Bathroom Upgrade Ideas That Are Actually Worth Your Money


Which room do you spend the most time in during the day? When I add up the minutes, I have to admit, that it is my outdated, multicoloured bathroom. Teal tub, yellow walls, fluorescent lights, and 1970’s linoleum -add some rusty taps and that is my bathroom. Armed with only a small budget and my own two hands, I dove into the wide web to see what DIY dreams I could find.

Value and Cost

vintage-bathroom-faucet-and-fixturesYour master bathroom alone holds 10% of the value of your home. If it is open, spacious and inviting it can add $1000’s to your resale value. Even if it’s going to be home for awhile, an efficient renovation can bring many rewards, financial and psychological.  

Although renovation and plumbing experts vary in their assessment, most well planned bathroom renovations have a return on value of between 60 – 130%. That number is higher depending on a few factors. If you can do the work yourself and stick with classic, traditional colors you will get a higher return.  

It’s easy to spend big money on any renovation, so a plan and budget go a long way. If the bathroom holds 10% of the value of your home, make sure you do not go above that.  There are many cost efficient DIY projects that will keep you way below that amount.

Highest Return

There are a few areas that you can do yourself that will yield you the highest return.

  1. Revamp fixtures
  2. Upgrade flooring
  3. Reglaze your tub
  4. Rejuvenate tile
  5. Modernize paint

Revamp Fixtures

One easy DIY, that even I can do, is upgrade fixtures. New shower head, taps and lighting can bring many benefits.  



New “green” plumbing fixtures can save on water and they come in many different styles, colors, and price ranges. Replacing leaking and rusty fixtures can save your wallet and your health as you remove old fixtures that have bacteria and rust.  

When you are replacing your plumbing fixtures keep in mind that most name brand fixtures have warranties. Call the toll free, manufacturer line and explain the problem. You might just get your faucet replaced for free.


Newer light bulbs use less energy and bring more light.  I found a beautiful chandelier that dropped the light and brought a touch of class to the room. I replaced the bulbs in the fixture over the mirror to match the colour (daylight) of the chandelier bulbs. What a difference.


Upgrade Flooring

My dated and damaged linoleum is next on the list. Flooring is a cost efficient way to update your bathroom. If your linoleum is dated but in good shape you could paint it to give it a fresh look. This is not a long term solution but could help if your budget is small.


The best flooring choice, by far, in a bathroom is tile. Tile is easy to clean and install and with so many styles it is a popular choice.  

Choosing Your Tile

When choosing floor tile, remember a few things. Make sure it’s floor tile, not for walls or tubs. Floor tiles need to withstand more weight and traffic. Also, stay away from textured tiles on the floor, like natural stone, as they will be harder to clean. Always put backer board or tile underlay down before the tile to ensure moisture does not get trapped. Another tip is that, if you are worried about slipping, smaller tiles are best. As well, only use grout that has antibacterial, antifungal and anti mildew properties.


Reglaze Your Tub

It might not matter what money I put in this bathroom if I do not deal with that teal tub.  Replacement is an expensive and messy option. Tub liners are available but they just cover up the problem and often end up looking cheap.  That leaves reglazing. Reglazing is like repainting your tub but a little more complicated.

There are many scary videos online about refinishing a tub. I almost gave up and decided it was too complicated and dangerous but then I found two possible options.

Home Depot carries a Rustoleum Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit. It only costs about $25.00, which makes me slightly suspicious about the quality, but it got great reviews online. Remember, this is not the same coverage as factory but with care it could last quite a few years.  

Here are some great instructions from DIY Network to apply.


The other product I found is a little more expensive, $80-$100 plus shipping. It is a company called Bathworks. They have a great history and claim extensive customer support. Here’s the site and the instructions.

Rejuvenate Tile

If you already have tile in your bathroom and it’s a few years (or decades) old it would be a wise investment to regrout. Especially if it has yellowed or is crumbling.  New grout can make your tile look brand new.  

The pros, at Popular Mechanics, reminded me that grout is not just for looks. “Grout that is crumbling and mildew-stained is more than unattractive, it is mechanically unsound”.

They strongly recommended using top quality materials, cheap grout will only cost more in the end. The grout recommended by is Bosticks Trucolour Premixed Grout.  It resists cracks and won’t stain. Also you get to miss the steps of mixing the grout and sealing it. It costs more but quality and time saved make it a great choice.

Important tips about Grout

You will need to remove at least ½ depth of the old grout and clean everything thoroughly.  Also remember to remove and replace the caulking in the seams and around the tub. Use an acrylic caulk with a mildewcide in it. This might be a time consuming project but it is definitely within my wheelhouse.

Modernize Paint

Paint is one of the cheapest and easiest DIY projects that will put life back in your bathroom.  New paint can brighten the room and help remove odors. The decision to paint is easy but what colour? There are two schools of thought.


One idea is to paint your walls and vanity neutral colors and use pictures, towels, and shower curtains to add color. This is the best course of action if you plan on selling soon. If you use neutral greys, whites and beiges the new buyer can add their own touches to personalize for themselves without having to paint – great selling feature.  


If you plan on being in your home for awhile, remember how much time you spend there. What colors do you love, which ones relax you? Don’t be afraid to go bold. Just remember, lighter colors will make the room appear bigger, so if it’s your ½ bath in the basement don’t use dark colors.

Paint the walls, your vanity, even your medicine cabinet.  Wall paper is usually not recommended because of the moisture but some say coated wallpaper is fine.  If you are looking for texture, wainscotting is a great way to go. You can attach the boards horizontally or vertically, ½ wall or full. They can be your focal point by painting them your favorite color or you can paint them neutral and the wall a different color.

Worth All the Fuss

The experts at remind us that the bathroom, “should feel and look as comfortable as your master bed.”  So spend your time and money to wisely upgrade this room, from functional to your favourite room in the house.
Photo credits via Flickr Creative Commons: Robot Ewok, Allen, Ron, Chotda.

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