This basement DIY bathroom remodel was completed in a tight timeframe on a super tight budget. The whole bathroom went from unusable to DIY skills and creative design.
We moved into this 1980s home two years ago and started renovating immediately. We’ve taken on big projects and like most renovations, they have taken more time and money than we often planned.
We decided to take on a small bathroom remodel for a quick win- and on a budget!
I say small, but that’s only talking square foot, every single piece of this bathroom had to be addressed. From new plumbing fixtures to electrical work and even shower walls… the only thing that stayed in here was the floor plan.
I gave myself a VERY tight timeframe and *hired* my Dad to help me get this DIY bathroom makeover done in a hurry. I’ve shared one of his bathroom remodels here before, he’s done more than I can count! It’s been such a boost to knock something off our list so quickly (one week!) and it turned out better than we’d even dreamed.
We wanted to use materials we had on hand and had been saving from previous projects to make this project as affordable as possible. We’ve been working on DIY home improvements for several years, so stashing some of those materials that are leftover from other projects is an affordable way to make significant changes without breaking the bank.
Before I get into the remodel, I do want to recognize that not everyone has old tile hanging around or handy family members to help reduce the labor costs. We have done other DIY bathroom renovations completely on our own without calling in help, so even if you aren’t in the position to ask for skilled DIY help, I definitely think you can learn all the skills you need to take on a DIY bathroom renovation like this without hiring a general contractor.
If nothing else, you can contract smaller parts of the project, like plumbing or electrical, and DIY the rest. That’s a really great way to stretch the budget when you can’t do all the pieces of the project yourself.
see all the diy bathrooms renovations on lemon thistle:
*this reveal was originally published in partnership with Lowes on their website, I’ve rewritten it to include some more helpful information and tips. See all of my policies here*
Other than reusing materials and fixtures we’ve been stock piling from other renovations, we bought the last few items we needed from Lowes and the end result I’m so proud of. I mean… let’s look at the before and after side by side.
Isn’t the transformation awesome? I’m always so proud of how much we can accomplish in a little room with a little time and great planning.
Planning a DIY Bathroom Renovation
I wanted to take a second to highlight how much great planning can affect your budget, your timeframe and how enjoyable your project is overall to complete. I wrote an entire post about how planning your DIY makeover will save you time, money, and stress and this space is truly a testament to that.
Keeping in mind this space was completed in just one week with just two of us working on it (neither of us are professionals!), here’s some things that will influence how much time or how much money you’ll be spending in comparison to us.
The first thing I want to point out is how small this space really is. If it were larger, we wouldn’t have been able to complete it so quickly and we also wouldn’t have been able to use leftover scraps of material which really impacts the cost of a bathroom remodel. If this had been any larger, if it had included a freestanding tub, or if you were renovating a bathroom the DIY way for the first time, I’d definitely increase your budget and allow yourself a couple months to take on the project.
I actually had a difficult time photographing it to show the size because it is so small. These horizontal images are probably the best I’ve got.
This is also a small basement bathroom. It doesn’t get nearly as much traffic as our main floor washroom. A lot of the design decisions we made here were with budget and time in mind. If this were our master bathroom, we would have made some different decisions (like wall tile!).
For timeline… We didn’t have anything else going on that week (other than managing my four kids!) so doubled down on the project to see it completed in good time.
I had also planned out our project daily with tasks for each my dad and I to make sure we were maximizing our time even while mortar or paint were drying.
For example, I could be cutting the tile sheets to size while my dad measured, marked them and installed them. I could be building the vanity outdoors while the floor tile set. We could paint the bead board in the front yard and then just touch up once in place to allow grout to dry etc. This planning was truly key.
When we ran into issues (like finding out we needed a new shower surround needing to be replaced) we adjusted our timeline and dug into the budget contingency, but weren’t completely set back.
On the topic of planning… a great budget will also help you SO much. I have a template for a DIY room makeover budget right here you can snag for free if you like. In our budget, there was a lot of $0 line items that we were able to salvage from other projects (yay!).
A couple of other considerations in this timeline and budget?
We also didn’t have to move any plumbing at all- it was already in, we just were replacing fixtures and finishes. Plus, we were also inheriting a partially planned renovation by the previous owners when we moved into our new home (to us). There was a shower base and some plumbing fixtures left sitting on storage shelves when we took possession of the house. We didn’t end up being able to use all of it but it definitely helped!
My dad is also just finishing up a major renovation of his house so we were able to use leftover tile, grout, paint and bead board that was taking up space in his garage.
I thought that it would be a good idea to chat through some of the design and renovation hurdles we addressed through this makeover. I think often times we see the before and after with little discussion of the ‘how’ we got there- and one thing I have found time and time again is that remodelling is really a great exercise in problem solving.
Design Challenges in this Basement Bathroom Remodel
I love interior design and design all of the spaces in my home and even some in other homes as well. I love a good challenge, and this bathroom was definitely a challenge. I wanted the space to be cohesive and look like it was still intentionally a part of our home and the design choices we’ve made throughout the rest of the home, but I also wanted to make the most of repurposed materials so knew I’d need to make some compromises.
