Five Inexpensive Bathroom Upgrades that won't Break the Bank

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Zion Realty

It's almost universally accepted that kitchen's and bathrooms are not only the most heavily used rooms in a home but are the two areas of a house that have the biggest impact when it comes to winning over potential home buyers. Anytime you read about the latest trends in home decor or most recent shift in design style it's easy to look at your living spaces and see the inevitable discrepancies between your aging, once relevant interior, and the current color schemes, modern fixtures, and must-have options for today's consumer.

Home improvement shows create a sense that it's a requirement to take down cabinets, rip up old flooring, replace counter-tops, and purchase new appliances if you are truly going to try your hand at updating and upgrading your existing kitchen or bathroom. However, the high cost of complete renovations can be out of reach for some, if not most, individuals. If you believe the experts featured on television or in magazines you'll also be convinced it's not enough to simply change out the old. You must use top-of-the-line, costly materials such as granite, quartz, marble, technologically advanced hands-free faucets, and lights that you can control with the flick of a finger from your smart phone. It can leave a homeowner feeling as if they either need to go all in or remain on the sidelines. 

Don't be pressured in to thinking modernization is out of reach for you and your property. There is good news when it comes to renovating a home that was once fresh and new. Take that old bathroom for instance. Unless warranted, you don't have to do away with toilets, discard cabinets, or dismantle bathtubs and showers to customize or otherwise revamp this frequently visited space. Here are five inexpensive ways to liven-up your lavatory without needing to apply for a second mortgage:


 1. Freshen up your Walls


Remember the 70's when sea-foam green, pink, yellow or baby blue bathrooms were all the rage? What about the 80's when floral wallpapers were abundant. The 90's ushered in the age of faux-paint, stripes, and decal paint stamping. Today it seems the average homeowner is returning to a more modest, classic and neutral color palette in which to adorn their walls. Regardless of what your personal taste may be, picking a more modern paint color will give an inexpensive updated look to your bathroom space. Paint colors greatly change from decade to decade. You may have chosen a neutral beige ten years ago, but that basic brown has now shifted to include more grey undertones which can make a big difference in the look and feel of a room. A gallon of paint usually costs between $20-$30 and you should only need 2 to 3 gallons to complete an average sized bathroom. 

Wall decor doesn't just begin and end with paint either. Wallpaper has made great strides in form and function and is once again making a much deserved comeback. There are hundreds of patterns to choose from whether you want to go big and bold or stay simple and standard. 

Permanent changes don't always need to be the go-to option either. If your bathroom already has a current and contemporary flair then perhaps all that's needed is a few new picture frames or stylish wall art to breathe new life in to an old space.  


2. Shed some new Light on that Dim Washroom

Home builders are famous for installing the most boring and basic lighting fixtures. Unless a homeowner chooses to pay expensive upgrade fees at the time the home was built those same bottom basement lights are most likely still present. Gold and Brass metal finishes have dominated interior lighting since the late 80's. Brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, modern chrome, antique pewter, and stainless steel are all now the preferred alloys when it comes to household illumination. Multiple cluster lights, hanging pendant lights, flush mount ceiling lights, and wall sconces are all great choices in adding a sophisticated look and providing adequate lighting to a room not typically regarded as well lit. 

Over time, moisture accumulation in bathrooms can also begin to rust and wear down old lighting fixtures not only creating an unpleasant and undesirable look, but also a potential electrical hazard. Needing to change out a possible safety issue is a great excuse to add some new bathroom lights. Depending upon the brand, size, or style, new bathroom vanity or ceiling lights can start from as little as $40 and are quick and simple to install. 


3. Change out Old Faucets and Shower Heads


Similar to bathroom lighting, faucets and shower heads can get lost in functionality without much attention being paid to the pizzazz they can add to a run-down restroom. Base model faucets often come with plastic knobs that can crack, become yellow and dingy, or otherwise make a bathroom appear to have no more style than a low-rent motel room. Basic shower heads will certainly get the job done when it comes to it's required objective, however, there is much to be said about the ability to choose between multiple spray angles and massage settings that add indulgence to an otherwise standard showering session. 

