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How To Renovate Your Bathroom On A Budget

Renovating your bathroom can be an exciting challenge. There are so many designs that you can choose from and each will give your home a whole new personality. It’s strange to think about it, but bathrooms can determine the vibe of your house without you even noticing.

Carpets on the floors suggest an unfashionable, stuck in the past mentality with a hygiene problem. Minimalist looks with a touch of colour and decor suggest class, but a completely bare bathroom tells people that you don’t care about aesthetics. 

All these little details will tell your guests everything they need to know about you, so when you renovate your bathroom with tight purse strings, you need to make every penny count.

Things To Consider Before Starting Your Renovation

Before you start your renovation, you need to consider the design you want to go with, the materials you can afford to use, and the timeline it will take to complete the job.

Design

Although you might want to jump straight into colours, decor, and furniture, the first thing you should consider is functionality.

For example, is this bathroom just a toilet with shelves or will hot water be evaporating from bathtubs and showers? If the latter is true, you need to make sure the plumbing and electrics are not hampered with. You also need to consider grouting before starting DIY projects, this will prevent water damage.

You can use grid paper to plot out the room and point out the elements that cannot be changed. With the drawing laid out, you can easily pencil in new aspects of design and visualise their placement in the room.

This gives you the freedom to consider what storage, images, colours or furniture you want to add or change.

Ideally, you should draw a lot of different designs and lay them out next to each other, this way you can easily see which concepts work better than others.

If drawing isn’t a skill you have, you can do the same thing by taking photos of the room as it currently is and then ticking white paper over the areas you can adapt. This is your “base”. Create a couple more and then stick designs that you like in the white spaces. You will be creating a collage mood board using your current bathroom as the backdrop.

Materials

The materials you want to use will likely be based on their aesthetic. A tiled floor that matched the ceiling could be the vibe you are going for, or perhaps a wooden sink to create a woodland theme.

But before you can pick the visual, you need to consider the price and durability of your materials. 

Knowing the diameters of the room from our design section, can help you figure out how many units of tiles or planks you will need. This can help you budget whether the look you are going for can be achieved without compromising.

We would suggest using tiles or laminate flooring due to budget and durability. Tiles can last an extremely long time, and they come in a variety of designs to choose from. However, they can be expensive depending on the colour or patterns you pick.

Wood in a bathroom can quickly deteriorate, lasting for years but not decades. If you are happy to replace the wood often, then continue with this design. But remember to include the cost of repair, maintenance and replacement in your budget.

Lament is easy to clean, can be made to look like wood, and is super cheap. The only downside is the overall aesthetic, which looks cheaper than the wooden or tiled counterparts.

Timeline

Lastly, you need to consider how long this project will take and how long you can afford to be without a bathroom. If you have more than one in your home, then you’ll have way more time to deal with the renovation timescales. However, if you only have one bathroom, then you will need to consider hiring portable toilets or asking friends and family if you can use theirs.

The longer it takes you to get the renovation done, the more expensive it will be. This is due to the costs of hiring a portable toilet, and the social strain of using someone else’s resources.

Creating A Budget

So far we have only discussed your budget loosely, but there are lots of things to keep in mind when figuring out those final numbers. To make sure you don’t miss details and find yourself searching for the money you didn’t plan to use, use this guide as a checklist.

Use A Budget Calculator

You can create your own budget calculator, or use one online to help you figure out how much money you can afford to spend. Really all you need is a formula that can add up all the expenses you plan to make, and subtract it from the money you have ready to use. Making our own budget calculator can help you note down the specifics, but using a pre-made one can ensure that your maths is correct.

Whichever one you choose, you should note down the cost realistically. There is no point rounding down or guessing the figures, as you will end up with an underfunded idea. With less money than you need, you’ll be left in the construction phase for much longer than expected.

Ideally, you should figure out your budget before you start designing. However, you might find understanding the ratio of payments hard to grasp without looking at materials and designs first. For this reason, we suggest following the process in a way that makes sense to you. Either make a rough design first, create the budget and then edit the design; or figure out your budget and then design your new bathroom.

