How to create a stylish bathroom on a budget

Find out how to get the look of a luxury bathroom for a fraction of the price with this expert guide

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If you are trying to design a new bathroom while keeping a realistic eye on the budget, there is far more to consider than the costs of a new bathroom suites, fittings, decor and labour

There are lots of ways of getting the look of a luxury bathroom, without paying top-end prices. Here, we cover everything from replacing sanitaryware to working with what you already have in place to cut costs.

Plan ahead to cut costs on a bathroom remodel

Plan the order of works well so that you don’t have to redo or undo work. Wiring and plumbing issues need resolving before you start installing cabinets, flooring and wall finishes.

Ahead of your project, keep an eye out for deals on big-ticket items such as baths and tiles.

(Image: © Devon & Devon)

Work with the bathroom you've got

The first rule of renovating any room on a budget is to salvage whatever you can from the current design. This could potentially save you £££s in replacing items that are serviceable but just need a little TLC. However, don't keep something if it will have a cost impact in another way. For example, it might be cheaper to replace a whole bathroom suite than try to find replacements to match one another.

The most important thing though is to try to maintain the existing plumbing layout if possible. Keep the waste and water inlets as they are and try to place sanitaryware accordingly to keep plumbing costs down. Acquainting yourself with the rudiments of bathroom plumbing can help you make the right choices for your budget, too.

corian-purity-wash-bowels

Corian new Purity wash bowls, H14xDia.40cm, available in four colours, POA from Dupont

Take on bathroom renovation work yourself

Take on DIY tasks that you feel confident with, but leave anything that involves the cutting or adjustment of expensive materials to a professional.

Choose sanitaryware on a budget

Other than shopping around online or waiting for sales, what can you to do maximise savings on sanitaryware?

When it comes to choosing bathroom sinks, a pedestal model or wash-stand, which has legs, is usually less expensive than a vanity unit or cabinet and makes a striking standalone piece. If you need more storage space than this type of sink can offer, add simple shelves to an alcove and supplement with smaller bathroom storage solutions such as baskets, caddies and hooks.

Wall hooks holding hanging baskets for bathroom storage

These hooks and baskets from Ikea offer an affordable way to add storage even in the smallest of spaces

(Image: © Ikea)

To make savings, you may be tempted to mix and match sanitaryware from different brands. This can work where styles are similar, but do check the colours very closely, as not all whites are the same. This also goes for adding a pristine new item into an existing, slightly ageing suite.

If you are buying the fittings for your builder to install, before purchasing double check the practical matters, such as changing an old-fashioned high-level cistern over to one that is close coupled, or if the position of bathroom taps and/or waste is due to change. Moving taps and waste pipes will involve extra work and expense. Our plumbing guide will give you a better idea of what might be involved.

Find a characterful bath at a bargain price

Fitting your bathroom out with the most authentic traditional sanitaryware can be expensive. For example, nothing looks the part in a traditional bathroom more than a freestanding, cast-iron bath, but the cost implications of buying one and potentially having to reinforce the floor for fitting, can be prohibitive. A clever alternative would be to go for a high-quality acrylic roll-top, which costs as little as a few hundred pounds, but creates the same classic look.

victoria-plum-bathroom

Victoria Plum Deco bathroom suite with Winchester slipper bath priced £369, the whole set costs from £629

If you find this to be the case, don't feel tied to heritage brands – draw on designs from history and mix and match more affordable pieces to create your own style. Remember that bathrooms weren't even installed in some homes until the start of the 20th century so true authenticity often can't be achieved (unless you convert the room back into a bedroom, of course).

Reclaimed sanitaryware can be picked up for a steal from house clearances, online auction sites or salvage yards. Just make sure you aren't opening a can of worms but trying to install something that will demand extensive alterations to your plumbing, or a piece that requires resurfacing to be functional. Re-enamelling an old bath can cost at least £300.

Enhance your shower at a low cost

Upgrading the shower to a more efficient and powerful model will heighten the sense of luxury, but can be expensive. You may be able to get away with just changing the shower head for a larger, more aerated model. 

However if your current shower is underpowered, you may need to add a pump, or switch a gravity-fed system for an electric shower. Both will require the help of an electrician. Find out more about choosing the right shower.

catchpole-shower

Catchpole & Rye’s Le Thermo exposed shower is available with a choice of rose sizes, available in three finished (polished brass shown), priced £1,900

Choose affordable bathroom tiles

When it comes to choosing bathroom tiles, ceramic and porcelain tiles are highly practical for the bathroom and need no further upkeep once installed, unlike real stone tiles, which they are capable of realistically replicating at a more affordable price. 

Save more money by only tiling areas with a splash risk, but if you need to tile large areas, choose a quality, budget tile, then add interest in smaller areas with feature tiles.

Using hand-finished tiles sparingly will give an artisan look to the space. You can then use less-expensive tiles for greater expanses. Try mixing in plain tiles in two or three different tones for a characterful country look. 

In some cases, old tiles can be spruced up with tile paint. Painting tiles is an easy DIY job, but it is recommended that you replace tiles where possible to ensure a professional-looking finish.

Cooke and Lewis pedestal basin and free-standing roll-top bath

Cooke & Lewis pedestal basins, £149, and Victorian acrylic, free-standing roll-top bath, £350, from B&Q

Save by restoring, cleaning and repairing existing tiles

Repairing and replacing cracked or damaged tiles individually may save you having to retile an entire wall or floor; if you didn't have a box of overs the first time round, match the new tile to the existing ones very carefully so that it blends seamlessly. 

  • Give the tiles a thorough clean with a bathroom cleaner. You can use a steam cleaner for tougher grime and to spruce up the grout. 
  • A toothbrush and some bleach can also beat tough staining. Once the cleaning route has been exhausted, you may need to replace the grout.
  • Use a grout rake to gently remove old grout. Start at the top corner of the tile and pull it downwards in a steady, straight motion. Don’t push the tool away from your body, as this could damage the tile and underlying grout.
  • Once you’ve removed the surface layer of grout, use a sawing motion along the grout seam to remove about half the depth of it.
  • Clean the area by wiping a damp towel or sponge over the surface.
  • Once you’ve mixed the new grout – which should closely match the colour of the current one – apply it carefully using a grout float held at a 45-degree angle, rather than flat, to fill all gaps, ensuring you don’t miss any areas.
  • Finally, clean your tiles with a damp sponge to wipe away loose grout and residue before it dries and hardens.

Pick affordable bathroom flooring

Choosing bathroom flooring? Ideally, you might pick out beautiful bathroom floor tiles, but if these are beyond your budget, it's really worth investigating the latest laminate flooring and vinyl flooring designs. Both can be created to mimic wood flooring or tiles convincingly, both are tough and suitable for bathrooms, and both are budget-friendly.

For more advice on the care, repair and improvement of old homes, head to Period Living where you will find all the inspiration you need for traditional properties.

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