Anatomy of a DIY Bathroom Renovation

A white bathroom with black tile and natural wood accents Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

You’ll be amazed by this $500 transformation.

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This article was contributed by Mandi Gubler, a DIYer and home decor blogger, who writes “Vintage Revivals” and believes “your house should look like you and no one else.”

Bathroom remodel. Those words can strike fear into the heart of any homeowner. It’s easy to be haunted by the horror stories of people recounting their bathroom remodels. 

Mold! Missing subfloor! Five times over budget! Gosh, those stories can be enough to make even the most motivated DIYer ask if they should replace something or just try to live with it. But guess what?! I’m here to tell you that you can do a bathroom renovation that looks amazing — on a $500 budget!

When we moved into our house, our bathroom looked like this:

An all-white bathroom with orange faux stone tiles Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals
 

Eight years later, when we had outgrown this cute starter home and were ready to move, our bathroom looked like this:

An all-white bathroom with orange faux stone tiles Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Yes, that is the same picture. Because NOTHING HAD CHANGED. I hated that bathroom when we moved in, and I continued hating it the entire time we lived there. In my mind, a bathroom renovation cost tens of thousands of dollars, so we put it off until we were updating our house to increase its resale value. That’s when we learned how affordable the update could be.

So if you’re in that place where you have a bathroom that needs updating but you don’t have gobs of cash to put into it, I’m here to tell you exactly how we pulled off this budget renovation. You do not have to live like I did! 

Bathroom renovations can be EXTREMELY budget-friendly. The first step to a budget reno is salvaging everything you can. Would I have loved to rip out the shower and replace it with something custom during the remodel? Of course! But it wasn’t in the budget, so the shower stayed.

Demo and Flooring

Bathrooms are typically pretty small, which means that you won’t need a lot of floor tile. When we were updating the floor, we used leftover tile from our kitchen flooring. You can also look online or at a local flooring store for remnant batches of tile. 

Freshly laid white tile as part of a bathroom renovation Image: Mandi Gubler /Vintage Revivals

Before you go shopping, make sure you know your square footage, plus at least 10% more for cuts and mistakes. That extra will be your safety net!

An all-white bathroom taped off for painting Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Double the Wall Treatments, Double the Fun

Remnant tile was the name of the game for our remodel. The black penny tile on this wall was leftover from our laundry room floor, and we had just enough to cover the lower half of this wall.

Thin set mortar being applied to a bathroom wall for tiling Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

White bathroom wall being laid with black penny tile Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals
 

When you’re putting tile on a bathroom, be sure to use a water-friendly, thin-set mortar and not an adhesive like mastic, which is an organic glue that isn’t as durable where moisture is present. 

Above the black penny tile, we added V-groove shiplap boards. This technique cost less than $60 and added so much to the bathroom’s visual appeal. Because of the shiplap we chose, we used ½-inch MDF, but if you chose a more standard shiplap and used ⅛-inch plywood, you could cover this whole wall for around $35.

Close up of white v-groove shiplap against black tile Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Buh-Bye, Builder-Basic Vanity

Other than the tile, our biggest bathroom eyesore was the outdated builder-grade vanity. Most of our budget went to replacing this. After demolition, we found a vanity that fit our budget and vision. Together, the sink and vanity cost around $300.

To customize the vanity, we replaced the front side of the original white drawers with birch plywood. I LOVE how it turned out. The wood added a warmth that balances the black-and-white finishes.

Finished with bathroom with black tile & natural wood detail Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals
 

To wrap up a bathroom remodel, pull in some fun details like art and containers. Thrift stores are one of my favorite places to go for finishing touches. I got our large, round mirror for $8!

You can always customize your finds, too. Let’s say the finish on something isn’t what you hoped for: Just buy a cheap can of spray paint and change it!

Close up of white bathroom vanity with natural wood details Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Are you inspired to tackle your budget bathroom reno?! You can do it!

Mandy Gubler of Vintage Revivals

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