How to Renovate a Small Bathroom on a Budget
When I moved into my current house, I was thrilled because this was the first house I have ever owned with 2 full bathrooms. No sharing the shower with guests! I was so thrilled with having a second bathroom that I didn’t really notice how small it was. After I had lived with it for a while, I decided that I needed to do something to upgrade it, even though increasing the size wasn’t really an option.
According to bathroomremodel.com, the average small bathroom remodel costs between $4000 and $7000. I didn’t have $4000 to spend on the bathroom…I had about $2000. So I decided to see what I could do to upgrade the bathroom without spending more than my $2000 budget…and I was surprised at how well it turned out!
Click Next to see the bathroom that I started with along with the the step-by-step instructions and costs for how to renovate a small bathroom on a budget.
The “Before” Bathroom
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My guest bathroom is tiny! It basically has enough space for the tub, toilet, and sink, plus a small amount of floor space for someone to stand in while they are drying off, and that’s about it! The down side…there really isn’t anywhere to expand it out to (and I didn’t really want to spend the money to do a large-scale bathroom remodel) so the size was staying the same. The up side…because the size is so small, I could splurge a little on the tiles and it wouldn’t break the bank!
I also decided that with the small size, it wasn’t worth trying to re-arrange the position of the sink, toilet and tub. Plus, leaving the plumbing “as is” really cuts down on the cost of a bathroom remodel
So here was my wish list:
- Get rid of the boring color on the walls
- Replace the vinyl flooring
- Upgrade the builder-grade faucets
- Replace the overhead light bar with sconces on either side of the mirror
- Replace the builder-grade mirror
- Do something with the builder-grade vanity and sink
- Give my guests easy access to bath towels, face cloths and hand towels
- Provide the accessories that people might forget while traveling (toothpaste, shower cap, etc.)
Click Next to see a sneak peak of the “After” bathroom in my quest to renovate a small bathroom on a budget.
The “After” Bathroom
Here’s a sneak preview of what the finished bathroom looks like.
My main inspiration for this room was that I wanted the color scheme to go with the guest bedroom. It is not an en-suite bathroom (so the two rooms are not directly connected), but you can see both of them at the same time from the hallway. So I wanted something that would compliment the bedroom but not be “matchy-matchy”.
Want to see the guest bedroom makeover? Click here to see our post on how to take the “blah” out of a builder grade guest bedroom.
Click Next to see the steps I went through to renovate a small bathroom on a budget.
Step 1: Paint
In my mind, the first step of any room re-do is a new paint job. It is the easiest and least expensive way to change the look of a room. And if you don’t love the color you’ve chosen, you can always paint right over it! Which is why you will probably never see white walls in any of my room makeovers…in my book, why make the safe choice on one of the things that has the biggest impact with the least amount of expense and risk?
I went with Farrow and Ball Pitch Blue paint in full gloss. For bathrooms, I usually do a semi-gloss paint because it stands up to the humidity and is easy to clean. Gloss paint does both of those things, but also adds some extra light reflection…which helps the room to not feel “cave-like” with a fairly dark color on the wall.
Cost for paint: $100.
Step 2: Tile the Floor
I found these floor tiles at a tile store in Toronto. They kind of look like slate but are actually 12″ x 12″ ceramic floor tiles. For the budget-conscious renovator, using ceramic tiles instead of real stone tiles is an easy way to save some money.
The colors in these tiles were perfect for this bathroom, and I loved the uneven edges. Since they went so well with the wall paint, I decided to cut them to create base boards as well. To make sure that there was a smooth transition from the tile baseboard to the wall, I painted the top edge of the baseboard tiles the same color as the wall.
One thing to keep in mind with bathroom floor tiles…people will be getting out of the tub with wet feet and ceramic tile can be very slippery when it’s wet. So you need to make sure that either the tile has some grip to them or there is something on the floor (bathmat or rug) that will keep people from slipping. Although these tiles do have an uneven surface, I also put down a bathmat, which is really a small flokati rug…not a normal choice for a bathroom I know. But since it doesn’t get used all that often, it seems to work just fine!
Since I installed the tiles myself, the tiles cost less than $150.
Step 3: Add a Tile Accent Wall
After I had painted and tiled the floor, the bathroom was looking a little too blue (I never thought I would say that since I love blue so much!) So I was looking for something to break it up and I happened to see this split-face limestone mosaic tiles online. I ordered a sample and just loved them!
They are not particularly practical for a bathroom since they are difficult to clean…but this is a guest bathroom so it doesn’t get as much use as some other rooms might.
And they are easier to install than regular tiles since they don’t have to be grouted. So I decided to go for it!
I tiled the section of the wall behind the vanity area. I think it adds some interest, breaks up all of the blue and creates a little separation between the vanity and the toilet.
As a side note, since I was moving the lighting from an overhead bar to two sconces on either side of a mirror, I had to have the electrical work done for the sconces before I tiled the accent wall.
Cost for the accent wall: $200
Step 4: Replace the Vanity
This was the big splurge on this bathroom. I saw this vanity at Costco and just had to have it. It fit the bill for having open storage where I could towels that guests can find easily but still had a drawer for storing a hair dryer and curling iron. It had a granite top that was the same base color as the accent wall, with a vessel sink and faucet.
It came with the sink and a faucet.
I love the sink style, but decided to get a different faucet style that would go with the one in the bathtub.
Since I didn’t have an open vanity before and do now, I replaced the plumbing under the sink with a silver-finish drain pipe rather than the original white PVC pipe. I think this just finishes the look.
To save money, I did the plumbing myself. If your bathroom was installed with PVC pipes, it really is completely do-able to install a new sink and faucet. Most of the time the PVC pipes have screw on connectors that don’t even require glue.
