Remodeling a bathroom can be an expensive and time-consuming process. However, there are plenty of affordable ways to give your older bathroom a fresh, updated look without taking on a full renovation. With some clever decorating tricks and easy DIY upgrades, you can spruce up your outdated bathroom on a budget.
In this article, we’ll share 8 ways to spruce up an older bathroom without remodeling. From quick cosmetic fixes like paint and wallpaper, to replacing fixtures and making storage upgrades, we’ll cover budget-friendly projects that can transform the look and feel of your bathroom. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can create a stylish, refreshed bath space that looks and functions like new – without the hefty price tag or construction mess of a remodel.
Deep Clean Everything
One of the quickest and easiest ways to revive an outdated bathroom is to give it a deep, thorough cleaning. Buildups of soap scum, mildew, and grime can make even the nicest bathrooms look grungy.
Set aside a few hours and go through the space top to bottom:
- Scrub the tub, shower walls, sinks, countertops, and tile floors with a strong bathroom cleaner or mix of baking soda and vinegar. Use a grout brush or old toothbrush to clean grout lines.
- Remove all items from drawers and vanity surfaces and wipe down inside and out with a multi-surface cleaner.
- Clean mirrors, faucets, and hardware with glass cleaner.
- Dust light fixtures and exhaust fans.
- Toss any expired products and organize shelves, drawers, and under sink cabinets so everything has a place.
Once everything is sparkling clean, your bathroom will look fresher and newer. Maintain the refreshed look by cleaning the shower and sinks at least weekly.
Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint
Painting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to transform the look of a space. Adding a fresh coat of color to your bathroom walls and ceiling can make the room feel bright and revived.
Some tips for painting your bathroom:
- Choose mold-resistant paint designed for bathrooms. Look for satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheens to make cleaning easier.
- Stick with light, neutral shades like pale gray, beige, or blue which will make the room feel open and airy. Bold colors can make small bathrooms feel cramped.
- Paint the ceiling bright white to give the illusion of height.
- Add an accent wall behind the tub or sink in a bolder hue for a pop of color.
- Use masking tape and drop cloths to keep paint off tiles, fixtures, and baseboards for a cleaner finish.
With some diligent prep work and 2 coats of new paint, you can update the whole look of your bathroom for less than $50.
Switch Out Light Fixtures
Outdated lighting can make any bathroom feel dingy and dark. Replacing light fixtures is an easy upgrade that can modernize the whole room.
Consider these tips when picking new bathroom lighting:
- Install overhead lighting that provides bright, even light for tasks like shaving and makeup. LED or fluorescent fixtures conserve energy.
- Sconces on either side of the mirror provide good task lighting at the vanity.
- Pendant lights add a decorative touch and work well over a corner tub or above the shower.
- Swap out the exhaust fan for an ENERGY STAR model with built-in LED lighting to brighten the shower.
- Dimmers, motion sensors, and nightlights add convenience and save electricity.
New fixtures start around $20-$50 at home improvement stores. Swapping out old lights for new, stylish ones can make a big visual impact in your bathroom’s look.
Update Storage with New Cabinets and Shelving
Limited or outdated storage can make your bathroom feel disorganized and cluttered. Improving storage is an affordable way to add function and style. Consider these quick upgrades:
- Add a cabinet above the toilet for rolled towels and toiletries. Even a basic cabinet adds hidden storage.
- Convert an old cabinet into a pull-out pantry with roll-out trays and baskets for extra space.
- Install floating shelves between studs for open display space. Great for rolled towels, baskets, and decor.
- Use over-the-toilet racks or stackable shelving for more storage without taking up floor space.
- Hang an organized medicine cabinet to hide essentials behind the mirror.
- Add a freestanding cabinet or shelving unit for linens, toilet paper, and supplies. Provides closed and open storage.
Focus on maximizing vertical areas and unused spots like above the toilet and under sinks. Even small organizational upgrades make a big impact.
Install New Faucets and shower-heads
Replacing worn-out faucets and shower fixtures provides an instant facelift for your bathroom while improving function.
When selecting new bath hardware:
- Choose a finish like chrome, nickel, or bronze to match your decor. Oil-rubbed bronze offers a modern matte look.
- Look for water-efficient models with the WaterSense label to save water and money.
- Select a showerhead with multiple settings like handheld, rainshower, or water-saving modes.
- For sinks, consider widespread faucets to replace old-fashioned 4” centers.
- Lever-style handles are contemporary and ADA compliant.
- Two-handle faucets let you control hot and cold water separately.
- Hands-free faucets turn on and off with motion sensors for added convenience.
With relatively easy installation, new fixtures provide a sleek updated look while conserving water.
Upgrade Countertops Affordably
Tired laminate and worn solid-surface countertops can make a bathroom look dingy. While natural stone or quartz counters are pricey, there are budget options to upgrade your existing countertops affordably.
- Resurface with new laminate for $200-$500. Just glue on a new layer.
- Use white tile board or mosaic tile as an overlay for $150-$350 in materials.
- Apply tile-look peel-and-stick vinyl starting at $100. Easy DIY project.
