Any remodeling job is going to be a series of trade-offs, especially with bathrooms. Generally, the things that you will be trying to balance are time, budget, and results. Conventional wisdom says that we can maximize any two of these, but only at the cost of the third. In other words, you can have a great looking bathroom quickly, but you can’t do it for cheap.
If you prefer you can finish your bathroom remodelquickly and for just a small cash outlay, but it isn’t going to look great. Finally, you can have a great looking bathroom without breaking the bank, but it could be a lengthy project.
If I have the choice, I would follow the last path. It sucks to have a project drag on, but I would rather be happy with the results while keeping the money in the bank. Even if you are willing to let the project stretch across multiple weekends, there are ways that will give great results while saving both time and money.
The simplest and quickest way to dress up a bathroom comes down to one simple word. Paint. It may be that your bathroom walls are bit old, dirty, and shabby. Perhaps you are stuck with a bathroom décor that hasn’t been updated since the Brady Bunch was on TV. A quick coat of paint can fix that overnight. When there is nothing particularly wrong with the structure and fixtures in the bathroom, painting maybe all that is needed. If the floor is ugly but serviceable, you can mostly hide it with floor mats.
Your bathroom may need more attention than a simple paint job. This still doesn’t mean the job has to be a budget buster. Part of the secret to an inexpensive bathroom remodel is to adopt the attitude of “Cover what you can’t replace”. Is this a temporary solution? Yes, but if done correctly, the temporary solution will last a few years at least.
In addition to a simple paint job, new fixtures go a long way towards dressing up an older bathroom. This can lead to some budget compromise; at a certain price point fixtures like soap dishes and towel racks lose their luster fast enough that it is certainly worth the extra money to invest in nicer fixtures.
For a basic cosmetic bathroom up grade, it is best if you can avoid moving any of the plumbing. Even if you are replacing the sink, toilet, or shower/tub, if you can put the new fixtures in the same place as the old, you will save money and headaches.
Finally, take a look at the floor. Covering as much of an ugly floor as you can is an option, but if the floor is damaged, it may be in your best interest to bite the bullet and repair it. Many contractors have put carpet in bathrooms.
This is a money saving and not a cosmetic consideration. Bathrooms are naturally wet places, and most carpets hold the moisture long enough for the underlying structure to become damaged. As soon as it is practical, pull up the carpet and replace it with a more durable and appropriate floor covering. Tile is probably the best, but linoleum is certainly an effective and inexpensive option.