remodeled bathroom

13 Budget Bathroom Remodel Ideas

Flipping a house is a delicate balance of investing in repairs and upgrades that will increase the value of the property, but also maximizing your profit margin as much as reasonably possible. One of the spaces where this tension is most acute is the bathroom.

A full remodel of even a small bathroom can get expensive fairly quickly. Bathrooms are the smallest rooms in a house, but they’re packed with fixtures and plumbing. Is investing in bathroom upgrades worth the expense? And which repairs create the best return?

We called upon some local professionals to help share their secrets on budget bathroom remodels that don’t compromise on quality.

How important is the bathroom to a good flip?

First, how important is the bathroom? Kitchens are generally the top priority, but where do bathrooms fall for home buyers these days?

From an aesthetic perspective, bathroom remodels rank second only to kitchens. Bathrooms are an area where there are a lot of opportunities for design and modernization. An attractive bathroom can differentiate a home from the competition, increasing sales price and decreasing the time it takes to sell.
– Lisa Lacey, Lisa Buys Austin Houses, @lisa_buys_austin_houses 

Modern buyers are prioritizing their bathroom remodel as much as their kitchen remodel, and who could blame them? For some families, their bathroom serves as a relaxation room, especially if you can transform the bathroom into a spa retreat. Homebuyers are paying as much attention to the kitchen details as the bathroom details.
– Luis Reyes, L&M Designs, @officialluismichael

Turns out bathrooms are a close second and maybe even rivaling kitchens for some home buyers. Flippers are giving more attention to bathrooms than ever, but how do you create a great bathroom without blowing your return?

It’s not as hard as it might seem. In fact, a Zillow study found that bathroom upgrades may offer the biggest ROI opportunities, increasing the home value $1.71 for every $1 spent.

The key is prioritizing those repairs and upgrades that create the biggest wow factor, and doing them efficiently.


If you’re flipping a house, you’re probably doing all the painting yourself anyway. But even homeowners who are trying to upgrade their bathrooms on a budget can save some money by doing a careful paint job themselves.

1. Paint the walls yourself.

A new coat of paint on the walls does a lot in any room. You can instantly update the space just by choosing a modern color palette, and a fresh coat makes any room look clean and trim.

Because of the high level of humidity in bathrooms, get your paint in a satin finish that easily wipes clean.

As you get ready to paint the bathroom, don’t be deceived: It’s a relatively small space, but it will take longer to paint than you think. There are lots of fixtures, doors, and windows to paint around, so it will be slow going.

2. Paint the ceiling.

Even if you’re keeping the ceiling white, a fresh coat can brighten the whole room. There are also mold-resistant paints that are great for bathroom ceilings.

If you want an easy way to update the room, paint the ceiling any color except white. Half-baths, especially, can get a cozy, modern feel with a dark color scheme on the walls and ceiling.

3. Paint wooden floors.

If the bathroom has wooden floors, you can keep them with a layer of protective enamel. Hardwood floors aren’t generally a first option for a bathroom, but ripping them out to put in tile is a big project. A protective enamel will keep the floor shiny and sealed.

You can paint some color on the floor first, or add just a touch of color to the enamel for a tinted wood aesthetic.

4. Paint the tile.

Old tiling can date a bathroom no matter what other little upgrades you make, but retiling is a big project. Painting bathroom tiles is a much simpler way to freshen up bathroom walls. You can change one solid color to another or add a pattern.

painted bathroom tile

Make sure you know what kind of tile you’re working with, first. Then, do a little research to make sure you use the right kind of paint. 

Painted tiles in shower stalls, or other surfaces that have a lot of direct contact with water, will fade and/or peel faster than painted tile on backsplashes and adjacent walls.

The Big Stuff: Saving Money on Bathroom Furniture Upgrades

The real test of optimizing ROI comes with the big pieces of a bathroom: the tub, cabinets, shower, and toilet. The good news is that there are strategies for saving on these features as well.

5. Refinish or retouch the bathtub.

Replacing an old tub is expensive. Besides the tub itself, the tear-out, replacement, plumbing work, and disposal add up quickly—and that’s all assuming you don’t need to replace floor boards, etc. But if the tub is only showing cosmetic damage, you can refinish it instead of replacing it.

