27th July 2021
Don’t think you can afford to update your bathroom? We’ve rounded up some tips to help you get a new look without breaking the bank.
No matter how tight your budget (or the restrictions on decorating), there’s a way to give your bathroom a new lease of life.
Our tips include low-cost refreshes you can make in just a couple of hours, plus tactics to keep the cost down even if you need to make bigger changes.
A build-up of grime, limescale and mould can quickly make any bathroom look tired, so your first step in any budget bathroom makeover should be to give everything a thorough clean. You can buy specialist products from supermarkets and DIY stores to shift tough dirt.
If that doesn’t do the trick, try an anti-mould grout-reviving pen on any stubborn patches. They come in a variety of colours to match what you already have, or – if you’re very patient and have a steady hand – to allow you to change the colour of your grouting.
'My bath and surrounding tiling was in good condition. It just needed thoroughly cleaning and descaling.'
Alternatively, if you have a lot of tiling, you could bite the bullet and redo the grouting. If you go down this route, look for a product that will help prevent staining and mould growth in the future.
If regrouting or painting tiles isn’t practical, replacing them could give your bathroom a much-needed style boost. To get good value, make sure you use them wisely.
‘Tiling the entire bathroom is expensive,’ says Terry Ward from Ward Brothers Bathrooms Ltd, a bathroom fitting firm endorsed by . ‘Can you get away with only tiling around the bath, shower and sink?’
The tiles you choose can influence the price too. Standard-sized ceramic tiles start at low prices and are generally quicker and easier to install than stone or mosaics, which can cut the cost of using a professional tiler.
If you don't feel confident making any of these changes yourself, using our Which? Trusted Traders service. Only bathroom fitters who have passed an assessment by our trading standards professionals, and who follow our Code of Conduct, can become Trusted Traders.
We've spoken to traders (2018) about the average cost of tiling a bathroom, so you know what to expect if you choose to call in the professionals.
Time to do job
Tile a small bathroom
Using ceramic tiles supplied by customer. Approximate room size 2.1m x 2.2m.
£700 - £950
1 - 3 days
Tile a medium bathroom
Using ceramic tiles supplied by customer. Approximate room size 3 sq m.
£900 - £1,125
2 - 4 days
Tile a large bathroom
Using ceramic tiles supplied by customer. Approximate room size 4 sq m.
£1,200 - £1,800
3 - 6 days
If the budget is really tight, small touches such as new accessories can make an impact. They can also be used to add colour and style to an otherwise plain bathroom, or in a rental property where your options to redecorate are limited.
Consider buying new curtains or blinds for the window, putting up a smart shower curtain or hanging mirrors and pictures.
You can even make a difference by adding a stylish toothbrush holder, hiding toiletries in matching storage baskets and upgrading your towels.
If some surfaces in your bathroom are painted, simply refreshing the paintwork or changing it to a different colour can give you a whole new look. And because of the relatively small amount of wall you have to paint, it will take less time and money than other rooms.
Don’t limit yourself to walls. You could also give bathroom furniture a fresh lick of paint or cover up dated and dull tiles.
Just make sure you buy suitable paint. You can get mould-resistant emulsions designed for bathrooms and specialist paints for use on tiles.
Better lighting can brighten up a bathroom without breaking the bank. You might be able to change the existing light fitting for something more stylish. Or you could opt to get LED downlights installed.
Hanging mirrors can help to bounce around the light and create more sense of space in smaller rooms.
For a modern look and a useful extra source of light over the sink, try an illuminated LED mirror. Some need to be wired in, but you can also buy simpler, low-cost models which run on batteries.
If your fittings are old or discoloured, or simply drab and boring, replacing them can give your bath, shower and sink a new lease of life.
Buy the best you can afford, as it could save you cash in the long run. Cheap fittings are likely to deteriorate more quickly, meaning you’re more likely to need to call out a plumber or replace them again.
You could also consider swapping the shower head for a modern, eco model which can also reduce your water use.
Make sure you get the – see how customers rated the products they bought from some of the UK’s biggest suppliers. It also includes ideas for choosing the best taps and showers that will also help to make a statement.
