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Five tips for improving your bathroom on a budget

As we’ve often said, after the kitchen, the bathroom is the most important room to make changes if you want to add value to your home. And, as is always the case, you’ll probably want to make different decisions depending on whether you’re buying to sell, buying to let, or buying a new home for yourself.

Whatever your ultimate objective, unless you have loads of money to spare, you might want to think about your budget and not spend money unnecessarily. Here are five tips to keep your bathroom improvement costs down.

  • You don’t have to rip everything out and start from scratch
  • Keep it simple
  • Buy cheap – buy twice
  • Look for bargains
  • Get good quality workmanship

You don’t have to rip everything out and start from scratch

Sometimes the existing bathroom might look like a mess – but before you rip it all out and start again, have a look at what could be done with what’s already there.

Are any of the existing sanitaryware units (ie the toilet, wash hand basin, bath, shower) acceptable? If not, can they be cleaned or refurbished? For example, it’s not so difficult to make an old enamel bath look good again. See our article on how to re-enamel a bath.

Does the toilet look grotty? That doesn’t have to be a problem. You could just apply some elbow grease to clean it up. Think about cleaning up the unit itself and just adding a nice new toilet seat, which you could easily buy for £25 or less. (We got ours for about £20 from Wickes.) It made a big difference for a very small outlay.

Another thing we did is to buy a steam cleaner. We bought ours from Currys, they have a good range and you’d be surprised how you can made tired, old tiling look almost new without much effort. Steam cleaners are also fabulous for numerous other jobs around the house. Save your elbow grease! Really, for the sake of about £150, you can save hours of work. They have cheaper ones too but we went for one that had loads of functions. (More about that in a later article.)

All that said, if the units aren’t white, you might want to replace them. Avocado or pink are usually thought of as being undesirable these days as everyone seems to want white units. But what the heck, fashions change and if you can make a green bathroom suite look desirable, then good luck! Never say never.

Keep it simple!

Even if you do decide that it all has to be replaced, think about the placement of the new units. It’ll cost extra to resite units such as the WC because of the placement of the soil pipe. If you really must move the units around, at least keep in mind where the existing plumbing is and try to keep the new units located close to their original position. This will help you to minimise the cost of your revamp. If you have a plumber in the family, you might not mind. Also, if you’re creating your own dream home you might not mind the extra cost of moving things around. But if you’re buying to let or even buying to sell, you’ll be wanting to keep the costs to a minimum.

Buy cheap – buy twice

Despite us encouraging you to keep costs down, it can sometimes be a false economy to buy cheaply, if that means they’ll need to be replaced sooner. Don’t buy cheap and nasty stuff. No one likes it and it won’t last. It’s easily possible to get good quality goods which are very affordable. Ikea springs to mind. It’s not the ultimate in highly desirable or up-market goods, but it’s affordable, hard wearing, and very good quality. Anyone who turns their noses up at Ikea has more money than sense. Or they’re just trying to be snobby. In more than 20 years of home ownership and several homes, we’ve never been let down by Ikea furniture so, depending on your aims and if you’re on a limited budget, Ikea is a good place to consider for affordable, stylish, and good quality furniture and fittings. (We don’t even make any money for recommending them!)

Look for bargains

Even though we said not to buy cheap stuff, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for bargains. You can buy good furniture and fittings cheaply. For example, wait until the sales are on, you can often buy top quality items at up to 70% discount when the stores are doing stock clearances. You can look for second hand items in your local charity shop, adverts in your local paper, and even “freecycle” sites where people will give their stuff away to someone who’d appreciate it.

Get good quality workmanship

And finally, it doesn’t matter how much you pay – or don’t – for anything; if it’s installed with shoddy workmanship it will immediately reduce its value. So make sure you get a skilled person to do the installation.


The sky’s the limit on what you could spend on upgrading your bathroom. On the other hand, with a bit of effort and a professional standard job (even if you DIY), you could add a lot of value to your bathroom.

Do write in (use the comments form below) if you have anything to add or any stories to tell.