DIY bathroom ideas on a budget - clever ways to affordably update a tired scheme

Give your bathroom a new look for less with these do-it-yourself updates

White bathroom with bath tub
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Everyday use can take its toll on our wash spaces, but you can easily give yours a refresh with one of these DIY bathroom ideas on a budget. The great news is that you don’t have to be an expert when it comes to DIY – a simple lick of paint, storage upcycle or new accessories can all make a big difference to your bathroom ideas and are easy on the purse strings, too. 

Take a good look at your bathroom and note which bits are on the dated or shabby side. Is your flooring marked or chipped? Are your taps looking a little rusty or have an annoying drip? Maybe your colour scheme has had its day and could be brought up to date? Use this as your starting point to plan your budget bathroom ideas, considering whether these things can be easily – and cheaply– updated or disguised. 

DIY bathroom ideas on a budget

Even something as simple as putting some wallpaper ideas in your bathroom can change it dramatically. ‘For years it was believed that wallpaper wouldn’t last in a bathroom, however, there are now plenty of options out there when it comes to wanting to use wallpaper in areas of high moisture,’ says Chelsea Clark, head of brand at Lust Home. ‘We recommend using an extra strong wallpaper adhesive when applying to avoid any lifting’.

We look at all sorts of ways for you to update your bathroom – and you’re guaranteed big results for little cost…

1. Paint a radiator

Black radiator in white bathroom

(Image credit: Future PLC / Darren Chung)

Whether you have an antique radiator that’s seen better days or a bog-standard design, sometimes all it takes is a lick of paint to help it become less eye sore and more of a feature. Choose a metal paint and decide if you want to use a metallic finish to tie in with other fittings or a colour that either blends with your walls (to help disguise a less-than-attractive design) or something bold and bright. 

‘A simple and impactful way to elevate your bathroom is by painting smaller features such as radiators, loo roll holders and towel bars,’ says Sarah Lloyd, Senior Brand Manager at Valspar. ‘You can create a sleek, mono-chromatic effect throughout the room, by colour-drenching these accessories to match the walls and floors. By blending the boundaries between surfaces, this paint technique will promote an even deeper sense of tranquillity in your bathroom.’

2. Upcycle a piece of furniture

Glass cabinet in a white bathroom with copper bath

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Finding new furniture for your bathroom doesn’t have to be costly – you can shop your home, scour Facebook Marketplace, or have a browse at a boot sale. From vintage cabinets for storage to a small desk or table on which to plumb a sink, you can get creative with your furniture upcycling ideas and use it to introduce an item that makes your bathroom feel unique. 

Here, an old glass-fronted cabinet has had wallpaper placed at the back for a decorative feel, while the shelves have been laden with cake stands holding bath bombs, old apothecary bottles with bath salts and various knick-knacks.

3. Make your own bath rack

Scaffolding bath tray with vases

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Love a soak in the tub? Then a bath rack is key for having a spot to place toiletries, a candle and even a book or iPad. Why not make your own from a scaffold shelf and use copper pipe fittings as handles? 

If you fancy giving it a go, cut it to fit and give it a stain so it’s your desired colour. You could even carve a slot for a wine glass to sit. It makes a handy shelf for vases and other decorative items while not in use, too.

4. Tile a splashback

White bathroom with black tiled splashback

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If it’s your first time attempting to tile, a small splashback idea behind a sink is a great place to start. There are lots of videos on YouTube to show you how, but as a rule of thumb you’ll need to chip off any existing tiles and prep the surfaces, apply adhesive to the walls then position your chosen tiles. Fill in the gaps with grout and wipe clean, then seal your tiles if needed. 

It’s a great way to add colour or pattern, but if tiling feels like one step too far, there are lots of peel-and-stick tiles available which will give the same look.

5. Install wall panelling

blue bathroom with pink bath and tropical blind

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Blank walls looking less than stylish? Adding wall panelling ideas can give them character and makes them look expensive, plus it’s a lot easier than you might think to do yourself. You can get timber cut to fit in B&Q and apply it using No More Nails, before painting. Timber can be costly, but if you simply add strips to your walls, rather than encasing the full width in wood, then it helps to keep costs down.  

6. Paint a colourful ceiling

Bathroom with yellow ceiling, chrome shower attachments and robes hanging on the wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Matthew Williams)

Painting your bathroom ceiling non-white is great way to make your private space feel personal and unique. The biggest expense here is the paint itself, though you'll need a step-ladder too. Make sure to protect the floor with an old sheet. Use a brush to paint a covering first and make sure to cut in the edges, and finish with two coats with a roller.

Pro tip: Painting a ceiling can be dangerous. Clear the bathroom, make sure your ladder is steady and move it where you need to paint. Never stretch from the ladder.

7. Revamp your storage

Alcove design idea white bathroom with grey painted shelves and bathroom accessories

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Storage is sadly a bit of an afterthought for many bathrooms, but adding ladder shelves, or open shelves in general, is a great way to make a room feel new. Smart bathroom storage ideas are the solution. Open shelving will make the bathroom feel spacious and less boxy too.

Argos and Dunelm offer stylish storage solutions for under £40, but shop around to find a cheaper set of shelves to suit your needs.

Pro tip: Open storage can become a feature in its own right. Add ornaments and candles alongside your soaps and towels.

8. Bring the outdoors in

Black and white bathroom with marble shower, gold vanity cabinet and green plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Bathroom plant ideas are an easy way to make a bathroom feel instantly fresher. Plants add a rustic, natural quality to any space, and can go a long way to softening the harsh light and angles found in many bathrooms.

You can get plenty of small plants for under £50. The more plants, the better. Plants that thrive in humid, damp conditions, like bamboo and aloe vera, are a good place to start. Air plants - which take moisture from the air - are a no-brainer in bathrooms too.

