HOME: Bathroom DIY project on a small budget

Have you been living with an outdated bathroom because you feel it is beyond help? Do you think the only answer is to gut it out and start over? Well, think again.

There are some DIY projects just about anyone can tackle that will make a big impact on a small budget. These changes may not be ideal or last forever, but they will make your bathroom reflect your taste and give you a room you can enjoy for years to come.

The “before” look of Jenny Mikrut’s DIY project in her bathroom.

According to The National Kitchen and Bath Association, the average bathroom remodel is $16,000. Of course, we would all love a beautiful new spa-like retreat, but there is something about getting creative, using what you have and saving a lot of money that makes us realize our little bathrooms aren’t so bad after all.

Here are some ideas that I did with my own bathroom. Total cost? Only $335.


When I first moved into my house, the bathroom had dirty linoleum, an outdated light fixture, a sad window treatment and a dark color on the walls. Despite the big list of complaints, the most obvious problem was the floors. Under the linoleum were layers of different flooring: hardwood, peel and stick, more linoleum and the subfloors.

I really didn’t want to tear off each layer and adding another layer on top was out of the question. So, the only answer was to paint it.

Believe it or not, you can paint just about any surface as long as you prep it correctly. The project is pretty easy:

• Scuff up the floor using sandpaper
• Add a coat of primer
• Then, finish with two coats of your chosen color.

This same process can be done on wood, cement and even tile. If your bathroom has tile on the walls or floor that doesn’t fit your style, painting it is a cost effective way to live with it until you have the time or money to tear it off and start over.
Cost: $30 for each gallon of paint and primer.


Nothing gives away a bathroom’s age like the lighting. Swapping out the fixture was not cheap but was definitely a much needed update. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menard’s all have a nice selection of sconces or pendants that will completely freshen up the room.

If you can’t find something you like in your price range, try eBay, Amazon or Overstock.com for some high-end looks at a great price. The triple light sconce I used in my bathroom was originally from Restoration Hardware, which I found on eBay for $85, a fraction of the retail cost.

If you aren’t sure how to change a light fixture, call a few local electricians to get a quote.
Cost: $85 (free labor).


Mikrut’s remodel project has a brighter and fresher appeal that was fun to create on only $335. “It is amazing what a difference a small accessory can make,” she said.

Painting the vanity and adding modern hardware is an easy way to give an outdated bathroom a whole new look.

The biggest impact in a bathroom update is also one of the cheapest.

Painting the vanity and adding modern hardware is an easy way to give an outdated bathroom a whole new look. Mine already had a white vanity so all I had to do was add new hardware. I purchased simple pulls from Lowe’s for $2 a piece.

If your bathroom has a wood or laminate vanity, follow the same steps as painting the floor: sand, prime and paint.

Try a chocolate brown, black or ivory color to keep it neutral, and pair it with chrome or nickel hardware for timeless appeal.

While you are at it, choose towel bars, hooks and toilet paper dispenser hardware that all has the same finish.
Cost: $50 ring pulls for vanity and wall hardware.


Another easy fix in this bathroom was painting the walls. Green is a nice color, but using this shade in a bathroom can cast an unflattering glow that is not ideal when getting ready for your day.

The warm grey color I chose acts as a neutral background to let accessories such as a rug, shower curtain and towels add pops of color that can be easily changed with the season. Other great neutral colors for a bathroom are steel blue, butter yellow or taupe.

To save money and stress, buy a few small samples to test on the walls before you commit to purchasing an entire gallon. Picking a color from a paint chip is really tough to get right, so my advice is to try the colors in the room and see how it looks in natural and artificial light.

Bathrooms with no windows can be even trickier, as artificial light will make a color look completely different. Samples cost about $5 each but they are worth it in the long run.

Cost: $30 gallon of paint (plus $15 in samples; I used three at $5 each).


If you have a window in your bathroom, it is important to get the right type of treatment for maximum privacy. This is also another opportunity to add color or personality to the room. I took the existing roller shade and laid it on the floor, unrolling it all the way out. I used the same white primer that was used on the floors and painted the front and back of the roller shade.

Once the paint was fully dry, I used painters tape to make a chevron design on the front side.

I took the leftover wall color and painted the taped off part of the shade, resulting in a white and grey chevron pattern. To avoid the shade having to be closed at all times, we installed a frosted vinyl to the lower half of the window, which allows light to come in but is not see-through. This is available at a hardware store or at your local sign/vinyl shop.
Cost: $20 frosted vinyl.


The last task is the fun part — adding the finishing touches.

Retail stores such as Meijer, Walmart, Kohl’s and Marshall’s have an excellent selection of bathroom accessories and linens, which will give that cozy, lived-in feel. In my bathroom, I chose simple white towels and a shower curtain and added a colorful rug and wall art.

The easiest way to add interest to your walls is to frame a black and white photograph and paint the frame your favorite color.

If you decide to change the color scheme in the future, simply repaint the frame with another color or try white or black to really make it work with anything.

My favorite part about my bathroom is that if I see a cool shower curtain or towel of any color, I can buy it knowing that it will always match just fine. It is amazing what a difference a small accessory can make.

Cost: $90 for towels, shower curtain, rug, soap dispenser and wall art.


Jenny (Christensen) Mikrut is a Greenville native and currently resides on the north side of Grand Rapids with her husband and two children.  When she isn’t decorating her own house, Jenny works for Ashley Cole Interior Design and writes the home design blog ashtonsebastian.com.

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