9 Hacks to Create a Complete Bathroom Makeover

gloved hands installing bathroom tile

Bathroom makeovers are a great way to get that brand new feel without having to demolish the entire space. This saves on labor costs and materials, and won't create as much mess, as a complete renovation involves tearing out tile, including tub surrounds, and the floor.

A bathroom makeover can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be, as there are a lot of ways to get a refresh without breaking the bank - or the walls. Here are some awesome hacks to create a complete bathroom makeover without the major hassle.

1. Vanity Makeover

If you have a vanity that's in good shape, but looks dated, this is a great job for any DIY-er who can tackle a small project in a weekend. Wooden vanities were popular in homes in the 70s, and while oak and maple are strong materials, it doesn't make for a very modern aesthetic.

It's easy enough to paint the vanity a bolder, more interesting color, or go with a bright grey or off-white to brighten it up. Take off the hardware first, and use painter's tape around any of the edges that meet up with the sink.

Don't worry too much about getting paint on ceramic, however, as it easily wipes off when wet, but make sure to cover grout lines on the floor.

You'll need to sand the wood lightly if there is any kind of veneer or an old coat of paint to scuff up the area and get it ready for priming. One coat of primer and two coats of your new color is all you need to do to make your vanity pop!

Tip: replace the old hardware while you're at it to really modernize this bathroom amenity.

floating bathroom vanity sink

2. Install the Faucet Yourself

If you want to go one step further to improve your old bathroom vanity, install a new faucet, and pick up some slick, new plumbing skills! This is not a difficult job for the average handy person to do, as the plumbing doesn't require a licensed professional.

Disconnect the water lines from the current faucet after making sure to shut off the water supply, which will be found under the sink.

They can be detached from either end of the water lines depending on whether you are keeping them (most new faucets do not come with water hoses, so best to keep them around).

A wrench and some patience are all that's required to loosen the bolts, and you may need to gently cut around the faucet with a utility knife if there was a bead of silicone around it.

Once that's done, simply lift the old faucet out and reverse the order of steps to put in your new one.

Since you've learned a handy basic plumbing skill, now you can tackle the job of replacing the tub faucet and shower head to match the new sink faucet, as they are even easier to do.

3. Replace The Worst Items

If a new paint job won't cut it for your ugly vanity and you want more of a refresh without going over budget, consider replacing just a few of the worst items in the bathroom to give it that makeover feeling.

You can change out an old toilet, vanity, sink, and vanity mirror for under $750 if you opt for basic models that you can install yourself.

An old, leaky, or water-inefficient toilet can be replaced with a new, more efficient one for under $200.

Wait for a sale to get a sleek, dual flush, a high-efficiency toilet that will give your bathroom a major upgrade with only a little bit of labor to replace the old one—another easy DIY task if you have a partner to help lift it.

A single faucet vanity may not win any prizes for beauty, but for $200, a basic white unit can provide an easy upgrade to one that's had its time, plus it will come with a sink.

Even if this new vanity doesn't spark joy at first, remember you can make it sparkle with a modern faucet, nicer towel hangers, and accessories.

Your vanity mirror is another low-cost item you can replace for an instant improvement.

A simple medicine cabinet that's either surface mounted or recessed into the wall can be found for just under $200, and again, while they lack character, they provide a sturdy upgrade along with some much appreciated storage.

It's all you need to spruce up your entire vanity area, which is a major point of focus.

bathroom vanity area with sink and plant

4. Restore the Tile

Many older homes have bathrooms with their original tile still in them, and sadly most people opt to replace these gems, rather than restore them.

Penny tiles, subway tiles, checkerboard patterns, and mosaics are commonly found in bathrooms from around the 1940s, and while they may look grubby, there are some tricks to get them gleaming again.

Most of the problem is that the grout has become dirty or even cracked after years of neglect or improper cleaning. Do you even know what color it's supposed to be?

Vacuum well, then wash your bathroom floor or tub tile surround with a mild bleach solution to see if the dark color is really supposed to be dark, or if there is some grey or white underneath the grime.

A solution of borax, baking soda, and warm water can also safely scrub away tough dirt to reveal former grout lines. Use a good scrub brush (and wear gloves), and let the paste soak for a few hours.

Products that remove calcium, lime, and rust can also help get rid of troublesome water stains, and muriatic acid is a powerful product that will whiten tiles even better than bleach - just be careful when using these corrosive materials and wear safety gear.

You may need to re-seal the grout with a simple spray-on sealer after the muriatic acid has dried.

If there are places where the tile is cracked or missing, there are ways to fix this without ripping up the whole floor. Small pieces can be carefully chiseled out with the surrounding grout cleared away, too.

A new piece can either be purchased if you can find it, or get creative and have a custom piece cut out of a simple subway tile that matches the color.