Many flippers will completely replace a bathtub and wall tile when oftentimes these can simply be resurfaced. Resurfacing a tub or shower eliminates the cost of demolition, new materials, and installation labor. It also eliminates any surprises like plumbing damaged during the demolition process. Resurfacing will provide a fresh and clean look and can even allow you to change the color of the surfaces. A 70s style olive green bath tile can be upgraded to a bright white at a fraction of the cost of retiling.
– Lisa Lacey, Lisa Buys Austin Houses, @lisa_buys_austin_houses

You can do a refinishing yourself and it’s almost as good as hiring a professional, who has the capabilities to do a spray refinish, or reglazing.

refinished bathtub

If you’re only looking at a few small dings and scratches, you may even be able to just retouch the tub. Porcelain touch-up products allow you to easily spot-fix a bathtub with very minor damage.

6. Reface cabinets.

If the bathroom cabinets are still sturdy, but dated, you can upgrade them on a budget by refacing them. Refacing keeps the cabinet structure, but applies a fresh, new veneer over the existing to change their color and cover up minor damage.

repainted bathroom cabinets

Similarly, you can paint cabinets that are in good shape, but just need a facelift. Remember to take the time to sand and prime them well.

7. Install a free-standing vanity.

If the cabinets must come out, you don’t need to replace them with a custom build.

If you want to save some money you can upgrade to a freestanding bathroom vanity that you can buy at a department store like Home Depot or Lowe’s. 
– Luis Reyes, L&M Designs, @officialluismichael

A lot of stock vanities come almost completely assembled or very easily put together on your own.

8. Install a pre-fab shower stall.

If the shower needs to be overhauled, save some money by installing a prefabricated shower stall. It won’t elevate the resale value as much as a new, custom tile installation, but the money you save might be worth it.

pre fab shower stall

The Little Stuff: Saving Money on Bathroom Fixtures

Experienced flippers and designers know that you should never underestimate the details.

Upgrading light fixtures, mirrors, and wall hardware (towel bars, etc.) can really make a bathroom far more appealing while not breaking the bank.
– Lisa Lacey, Lisa Buys Austin Houses, @lisa_buys_austin_houses

9. Upgrade the shower head.

Shower heads are affordable and easy to replace.

Even if the existing showerhead works fine, upgrading to one with a better finish, wider range, or more options is well worth the minor investment.

It’s 2021 and it’s time to upgrade your existing showerhead for a rain showerhead in the bathroom … The upgrade won’t break the bank, and it will help provide a different kind of experience and add value to the room.
– Luis Reyes, L&M Designs, @officialluismichael

10. Upgrade the faucets.

A new sink faucet is an extremely simple way to upgrade the entire vanity. Replacing a standard old, chrome faucet with a modern design to match the new aesthetic is a budget-friendly strategy for making the whole bathroom feel new.

bathroom faucet

11. Upgrade the drawer pulls and cabinet handles.

Giving old cabinets and drawers (in any room) new life with modern pulls might be the oldest trick in the book, but that’s because it never fails.

You can find nice, inexpensive hardware on Amazon for the cabinets. It really makes a difference when you add those small details!
– Luis Reyes, L&M Designs, @officialluismichael

Flat-front cabinets and drawers had their season, and that season is past. New pulls and handles make the bathroom look modern and complete.

How NOT to Save on Bathroom Upgrades

Everyone loves a bargain, and experienced flippers are always learning new strategies for doing good work as efficiently as possible. But not every idea is a good one.

12. Don’t reorganize the room.

It’s tempting, once you’re mentally redesigning a bathroom, to start thinking about how you might rearrange the room as well—to install a separate shower, make better use of the space, add a second sink, etc.

But each one of those moves requires some fairly intense plumbing work behind the scenes. If you want to improve the bathroom on a budget, leave the fixtures where they are.

bathroom pipes

13. Don’t ignore an old toilet.

If the toilet isn’t working, if the tank is cracked, or if there’s water escaping, that toilet needs to go. If the toilet is about 25 years old (or more) it’s probably about at the end of its life. 

As far as plumbing projects go, replacing an old toilet is not that complicated. Toilets are heavy, but if you’re working with a partner who can help you heft it into place, a toilet is a simple and very worthy upgrade.

We never keep an old toilet just to save on expenses. For $100 it is worth every penny to give the home buyer a brand new throne.
– Lisa Lacey, Lisa Buys Austin Houses, @lisa_buys_austin_houses

There are some good strategies for saving money, but don’t compromise on the toilet.

bathroom remodel

Bathroom Remodel Ideas on a Budget

If you’re flipping a house, you’re working on a tight budget, and every dollar that you go over is coming out of your paycheck. The bathrooms are arguably the most important rooms in the house, but they can also be some of the most expensive. Be sure to explore your options.

If you’re still exploring options for fix and flip financing in the state of Texas, the team at Loan Ranger Capital would love to talk about your projects and plans. Call us at (512) 220-9916 or apply for a hard money loan today.

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