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10 Simple and Inexpensive Ways to Update a Builder Grade Bathroom

These simple and inexpensive ways to update a builder grade bathroom will help you create a space you love without spending a ton of time and money!

Primary Bathroom Vanity with Updated Mirrors and Aqua Painted Walls

As I was working on our primary bathroom that I shared earlier this week, I started thinking… I have worked on a lot of builder grade bathrooms between our two houses!

Our last house, a townhouse, was “old builder grade” and our current house is “new builder grade,” but none of the bathrooms in either of our houses started out as my “dream bathroom.” (Is that weird that I could potentially have a dream bathroom? It sounds kind of odd and delightful all at the same time… 😉 )

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Simple Budget Friendly Bathroom Upgrade Ideas

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I have a feeling that there are many, many builder grade bathrooms floating around out there, so I thought I’d do a little compilation of simple ways to update them (that don’t involve, you know, ripping out tile and drywall and all that stuff). You could do most of these in a day… or at least a weekend!

1. Paint the Bathroom

I’ll start with the most obvious: paint. I am always amazed at how much a simple coat of paint can transform a space. Whether it’s the walls, the vanity, or even the tile, there are so many ways to update a bathroom with paint.

Most recently, our primary bathroom went from boring white to beautiful aqua with just about a half a day’s worth of painting…

before and after of bathroom mirrors that were updated

(The color is Sherwin Williams Rainwashed, color matched in Behr Marquee paint.)

In our last house, I painted the vanity in both our powder room and our primary bathroom. Again, it was an easy update, but in both cases, it made a big difference!

before and after painting the bathroom vanity and replacing the mirror.

our primary bathroom vanity in the townhouse

The color that we painted the vanity is Behr Iron Mountain, and if you’re looking for details, you can read all about the vanity painting project in this post.

I gave our townhouse half bath a refresh for less than $50 (!!!), and it included this beautiful new color for the vanity, Behr Clear Pond. You can see the entire powder room transformation here.

before and after of another small bathroom vanity that has been updated with paint and hardware

And if you’re really brave, you can do what Anna from Ask Anna Moseley did and paint your shower tile AND bathtub! The transformation is truly incredible, and she says it’s even holding up well a year later– amazing!


MORE vanity upgrade ideas

  • Depending on the budget, small vanities cost a couple of hundred dollars, but really change the entire look compared to an older one. We replaced the pedestal sink in our current half bath with a vanity cabinet without breaking the bank. 
  • Swapping the faucets also makes a world of difference and brings a fresh look as new hardware does. As long as the new fixture has the same measurements as the old one, the process of changing them out is fairly straightforward. 

2. Upgrade the Bathroom Mirror

In many of our bathrooms we have just had the very large, plain builder grade mirrors. These work fine, but if I have the chance, I always like to give them a little update!

In our townhouse master we did a simple DIY and framed in the existing mirror

close up of the updated mirror compared to the old one

I actually planned on doing the same thing and framing in our current master bathroom mirror. We even bought some reclaimed wood boards to do it. But even though we tried our hardest to select the very straightest boards, they were still a bit bowed, which would have made them hard to attach to the mirror.

When we realized this, we decided to save the boards for another project, removed the mirror (which was super simple– we just had to pull off the clips and the mirror came right down), and put new mirrors up in its place.

master bathroom mirror update before and after

I found the new mirrors at Hobby Lobby for 50% off, making them $45 a piece, so it was less than $100 for the pair of them! Woot!

We were even able to give the old mirror away to a friend who was planning on using it in their workout room, so it was a win for everybody.

This last mirror upgrade kind of combines my first and second update ideas: paint + mirrors! The mirror in our townhouse half-bath was chintzy and gold and looked really outdated.

I simply painted it white, and I think it ended up looking pretty charming! (Plus, there was a medicine cabinet hidden behind it, so it was really functional too!)

before and after of small powder room update

3. Tweak the Light Fixtures

If new light fixtures aren’t in the budget, consider making some tweaks to the current ones! In our townhouse half bath, we spent a few dollars on new globes for the light fixture and got an updated look without having to spend a lot of money or rewire anything.

Light fixture with swapped globes for an inexpensive bathroom DIY project

It’s also inexpensive and fairly simple to update the finish of a fixture using spray paint or Rub ‘n Buff.

4. Change Out Hardware

Changing out hardware is a quick, easy, and inexpensive fix, and it can really go a long way to change up the look and feel of the piece.

The vanity in our townhouse master bathroom actually went through a couple transformations before I got it right, but we got there eventually! 🙂

closeup of the painted vanities

The final hardware that was the “winner” was from Hobby Lobby. It has been a few years since I purchased it, so I’m not sure if they still carry the same type, but they always have a great selection of knobs and pulls.

5. Add Pretty Shelves

I may be a bit biased because shelves are one of my very favorite ways to decorate the walls in any room, but I think they look especially lovely in the bathroom. The vertical space above the commode just seems made for them!

