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Small Bathroom Remodel on a Budget

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Our latest project in our house is a small bathroom remodel on a budget. We have three bathrooms in our house, one on each floor and they are all functional but all need varying degrees of updating. Our powder room bath on the main floor will be a project that will coincide with the kitchen this summer (fingers crossed!) and the attic bathroom will be managed this winter, since it is mostly cosmetic changes.

Our main bathroom is located on the second level and services all of the bedrooms. It’s typical for the time period of our home to have a small bathroom, not an en suite.

I wanted to take you through all of our thoughts on how and why we’re updating this way in case you were in the market for a budget bathroom remodel.

Overall, I’m focusing on quality, durable materials that reflect the age and historical accuracy of the house without breaking the bank.

What does a typical bathroom remodel cost?

Bathrooms and kitchen sell homes, at least that’s what we always hear from our realtors. With that being said, bathroom remodels can quickly add up based on labor costs and materials used. Most bathrooms remodels costs can range from $1,500 for a quick DIY fix up to well over $10,000 for a full gut renovation.

We will be somewhere in the middle as our bathroom is quite small. I plan to use historically accurate materials that match the age of the house but the tight space gives me some wiggle room in the budget for a little luxury since we don’t have much square footage.

When planning a budget remodel, the easiest thing to keep your costs down is to retain the original footprint. You avoid having to move plumbing and all of the additional construction work that goes along with it. We are planning to demo the existing bathroom ourselves, saving significantly on labor costs.

How to save money using home contractors

What’s the cheapest way to remodel a bathroom?

If you aren’t looking to fully gut your bathroom, the easiest update you can make is cleaning, paint, and accessories. That’s just what we did for the first year we lived here. I removed all of the old homeowners towel bars, accessories that didn’t suit my taste, and really did a deep clean. You can see the listing photo below.

After cleaning really well, I added five towel hooks in polished chrome for our children, installed a recessed vintage medicine cabinet to add a little more space around the sink, and swapped out the tired light for a beautiful new chrome fixture. I tried to think long term about what I wanted to use in our fully remodeled bathroom and chose accessories accordingly. We will continue to use the towel hooks and the lighting will match the rest of the hardware in the bathroom.

Our Bathroom Remodel on a Budget Plan

The bathroom has been functional and totally usable for the last year but we’re ready to really finish up the space to suit our needs. With our home being so old, I’m striving to retain historical context while making it modern and functional for our young family. So here’s our plan for the primary bathroom:

mood board for small bathroom renovation.

Replace the rotted, wood window within the shower with a waterproof fixed window.

Our bathroom has an original window that now resides inside the shower footprint. Typically the window would have been for ventilation since there weren’t modern bathroom fans and the clawfoot tub would have sat in front of the window.

I wanted to keep the charm of the split, three pane window while making it easy to clean and eliminate any mold opportunity. We had our local window team replace the original window with a single pane, fixed window reproduction to eliminate water exposure.

Fixing previous construction mistakes

In the last remodel, a fiberglass tub was installed, and the walls were tiled with 4×4 white tiles. Unfortunately, there was no proper tile prep and they’ve since started coming off the wall. In addition to the failing tiles, the original wood window had constant water exposure without proper sealing.

The window has been replaced and we will remove the remaining lathe and plaster, insulate and use cement board and proper waterproofing before re-tiling the shower. I plan to use traditional white subway tile for the shower surround. While some may hesitate on the subway tile since it has become a trend in the past few years, it has longevity and is inexpensive so it’s a win for me.

I plan to continue the white subway tile around the bathroom walls to make the space feel cohesive and again to eliminate any water exposure since this is the primary bath for all of our children who can’t seem to enjoy a bath without initiating a small flood every evening.

Update flooring

I have chosen a beautiful basketweave marble tile for the floor. I found it on clearance at Lowe’s and was able to snap it up for $3 a square foot. Since our bathroom is so small they had just enough material to cover our project. If you want to use high end materials, look for ways to use it in smaller amounts like the floors or backsplash. Don’t discount your local vendors! Consider visiting a local slab yard for remnants that can be used for counters for a steal.

Replace pedestal sink with a vanity

While I love the space saving solution of a pedestal sink, we really need storage in our bathroom. I don’t love an over the toilet cabinet, which is our makeshift solution right now. I plan on having our contractor make a custom cabinet (similar here) to fit our tiny space and add a solid stone counter with a undermount sink.

Easiest bathroom updates

Outside of cleaning and paint, lighting and accessories are an easy way to update your bathroom inexpensively.


As I said, I’ve already swapped out the old fixtures and accessories to polished chrome, which I plan to use throughout the rest of the room.

I decided on using chrome in this bathroom for cost and cleaning. It is less expensive than my favorite unlacquered brass that I used throughout the main floor and cleans up easily. It is also traditional for homes built in this time period for the finishes to become more utilitarian on the upper floors.

Bath Mats and Shower Curtains

A new bath mat and shower curtain can do wonders for perking up a tired bathroom. I love a neutral so a plain white bathroom rug that does not have non-stick coating was my choice. Every boutique hotel I’ve ever stayed at has the same rug. Beautiful in it’s simplicity. It also is a snap to toss in the wash, which happens often with five children.

I went with a simple stripe shower curtain but I love a floral too, you can find a curtain to match any decor style. An easy tip to make your bathroom feel more luxurious is to skip the yucky plastic shower liner. Opt for a cloth liner and a thick outer shower curtain for decor. It also makes for easy cleaning and is eco friendly, toss it in the wash and it is as good as new.

A little tip a home stager gave to me was to tuck the shower curtain into the tub in a small bathroom. It gives the illusion of more floor space. So that’s what I do! Remember to pull the curtain out during bathing or you’re in for a soggy mess.

We’re really excited to start the bathroom and will be sure to share progress on Instagram and a have reveal post here.

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