Tile Tips for Baths on a Budget

How to Add Style to Your Bathroom Without Breaking the Budget.

Bathroom renovations can be expensive propositions. With such a huge spread in pricing on tile and plumbing fixtures, it’s hard for many homeowners to know where to start. There are $200 faucets and there are $1,200 faucets. The same goes for tile; it can range from 90 cents to $450 a square foot. And the overall price range of a bathroom remodel can vary just as greatly. If you’re on a budget — and not the kind that includes $400-per-square-foot-tile — here are some tile tips that elevate a basic bathroom to the next level without spending a fortune.


1. Add a decorative border. White in a bathroom is as popular as white in a kitchen, and basic white tile — whether it’s a 4″x4″ or 3″x6″ — can be really affordable. Mosaics can be pricey in comparison, especially if you want to do your whole bathroom in them. You can add some of their visual interest without spending a lot of money by using them in contrasting border. This technique has been around for a long time, as anyone with a vintage bath can tell you. Here, a double row of green mosaic glass tile up high on the wall, mixed in with a classic white subway tile, does the trick.

Many mosaic tiles come netted in roughly 12″x12″ sheets for easy installation. A great trick is to order half the linear footage you need for a border and cut the sheets in two.

In this shower, a larger border closer to 6 inches tall in a long rectangular glass tile really stands out at eye level against all the over-sized white tile.

A simple border of mosaic along the backsplash adds visual interest and ties the countertop material to the floor color (and makes it really easy to pick to a wall color). Here the tile is set right below a decorative cap tile.

Tip: Decorative cap tiles and pencil liners can be expensive — usually priced per piece. If you’re on a budget, run a border of tile like shown, but rather than using a decorative cap, use a standard bullnose tile piece that is typically used to finish off the field tile. No one will notice you skipped the decorative cap; their eyes will go to the gorgeous mosaic.

Three rows of mosaics adds just a bit of texture and visual interest to the stone field tile in this shower. (Again, you can buy the mosaic in sheets and cut it down to 3 rows.)


2. Create a feature wall If you’re not much of a border or stripe person, another great technique is employing a feature wall behind the sink (or on the back wall of the shower or tub as shown below). This requires more square footage of the more expensive mosaic tile, but still not as much as doing a whole bathroom!

The way the tile is wrapped up the front of the tub and up the wall behind the tub defines this bathroom — it wouldn’t be as dramatic if it covered every wall. The wall washer recessed can lights also help to highlight this dramatic detail.

A feature wall behind the sink really makes a statement, and involves less square footage than a tub wall. Installing mosaic tile like this makes such a statement that you can feel free to tile the rest of the bathroom in a more affordable, basic tile and still not feel like you gave anything up!

This bathroom employs both a feature wall and a border. The border is great way to tie in the feature wall if you want both a modern and vintage feel at the same time.


3. Create a feature floor. This is a personal favorite. Often bathrooms have less square footage on the floor than on the walls (especially if you’re considering wainscot tile), so go basic on the walls and splurge a bit on the floor tile. Here a graphic black and white basketweave makes this classic bathroom go from basic to beautiful — and that small mosaic makes the room look larger when used on the floor.

The 2″ marble hexagon tile on this floor is the splurge, and the basic white subway tile lets the marble mosaic steal the show. The addition of a modern vanity contrasting with the more vintage tile also adds visual interest.


4. Add beadboard or paneling. Wainscot tile square footage can really add up. If you can forgo it in lieu of wood beadboard and mix that with a feature floor tile pattern, you’ll have a winner.

A more formal approach, paneling accomplishes the same feel and budget savings as beadboard. Mixed with the marble mosaic floor tile and the stunning decorative mirror, this bathroom looks like it’s fit for a castle.


5. Make a decorative statement. A unique tile design that really stands out can define a bathroom. I love this treatment; white subway tile in this case is the decorative element rather than the field tile.

The waterfall effect of this blue-green glass mosaic vertical border is wonderful for a modern bathroom.