Time to do job
Reseal a bath
Standard size bath. Remove existing silicone and reseal.
£75 - £150
1 - 2 hours
Change taps on a bath
Remove old mixer tap and replace with new mixer tap without moving panel or tiling.
£85 - £90
1 - 2 hours
Change taps on a bath, replace bath panel and retile
Remove old mixer tap and replace with new mixer tap; requires removal and replacement of bath panel and retiling.
£120 - £240
0.5 - 1 days
If you’re lucky enough to have expensive fixtures and fittings which have just become worn over time, investigate whether you can repair them instead of having to fork out for a pricey replacement.
For example, if the ceramic covering on a cast-iron bath has started to crack, you could buy a resurfacing kit or hire a professional to renew the covering.
If you have to buy new fixtures, keep the plumbing costs down by sticking to the same bathroom layout, so you can use the same pipework.
Try to replace toilets and basins with a similar style, as modern ‘floating’ toilets, where the workings are hidden behind a wall, will require a lot more disruption to install and may not be compatible with your existing plumbing.
Similarly, if you want to add a shower, opt for an ‘exposed' shower fitted directly onto the wall rather than concealed behind it.
‘If you do want a concealed fitting, you can make the installation cheaper by fitting the shower against a stud wall,’ says Ward Bathrooms Ltd’s Terry Ward. ‘This saves cutting out solid walls to accommodate pipes, valves and so on.’
If you only need to replace one or two fixtures, such as a bath, use our guide below (put together by speaking to traders in 2018) to get a rough idea of the cost.
Time to do job
Fit a new pedestal basin
Remove and dispose of old basin. Install a new basin in the same position. Customer supplies their own basin.
£90 - £150
2 - 3 hours
Fit a new toilet
Remove and dispose of old toilet. Install a new toilet in the same position. Customer supplies their own toilet.
£150 - £200
2 - 3 hours
Fit a new bath
Remove and dispose of old bath. Install a new bath in the same position. Customer supplies their own bath. (Removing a cast iron bath would be towards the top end of the price range.)
£250 - £350
3 - 5 hours
If you have limited DIY experience, it could be a false economy to attempt skilled jobs like plumbing and tiling yourself. As well as taking you far longer to complete the job, you could risk injury or end up causing damage.
If you hire a trader, get several quotes to find out the going rate for your job. Ask for itemised quotes to see if there are areas where you can save money, such as managing waste disposal yourself, if it’s practical to do so.
Check whether the trader charges a minimum rate or a call out fee, as this might mean it’s more cost effective to combine several jobs that need doing at once.
Homeowner Kate Martin explains how she overhauled her dated bathroom on a tight budget.
‘When I bought my flat, it was clear the bathroom needed a total renovation as it had barely been updated in 30 years. But the total budget I could spare was just £2,000.
‘So first, I looked at whether there was anything that I could keep, to shave some money off the cost. Luckily the bath and surrounding tiling was in good condition. It just needed thoroughly cleaning and descaling, and I spent many long hours re-colouring the grouting.
‘Most of the walls were painted and I knew it would be cheaper to repaint than to tile everywhere. Plus I’m a dab hand with a paintbrush so it was another way of saving on labour costs.
‘I sourced all the fixtures and fittings myself, spending hours online comparing prices from a variety of shops to find the best deals on taps, LED mirrors, bath panels and more.
‘About a quarter of the budget went on a vanity unit, as it incorporates the sink, toilet and storage, as well as hiding ugly pipework. To squeeze more value out of it, I waited until the store was running a 10% off promotion and placed my order online via a cashback site to get a few more pounds back in my pocket.
‘The biggest outlay was on labour. As well as the bathroom fitter, I had to hire an electrician to install a heated towel rail, and a plasterer to smooth out the artexed ceiling. I got several quotes and agreed fixed prices, that included all labour, materials and rubbish disposal, so there weren’t any surprises.
‘My final spend came to just £2,100 – only slightly over budget – and I couldn’t be happier with the result.’