- Coat counters in epoxy paint tintable in many colors for $50-$100.
- Disguise worn counters by topping with removable wood boards or marble contact paper.
Even if these options are temporary, they can still give your bathroom counters a fresh facelift on a budget.
Update Hardware and Fixtures
Replacing your bathroom’s dated hardware and fixtures is an affordable way to update its look:
- Replace old faucets and shower fixtures with newer styles
- Change cabinet knobs and handles for a more modern look
- Upgrade to a fresh toilet seat, tank lever, and toilet paper holder
- Install a new modern sink drain and stoppers
- Swap out an outdated medicine cabinet for a cleaner-lined frameless mirror
- Upgrade hook racks, towel bars, and robe hooks to updated finishes
Match finishes (like brushed nickel or matte black) for a cohesive feel. Shop sales and budget brands to keep costs low. Installing all new hardware can make the whole room feel fresh and new.
Add Accent Tile
Retiling an entire bathroom can be expensive, but adding some accent tile in key spots can give your space a new look. Focus on small backsplashes and accents:
- Tile around the tub – Either a few rows or floor-to-ceiling. Use mosaic sheets for easy application.
- Add a new sheet backsplash above the vanity in glass, ceramic, or stone.
- Tile bathroom walls halfway up between two horizontal lines. Creates a modern wainscoting effect.
- Frame the mirror with a border of decorative tile. Complement the vanity top.
- Freshen the floor with new tile bath mats or durable peel-and-stick tiles.
Concentrate tile in impactful focal areas instead of entire walls and floors to save big on materials. Small touches of new tile provide affordable pops of style.
Display Fresh Decor and Accessories
An easy way to breathe new life into your bathroom is by updating the decor and accessories:
- Add greenery – Plants like ferns or orchids liven up the space.
- Declutter counters and keep just essentials like soap, lotion, etc.
- Roll and display towels and washcloths in baskets, on shelves or hooks.
- Use baskets under sinks to corral extra toiletries and supplies.
- Hang framed art on the walls for a gallery feel. Try affordable prints or framed bathroom-themed pages from old books.
- Use discreet storage like curtained shelves or cabinets to hide mess.
- Add a small stool, chair or shelf for a spa-like feel.
Curating the decor creates a relaxing, hotel-bathroom vibe even in older bathrooms. Rotate out seasonal accessories to keep it looking fresh.
You don’t need to gut and remodel your bathroom to give it a fresh new look. These eight affordable ideas allow you to spruce up and modernize your older bathroom’s style for a fraction of the cost of a remodel.
With some diligent cleaning, smart upgrades like new lighting and hardware, plus decor accents and fixtures, you can make your outdated bathroom look and feel brand new. Focus on the changes that will make the biggest visual impact for your budget.
The best part is many of these projects can be done in a weekend or less. Save the mess and expense of a full renovation, and use these tips to create a beautiful, refreshed bath space you’ll be excited to spend time in.
FAQs about Revitalizing an Old Bathroom
What are some quick ways to update an old bathroom?
Some quick DIY updates include painting the walls and ceiling, replacing light fixtures, switching out faucets and showerheads, adding new window curtains, decluttering surfaces, and organizing cabinets and drawers. These fast mini-makeovers can refresh the look without major work.
How much does it cost to update a bathroom without remodeling?
Bath updates like paint, accent tile, new fixtures, lighting, and accessories can usually be done for $2,000-4,000. This spruces up the look without moving walls or replacing the tub/shower, sink, or toilet which keeps costs low.
What is the easiest way to update bathroom cabinets?
If cabinets are sound, the easiest upgrade is switching out the dated hardware. Replace old handles and knobs with modern brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze ones. You can also apply a fresh coat of paint or new laminate to cabinet surfaces and doors.
Should I change my bathroom layout without remodeling?
It’s best not to change the layout which involves moving plumbing fixtures if you’re not doing a full remodel. However, you can create the illusion of a new layout by changing the visual elements like paint color, tile, lighting design, and decor.
How do I decorate my bathroom on a tight budget?
Use affordable décor like removable wallpaper on walls, peel-and-stick floor tiles, framed art prints, rolled towels and inexpensive shower curtains. Look for budget-friendly accessories like ceramic soap dishes, wood shelves, cloth bins, and metal frames to update the look.
How can I freshen my bathroom without painting?
Some no-paint options are switching out accessories like shower curtains, bath mats and art, cleansing surfaces, updating lighting fixtures, and adding greenery or pops of color with towels and organizers. Rearranging the existing layout also helps give a new perspective.
Should I just remodel my very outdated bathroom?
If your bathroom layout is inconvenient, fixtures are failing, or the space is really outdated, then it likely makes sense to do a full remodel. But if it’s mainly cosmetic changes you want, a remodel may not be worth the cost compared to doing mini-makeovers. Assess how well the current bathroom works for your needs.
Where should I splurge when remodeling a bathroom?
Focus your remodel budget on structural elements and fixtures that are used frequently and hard to replace later – like tubs/showers, toilets, sinks, cabinets, and flooring. You can often save on things like lighting, hardware, and decor since these are easier to change out.