Break Down Rough Costing Guide

Now you know how much you want to spend and what you expect the bathroom to look like when it’s complete, you need to go back to the budget.

Break down each element of your budget to include the minor spending you can expect to pay too. For example, you may have included $150 for new furniture, but now you should break down what the furniture actually costs.

The cabinets could cost $20 each and you want 5. A new rubbish bin may cost $10. This leaves you with $40 spare. Although you could remove the $40 from your budget, we suggest making a note and separating that money into an emergency fund. 

This gives you a better idea of how much money you will need to spend and how much wiggle room you have.

Create A Contingency Plan

Your emergency fund or contingency plan should ideally be worth 10 - 30% of your budget. The higher end of the percentage is best for those hiring contractors. If there is an unexpected hiccup on your renovation journey, and the workers you are hiring need more time, the 30% buffer will help you continue to make payments.

The lower end of the percentage is aimed at projects that don’t require a lot of change. For example, if you are only repainting the walls then giving yourself a 10% contingency plan can help you buy more paint if it turns out you don’t like the colour.

Work Out Your Disposable Income

Your disposable income is the money you have leftover after bills have been paid. In this context, it’s the money left over from your renovation budget. If you find a deal on aspects of the project that you didn’t account for before, don’t ignore the money you have saved.

Add it to your contingency budget, to give yourself an even greater safety net if something fails later one.

Every penny should be monitored and taken care of, so you know exactly how much you are spending on your project and how much extra money you have leftover. With the remaining funds, you can add in extra details, ornaments, art or more to help bring the bathroom up to the standard you had in your head.

Prioritise Remodeling Needs

When you are building your budget plans, you should prioritise the elements that need to be completely remodelled. For example, make sure you put more money, time and consideration into your new shower and contract workers instead of the price of paint.

If you are renovating your bathroom due to breakages or damage, then the area that is most detrimental to your house should be focused on above all else. You shouldn’t take money out of the new flooring budget, just to get a prettier sink.

You should also consider the future. Adding cabinets to your bathroom which need to be changed in 5 years' time is not a budget saving solution. 

To add personality to your bathroom, you should use decor such as art, ornaments and paint to express yourself. These can be easily changed or adapted as your style grows. Fixtures such as the shower, cabinets and sinks cannot be changed so quickly, so need to be considered as a long term investment.

Create A Detailed Design Plan Of Your Renovation

We have already talked about creating a mood board for your design and creating a budget planner for the financial costs of each element to the design. However, you should also make a note of the estimates vs real costs; leaving a place to tick off the payment when it has been paid.

This can show you how much you plan to spend, what you ended up saving or overspending and when it was paid to the relevant source. Monitoring these payments can help you figure out your overall spending and allow you to edit your budget and design plan as you go.

It might be helpful to also note plan B and plan C options in case your first choice is no longer available. If you do this, you should add in how much these other options cost and how it would affect your budget should you need to change course. 

Hopefully, you won’t need to use these secondary options, but if you plan for them now, then you will have peace of mind if they are needed in the future.

Do Your Research

If you are hiring a contractor to install your new bathroom, be sure to do your research first. In many stores, you can buy your new appliances and hire an installer in the same transaction. This means the installation process should be easier as the worker will be well aware of how the appliances work and the best places to put them in a standard house.

However, you can get a cheaper deal if you buy the appliances and install them separately. If you want to take up this budget option, you need to find the best workers near you to get the outcome you are after.

You should also research how long these changes will last, how they improve the value of your property, and if you need insurance.

Ideally, the changes should last for a couple of decades, but as we said before wooden additions to bathrooms will only last a couple of years at best. If you want to install a walk-in shower that is both beautiful and functional to those with mobility issues, then you will be saving yourself for the future while also adding value to your property.

Lastly, to make sure that you don’t lose money from accidents created by the contract worker, you should insure your house against damages.

When you are on a budget, you might not want to pay for insurance too, but depending on the scale of the renovation it might be the most financially secure option.

Top Tips For Renovating On A Budget

So far our advice has been rather general, but now we want to share our knowledge on saving money while renovating your bathroom. 

Think about the advice we are about to give you and consider how it might work for your project. 

