How to Do a Builder-Grade Bathroom Upgrade on a Budget

At Home With Dia
by At Home With Dia

If you want bathroom update ideas, here are some budget-friendly ways to upgrade a builder-grade bathroom.These simple, inexpensive changes can elevate the look of your bathroom.

I will showcase a project where we used cost-effective and strategic ways to upgrade a lackluster bathroom into a space that combines style and function. I will also share with you a cost breakdown of these budget-friendly bathroom upgrades.

Upgrading builder-grade finishes

This bathroom makeover was in a three-year-old track home. It was 11 feet by 7 feet and had a good layout but needed more character and style. An issue with the shower led to a demo and rebuild from scratch, so the rest of the space was redone.

The huge builder-grade wall mirror, vanity, and fixtures made the overall space look very cold, bland, and uninviting. We explored what we could change to achieve a dramatic elegant look without breaking the bank.

We decided to work with the existing 60-inch dual sink vanity, a walk-in shower, and four doors.

The doors led into a master bedroom, a walk-in closet, an enclosed water closet, and a large linen closet.  

Color inspiration from fixed elements

The existing large-scale light greenish-gray tile floors with subtle taupe and gray veining and dark gray specks served as the color inspiration for the upgrades.

Upgrade 1: Paint

We gave the space a couple of coats of satin finish paint called Emerald Designer Edition Gray Heron from Sherwin-Williams. This is a soft light grayish paint with a violet undertone but in this space, it looks more greenish and complements the color of the floors.

For a cohesive look, the ceilings were painted in the same white color as the doors and baseboards.

Upgrade 2: Consider changing plumbing fixtures

If this was an older home, we would have changed the faucets. But the newer bathroom fixtures in a warm satin nickel finish were a nice style so we kept them and decided to change other elements for greater impact.

Upgrade 3: Consider switching out lighting

The existing overhead can lights in the shower and above the sink were in good condition and provided good lighting. There was no need to upgrade the lighting.

However, if the lighting was on the wall, then we would have upgraded it.

Upgrade 4: Elevate the look of your vanity

The white-on-white vanity and counters made the space look very sterile. The vanity counter was a creamy white cultured marble which we initially considered replacing with quartz. But since this was a tight budget, we decided to leave it as is.

Instead, we focused on making a dramatic color change to the vanity cabinet for more contrast. We removed the doors and drawers and gave them light sanding, a coat of primer, and two coats of Behr satin enamel cabinet paint. We used a foam roller for a smoother finish.

The color we used is called Mined Coal, a dark greenish-gray that picks up the darker colors of the floor.

Upgrade 5: Switch out mirrors

We took out the builder-grade mirror that was glued to the wall. It made the space very bland and cold. We took it down carefully so it wouldn’t break into little pieces. We patched damaged areas with spackle, primed, and repainted it. For a couple of hundred dollars, you can hire a handyman to handle this part of the project.

The space had four doors on three walls. To break up the sea of doors, we glued a mirror on the sliding door that leads into the master bedroom. It made the space look brighter and wider and made the space more functional.

Upgrade 6: Add finishing touches in matching color

We added two tall black-framed mirrors with rounded corners that help soften all the hard angles in the space. They are centered on each sink so they align with the overhead lighting.

We added coordinating matte black knobs and pulls to add drama to the vanity. We installed pulls on non-operable drawers so the vanity looks more finished and high-end.

Hardware tip: If you are combining two types of hardware (knobs and pulls), make sure they are the same depth so one does not stick out more than the other. This also gives the vanity a more custom look.

We added matte black towel hooks, bars, and a magnifying mirror on the walls.

Upgrade 7: Add textural accents

To soften the overall look and provide some relief from all the hard surfaces, we added a bamboo Roman shade, soft waffle towels, and matching bath mats.

Cost of the project

We completed this project for $645. For under $650, we were able to totally transform the look of this side of the bathroom.

This doesn’t include the shower renovation that we were forced to do during the first part of this project.

Bathroom upgrade

This bathroom upgrade project was proof that with some easy changes, some time, and effort, you can transform a space into a beautiful designer-looking space on a budget.

I hope you are inspired by these changes for your own bathroom redo. Let me know in the comments which of these changes you believe made the biggest impact in elevating the look of this bathroom.

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