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How to renovate a bathroom on a budget

Discover how one woman completely transformed her bathroom for just £30, plus more ideas for renovating the littlest room in the house on the smallest of budgets.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


We spend a lot of time in our bathrooms. Whether it’s having a good soak, brushing our teeth or making use of the facilities (perhaps while reading a good book). 

Even the most sparkling, brand new bathroom will start to wear a bit with use. And, water closets that are already on the worn side, will only get worse.

But with the cost of fitting a new bathroom running into thousands of pounds, many of us simply don’t have the cash for a major renovation.

We ask the experts what you can do to keep your bathroom looking fresh without rinsing your wallet.

1. Tap up new fittings

Buy and fit new taps to perk up your existing bathtub and basin.

You might go for a different colour (black, pastel shade or brushed brass), or simply replace what you’ve got with shiny, unsullied versions.

“This is an effective - and cost effective - way of giving your bathroom a new look without having to shell out a huge amount of money,” says David Philips, building expert at PropertyRescue.

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You can spend anything from £100 to several times that for fancy taps. But you might be able to score a bargain on eBay or GumTree if someone is getting rid of their old ones.

The cost of new tap installation is around £200 to £320, according to Checkatrade.

2. Roll out a replacement floor

This might sound expensive. But if you’re happy to opt for lino or vinyl planks, your bathroom floor can be replaced for less than £100.

Nicola Rodriguez, also known as Essex House Dolly, spent £40 on her new bathroom floor.

“I purchased self adhesive wooden-effect planks and a Stanley knife to cut around the edges,” she says.

“The only expense was having mastic sealant done around the edges as I wasn’t confident enough to do that myself.”

Inga Morris-Blincoe from Lifestyle Floors recommends vinyl for bathrooms.

“Vinyl is particularly budget friendly and is generally available in widths of 2, 3 and 4m, so there is little wastage,” she says.

“It's also easy to clean and maintain. For extra comfort underfoot choose one with a textile backing.”

3. Get smart with tiling

If you’re investing in new tiles, being smart about what you have done can keep costs low.

Also, the choice of tile you make has a bearing on the amount of time a tiler will need to fit them, which will impact on the price.

“Limiting tiles to the areas that need them such as around a shower or bath, will help reduce costs whilst creating a great focal point,” says Colin Lincoln-Evans of Tile Mountain 

“If you are paying a tiler, consider the size and shape you choose, hexagonal or herringbone tiles will take longer to install thereby increasing the labour charge.” 

Obviously doing the work yourself can keep costs down. But make sure you do your homework, as paying someone to fix a mistake often ends up costlier in the long run.

4. Make existing tiles sparkle

If you have pre-existing tiles but you’re not all that keen on the pattern or the colour, it will be cheaper to spruce them up rather than replace them.

Writer and illustrator Thea de Gallier rejuvenated her bathroom tiles for £20.

“Instead of getting my bathroom retiled, I painted over the tiles with all-purpose paint and drew the lines back in with a grout pen,” she says.

You can buy paint specially designed to cover tiles easily for around £18-30. While any pot of emulsion will do the job, specialist tile paint is more durable and water-resistant.

Grout pens in various colours can be picked up for just a few pounds from a hardware shop.

5. Second-hand storage solutions

Nothing makes a bathroom look worse than stuff everywhere. Investing in somewhere to store all those bottles and cleaning products is worth the money.

But you don’t need to break the bank and buy a brand new bathroom cabinet and shelving. It pays to shop around on eBay and find stuff second hand, or look at creative alternatives.

“Try exploring your local charity shop for rattan-style baskets that can be screwed into the wall for extra storage,” says Ivo Iv, Founder and CEO of Décor Home Ideas.

“The whole process is very easily done with one tool and very little investment, and the baskets provide a ‘shabby chic’ look to a tired bathroom that’s in need of an update.” 

6. Use up renovation leftovers

If you’ve been sprucing up the rest of your home over time, then chances are you have a few pots of half-finished paint and other materials hanging around.

A cheap way to do over your bathroom is to use only the materials you already have - rather than designing a brand new look that involves heading to the hardware store for new stuff.

This is exactly the approach blogger Abi Hugo took with her downstairs bathroom, which cost her just £30 to transform beyond recognition.

“I used only leftover materials for this project. The aim was to spend as little as possible as it was an interim project until we get a new one fitted,” Abi says.

“The only thing I needed to buy was peel and stick tiles from Dunelm (£28 per pack). I used up half used pots of paint that I already had for the walls and radiator.

“The batons I used for the feature wall were just scrap wood that was too small for any other project. I was able to hide the fact they’re slit in half with the mirror.”

7. Keep sealant fresh

Over time, sealant tends to yellow or go mouldy or start to peel off. So one relatively quick and straightforward way to keep your bathroom looking neat is to replace it regularly.

If you’re doing this yourself, do plenty of reading and watch YouTube “how to” videos. You’ll need to cut away and clean under the old sealant.

A steady hand is needed to apply the new stuff, so have a few practice runs before you try it for real.

As well as looking fresher, new sealant will help keep your bathroom environment healthier.

“We recommend removing old silicone and applying it fresh every 24 months to reduce the risk of water damage in your bathroom,” says Alex Phillipe, chief product officer of Livlet.

“For natural stone surfaces, our advice is to apply new sealant every 36 months to protect the natural stone and stop bacteria infiltrating porous surfaces.”

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.