You can see I switched from black fixtures to chrome and ditched the tile shower surround for a one piece kit when we realized we had to replace the shower base.
As with every single room makeover I take on, I took some time to plan the design and budget ahead. You’ll see that it definitely evolved a bit as I was working through the renovation and budget.
You can see how I make a design board here.
When we started planning this small bathroom makeover, I knew I would be using this leftover black and white ceramic tile which my Dad had from his basement bathroom. He’d bought a case lot and although there wasn’t a ton left over, there was enough for this tiny space to cover the bathroom flooring.
I was struggling to find a design that tied into the style that we have been renovating the rest of our house with this tile in mind. We have cozy modern style with classic finishes like shaker cabinets throughout the rest of the house and this tile is definitely classic retro. We used a black grout to modernize it a bit and natural wood for the vanity to add some warmth to the windowless space.
I’ve talked about this many times, but adding wood or other natural elements to a modern space (or any space, really) helps add so much warmth and interest to a room… even a bathroom. In a bathroom or a wet room of any kind, a wooden floor is not ideal. Bringing that wood tone into the bathroom vanity allowed us to incorporate wood without a large extra cost. I’ll share more about that budget vanity in a bit!
After we started the space, I started pulling in elements that we’d be using for a tactile design board. I love how this can evolve as you go and you can confirm your design choices with samples before install. See how that looks in the photo above.
One thing we ran into was the floors- underneath the random boxes and fixtures stored in there, we realized the floor was quite uneven and needed to be flood filled to level it out. We did that the same day as demo before heading to the store to allow it to set before going in the next day when we would start shower install and tiling.
For the walls.. We had a bunch of drywall that needed patching. We had planned to patch it and paint a light warm toned gray that matched the rest of our basement, but after patching and painting the first coat, we got to installing the shower and realized even more work was needed.
The previous owners had put in a shower base, but we didn’t have all the pieces to install the shower and that model was discontinued. Plus, there wasn’t enough backing behind the drywall to fully secure the shower surround. We needed to tear out the drywall around the shower to get stabilizing pieces in while still allowing the drain to line up (we wanted to avoid moving the drain in the concrete). This meant patching all around the shower as well.
If you’ve had to install and finish new drywall, you’ll know that this would extend our project by 1-2 weeks to allow for this. I was convinced we could keep to our timeline by getting creative with our bathroom designs a bit.
Our options were to tile just around the shower (like a border), to use trim for 2-3 inches all around the shower, to use shiplap (we have some of that laying around as well) or to use bead board panelling. We also were dealing with other drywall patches behind the sink for plumbing.
Instead of fresh drywall with smooth finishing on every wall, we covered drywall with beadboard. This is one of the easiest things you can do to make a finished space in a hurry without waiting for drywall mud to dry, and sand, and dry, and sand. We used this same strategy when we were remodelling Tux Suite into a farmhouse boho space.
We chose traditional bead board as it’s more in line with the classic style of our tile floor than farmhouse style shiplap or other prefab panels. I chose to do the full room in the bead board for a high impact- it’s a very small space so wasn’t a huge investment. We were able to use one and a half leftover panels of bead board my dad had in his garage and just purchase the remaining pieces from Home Depot.
I painted the beadboard two coats in our front yard while my dad installed the shower base surround and we were able to install it, covering all the drywall holes and imperfections like they were never there. In one day. This allowed us to work on the renovation that can’t be done outside of the small space while someone else was painting. With a small space, we weren’t just fighting time but elbow room.
Green Bathroom Paint Color
After deciding on beadboard, I switched gears from a light grey to a green paint. You can see the colour we’d done a coat on the walls with in the above photos. I wanted to keep the space from feeling overly traditional with the classic floor tile and the beadboard. I wanted to find something to modernize the space with all the classic elements.
This green paint my dad had leftover from painting his kitchen island was the perfect shade! It also is so similar enough to our kitchen cabinets that it feels cohesive with the rest of our house.
This colour was a custom tint, but is almost identical to Boreal from Behr. I love how high impact this rich green paint feels, and it’s so fun against the new tile!
A budget friendly small space vanity
Since we were working with the floor plan that the previous owners had roughed in, we were left with quite a small vanity space. I priced out some new vanity options, but they weren’t within the budget once we had to replace the shower surround. I’m so happy with the solution I came up with… it’s totally custom and totally affordable.
The vanity is something I’m so proud to have built. I worked on this while my dad did all the electrical, installed the exhaust fan and plumbing. The vanity top is two chunks of beam left over from his remodel (you could double up some 2x wood if you wanted to make it yourself!).
We originally planned to have it as a floating vanity but the plumbing was really low behind the sink and there was a cleanup below that even we needed to have access to. That’s a lot of holes in a wall for a floating vanity.
