DIY Bathroom Update for UNDER $500

I absolutely hated my bathroom when we bought our house last fall.

I love the house, don’t get me wrong. The neighborhood is (usually) quiet, the school district is good, it’s close to my husband’s office and our daughter’s pediatrician, and above all: the price was right. The house is/was very dated. But I saw potential! For newlywed first time home buyers, that was enough for us. Our house was built in 1967, and you noticed that immediately up on entering the front door. The light fixtures were a dead giveaway.

In recent years, the property was a rental house. I think that’s where a lot of the “damage” was done. In my experience renting, management companies are prone to slapping cheap band-aids over issues instead of investing the money in truly fixing what’s wrong. We’ve come across several instances of this kind of maintenance – if you can even call it that – in this house. I’m sure I’ll show you some of those things later.

But, today:

That. Bathroom.

The *only* bathroom.

It was a disaster. The photos don’t show the true state of things when we first were shown the house. Brace yourself:


SO.. Naturally, this (and the kitchen) were close to the top of our to-do list.

After scrolling through Pinterest (feel free to follow me here) I came up with a list of several budget friendly bathroom updates that I wanted to tackle.

Our Affordable Bathroom Update Wishlist:

  • Make that shower door disappear. (seriously – mold. ew)
  • Paint
  • Replace the toilet
  • Remove the half wall (because why was it ever there?)
  • New vanity/sink (the doors were falling off, the sink was caked in layers of peeling paint upon paint)
  • New light fixture
  • New floors
  • Learn how to decorate (still haven’t figured that out yet)

How We Updated Our Bathroom for $500

The first day we had the keys to the house, I went on a mad rampage and immediately took down the disgusting frosted glass shower doors. Hanging our shower curtain with [[these pretty hooks]] really made a huge difference in the room right away. The doors ate up so much visual space and not in a good way.


Cost: free!

The vanity cupboard doors were almost rotted.

They kept falling down, so I took them off the hinges and got rid of them too. I had no clever solution for the doors, so until last week, we just didn’t have doors on the vanity. It was super fun with a toddler digging around under there for 9 months ☺

Cost: free!

We painted every room of the house when we first moved in. The walls were, as you’ve seen, a nice pinky beige color that I despised. The whole house (aside from the baby’s room) was painted in different tones of gray. We had leftover dark gray paint from the master bedroom, so we used that to freshen up the bathroom.

Cost: free if you consider it leftover paint. Let’s say $10 for half a gallon of Glidden Premium if you want to be technical.

Where We Spent the Money

Our toilet was OLD. Like, used a thousand gallons per flush old. We figured that buying a new toilet would easily pay for itself in just the amount of water saved alone. My husband handled this project, and the toilet was an affordable (but good quality) American Standard toilet.

Cost: $110 – so worth it.

I don’t think I took a single photo of the light fixture in the bathroom. It was basically a piece of wood with 3 round bulbs. Not the cutest thing in the world. I’ll insert a photo if I can find it online! We had a wooden towel bar to match that was just not my style. I found a whole set including a vanity light, towel bar, toilet paper holder, hand towel holder and a robe hook on sale for less than $50 on Home Depot’s website. I figured it was discontinued, but it’s still available here if you’re interested! But, be warned, it is no longer on sale.

Cost: $50

The (borderline offensive old fixture)

3-Light Bath Bar

(ps: if you like this light fixture, this exact one is available at Wayfair)

Where The Trouble Began

There is no DIY home improvement project that exists without problems, right? Unfortunately, I’m not Joanna Gaines.

When we were ready to start shopping for a brand new bathroom vanity, we ran into our first big issue. What was supposed to be a quick afternoon project, we discovered, wasn’t going to work out so smoothly.

Our existing bathroom vanity was between the wall and a (dumb) half wall that I hated from day 1. This meant we had 2 options:

  1. Find a vanity that was the same width
  2. Buy a larger vanity, and take out the half wall to make it fit.

Obviously we just wanted it to be a simple swap out, so we went looking for a vanity that was the same width. Surprise: literally nothing (that we could find) was 29.5 inches wide. Such a weird number, right? We wanted something simple that we could just pick up pre-assembled from Lowes or Home Depot. We had zero options.

On to option 2.

Then we discovered that the flooring in the bathroom didn’t go under the half wall or the vanity itself. So, in order to get a new, wider vanity we had to demolish the half wall. That would leave a bare subfloor. We, of course, didn’t have extra matching tile lying around. Simply replacing the vanity would now require: demo, removing the old vanity, leveling the sub floor, putting down new flooring, then installing the new vanity. Not a simple afternoon project anymore.

So, we stalled for a few months.

Cost: a little bit of my sanity

Spring Finally Came

And I decided that it was time to make a big mess and finally get the bathroom looking nice. We picked out a cute, affordable but not cheap feeling vanity from Home Depot.

(Click the image to go straight to Home Depot’s website! Full image credit to Home Depot – I didnt have the forethought to photograph the vanity before install)

Cost: $279

Demo Progress Photos

We also picked out this gorgeous flooring by TrafficMaster. It’s a peel and stick vinyl plank flooring. We loved the color, and it was super inexpensive! At 97 cents a square foot, our small bathroom would be finished with just one case of flooring.

Cost: $35! Seriously. Only $35.

The only thing left on my wish list is learning how to actually decorate & make the bathroom look Pinterest worthy. If you have any ideas of what kind of pieces you think I should get, send them my way! I can only bother my interior design gifted cousin so much before she disowns me. (love you Jen)

The Bathroom Reveal:

Final Cost for the Bathroom Update

Are you ready?

$474! (before tax)

Less than $500! To go from that before mess to a bathroom I am so proud of!

I can’t imagine how much it would have cost if we’d hired out the work. Researching how to do things correctly, and taking the time and energy to do the work yourself can save you so much money on home improvement projects. That’s obviously what I’m all about! I have a bathroom that looks brand new, and it only cost me $500.

What kind of projects are you working on in your house?

I’d love to hear in the comments below! I can’t keep myself out of Home Depot & Lowe’s. We’re always working on something around here! Keep an eye out for a post on the progress so far in our kitchen!

Save this to your Pinterest board to motivate you to keep your DIY project on budget! ♥


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