Pro tip: If your bathroom has low levels of light, you'll need to find plants which do well in the dark. Think Chinese evergreens or dracaena.

9. Swap your shower curtain

Cream bathroom with marble shower and towels hanging on a towel rack

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Claudia Dulak)

Replacing a shower curtain is a winning DIY budget bathroom idea. The shower curtain is a dominant feature in any bathroom, so it's surprising how many people treat it as an afterthought. Getting rid of mouldy, old or tatty shower curtains and replacing them with something fresh and new is a quick, cheap way to spruce your space for an instant bathroom revamp.

New shower curtains can be found online for under £20, and a bold shower curtain is a great way to make a statement.

Pro tip: Shower curtains are so cheap that they allow designers to go wild with little to no consequences. Pick something out there - if you don't like it you can easily change it in future.

10. Paint your wooden floor

White, grey and yellow bathroom with wooden floors

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jamie Mason)

If your bathroom has a wooden floor, painting a floor or staining it is a really creative way to make the space feel brand new. Your biggest expense will be time as you wait for coats to dry! Give your floorboards a quick sanding down and wash before you start painting.

You'll need to get specific wood paint for this job - it's more durable and less slippery - and you'll need two or three coats of it. Dark colours will make the bathroom feel cosy whilst light will make it feel bigger. Don't be afraid to use two tones across opposing boards either.

Pro tip: Sanding back the top coat will give your space a more rustic feel.

11. Focus on one wall

Bold botanical wallpaper in bathroom with green tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

Instead of trying to renovate the entire space, focus on improving one wall in such a way that it steals focus from the rest of the room. You can do this simply and cheaply with wallpaper. This is a great solution for a quick revamp if you don't want to paint the whole room or don't have a lot of money to make big changes.

You can cover one small wall for about £30. For a striking bathroom wallpaper idea - think dramatic florals - this will create a focus point for the eye, taking attention away from the rest of the space.

Pro tip: You can get special bathroom wallpaper - designed to be stickier and stronger - perfect if you're concerned about damp and steam.

12. Accessorise

White batroom with grey bath tub and white ladder shelf with accessories

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

If it's hard to make any major changes with your limited budget, then a quick and inexpensive solution is often to accessorise. Raid supermarkets for small, cheap additions you can pad out your space with.

So think soap dispensers, cute ornamental features, air fresheners, mini-makeup mirrors, toothbrush holders, a selection of the best candles and brushes. This is a great way to add quirky personality to your bathroom without spending a lot of money.

Pro tip: Raid the homeware section of big supermarket chains for cheap bathroom accessories.

13. Don't replace - reseal!

Black and white bathroom with green plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Replacing sealant is a small solution that'll make your bathroom feel brand new. Plus, it's cheap to do. All you'll need is a cartridge gun with new sealant and a Stanley knife - all of which you can get for under £20. Use a Stanley knife to remove the old sealant, slicing through the top and bottom edges at one end before gently pulling it from the wall.

Fill your bath so that the gap between it and the tile are at their widest and use the cartridge gun in one consistent motion to reseal. Leave to dry overnight.

Pro tip: If you want to get really creative, try using a coloured silicone other than white or grey.

14. Make a mini gallery

White marble tiled bathroom with pot plants and pictures on the wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme)

Bathrooms tend to have a lot of forgotten wall space. So take advantage of this by creating a mini gallery wall idea! You can get pretty much all you need - picture frames and nails - from somewhere like Wilkinsons for very cheap. The more numerous the frames the better.

Pick a unified theme. Animals, plants, and flowers are all good, but find something that suits you. If you're stuck for inspiration and want to save on spending, see if you've got any old interiors or fashion magazines lying about. Glossy adverts and photoshoots can look great framed in a gallery.

Pro tip: Pinterest is your friend here. There are hundreds of gallery walls to serve as design inspiration.

15. Refresh your walls

White bathroom with half blue painted wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

Paint provides a lot of quick renovation solutions on a budget, and changing your bathroom colour scheme  is a great way to make the space feel new. Let's face it, most bathrooms are fairly neutral, which can make them a little bit boring. Add some colour to make your space pop.

Taupe is a great choice for those who want to remain neutral whilst adding warmth. Go darker for an earthy feel. Charcoal will feel moody and sophisticated. Green feels natural and is calming, great for small spaces, whilst pistachio is a great way to add bold colour without going over the top. Contrast pistachio with natural wood.

Pro tip: Are you an efficient, five-minute shower sort of person or someone who de-stresses with long soaks in the tub? Think about how you use the space and use colour to enhance this.

How to build a bathroom with low budget?

‘The first step when building a bathroom is to work out what needs to go where,’ says Shamila Iqbal, Director at Bathroom Mountain. ‘There are a few options to consider. The most cost-effective approach is to keep the same footprint as the existing one, as this will eliminate the need to pay for additional plumbing work or installing new pipes behind walls or under the floor which can be costly.

'An expensive mistake that many people make is to assume that a bathroom update has to include a whole new suite, when perhaps new taps and wastes would provide an inexpensive makeover.’  

How do you make a small bathroom look luxurious on a budget? 

Think about the finishes that can make a bathroom look and feel high-end, and recreate them with faux varieties or smaller amounts. ‘Marble finishes are associated with luxury,’ says Colin Lincoln-Evans, buyer for Tile Mountain, ‘and their attractive veining is an effective way to add a chic hotel look without being overbearing. You don’t have to use the real thing, though, as with the developments in technology, it’s now easy to find effect tiles that offer all the beauty of the real thing but at a fraction of the price. To further reduce your costs, limit the use of tiles to the areas that need them, such as in the shower or as a basin splashback.’  

With contributions from