Save money on bathroom remodeling

Bathroom fixes on the cheap

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Bathroom fixes on the cheap

Remodeling your bathroom on the cheap isn’t as daunting a task as it sounds.

Sure, you can gut a bathroom and spend thousands of dollars renovating it, but you can save money on bathroom remodeling by sticking to a budget. It could cost as little as $500 and be accomplished over a weekend.

“You can do many different small projects for under $500 in a bathroom,” says Sarah-Frances Wallace, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s. “Consider changing out the bathroom hardware with fixtures, add vanity lighting, change out towel bars, switch plants, shower head, shower hooks, toothbrush holder, soap dispenser and the toilet seat.”

DIY Network expert Paul Ryan agrees. “Changing hardware can make a huge difference.”

Such projects won’t overcome a 1950s pink-and-black-tile scheme, but a few bucks and a little sweat equity can transform a dull, unappealing bathroom into a bright, welcoming space.

First establish a realistic budget. In the following scenarios, Bankrate uses $500 as a ceiling for each project.

Apply some paint
The 'ripple effect'

Cost: $35 to $150

Arguably the shortest route to save money on your bathroom remodeling is through the paint department at your local paint-specialty store, hardware store or big-box home-improvement center.

As long as you are painting, why not change the color? A number of online sites, including and, provide color-scheme ideas.

All paint isn’t created equal, though. Don’t cut corners. You’re going to do the work anyway, so spend the extra $15 per gallon for quality paint. According to Wallace, you can probably get away without a primer coat if you use high-quality paint unless the walls are stained or badly chipped. However, be prepared to apply two coats of the finish color if needed.

If you don’t want to do the math, roughly 1 gallon of paint covers 350 square feet. For a more precise estimate, use Bankrate’s calculator for determining how much paint you will need.

Choose a paint that is mildew-resistant and formulated for steamy environments, such as the Valspar Ultra Premium Interior Kitchen & Bath Enamel sold at Lowe’s for $32 per gallon.

Change out bathroom hardware
Change out bathroom hardware

Cost: $25 to $200

Simply replacing items such as towel racks, vanity door and drawer pulls, and the toilet paper holder can radically update a bathroom. As a stand-alone project or part of a more sweeping remodeling, you can save money and make a big difference in your bathroom’s appearance.

About door and drawer hardware, Ryan says to “select a few samples at a home store and see how they look. If you have double-screw handles, make sure the new handles line up.”

At Lowe’s, handles and knobs start under $1 and range up to $129. At, they run from $1 to $132, depending on materials, finish and workmanship.

Most door-drawer pull materials will look fresh for a long time. But Wallace says, “Ceramic and acrylics tend to show dirt more, so they will need to be wiped down more frequently than metals.”

Search “towel bars” at and a selection of more than 450 pop up priced from $5 for an 18-inch wood bar to $459 for a 24-inch brass bar.

Home Depot’s more than 300 toilet paper holder choices begin at $4 and escalate to $386, with the prices varying according to manufacturer, material and design.

Add accents and accessories
Add accents and accessories

Cost: $150 to $400

According to Wallace, replacing items such as a shower curtain, rugs, towels and window curtains can dramatically change a bathroom’s appearance and require almost no sweat equity.

Many online retailers such as, or take most of the guesswork out of changing your accents and accessories by offering coordinating sets. Typically, these can be purchased as separate items, so you can buy only what you want or can afford.

Faucet and shower head replacement
Faucet and shower head replacement

Cost: $35 to $499

Upgrading a shower head is a relatively inexpensive and low-effort bathroom remodeling project. Faucets are more complex. Websites such as and offer step-by-step tutorials.

Upgrading faucets can be pricey, but if you are relentless in your efforts to save money and stay on budget, it can be done for less than the $500 limit.

Finishes vary. “Some of the most popular are chrome and brushed nickel, with some new finishes including bronze colors,” says Wallace. Remember, as you make changes in these key items, finishes should match, if not styles as well.

Wallace says shower heads fall into two basic categories: wall mount and hand-held. Subcategories include standard and rain shower.

Because you are upgrading rather than just replacing a shower head, expect to spend between $35, for the Glacier Bay Drenching 8-inch Downpour Shower Head in chrome at Home Depot, and $427 for a Barclay Brushed Nickel Apollo Showerhead at Lowe’s.

A complete tub-shower combination will cost between $115 for the Moen Chrome 2-Handle Tub & Shower Faucet for $74 at Lowe’s and the Price Pfister Ashfield Tub and Shower Faucet Set-Up for $235 to $260 — depending on finish — at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Sink faucets at several websites surveyed run from $13 to $350.

Upgrade your vanity
Upgrade your vanity

Cost: $30 to $499

Vanities run the gamut from cheesy to elegant. Where yours is on this spectrum will determine if you want to include it in your bathroom remodeling plans.

A $500 budget restricts the search to vanity-and-countertop combinations. Unless you find a great bargain somewhere, any vanity wider than 40 inches probably can’t be replaced for less than $500.

At Home Depot, you can upgrade to a new vanity for as little as $149 for the St. Paul Chelsea 24-inch Vanity. It includes a porcelain counter top. A 37-inch RSI Palisades vanity with granite top costs $489.

No matter its width, if your vanity is wood, you also can renew its appearance with paint. Use a high-end latex paint with a high-gloss finish. A gallon costs about $30.

Ryan recommends removing the doors and all the hardware before painting. “Use a latex paint, and lightly sand and prime the surfaces first,” he says.

Light fixtures
Light fixtures

Cost: $30 to $350

According to Ryan, on a difficulty scale in which five is most difficult, replacing most bathroom light fixtures is a two. With some care, you can do it without an electrician. “You have to know how a ceiling fixture works, if the light will fit and how to hook up the wires,” he says.

Make sure you flip the appropriate circuit breaker to cut off the electricity flow to your bathroom before doing it., and other websites provide easy-to-follow instructions on changing a light fixture.

Replacing the light fixture is an opportunity to ensure its finish matches other bathroom hardware, such as faucets and drawer pulls.

Offered at lighting-specialty shops and big-box home-improvement stores, a huge variety of styles and types will meet anyone’s needs.