Update Fixtures & Features

You don’t need to transform your whole bathroom to make it look new and fresh. You can focus on just updating the fixtures and features which are worn, aged or broken.

This could mean patching up a hole or gap between the wall and the sink, re-grouting areas where the original layer has turned black, or replacing one tile that might look a little chipped.

These are cheap and simple methods to transform the look of your bathroom and only take a couple of minutes to complete. 

It may be worth trying out these quick updates before planning a big change in your bathroom.

Do Not Change The Layout

To keep your budget low and to stop you from paying for thousands of dollars worth of construction work, keep the layout of your bathroom as it is. This means avoiding knocking down walls and moving the pipework. 

Although you might have grand ideas about moving the bathtub to a new area in the room, it will cost a lot of money to move the pipes and hot water systems along with it. Even if you find a well priced new tub, the labour and time to reconstruct the water system and waterproofing system will cost you a lot of money.

If the layout is the problem and the reason for the renovation, then consider using a mood board as we described before. Try adding different art, furniture and accessories to make the room more accessible or attractive. 

The simple solution of moving cabinets could be all you need to make the bathroom more practical.

Modernise Existing Designs

A great way to lower your renovation costs is to stick with the current fixtures but adapt them to fit a modern style. The style doesn’t even have to be modern. As long as it suits your tastes, the change will work.

A common way to update the designs is to sand down any current furniture and repaint it a dark colour. The top of the cabinet is then painted white for a clean and crisp look. Of course this only works in light and large bathrooms.

If your bathroom is smaller or dark, then you can do the same thing but with a different colour. Tourquire is a current hit as it gives off sea-side vibes while creating light shades.

Be sure to change the taps and door handles too. You should shine them, polish them or completely change them to give the bathroom a new atmosphere. It’s little touches like these that can change the whole room without anyone really noticing how.

Look around the room and see if you can notice any outdated areas which are subtly directing the atmosphere of the area.

Do Not Re-Tile

The tiles in your bathroom are often the main feature that everyone notices. We have mentioned how you can re-tile the floor to create a new aesthetic but there is another way to get this effect without spending thousands of dollars.

A cost saving way to give yourself new flooring without even lifting up a tile, is to paint over it. Be sure to buy paint made for the material of your tile, but a simple paint job can give you the effect you are after at a fraction of the price.

It will also be a faster process, as you only have to wait for the paint to dry. If you are worried about how the paint will come out, we suggest buying or using one tile as a practice. Paint it the way you want the room to look and then place it in the room, on top of your tiles.

You may need to do a couple of tiles to get a better picture, but just 4 at a maximum. 

Make sure you are happy with the design and then start the re-painting process!

Think Of Small Changes

Sometimes changing the small things is all you need to re-create your bathroom. Swapping the shower curtain to a tropical rain forest design can add an element of heat and freshness. Or opting for an elegant pattern that matches the colours of your toothbrush holder, or other items, can create overarching themes and prove your sense of style.

Ideally, you should pick a theme and make every changeable item in that room part of the design. Going back to the tropical rainforest idea, this means you could have a dark green toothbrush holder and soap container, with light green soap. You could change the light shades to light green to show a gradient change in shading.

Adding artwork always helps, so sticking with the theme you could have a painting of a colourful parrot, to change the palette.

Having a theme, no matter what it is, can instantly direct you through a design path and can help you make your bathroom feel like a beautiful place.

Create A Work Sequence

No matter how big or small your renovation concept is you should have a step by step idea of what you plan to do. This will help you keep to your time scale and will stop you from making mistakes. 

For example, if you already know the colour you want to paint the tiles, you should buy that first and then plan out the other colour designs. This way you get the right palette to work from and don’t waste time buying items that won’t fit with the final design.

Another example would be to paint the ceiling first, the walls second and the floor or tiles last. This is so the new paint doesn’t get ruined by any drips or mistakes. It doesn’t matter if the floor gets paint on it when you are renovating the ceiling, as you were already planning on painting the floor last. However, if you put time and effort into painting the tiles and then let new paint drip from the ceiling, then you’ll have to do the floors all over again.