Tile companies or local contractors may be able to help you out with this task, saving you thousands of dollars in new tile and labor costs.

man installing tile panels

5. Reglaze the Tub

Tubs are one of the hardest items to replace when upgrading a bathroom. They're big and cumbersome and need a plumber to properly disconnect the drain pipe. Often, it's hard to salvage the tiled walls around it because they are tiled over top of a small lip.

You can find a cheap bathtub for around $300, but most people spend around $500-$800 for a good-quality bathtub, especially since it's an investment item.

Instead of spending time and money on this project, however, there are numerous ways to bring the best out of your old tub if it's yellowed, or has some surface blemishes.

Re-glazing is the best way to make an old tub look brand new. It can even be done on fiberglass models as well as acrylic, porcelain, and steel. There are DIY kits sold at home hardware stores, or you can hire a professional if it's a bigger job than you want to take on.

Just note that any holes or major rust problems can't be fixed this way, and that re-glazing only gives you a few extra years with your tub, so eventually, it will have to be replaced. Factor this into your overall budget and future design plans.

For tubs that are simply dingy, give them a good clean with borax and baking soda, and replace the old caulking to quickly freshen up an unloved tub.

6. Paint the Walls

The easiest way to to give your bathroom a makeover is to give the walls a fresh coat of paint—and the ceiling, too.

Not only can you update the color and bring new life to an older bathroom, the walls and ceiling are often havens for mold and dust that get trapped in corners where moisture hangs out.

Install a fan if you don't have one to help keep walls and ceilings moisture and mold-free.

It may not be a DIY job as you'll need to hook it up to an electrical connection, but hiring someone should only set you back a couple hundred bucks including the cost of the fan—well worth the upgrade.

Once your walls are cleaned and all towel bars and wall art removed, paint the walls with two coats of product that's rated specifically for bathrooms.

While they won't waterproof the walls, paint rated for kitchens and bathrooms can significantly reduce the amount of moisture that seeps into the drywall, and aren't more expensive than regular eggshell or satin paints.

Before you put the old towel hangers and toilet roll holders back on the wall, consider whether they could be moved and/or replaced, as well. If you are going to move them to different locations, fill any holes properly before you paint.

You can find full kits that include bath towel hangers, toilet roll holders, and small hand towel holders all-in-one for around $50.

small bathroom with blue painted walls

7. Modern Accessories

If your budget is really tight, and you can't afford to do any major projects, consider putting aside a little bit of money towards new accessories.

A new shower curtain can go a long way in freshening up a drab bathroom, especially since they get moldy and stained at the bottom after a while (or give them a good cleaning).

A new bath mat is another great addition that adds comfort and practicality to the room, just remember to hang it after use like you would a towel to keep it dry, mold-free, and smelling fresh.

High-quality, matching bath and hand towels are another easy upgrade that can bring a little bit of luxury to your showering experience. Crisp white looks great for a while, but they can get stained easily over time.

Bold colors add sophistication and comfort, while patterns can add pizzazz to a dull space.

You can get a 12-piece bathroom towel set for around $50 from local retailers, with maybe enough leftover to splurge on a new robe.

8. DIY What You Can

Any amount of labor that you can put into this job will end up saving you a lot of money, but keep in mind your own ability.

Doing your own plumbing might save you some cash, but what happens if you didn't do it right and find out there's a leak when the tile has already been installed?

Tile is another master job that requires patience and an eye for detail. It often looks easier than it is, and unless you have some experience, tiling a bathroom wall surround or floor isn't something to take on lightly.

It can be done, but it also requires a lot of tools to do it right which may end up being cheaper to have someone else do in the first place.

Plus, hiring others to do the jobs you can't frees you up to do the things you can. Designing the bathroom reno, and managing the trades can often save a lot of the cost upfront, as will picking up your own items and making decisions along with your contractors.

9. Wait for Bathroom Events and Sales

One of the most expensive things when you're renovating a bathroom is the cost of the tile. If you can cut this part of your budget by half, you can save hundreds of dollars. Big box stores and tile retailers have sales all the time on perfectly good tile.

While it may not be your first choice, having a color or style you hadn't considered can be a good starting point for the rest of the decor. Open your mind up to a different tile choice and find inspiring ways to design with it.

Stores like Ikea and Lowes will have "bathroom events" from time to time, so if your reno can wait, sign up for the web newsletter or flyer, and keep your eye out for major savings on bathroom items.

Last, but not least, thrifting is always a great way to find pre-loved, quality items.

While you may not be able to find a brand new acrylic tub in a thrift store, sites like Kijiji and Craigslist often have tubs or vanities for a discounted price if the homeowner changed their mind or bought the wrong item.

Once you have a budget in mind, make a list of your must-haves and see if you can fit everything in, including the cost of labor. If you don't have the funds to do an entire bathroom remodel, these hacks can help you create a complete bathroom makeover.

Along with a little DIY creativity, you might end up with the bathroom of your dreams.