Removing and replacing old, worn out, leaky faucets and shower heads can not only add a modern elegance but also allow homeowners to experience the benefits of a spa-like retreat at a reasonable and affordable cost. Sleek and trendy faucets and shower heads can be purchased at any home improvement store or on-line starting at around $35. 


4. Mirror Mirror on the Wall


If a survey was taken across the Nation, I'd venture to guess that most homeowners would admit their bathrooms have the same standard, original mirrors that were installed when the house was first built. Bathroom mirrors aren't an aspect of a home that often get the attention they deserve, however, can make a dramatic impact to the overall look and appeal of a space. Depending upon whether you have a single sink or a double-sink vanity, there are numerous options a homeowner has when thinking about replacing their existing mirror. 

A large, framed, mirror can be hung which spans the entire length of the vanity or counter space, or two smaller mirrors can be hung above each individual sink. There is an endless amount of frame styles to choose from and some even come with LED back-lighting for added ambiance. There are also other framed mirrors that double as medicine cabinets for added functionality and storage. Regardless of what size or shape you choose there are framed mirrors to fit every budget. 

Removing an existing bathroom mirror that was installed by a builder can be a bit tricky in some instances. Depending upon whether or not a heavy-duty construction adhesive was used to attach the mirror to the wall, there may be some minor drywall damage upon removal that will need to be repaired. Also, always use proper safety equipment and exercise extreme caution when attempting to replace and dispose of any glass items that can shatter causing serious harm. 


5. Accent and Accessorize


Are you still using the same forest green and mauve colored towels you received as a wedding gift 20 years ago? At this point they've long since faded and have several loose strings that are constantly being trimmed off resulting in less and less towel in which to dry yourself off. What about that shower curtain with the pictures of sea creatures you've had hanging up since your kids were toddlers but they've long since graduated from high school? 


Changing out accessories is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to modernize a bathroom. Purchasing new, contemporary, and stylish towels, shower curtains, soap dispensers, and toothbrush holders will quickly transform any master bath, half-bath, or hallway bath from dated to dazzling. While you're at it, also think about replacing those old towel rings, towel bars, and toilet paper holders that are old-fashioned and antiquated.  



When renovating your bathroom take heed not to just focus on the present. It's a given that at some point in the future you will be selling your beloved home. Whether you're downsizing, up-sizing, moving due to a schooling need, job relocation, or any number of reasons, you'll need to attract potential home buyers. Be careful not to customize or personalize your bathroom to the extent of alienating others who may be in the market to purchase your property. By all means, add some style and personal touches to your bathroom spaces, but just like the homes of the 70's, 80's, and 90's your decor choices could end up producing cringe worthy reactions when it comes time to sell your home. 


Are you trying to decide whether to sell your current property or invest in a few upgrades to bring it in to the 21st Century? Do you need a straightforward, honest evaluation of your current home and it's desirability to potential buyers? Contact us today at ZionRealtyAZ.comLet us help you determine your best options.


Are you in the market to purchase a home in Gilbert, Arizona or the East Valley? Don't be afraid of buying a home that may be in need of updates and upgrades. We can recommend and refer you to trusted contractors and licensed professionals that will provide you with budget estimates as well as help you determine the size and scope of renovations needed for a property. Contact us today at


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Conrad Allen
Re/Max Professional Associates - Webster, MA
Webster, Ma, Realtor

Hi Nicole.  It is the kitchen and bathroom that are the big draws.  Great tips.

Jan 13, 2016 06:40 AM #20
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Nicole loved your advice.... I have a story I wrote about  a while back...which was the opposite of this....Endre

Jan 13, 2016 01:25 PM #21
Tina Gleisner
Home Tips for Women - Portsmouth, NH
Home Tips for Women

OMG, I certainly remember (and won't ever forget) that sea-foam green in ur Danbury, CT house. With respect to bathroom walls, people are starting to finish them with more than paint or wallpaper ... and some of the natural materials are really nice, and then there are metallics which lots of model homes are now showing ... here are some photos from a prior year's home builder show model, Decorating with Metallics

Jan 13, 2016 02:55 PM #22
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Good morning Nicole.  Yes ma'am I remember those awful green colored bathrooms.  I'm so glad they are not in style now.  

