If you're on a tight budget when remodeling a bathroom, you're always on the lookout for ways to cut costs, and the flooring is sometimes overlooked because it is generally not the highest ticket item in a bathroom remodel. Homeowners are often so intent on choosing that elegant cabinetry or debating a whirlpool tub vs. a glass-block, walk-in shower that the flooring is a last-minute decision.
You will be surprised at the savings possible if you carefully consider your flooring options. While there are many flooring materials that meet the criteria for bathroom use—humidity resistance, slip resistance, durable wear—some of the common options can be far more expensive than you imagine. Natural stone, for example, is a common choice, but it can carry a hefty price tag.
Fortunately, there are several budget-friendly options for updating your bathroom floor. Ranging from simple repainting of a wooden floor to modern vinyl to porcelain tile, the money you save on flooring can contribute to that elegant pedestal bathtub or that large walk-in shower you've always wanted.
While the flooring is not the biggest decision you'll make when remodeling a bathroom, it does make a big difference in your bathroom's look and a surprisingly big difference in your remodeling budget. If you want to refresh your style without spending a fortune, think about using one of these techniques for a totally new feel to your bathroom.
If you are lucky enough to already have a wooden floor in your bathroom, the simplest solution to refresh its look is to paint it a new shade—possibly one that fits your new color scheme.
There are excellent bathroom-compatible paints, but if you prefer a more natural look, you can add a tint to a white enamel for just a touch of color. Enamel will protect your wood and keep it shiny and beautiful for years to come.
Repainting is a solution most homeowners can do themselves, avoiding additional labor costs. Repainting can be combined with the use of some high-quality rugs to make a bathroom floor that is truly elegant at a fraction of the cost of premium materials.
Porcelain tile is the more elegant big brother to standard ceramic tile. It has several advantages when used for bathroom flooring. Made from fine clays fired at very high temperatures, porcelain has a very low moisture absorption rate (less than point 5 percent), which makes it perfect for the humid environment of a bathroom, and even outdoors in some climates.
Porcelain tile design also comes in a myriad of styles, from faux-wood to faux-marble to, well, faux-everything. So, that luxurious stone tile you wanted but is way too expensive? You can have it for much cheaper by using a porcelain tile designed to look like marble, slate, or granite.
Big-box home improvement centers now have a surprising selection of excellent porcelain tiles. Specialty tile outlets also may have more budget options or close-out styles among their selections.
Porcelain tiles are installed in the same way as standard ceramic tile. Most homeowners hire out this work, but a skilled DIYer can also install porcelain tile. And if you are dying for a bathroom with radiant under-floor heating, porcelain tile is a perfect surface.
Add an Accent Rug
As this beautiful bathroom by Buknola shows, a well-chosen rug can break the monotony of an ordinary floor and bring color to any space. In a bathroom with otherwise bargain-level flooring, splurging on one or two nice rugs can make all the difference in the world.
If you have some space, put a nice rug at the entrance of your bathroom—it'll set the tone for the rest of the room, and you won't have to replace or repaint the entire floor. Or buy a few complementary rugs and throw them around the room—at the entrance, in front of the sink, at the foot of the bath. Hide the less nice parts of your bathroom floor with a rug—it'll save you money and add plenty of style to your space.
However, do make sure you put anti-slip padding under the rug so water and humidity don't make it dangerous to stand and walk on it.
One thing that's great about modern printing technologies is that we can now make synthetic substances like vinyl look like nearly any material. The cheap-looking sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles once common are a thing of the past. Today's vinyls have textured surfaces and print layers that can look convincingly like natural stone, wood, and other premium materials.
Especially popular are newer luxury vinyl flooring (LVF), a thicker form of vinyl flooring that is generally installed as planks joined together with a modified tongue-and-groove system known as "click-lock." These floors are quite luxurious in appearance but cost a fraction of what natural stone or hardwood flooring costs. Of all the common flooring choices, vinyl the most resistant to humidity and water.
With many different textures and colors available, you can make the floor of your dreams without spending outlandishly for dream materials. And vinyl is super easy to install and even easier to maintain.
The beautiful vinyl pattern featured in this photo is from Esty shop QuadroStyle. There are plenty of specialty vinyls available at independent flooring outlets that will give you unique choices if you don't like what big-box stores have on hand.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring
A step up from standard vinyl flooring, luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) is a thicker form of semi-rigid vinyl that usually comes in planks that are assembled with a "click-lock" tongue-and-groove system. Because there are seams between planks, there is the possibility of water infiltration to the subfloor, but the flooring itself is entirely waterproof.
The advantage of luxury vinyl is that it is available in many different types, many of which are convincing copies of natural wood, stone, or ceramics. This is a relatively easy flooring to install, which makes it a good choice for DIYers.
Although it is sometimes thought to be an overly cold, industrial-looking flooring material, poured concrete is appearing more and more, especially in homes with a modern style. It is surprisingly affordable, especially for small spaces. And depending on your home style and the location of the bathroom, you may already have concrete lurking beneath old sheet vinyl or ceramic tile on the slab foundation or a basement floor. If you remove the old surface flooring, you may well find a surface that can be patched and finished to become a beautiful polished concrete floor.
Concrete is hard but it is also porous; in a bathroom, it will need to be treated with some kind of sealing agent that can protect it against stains and water penetration. However, once it is properly protected, concrete is easy to keep clean with regular sweeping and damp mopping.
Cost: If the floor is above-grade, on a non-concrete subfloor, the contractor will need to install a cement-board underlayment before pouring the concrete, which will add $2 to $3 per square foot. You won't have these costs on an existing concrete floor. The basic pour and finish for the floor costs from $3 to $6 per square foot for a basic polished finish. Expect to pay an additional $2 to $5 per square foot for moderate decorative options, such as dying or acid staining. Elaborate artistic work can cost as much as $15 per square foot.
Patching an existing concrete floor after removing a surface flooring is a different project and is usually more affordable.
For surface patching of existing concrete plus a surface polish, expect to pay about $2 per square foot.
If a complete resurfacing layer of concrete is needed, expect to pay $2 to $4 per square foot.
A dye or acid-stain treatment costs an additional $2 to $4 per square foot.
One advantage of a concrete floor is that it is fairly easy to integrate with below-floor radiant heating systems, which can be a very attractive option in a bathroom.
Linoleum is an older form of resilient flooring. Although it was at one time largely replaced by vinyl flooring, linoleum has made a resurgence. Since it is a natural material made mostly from linseed oil, in appeals to homeowners who are eco-conscious. Linoleum has most of the same benefits as vinyl, but it may emit a somewhat unpleasant odor for a few weeks after it is installed.
Like vinyl, linoleum is fairly impervious to water, but sheet forms without seams are a better choice for active bathrooms.
Cost: $2 to $5 per square foot for materials; an additional $3 to $10 per square foot for professional installation.