17 Money-Saving Tips to Stretch Your Small Bathroom Budget
Reach into Your Walls
Moving walls can be a real budget buster. Instead, build into your bath’s existing footprint. For example, recess shelves into an area between wall studs to create vertical storage that doesn't eat up floor space. Or, insert a recessed medicine cabinet for built-in storage that barely impacts the space above the sink.
Bounce Light with Mirrors
Re-grout to Refresh
If the bathroom has existing tile that is in good shape (no cracks, no missing pieces) but feeling a little dated, replace the grout. It takes a bit of work, but saves more time and money than a complete overhaul. Any fresh grout helps the tiled area look new, or you can apply a different color of grout for an even more dramatic update.
Consider Going Prefab
Depending on the size and shape of your space, a prefabricated shower or tub surround might be a great budget saver. Tile, grout, and sealant add up quickly; even faster if you have to hire the work done. Plus, tile can require more maintenance and care over the long-term.
Modern wall panels have improved the look of the standard tub and shower surround. That style upgrade, paired with the ease of maintenance, may make it an easy budget-friendly choice. But know that if your shower or tub isn’t a standard size, it might be harder (and more expensive) to find a prefab option.
Use a Small Dose of Designer Tile
If you hate the look of a prefab shower surround, splurge on tile—but do it wisely. You don’t need walls of fancy tile to get a custom feel. For example, subway tiles cost only a few dollars per square foot and create a timeless look. If you’re feeling creative, install them at an angle or arranged differently than the standard brick alignment. For a pop of color and character, mix in a small area of the more costly accent tiles.
Forgo the Fads
A surefire way to waste money on a remodel is to fill it with fads you like but aren’t sure you love. A couple years down the road and that space might look and feel as dated as avocado-colored sinks. Make your investment last for years with a foundation of neutral colors and natural finishes. Tried-and-true classics are typically less expensive than their trendy counterparts, and they're more likely to stand the test of time.
Stick to Traditional Finishes
Although fancy finishes and embellishments on faucets, fixtures, and cabinet hardware may seem like a great place to pop in some personality, they can take a surprising bite out of your budget.
These types of fixtures are more expensive than your standard selection. In addition, less common colors, shapes, and trimming can be harder to pair with existing fixtures, meaning you might feel compelled to purchase new coordinating pieces, too. Stick with the basics and you’ll have an easier time putting together a look that flows across the room, and spend less of your budget doing it.
Repurpose Old Furniture
Instead of spending big bucks on a new furniture-style vanity, get the look for less by transforming a piece of furniture. An old dresser, desk, console table, or TV stand is an opportunity to show off your personal style and incorporate some much-coveted bathroom storage. This can-do DIY project is an easy way to save money (and the environment).
Give the Vanity a Facelift
Why buy new when used can do? Fresh paint and new hardware will give most vanities the style update they need without the big price tag that comes with new cabinets and countertops. A new faucet can also make an instant style change with limited expense.
Choose Splurges Wisely
Give your bathroom a high-end look without the high-end price tag by splurging on items that give the biggest bang for your buck. Here, just a few rows of pricey designer floor tiles deliver a big punch of pattern and character. Other bathroom items ideal for splurging include light fixtures and countertop materials.
Add Extra Bathroom Storage
If you must replace a vanity, don’t skimp on quality in a bathroom where the wet environment can quickly damage cheap particleboard vanities. To save money, choose a well-made unit that provides some covered storage. Then, look into adding more storage elsewhere with inexpensive open shelves, towel hooks, or repurposed furniture pieces. You can also maximize storage inside cabinet doors with slim wall-mount accessories for organizing toiletries and beauty products.
Refinish the Tub
Old bathtubs are difficult and expensive to remove (not to mention the additional expense of replacement). But a tub that’s been around for a while often shows its age, and it’s not typically something a good scrubbing can take care of. Try refinishing to update the look and extend the life of an old tub. The process is done by professionals and the tub will be ready to use in a day or two, which is much shorter than a bathroom gut job would take.
Add Interest with Wallpaper
Floor-to-ceiling tile gives a bathroom a luxurious look, and it comes with a sizable price tag to match. Save money without sacrificing style by using a patterned wallpaper to add personality to your bathroom walls. Avoid peeling and other problems by choosing a water-resistant paper made especially for a bathroom.
Shower with Style
If your budget can’t support a custom glass shower door, or you’re hoping to hide an old shower surround, shower curtains are for you. The inexpensive solution comes in a plethora of prices and designs that can match any style or budget. For less than $100, you can buy a curtain that perfectly blends with your room or stands out as the star of your bathroom design.
Replace your Ventilation
Your bathroom is an investment—protect your interests by replacing inefficient and insufficient vent fans. Proper ventilation may be less visually impactful than, say, painting the walls, but it increases health and safety by preventing condensation that makes floors slippery and deterring the growth of mold and mildew. Circulating the air saves wallpaper, wood, and other materials from water damage. Plus, newer vents are often less obtrusive, quieter, and better functioning than outdated fans.
Find out what CFM fan your bath needs.
Work with Existing Plumbing
Relocating plumbing is not an option on a tight budget. Upgrading the shower head to one with multiple spray settings can help reinvigorate your shower experience without the cost of new plumbing. For that spa-like experience, convert a common wall-mount showerhead with an extended shower arm that allows a rainfall-style showerhead to be better positioned overhead. Look out for low-flow, aerated, and other water-saving models that will also save on your water bill.
Choose the Right Paint
The right paint is an investment in your current and future budget. A semi-gloss finish will stand up to condensation and wiping down, which will help prevent wear and peeling. Some brands even produce bathroom-specific paint designed to battle mold and mildew. Like any room in a remodel, taking time to apply test swatches and make sure you love the color is also advisable.