Jan 13, 2016 06:05 PM #23
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Home and Condo Specialists

Terrific suggestions. We have a condo community built in the 70's, and so many of them still have those dated colors/wallpapers fixtures/lighting!

Jan 13, 2016 08:46 PM #24
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Nicole, great post, and kitchens and bathrooms ARE the most important to update or at least freshen up when thinking about listing a home. 

Jan 13, 2016 10:39 PM #25
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Joy - Thank you Joy. I'll do one on kitchens in the near future. 

Conrad - They are the most used rooms in a home.

Endre - I'm going to try and find that article now that you mention it. I'm very interested in reading it. 

Tina - Yes, I've seen the mosaic tile and subway tile walls being done in the model homes here as well. It's a very nice touch but a little more expensive to do.

James - Just wait. They'll come back at some point.

L & S - The trick is not to date your current bathroom so buyers don't feel turned off the same way we are when we look at those old 70's bathrooms. 

Joan - You can freshen up both spaces often by doing just a few inexpensive fixes here and there. 

Jan 13, 2016 10:51 PM #26
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Your five tips on inexpensive bathroom upgrades would make a vast difference in the bathroom.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Jan 14, 2016 12:37 PM #27
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

 Good morning Nicole.  I do like your five ways to inexpensively upgrade your bathroom. Lighting and bright colors make a huge difference

Jan 14, 2016 05:42 PM #28
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

You are absolutely correct Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert ...we have done those things in our guest bath and as time permits will be doing the choosing of new tile, vanity top...and sjower...changing paint, light, hardware and mirror has made a HUGE difference !

Jan 14, 2016 09:54 PM #29
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Lou - Maximum impact with minimal expenditure.

Michael - Just adding more light to a room can make a huge impact.

S & D - I did it to my downstairs half-bath a few years ago and it's been great!

Jan 14, 2016 10:50 PM #30
Debbie Laity
Cedaredge Land Company - Cedaredge, CO
Your Real Estate Resource for Delta County, CO

This is a great post, Nicole. I recently changed the fixture on my bathroom sink and got some brighter lighting. I also added some new pictures. The bathroom instantly looked better. 

Jan 15, 2016 08:08 AM #31
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

This post is perfect! You really know how to make any bathroom look as beautiful and inviting for any guest, buyer, or home owner. As you say, it doesn't have to cost a fortune, just good sense!

Thank you Nicole!

Jan 15, 2016 10:14 AM #32
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Good morning Nicole. Outstanding job with your post and you have shared some very good ideas that can be dome without breaking the bank.

Jan 15, 2016 08:03 PM #33
John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

We have contractors coming today for estimates.  For some unknown reason to me my bride has decided she wants granite instead of marble in the baths and added cabinets in one.    

Jan 15, 2016 11:46 PM #34
What Not To Renovate
What Not To Renovate - Palm Coast, FL
We provide tips & trends on home renos & designs

Hello Nicole,

Amazing blog!

Yes, depending on people's budget, needs and wants a complete renovation isn't always the best option. Great blog content.

Jan 16, 2016 05:33 AM #35
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Debbie - I want to add some framed mirrors to my master bathroom this year. It will make a big difference I think.

Patricia - Well since I can't have you just move from room to room I had to write other ways to make a room beautiful instead.

 Joe - Anyone can afford at least one or two of these suggestions.

John - Well, marble is softer and can chip easier and granite has a lot more varieties and colors to choose from so maybe that's why. 

WNTR - This is certainly geared towards those DIY'ers who don't have much to spend. Of course, if you do have a larger budget there are so many more options. 

Jan 17, 2016 11:14 PM #36
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Hi Nicole, these are all great suggestions that won't break the bank but would certainly make a huge difference. Thanks for sharing!

Jan 17, 2016 11:28 PM #37
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Great tips.  I have often thought of removing my big old sheet of glass mirror that the builder installed and replacing it with  two large framed ones.  

Jan 18, 2016 09:44 AM #38
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Beth - It doesn't take a whole home renovation to breathe new life in to you bathroom.

Chris Ann - That's one of the next projects on my to-do list!

Jan 19, 2016 11:18 PM #39
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