Cost for the vanity and pipes: $750
Step 5: Switch to Romantic Lighting
I knew that I wanted to replace the overhead bar-type lighting with sconces on the sides of the mirror. I think people always look better with side lighting than overhead lighting, and sconces are so much prettier than an overhead light bar!
Since the space isn’t very big, I needed tall narrow sconces that would add some drama and not take up too much width over the mirror.
Cost for the sconces: $310
Step 6: Upgrade the Mirror
Since I now had sconces taking up some of the wall space over the vanity, I needed to look for a fairly narrow mirror. All of the standard bathroom mirrors were either too wide for the space, or seemed to come with frames that looked too heavy…don’t ask how many mirrors I bought and then returned because they just didn’t look right.
The one that I finally ended up going with didn’t cost me anything extra since I already had it on hand. I had bought this tall Venetian-style mirror on sale a while back, just because it was a good deal and I loved it (and I figure you can always find a spot for a mirror). I had moved it around to 5 or 6 different places in the house and was never happy with the way it looked, so it ended up in the garage. Until I was out in the garage looking for the tools to replace my bathroom tub faucets (still with no mirror over the vanity), saw it sitting there, thought it would be the perfect width for over the vanity and decided to try it. And it turned out to be perfect! A lesson that I have learned many times over…things sometimes work best when they are used in unexpected places. I certainly had no intention when I bought this mirror that it would end up as an over-the-sink mirror in the bathroom…but now that it’s there, I can’t think of a better place for it!
Want to know how to create the wall design that is reflected in the mirror? See our post on how to paint a Chinoiserie wall.
Cost for the mirror: $0 (originally $75)
Step 7: Replace the Faucets
Since the builder of my house was still installing the really, really inexpensive bulb faucets, there really wasn’t any question that this needed to be done. Going with the somewhat Asian-feel that the bathroom was taking on, I got this bamboo-look faucet for the tub. It looks great and was on sale on their website when I bought it…even better!
Cost for the tub fixtures: $100
Step 8: Add a Window Treatment
Before I had the window treatment, I had a number of male friends tell me that my bathroom window is in a very weird place (apparently for guys it is very disconcerting to be standing at the toilet looking out a window). I had never really thought about it…but in any case, you need something to cover the window in a bathroom. And I wanted something that could be easily opened and closed, but wasn’t too frilly (in this small bathroom, I think a big window treatment would have overwhelmed the space). A roman shade it was! Installed on the inside of the window, it takes up no visual space, but still adds a little color to the bathroom. I was able to find some plaid fabric in colors that matched the bathroom color scheme, and talked my mother into doing a little more sewing for me.
Cost for the window treatment: $25
Step 9: Add A Shower Curtain
Sometimes when you are decorating, you just luck out and find the perfect thing for your room without even trying. That’s what happened with this shower curtain. I was out shopping (not for shower curtains) and happened to see it. And knew that it would go perfectly in my bathroom! It has the same colors as the room, and the floral print is similar to the bedding from the guest room, so it tied everything together.
Cost for the shower curtain: $25
Step 10: Add Storage and Amenities
Finally, now that the bones of the bathroom were finished, I just needed to add the finishing touches. I have to admit I stole most of these ideas from my favorite hotels. I figure if these little touches make hotels feel comfortable, they would work in my guest bathroom, too.
A hair dryer and curling iron are in the drawers of the vanity. And lots of comfortable towels are on the open shelving below.
A hand towel ring right by the sink makes sure there is a towel for drying your hands right near the sink.
Extra roles of toilet paper, positioned so you can see them from the toilet but not from the rest of the room.
A small cabinet contains soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, bath bubbles and oils, a shower cap, a sewing kit, nail polish, a nail file, a new toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, small bottles of perfume, and anything else I can think of that someone might need while traveling. Since I’ve done a fair amount of traveling with my day job, this is pretty much my wish list of things that makes me happy in a hotel!
I added a towel rack at the back of the tub, so people can easily get to the towels after they have finished taking a shower.
A hook on the back of the door gives a place for hanging clothes or a bath robe.
Cost for the storage cabinet, towel bars and towels: $250
Step 11: The Last Step
The last step of my bathroom doesn’t have much to do with having guests :). I have cats and a dog, and need to have a kitty litter box in a location that the cats can get to but the dog can’t. My solution? Use the bottom of the linen closet in the guest bathroom as the kitty litter location by cutting a hole in the door that is big enough for the cats to fit through but too small for the dog. I trimmed the outside hole with baseboard moldings to finish the edges.
Cost for the kitty litter door: $10
The Finished Bathroom
The finished bathroom looks like a jewel box. There’s no getting around the fact that it is small, but at least it’s not beige, and I have had lots of compliments on how functional it is (my out of town guests seem to especially appreciate the perfume!)
The window treatment and shower curtain.
The finished shower curtain and tub fixtures.
Total Cost for to renovate a bathroom on a budget: $1995. By doing the work myself (with help from my mother) and buying fixtures on sale, I was able to come in $35 under budget! And you can, too!
My biggest take-aways for maximizing my budget? Don’t move the plumbing, don’t be afraid to install your own sink and faucet, and learn how to tile.
Have comments or questions on How To Renovate a Small Bathroom on a Budget? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on October 26, 2015 but was updated with new content on February 16, 2023.
Great innovation. Thanks for the useful presentation.
What an excellent idea for the cat! I also leave an automatic spray set to 15 minutes in my closet and it always makes bathroom smell wonderful! Love the hole in door with moulding around it.
Thanks, Linda! The automatic spray sounds like a great idea…I’ll have to look into that! The bathroom cat door works really well…keeps the dog out of the litter box and I don’t have to see it all the time 🙂