How to update an outdated bathroom with cheap bathroom makeover ideas

Cheap Bathroom Makeover

Related Articles

First Aid for the Bathroom

Cheap Bathroom Fix-Ups

5 Tips to a "New" Bathroom

The $150 Bathroom Redo /td>

Cheap Bathroom Makeover

I need help with a cheap bathroom makeover. We're buying a house where the main bathroom has pink floor tile and fixtures, pink and gray wallpaper, and lots of gray wall tile (halfway up the wall all around and all the way to the ceiling around the tub). The tub even has the glass doors etched with swans and cattails. In short, the house was built in 1962 and the bathroom has not been touched since.

I love vessel sinks, but can't figure out how to do that big of an update with such a dated color scheme. I'm open to changing the tile, but not in the short term because of the cost. Ideas?

Cheap? Maybe It's a Retro Bathroom!

My advice would be if the bath is in good condition and functional, live with it as it is. First, consider how much time we spend in our bathrooms. Usually we're not there that much. Second, styles come and go. Many people these days are "updating" their newer baths in the "retro" style of the 1950s and 1960s. You already have what a lot of people want, and you don't have to pay for it! (Check out Craigslist for sale and wanted postings for "retro," "midcentury," "vintage," and "1960s" if you don't believe me.) Enjoy your retro bath and save your money.

"Art Deco" Ambience Provides Cheap Makeover

I would suggest using some black accents and trying for a retro "Art Deco" type of ambience in the room. You could cover one wall with a black and white vinyl "peel and stick" type blowup of James Dean or a Toulouse-Lautrec poster. Add black or pearlized accent pieces like soap dishes, lotion dispensers, baskets or dishes for soaps and rolled washcloths. Have fun with the project!

Removing Shower Doors Part of Bathroom Makeover

Remove the wallpaper and paint. You can paint ceramic tile if you follow good instructions closely. I believe my bathroom had the same shower doors! I removed them, removed the railings (which are disgusting and collect mold!), and filled in the holes. I use a shower curtain and they are a great way to give color to a bathroom. Plus they are much more sanitary. Just throw them in the wash! Even if you don't replace the vanity, you can paint it. After you do it on the cheap, save up and replace what you can when you can. It will get there eventually.

Hiding Ugly Parts = Cheap Update

I, too, bought an old house and needed to hide the ugly parts until I could afford to remodel. I chose paint. I had mustard tiles with mushrooms here and there and an olive green tub, toilet and sink. I was broke and couldn't afford to change anything right away.

I used a palm sander and fine sandpaper to buff all the tiles, even in the shower. I used a mold deterrent additive in a can of gloss white latex, and I painted every thing but the floor. I used the same additive in the primer. I used cheap stick on tiles that I got at a sale to cover the old floor temporarily. I updated some of the small things like the faucet and the toilet paper holder, and towel holder when I found them at yard sales. I re-pasted some falling wallpaper, and painted over that too. That was easier and cheaper than removing it. I even painted the ceiling, so it all looked clean.

I bought towels and accessories that incorporated the color of the green tub, toilet and sink. I spent very little money. My bathroom and I got along like that for more than five years. I saved up for a remodel and have redone it as I would have liked with cash saved.
Ally A. in Lake Worth, FL

Some Love Vintage Color Schemes!

Personally, I would be over the moon to luck out with a house with an untouched mid-century bathroom! And I know that there are a lot of others out there like me who value that vintage color scheme. Perhaps GG could post an ad on the Craigslist within a couple of hours distance from her home offering (in essence) her bathroom for sale. The buyer would pay for and remove everything like the fixtures, tiles, etc., leaving (in theory) GG with money to replace the old fixtures. If GG does have a little money to redo her bath and can only find someone who will remove the items (but is unwilling to pay for the items), then this could create an empty space ready for new tiles, fixtures, etc. that she's found inexpensively at, say, a Habitat for Humanity home store. In any event, please advise GG to visit for decorating ideas!

Glaze Over Tiles

I've seen the designers on HGTV hire tile glazers who come in and spray over the existing tiles. I'm not sure how durable glazing would be on the tub, sink, or around the shower, but they do it. I'd glaze all your tiles white, strip the wallpaper, and paint the walls a neutral color. Cover the pink floor with bath rugs and use interesting wall art or black and white photographs to draw the eye up from the floor. Replacing the shower door might run you $500 or more, depending on where you live, but could be a dramatic update. Or have the door removed and use a "spa" type curtain instead.

Teach Yourself to Tile

The quickest and cheapest way to redo any room is to start with paint. In the bathroom, you will likely want to use semi-gloss or gloss paint, which will be easy to clean and resist moisture.

Remove the dated wallpaper and choose a color that coordinates with the gray and pink tile. If the bathroom tends to be dark, consider the lightest color that will work, which will brighten the room. I personally love the look of "nude" or very light gray paint. These are peaceful, restful colors that will not fight the colored tiles.

You can remove the tub doors and replace them with an updated bowed shower rod and modern curtain or with more modern doors, coordinating with your color scheme.

As you think of your color scheme, look around at vessel sinks. Even if this purchase is some time off, you will want to have a style and color in mind. Perhaps you can have one constructed that would incorporate the same color scheme, thereby turning the dated look into a modern one. Be aware, however, that some types of vessel sinks can be etched by minerals in hard water, turning a lovely sink into a nightmare in a relatively short time.

Finally, consider whether you can retile yourself. A large part of the cost of tiling is in the labor. There are many videos online and books in the library that can teach you how to tile. Using stock tile can also reduce costs. For example, I was able to tile my kitchen for less money than a good vinyl floor would have cost. At the same time, I was able to find floor tile and countertops that worked with backsplash tiles already installed, thereby saving me the work and expense of replacing these as well.
Barbara in CT

Take the Next Step:

  • Looking for great deals on all your home decorating needs? is the answer!
  • Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
  • For more on how to update a bathroom, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Library .
  • For more information on installing tiles

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor

Stay Connected with TDS

Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book