Redoing a kitchen is a costly project, but the bathroom comes in a close second. On average, it’ll set you back about $24,000 for a midrange bathroom remodel, according to Remodeling’s 2021 Cost vs. Value Report. These often tiny rooms come with many hidden costs—sinks, vanities, mirrors, lighting, new tub, new toilet, and potential costs involving hiring a plumber or other professionals, for instance.
But a few smart changes can add some oomph to an outdated bathroom without requiring the budget of a complete reno, whether you’re doing a large or small bathroom remodel. Here are some inexpensive ideas for doing just that.
1. Paint the Walls
A fresh coat of paint goes a long way in any room, but especially the bathroom. Whether you pick the same hue to cover up years of built-up dirt and grime or a new shade to brighten up the space, paint gives the bathroom an instant refresh. Consider a neutral or cool white—especially if a bathroom currently has tan or dark walls. Going from dark to light will make the room look bigger, without a huge bathroom remodel cost.
2. Add a Mega Mirror
Like a coat of crisp white paint, a mirror creates the optical illusion of a larger space. Adding an ultra-big mirror also offers more than aesthetic benefits. Tiny mirrors make it tough to do tasks that require your reflection, like putting on makeup. An oversized mirror makes doing those things easier, while adding a hint of glam.
3. Refinish the Bathtub
Installing that beautiful vintage clawfoot tub seemed like a good idea at the time, but years of use have turned the pristine soaker into a pockmarked nightmare. Or maybe the color is no longer to your liking. Instead of getting an expensive replacement, refinish the tub to its high-gloss glory with the help of a tub refinishing kit like this highly rated option available at Amazon.
Related: The Big Bathroom Remodeling Design Decision: Tub vs. Shower
4. Sneak in More Storage
Bathrooms never have enough storage for extra toilet paper, cleaning supplies, towels, and linens. Get clutter off the sink and keep the bathroom spotless by adding this top-rated tall storage cabinet available at Amazon that features a small open shelf, two cabinet doors, and a small drawer. It’s also made of mildew-resistant materials, making it perfect for a humid environment.
5. Upgrade Cabinet Hardware
Those who already have plenty of storage space might consider changing their cabinet hardware. Replace outdated or damaged hardware and upgrade a shabby space in less than a day. For a hint of luxury without the price tag, swap in trendy hardware pieces like brushed gold pulls or ornate hexagon-shaped knobs. For a cohesive look, make sure to choose hardware that matches your plumbing fixtures.
6. Opt for Affordable Tile
Options like vinyl or laminate are cheaper than stone or tile, so they’re excellent materials for those wanting to upgrade bathroom floors and walls on a budget. Another option is to use peel-and-stick tiles like this highly rated option available at Etsy to cover up old, ugly flooring or plain painted walls. The inexpensive stickers can make a bathroom look completely new.
Related: The Best Peel and Stick Floor Tiles to Upgrade Your Bathroom
7. Add Simple Accents
Add simple, stylish accents while keeping things tidy by storing soap and other toiletries in baskets. Use easy-to-open jars to house things like bath bombs, q-tips, and cotton pads. An easy way to create a spa-like atmosphere on a budget is to buy matching accessories like the ones in this top-rated bamboo set available at Amazon that includes a wastebasket, toothbrush holder, and more.
8. Freshen Window Treatments
An old, yellowed window treatment can make an otherwise attractive bathroom look downright dingy. Adding a new set of curtains or shades can revive a dull, lifeless bathroom. Roman shades made with sheer fabric are a good choice for bathrooms with large windows since they let in light without sacrificing privacy—just make sure to pick mildew-resistant fabrics.
9. Change Up the Lighting
If your old bathroom has lighting that’s the wrong kind of retro, consider switching out the light fixtures for something more on trend. The top-rated Replay 3-Light Fixture available at The Home Depot is a sleek, modern option that will blend in with most bathroom designs. It comes in different mount options and finishes.
10. Turn Old Furniture Into a New Vanity
Don’t throw away that old dresser! Refinish it and use it as a new bathroom vanity instead. Upgrade your bathroom by repurposing old furniture into a shabby, chic vanity. For those not prepared to go the DIY route, consider this unit made of reclaimed wood available at Etsy. The rustic vanity features plenty of storage for various bathroom supplies and knick-knacks.
Related: 25 Tiny Bathrooms We Love
11. Swap Out Faucets
Over time faucets can become stained and rusted. And by the time they’re unsightly, they’re probably also out of style. The simple act of swapping out bathroom faucets can make a bathroom look cleaner and more up-to-date, and is particularly great for a shower remodel. It’s a good idea to swap all the fixtures at once—bath faucet, showerhead and handles, and sink faucet—to ensure they all have the same finish.
12. Cover the Countertop with Contact Paper
Another bathroom makeover idea involves covering up peeling or cracking countertops with the help of faux marble contact paper-like film such as this highly rated option available at Etsy. This vinyl wrap won’t last forever, but it’s much more affordable than the ultra-expensive real version. The peel and stick vinyl is easy to apply, waterproof, heat-resistant, and tear-resistant. It takes a bit of trial and error to keep it from bubbling during the application, though.