, five years after installation I went to replace a part and found that the toilet was no longer sold in North America and the off shore manufacturer would not sell to an individual. In the end I installed an entirely new toilet all for the cost of an unavailable 10.00 part!

Sink / Vanity

This is an area where look and style can’t trump function. We installed a vessel sink in the antique dresser however I likely would not have agreed if we had young children. Accidents happen and that is why most sink styles have overflows!

Often a tired vanity can be updated by just replacing the counter top, painting the base cabinet and installing new hardware.

Re-use stores often have lots of antique sinks for very good prices, again just don’t go after the look consider how the drains and taps are going to function. If you are using old taps consider installing an after-market aerator to reduce water consumption.

For all your options in bathroom vanities check out our recent article on Bathroom Vanities – Choose Yours.

Bathtub / Shower

This is a tricky one in any bathroom renovation as damaged tile, bad grout, mold could be hiding a bigger problem. Really take a cause and effect look at the troubled area, find likely sources before deciding action. Often there is access from an adjoining room, linen closet or basement, purchase or rent a digital inspection camera, worth the money to find a solution.

Resurfacing products – There are DIY kits available however really just high formula paint that can be damaged by time or abrasive cleaners. I understand DIY resurfacing being a consideration however understand that it will likely not be a long-term solution.

Liners – less costly than replacing a tub or shower however again it may be just hiding a bigger problem. Liners can at times seem sponge under your feet as they float over the existing tub.

Professional resurfacing – I will let you consult resurfacing contractors however be a good buyer and never be rushed into a quick decision.

Tempered glass shower or tub enclosures

Tempered glass shower or tub enclosures can make a bathroom appear bigger. Framed or frameless systems are easy to clean and keep water where it belongs. The framed units are less expensive, easier to install and often more durable. I have often seen framed enclosures at the re-use or online classified, just be make sure you measure twice before purchasing. Frame less units should likely only be installed by a professional.


If tiles are good replace the grout. If tiles need to be replaced see if you can find the same tile or some accent tiles to just replace what is broken and re grout all.,

The best approach is to always go back to the original sub-floor during a bathroom renovation, before installing new tile or laminate. Look at your floor to ensure that the structure is good enough to support tile, if you’re not sure consult a professional. We have lots of great information on choosing the proper flooring for your bathroom update in this related article.Bathroom Renovation - Wall Insert -

Decorative wall Niches

Decorative wall Niches take a little more skill, done right they can provide a functional and stylish splash to your bathroom renovation.


Exterior walls need to be avoided due to insulation. Caution around sinks so as not to hit venting. Test holes can always be made to discover what is behind the wall where you want to install that decorative niche. Purchased niches are easy to install but often expensive, looking to online classified’s would be my first stop.

The plus 1… Ventilation

Okay this will not add curb appeal to your bathroom however it needs to be said. Unvented or poorly vented bathrooms cause long-term damage for beyond the bathroom walls. Replacing or installing fans during a bathroom renovation, can mean some nasty attic work but it is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Most codes require that bathrooms have at least 1 C.F.M (cubic feet per minute) per square foot of room, minimum of 50 cfm of air movement i.e. if your rooms 6ft X 10ft you need to have a 60 cubic feet of air movement. I found great information by going to HVI (home ventilation Institute) .

One Last Word

No matter how small the project, one important step is to keep track of everything. Even small things you do over the life of your home ownership add up in big ways later. For example, having organized records of work done with things like: before and after pictures, material invoices, work orders, specifications and other items will help in the future in case you need a replacement part or invoke a warranty on something. Even at a time like selling your property these records show how careful and meticulous you were in maintaining your property may greatly influence a buyer on accepting the value you are asking for the home. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using a tool such as which works as both: home improvement project software as well as an electronic home renovation binder.

The bottom line is…

By being creative, you become unique and isn’t that just who you are? Looking for more ideas? Check out our recent article on Powder Room Makeovers.


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3 Thoughts to “Bathroom Renovation for a Small Budget”


    These tips and tricks really helped with our bathroom renos and bring out my creativity in re-doing our basement bath, making it beautiful and up to date on a low budget. Thank goodness for my handy hubby!

  2. I like the suggestion about tempered glass enclosures for a shower or bath. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to make my bathroom look bigger than it really is. I’ve heard a lot about using glass to achieve that effect, but I haven’t really looked at what it wold take. Now I kind of want to do some more research. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Woodruff Designing and Remodeling, LLC

    I like the tip on re-grouting or replacing broken tile on the floor if needed. Thank you for sharing!


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