How To Remodel Your Bathroom on a Budget

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My husband and I have been putting it off with patches and paint. But, with the 30 plus year old bathtub pealing after it’s third refinish, and the grout about a year overdue for resealing, it has become apparent that we should just replace the shower all together. And what a perfect excuse to do a bathroom remodel!

Get Your Dream Bathroom on YOUR Budget

With all the Inspiration and D.I.Y. Blogs out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed with beautiful images, luxury products, and color pallets that go from blindingly bold and beautiful to simply sublime. Then go to shop those images and find your small 5 x 8 bathroom can cost you anywhere from $5,000 to money is no object! So we set a budget and made a plan for how to plan our remodel. Here are our top tips for how to remodel a bathroom on a budget.

1. Find Inspiration Idea Book and Story Board
Our Your Houzz Idea Book

Before diving into any remodel, you’ll need to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Prioritize your needs vs. wants. Then browse through magazines, design blogs, and inspiration sites like Houzz and Pinterest to gather some inspiration and figure out your aesthetic. Some of our favorite sources were through design blogs like Apartment Therapy, Freshome, and Houzz. We were also pleasantly surprised by Home Depot’s Projects and Ideas page. Just be sure to find a way to stay organized a keep track of spaces you really like. Pinterest is fun and has a user friendly search bar plug-in. However, for Bathroom and Kitchen, we found Houzz’s  free “Your Houzz” idea books to be the best option. You can select from products and photos to create a truly inspired board. Plus they build out a shopping list as you go, in case you want to buy something you added to your board.

2. Establish a Budget + Set Goals

Set your bathroom remodel budget

No matter your type of remodel, setting a budget will give you an idea of what you can and can’t do. Be honest with yourself about how much you really can spend. Focus on your goals. In our case we need to replace the shower but our vanity cabinet is practically new. We are putting the majority of our budget in updating and upgrading the shower and (oh so small floor) tile and spreading the rest out on updated finishes like a new vanity light, and a sink faucet to match our shower faucet. Keep in mind when you have small surface area like the mentioned small floor surface area, it may leave a little more wiggle room for more premium flooring or a back splash for your sink.

3. Plan it Out


5 x 8 Bathroom Floor Plan
5 x 8 Basic Bathroom Floor Plan | Kohler

Now that you have established your budget and set some goals, it’s time to plan it all out. Take into account the current layout of your bathroom and where the utilities are located. Layout shifts that require you to reroute plumbing or electrical is going to be very expensive and can quickly double your costs. Be sure to keep that in mind no matter what budget you’re working with. Since we don’t need to shift any utilities, we are keeping everything under $2,200. We are going to do the remodel in stages so the upfront cost will be about $1650. In about 6 to 8 months we’ll plug the rest into an upgraded mirror and a modern clear glass frame-less shower door (sticking to a shower curtain for now).

4. Break it Down

Modern White Inspired Kohler Bathroom

Now it’s time to break down your bathroom into its building blocks. The building blocks include faucets, sinks, lighting, toilets, vanities, showers, as well as accessories. In order to stick to a tighter budget, you’ll have to make some sacrificing. Decide what fixtures can stay and which will need to go. Maybe your toilet is still in good working condition or your vanity just needs a coat of paint. Maybe your sink just needs some new caulking and a new modern faucet or decorative back splash, allowing for some wiggle room in the budget to upgrade your medicine cabinet instead.

There’s also nothing wrong with spreading out a remodel over a period of time. It may be a good option to focus on updates that are more foundational to a bathroom like the shower or bath and maybe change the sink faucet to compliment the new bath or shower fixtures. Later in the year you can update the vanity top, and lighting – items that don’t require heavy construction or a high level of technical skill. Sometimes, spreading out a total upgrade overtime is the best option for achieving your bathroom remodel dreams and you may not have to make as many compromises. Just calculate the additional cost and see if the benefit will be worth it.

5. Shop Around

Kitchen and Bath showroom

Start shopping for your fixtures, making sure you’re taking the time to really compare styles, features, and most importantly, prices. You can start your search for products on your favorite sites based on price, which will help steer you in the right direction and prevent falling in love with something that’s out of your price range.

6. Know When to Scrimp or Splurge

Phister Ladera Shower Faucet and Tub Spout Combo

With the above in mind, it’s important to know when to scrimp. If a total remodel is out of the cards, you can make a few small modern upgrades to update your current bathroom. Swapping out your old faucets, lighting, hardware, and bathroom accessories can make a world of difference. Even giving your wall a new coat of paint can greatly update your outdated space. Or consider replacing a shower curtain with a clear glass shower door for a totally new feel.

Framsless Shower Door

If you have a little bit of wiggle room with your budget, incorporate a luxury update or two. Replacing your vanity, bathtub, or completely redoing your shower are all pricier projects. But by doing one or two of these, you can really transform the look of your bathroom. Remember, you can always make additional changes later.

7. Consider DIY-ing It

Laying Floor Tile

While major electrical work and plumbing jobs will require permits or inspections and should be left to the professionals, there are plenty of projects in the bathroom that can be done at any skill level. Replacing light fixtures, faucets, and tiling are great projects at an intermediate level.

Know that a bathroom remodel can yield a high return on investment. Go into a remodel with the mindset of choosing the best quality products your budget will allow, and plan on hiring a professional to complete the work that’s outside your scope of expertise. No matter the level of the remodel, a well designed and executed remodel will pay off in both value and satisfaction. With some careful planning, savvy shopping, a little (or a lot) of elbow grease, and a very good sense of humor, you too can keep on budget when it comes to a modern bathroom remodel.