I designed this vanity base to shield the plumbing and cleanup while still looking open in this small space. If this is a DIY project you’re interested in learning more about, I have a DIY rustic vanity tutorial written covering the step by step here!
I was able to build all the pieces to this vanity outside as well while my dad installed the shower walls and door. Essentially, I built the base using 2x4s, taking the rounded edges off with the tables and glueing two together to make 4x4s. The back legs are only 1 2×4 flat against the wall. The apron front is a 1×12 attached with pocket screws. The shelf on the bottom is also built using pocket screws. I used 1x3s for the front and back and 1x2s for the slats.
I gave it a couple coats of protectant that gave it a bit more of a yellow tone but I would rather that and avoid water damage to the wood.
I like how the free standing sink and faucet add a modern touch to the rustic vanity and modernize the other classic details in the space.
We have black fixtures throughout the rest of our house and while I was hoping to carry them through every space, going chrome for the faucet and rest of the fixtures helped us stay on budget in the space.
Since it’s removed from pretty much every other space in our home, it stands alone (it’s an ensuite bathroom for the basement bedroom). We also chose an affordable chrome shower head for the shower to coordinate with this although the frosted glass shower door stays closed most of the time.
Vanity Mirror, Lighting and Fixtures
We chose to use an arch shaped mirror again in this bathroom. I really love this classic shape and it’s so affordable thanks to repurposing old mirrors we had in storage.
I mentioned this in my affordable home decorating tips blog post, but many glass shops will cut material that you already have for a nominal cost. Then you can get *exactly* the size and shape of mirror you’re needing… and within budget! We did this for our primary bathroom as well as a bedroom mirror.
Hanging a mirror with no hardware is easy using mirror mastic, a silicone adhesive or a construction adhesive. The advice we were given from the glass shop is to use circles in addition to whatever squiggles or dots you want as it creates a suction to help hold in place as it dries.
I held it in place, pushing for the length of time the tube said, then taped it in place with painters tape and added blocking (just cardboard) to keep it from sliding overnight.
Choosing a light fixture was a bit more of a challenge. We needed something quite small (we have only 23” here, but I was set on having at least 3 bulbs since it’s a naturally dark space with no windows. I found this gorgeous vanity light fixture with the modern chrome that works with that faucet and classic retro style globes to play with the floors.
We carried the chrome theme to the bathroom accessories with a chrome toilet paper holder and towel ring. I chose to add towel hooks to the back of the door instead of a traditional towel rod.
I actually use towel hooks in all of my bathrooms instead of towel rods. I like how easy it is for little ones to hang their towels and you can fit so many more towels than with one rod. We are a family of 6 so this just makes sense for us, but I know it’s not everyone’s preference.
Small Bathroom Storage
This bathroom doesn’t have a lot of storage. Since this is not a primary bathroom, it doesn’t need it. We had designed this as a guest bathroom and a couple years later now my son is living in that bedroom so he uses it for himself. Really, the only storage in here is the basket beneath the vanity. We use it to store the bathroom cleaner, extra toilet paper and trash bags in here.
With my son down there now, he also uses the basket for any back stock tooth paste or shampoo he has. This basket does the job while keeping the vanity feeling open!
Down the road, I’ve considered adding a shelf up high near the shower (the the right of the hanging clay art) for extra linens, but we’ve been using this bathroom for more than 3 years without needing it.
You could also probably do shelves above the toilet, but I’m trying to avoid that if possible!
DIY Decor for the Bathroom
Last but not least is, of course, decorating with art! I love creating DIY art and decor specifically to suit a space. The last day of our room makeover was spent cleaning (making sure every last bit of grout was off that tile!) and DIYing decor.
I actually DIY decor and wall art for every single space I design. I like to be able to customize it for the exact space, size, and colors that I need… also within a very tight budget. You can see a collection of my favorite DIY wall art projects I’ve shared tutorials for right here.
I made that hanging planter and the hanging shapes out of one brick of oven bake clay and attached them with leather cord I had leftover from past projects.
The hanging planter is filled with faux greenery since this room gets no light. I also added a faux plant to the small vanity for a touch of decor. I’m typically all about living house plants for home decor, but in this space real plants were just not an option.
I love how simple and playful these DIY clay decor pieces are and bring an organic element to the space. With the green walls and black and white tile, I didn’t want to do anything too busy and colorful in an effort to keep it feeling spacious and simple.
I also hand lettered the quote above the toilet. This piece of art for the bathroom has been such a hit, I ended up making a couple for friends and then turned them into free printable bathroom art as well if you’re interested!
The room came together so beautifully and I’m still impressed that we were able to finish this off with such a tight timeline. I hope that this bathroom makeover gave you some great ideas and inspiration to make over your own space on a budget!
Pin this for later!
Not renovating your bathroom right now? Just looking for inspiration? Pin this so you can come back to it! Plus, pinning or sharing on FB helps this post reach more people which helps me be able to keep sharing with you. Thank you!