From tiles to fixtures: Doing bathroom renovations on a budget

Contrary to popular belief, renovating bathrooms for investment profit doesn’t always have to break the bank. Find out how to turn an outdated bathroom into a modern relaxation space—all without overcapitalising.

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The Housing Industry Association estimates the average cost of bathroom renovations to be $17,054 in 2016, making it at least 10 per cent more costly than installing a bathroom in a new home. Every year, the average expenses on renovations are expected to increase by at least 2.0 per cent.

However, several home improvement experts believe that updating a bathroom does not have to be a pain in the pocket.

Granted, ripping and replacing everything will cost quite a lot—ideally only around two per cent of the current value of your property—but being cosmetically creative can also do the job of improving the bathroom and adding value to the real estate asset.

Remember: Some bathrooms may appear worn out and dysfunctional when there are merely tired and outdated. Where you think knocking down walls or replacing ceilings are necessary, a new paint job and some modern installations could be the simple answers.


Before jumping into a renovation project, experts strongly advise homeowners and investors alike to determine the extent of changes that the property actually needs. Then, set a strict budget in order to avoid overcapitalising and ultimately benefit from the added value of home improvement.

Where appropriate, engage building professionals to help you find the best and most affordable materials that don’t compromise on quality, function and appeal.

When done right, cosmetic bathroom upgrades can provide an average return on investment of $5 for every dollar spent.

Here are some of the simple ways to make to update your bathroom—from tiles to fixtures:


Tiles can get expensive, particularly if you are keen to hire a contractor or cover a large space.

To save money on renovation, work out a way to limit the amount of tile that you need. For instance, you can cover high-impact areas such as the floor and do away with tiling the inside of the shower stall walls. Alternatively, you can opt for a creative horizontal strip instead of covering the whole wall.

If you have your heart set on an expensive tile, use it as an accent and cover the remaining area with cheaper tiles. Apart from saving money, you also get to showcase the artistic tiles even more.

You can also use tile paint to rejuvenate dated ceramic tiles or colourful embellished tiles.

Save even more money by doing the tiles works yourself and sticking to a single light colour scheme for a more seamless look and a brighter space. Porcelain tiles, while a bit expensive, are one of the top choices for bathrooms as it is non-porous and can be glazed or unglazed. Dark-coloured porcelain tiles also lessen the grout to clean.

Depending on the bathroom tile you choose, tiling can cost anywhere from $1 to $100 per square metre.

Make sure that you pick quality materials throughout the tiling process in order to avoid more expenses in the future.


As in the case of tiles, lighting fixtures can also alter the overall mood of the bathroom space. Moreover, smart selection of lights can help you reduce cost on electricity and future repairs.

Once again, quality is of the highest priority when picking lighting fixtures. Make sure that they can withstand moisture, humidity or dampness. Where appropriate, consult a professional electrician to help you with selection and installation.

Save money by choosing a focal point in the bathroom and installing an interesting lighting fixture instead of covering the entire bathroom with lights. Chandeliers, industrial lights or wire- or grass-woven pendant are often good options for bathrooms.

Alternatively, you can enhance the mood of the space by lining the mirror with LED strips while minimising lighting fixtures in other areas of the room. LEDs are sustainable and long-lasting, which makes them a practical choice for lighting.


Of all the things you can do to your bathroom to give it an upgrade or even an entirely new look, repainting might just be the cheapest, easiest and arguably the most effective way to achieve your goal.

However, experts warn against rushing paint jobs. If you are going to do it yourself, take your time and be patient as you paint around the shower, the sink, the mirror, the toilet, the window, the wall corners and the floor. Messy painting can make your bathroom look even worse than its before-renovation state.

Moreover, use high-quality paint to avoid mold and mildew caused by changing humidity and temperature in the bathroom. Light colours can also be cheaper options and can brighten the room, making it look bigger than it is.

Apart from painting the walls, you can also paint the ceiling and wood panelling—a cheaper option than having them completely replaced.


Granite countertops are trending in the bathroom renovation space despite being one of the more expensive options. If you want to follow the trend and invest on granite countertops, you can save a little money by opting for more colourful styles. Neutral colours like brown, beige and tan are often in-demand, which make them more expensive.

Moreover, you can also buy slabs with imperfections. Visible imperfections often equal to high price markdowns. You can hide the imperfections by having them located where the sink or faucet will be.

Fixtures and fittings

Another easy way to give your bathroom a new look is through updating sink faucets, towel racks, drawer pulls, shower heads, shower rail and other small fixtures and fittings across the space. These small changes can add significant flair to your bathroom.

To save money on fixture and fittings updates, find cheaper alternatives to IKEA and other big home improvement stores. Shop around clearance tables and supplier sales. You can also consider recycling other unused home appliances or fixtures for a modern industrial feel (i.e. old plumbing as towel racks).

Aside from small updates, you can also paint existing cabinets or install large mirrors to reflect light and colour across the space and make the bathroom look and feel bigger than it is.

Minimise clutter by adding a DIY assemble cabinet, low-cost floating shelves, a repurposed vanity or extra towel racks and hooks. You can also include recycled baskets and boxes or decorative containers for more creative accents.

Alternatively, you can simply change the shower screen or curtain or even the toilet seat to revamp the bathroom and give it a fresher, newer look. Frameless shower screens or glass doors are often chosen for modern-style bathrooms.

Grout and Caulk

For the final touch, clean the grout and add straight, clean lines of caulk around often-wet areas to make the bathroom look new and fresh. This inexpensive step can make a huge difference in the overall look of the bathroom as it restores the space to its former brand-new clean glory.


This information has been sourced from Houzz, Bunnings, Renovating for Profit and the Smart Property Investment website. Check out the Renovation page for more information on property renovation projects. 

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