Keep In Mind Style And Functionality

Although you are on a budget, the whole point of a renovation is to bring the area back to life. Ideally, you should put functionality over style, but if you don’t like the final outcome then you will need to go through this whole process again another day.

To make sure you are happy with your choices, try to use every free sample of paint you can find. If none are available, buy little pots of paint and try out your own designs on paper. They try them on old tiles to make sure the texture is right, before committing them to your bathroom.

No matter what you plan on adding or removing from the room, make sure that it doesn’t mess with the bathroom's main function of cleanliness.

The design stage is meant to take a long time so you can be 100% happy with your concept. Without a detailed plan, you will end up second guessing your decisions every step of the way.

Starting Your Renovation

Now you have a design to follow, a budget to guide you, and a step-by-step idea of how the renovation will go, all you need to do is start!

Clean

You should start the renovation process with a massive clean. Move all of the unneeded items out of the way, dust the area and deep clean every surface. 

You will need to clean at the end of the process too, but that doesn’t mean you should put off this first clean until then. If you avoid this step, you could end up painting over dust and grime instead of the actual surface. Cleaning the surfaces will make sure that less debris and distortion will mess with your designs.

Cleaning and tidying the area will also make sure that you have a clear view of the landscape you are working with. Leaving clutter in your way will only hinder and delay the overall process.

Ideally, everything that isn’t tied down should be removed from the room to give you as much space as you need.

Plan Ahead

Throughout this process, we have talked about the different ways in which you should plan ahead. Now it’s time to use these methods. Your budget plan should be looked into every time you need to buy something or need to change the budget. Once everything has been bought you shouldn’t need to look at it again, however, unforeseen circumstances can mean that your budget should be brought back up.

Your safety net of 10 - 30% contingency should protect you from any real issues.

Remember to go through each step as laid out in your work sequence. You might get excited and rush through to a late stage activity, but try to avoid these bursts of change. Moving through your sequence, out of order, can create confusion later on when you are trying to remember what is left to do. And as we said before, this can lead to doing extra work as you realise a step has been missing or a mess has been made.

Keeping to your plan will help you stay on track and get your bathroom back to a working order.

Always Remember There May Be Hidden Problems

Although we like to think that we are the lucky ones, there will always be some kind of unforeseen problem for you to deal with. No project has zero issues. 

For low effort renovations, like paint jobs or changes in furniture, the problems you face will come with moving the current objects in the room and finding a good price for the new items.

After moving an old chest of drawers, you may notice that the wall has mould on it. Looking around you notice that the vent hasn’t been working properly which has caused a water damage issue. Now your small renovation job has turned into a bigger issue.

For high effort renovations like changing your tiles or adding in a whole new shower. The problems you find could be hidden under the floor. Faulty pipework, hitting water lines when you try to remove the tiles, and other expensive issues could come up when you start looking deeper into your home, 

Being financially ready for these hidden problems can help you deal with them as soon as they arrive, but in reality, you need to be mentally prepared too. Be ready for these hidden issues so you can deal with them as they arise instead of getting frustrated.

Be Patient

Manual labour isn’t a fast task, and renovating your bathroom is a creative change as well as a physical one. Try not to rush this process, because if you do, you may end up with a product completely different to your original idea.

The longest and most important step in the design stage. It includes budgeting, manoeuvrability, colours, themes and more. You need to spend more time thinking about your design than actually doing the renovation. If you don’t put in the effort during this area, you won't be completely satisfied with the bathroom you end up with.

If something goes wrong with your renovation, like the hidden problems we talked about earlier, then take a break and bring out your schedule and budget plans again. You should have given yourself time for these issues, which means dipping into those safety nets you have created.

Remember that the end look and functionality is your goal. This might mean taking more time than expected to finish the project, but if you rush through it, you’ll regret your restlessness.

Summary

Renovating your bathroom on a budget means getting a lot of planners out and spending a good couple of days laying out the groundwork.

You should be budgeting for your estimated costs, your actual costs and giving yourself a 10 - 30% buffer just in case a hidden accident stops your progress.

The cheapest way to completely restyle your bathroom is to pick a theme, re-paint your tiles to match these themes, and buy little ornaments which tie everything together.