These floating shelves above the toilet in our boys’ bathroom were an inexpensive Target find…

white floating shelves hanging on the bathroom wall

…and we actually DIY-ed the simple shelf in our townhouse half bath using items we already had on hand. You can see how we did it in this post.

new guest bathroom update

And finally, when we were doing the recent refresh in our master bathroom, I snagged this cute cabinet, which gave me a little display shelf and a place to store our toilet paper all at the same time!

closeup of white bathroom cabinet

6. DIY Budget Wall Prints

The art doesn’t have to be fancy, and can be handmade for super cheap. Use a free program like Canva to create your own design and pop it into a thrifted frame.

Two Inexpensive Art Prints on a Shelf in the Bathroom

Do a quick search on Pinterest to find some free prints to frame in the bathroom.

Or create your own handmade wood sign or canvas art!

7. Organize the Bathroom

You probably could have guessed that this one was coming. My most favorite way to update any space is with organization. When I clear away the clutter and create an easy system for all of our must-have items, it always just feels like a breath of fresh air to me, and I immediately feel better about the space.

under the bathroom sink organized with bins

Most recently we stacked these pretty mint drawer units and a few bins to maximize vertical space in our primary bathroom.

We also added cube bins in our guest bathroom to help keep our cleaning rags neat and tidy…

top view of an organized bathroom drawer

In our last house we had a big, open vanity space, so stacking drawers (similar to these) were the perfect way to store everything we needed.

bins and containers underneath the bathroom sink that have been organized

And I challenged myself to organize our townhouse guest bathroom with a budget of $0– I just got creative and repurposed items that I already had.

underneath the townhouse bathroom sink organized with baskets and containers.

Giving the bathroom a good thorough cleaning can also make a world of difference!


clean the grout

If the bathroom tile has been there for a long time, chances are that the grout is pretty dirty. Mixing a bleach solution or using an industrial grade tile cleaner and a toothbrush will brighten up the lines quite a bit! 

Thinking of replacing the tile? Use our tiling tips and tricks that helped us keep our sanity on other projects.

8. Swap the Rugs

Because of the water and humidity in the bathroom, bath mats can start to look dingy fairly quickly. Swapping them out for a fresh set can breath new life into the bathroom space.

Guest Bathroom with New Rugs

And inexpensive rugs can go a long way in helping to cover up floor tile that we may not love!

9. Install Wallpaper

I wanted my current half bath to make a statement, but I didn’t want to commit to a big tile project. Wallpaper to the rescue!

Powder Room with Beadboard and Aqua Wallpaper

Since I only used wallpaper on the top 1/3 of the wall, I didn’t need very much, and it still added the pop of color and pattern I was looking for.

Not a wallpaper fan? A stenciled wall could give a similar effect!

10. Add Board and Batten or Beadboard

This one is a bonus. If you’re up for tackling a slightly bigger project, consider adding board and batten or wainscoting to your bathroom space! It’s a fairly inexpensive way to take your bathroom up a notch. You can get the step-by-step tutorial for adding board and batten in a bathroom in this post.

board and batten wall in a small space

In our townhouse guest bathroom, we added a simple board with a little ledge and some hooks, and even that small update went a long way in improving the look and feel of the space. (Plus, then our boys were able to hang up their towels all by themselves! Win!)

newly updated bathroom with towels hanging on hooks

And in our current powder room, we used beadboard paneling to create a similar look.

Powder Room Corner with Vanity, Large Rectangular Mirror, and Brass Light Fixture

Builder Grade Bathroom Update Ideas: Final Thoughts

Bathrooms can definitely be tricky to change up at times because they seem like a massive (and pricey) project, but I’m always amazed at how a few quick and inexpensive fixes can really spruce up a space!

Builder Grade Bathroom Updates: Frequently Asked Questions

In the simplest terms, builder grade refers to bare bones. This means most of the time the materials are inexpensive and are not meant to last forever.

The grading scale is builder grade (lowest), quality, custom, and ultra custom (highest quality).

They can fabricate builder grade cabinets from a variety of materials, but the most common are MDF, particle board, plywood, composite, or plastic veneer.

Have you done any projects to update a builder grade bathroom? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Save this post so you can easily find it later– pin the image below!

10 Inexpensive Ways to Update a Builder Grade Bathroom

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

10 Comments

  1. Micah | Home Faith Family says:

    You had me at Target and Hobby Lobby. =D
    It’s amazing how something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can liven up a room and bring everything back to life. Great job on all your hard work. I especially love your idea of repurposing what you have already. A little creativity can quickly go a long ways.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Micah! Have a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  2. Audrey Johnson says:

    Beautiful. Love some of the little details that we usually don’t even think about in the bathroom. Like shelving and molding. Thanks for sharing.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Audrey! Have a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  3. You guys do some really nice work. Great ideas! I’ve been meaning to try some of those shelves. They look so pretty.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Judy @sensibledove

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thank you so much, Judy! Hope you’re having a great week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  4. Love the shower curtain! Where is it from?

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Amy! I think it was from Target a few years ago!

      ~Abby =)

  5. Loved the wall paper and that you only did the upper portion!
    It turned out fabulous!
    Thanks so much for sharing. You inspired me. 😊

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Roberta! Have a wonderful week! <3

      ~Abby =)

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