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Renovate or refresh the bathroom to help sell your home

Published on October 20, 2022

It's well known that, after the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the most important living spaces in a home. It’s both a private space and one that’s used by visiting friends and family, so it must be functional and inviting.

As one of the hubs in a home, the bathroom can add cachet—or create a feeling of disappointment—when it comes time to sell the property. Since bathroom renovations are costly, potential buyers might balk at the thought of buying a property that needs this kind of work. So it’s important that the bathroom be functional and look good when it’s time to sell. Investing in an update is often a good idea. But how do you decide whether the right choice is remodelling your bathroom top to bottom or just giving it a facelift?


Is redoing the bathroom worth it?

Along with the kitchen, the bathroom can make potential buyers fall in love with your home, so it offers the most potential for resale profitability. According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, when you renovate the bathroom, you can hope to get a 75% to 100% return on the money you invest.1 What’s more, a revamped bathroom can inspire buyers to make an offer on your property.

However, the actual impact of a revamp on your resale value depends on how many bathrooms the property has, relative to the number of bedrooms, and on the market in which the home is located. So it’s good to know your neighbourhood well and understand the buyers who are looking to move there. Are they older people who want a home that’s ready to move into or younger couples hoping to renovate?

Refresh or renovate: That’s the question

How far should you go in updating your bathroom? The short answer is: it depends. The long answer is that your budget and your needs will dictate whether you should just update the decor or renovate the room entirely.

Assessing your needs

To determine the extent of the work needed, start by looking at the bathroom as it is now:


  • Can you move around freely?
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Is it suitable for a family?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a complete renovation may be called for.


  • Does it need a lot of work to suit current styles and preferences?
  • Is it easy to maintain?

If the bathroom is easy to maintain and can be improved with just a little minor work to refresh it, then that’s the way to go.


  • Is the lighting appropriate; does it make the room relaxing?
  • Is the room crowded?
  • Is the decor inviting?

If the room isn’t overcrowded with fixtures that can’t be moved (shower, tub), then you can just enhance the comfort through decoration and small, inexpensive jobs.

Marilena Tricarico, renovations expert and spokesperson for RenoAssistance, explains that the home’s overall state also has an impact on the decision. “In a very old home, for instance one that’s 50 or 60 years old, it’s probably not worth renovating just the bathroom, if the rest also needs an update. In that situation, it’s almost better to just demolish the room altogether before selling, to let the buyers rebuild it to their taste.”

If the bathroom is relatively new, meaning under 10 years, then refreshing it may be the right choice. Changing the vanity, countertop, and taps, and tweaking the ambience through lighting and an updated bathmat and decor, can make a big difference. Also, if your goal is to sell fairly quickly, it may be more appropriate to focus on maintenance and home staging, which are fairly short-term, than to start more costly and larger-scale renovations, which take more time.

In short, you should assess your needs in terms of the bathroom’s functionality, condition, and comfort, while also considering the property’s age and general look, the neighbourhood in which it is located and your selling goals. This will help you choose between renovating or refreshing your bathroom.

Set a realistic budget

Another decisive factor in the type of improvements you can make to your bathroom is the amount you can earmark for the project. Expenses tend to vary between $15,500 and $45,500 in 2022, according to RenoAssistance, but ultimately depend on these factors:

  • Extent of the work
  • Materials used
  • Labour costs
  • Turnaround time for the work

So a small budget will be used for smaller, aesthetic changes, while a larger one offers a greater range of options for the work done and the materials chosen.

When determining the budget for your bathroom upgrade, the assessed property value must be considered. Ideally, the amount invested in the bathroom should not exceed 5% to 10% of the home appraisal.2 For instance, for a home whose value is assessed at $300,000, the cost of renovating the bathroom should not go higher than $15,000 to $30,000.

You can save substantially by making a few sacrifices. To cut costs, Marilena Tricarico suggests “scaling the work to your budget and needs” and being creative, for instance by restoring the bathtub enamel instead of replacing the tub entirely.

Refresh: Revamp without breaking the bank

Marilena feels that if the basics are good and still in style, if the bathroom is functional and has enough storage, then you can choose to just refresh the room instead of doing a full reno.

There are several ways to improve a bathroom’s appearance at a reduced cost. Focus on these 4 aspects to maximize comfort and create a contemporary, relaxing decor:

Bathroom wall lighting


Dated light fixtures can make a room seem drab. And the lighting itself can transform the ambience. Installing new fixtures will take years off your bathroom. Recessed lights or wall sconces that match the decor in the rest of your property are good options.

And don’t overlook natural lighting! If you have a window in the room, let as much light in as possible, while ensuring privacy with a clean, modern window treatment.




Bathroom ceramic floor


Bathroom tiles are one of the room’s focal elements. It’s not unusual for potential buyers to be turned off a home just because of outdated or damaged bathroom tiles. A new floor can do wonders to refresh a bathroom, making it more inviting and modern. If your budget doesn’t allow for the installation of new waterproof tiles, you can opt for tile paint, to change the existing floor’s look. Get out your paintbrush!





new bathroom sink and hardware

Taps, tub, shower, toilet

There are a lot of options available if you want to update your space without spending on large, expensive bathroom items like the tub and shower stall:

  • Replace outdated plumbing accessories with more contemporary models (or retro, if that’s your style).
  • Install modern fixtures.
  • Replace or repair an old toilet that’s discoloured or damaged.
  • Clean or change grout that’s dirty, old or in poor condition.
  • Repair the bathtub’s finish to return it to its original shine.
  • Swap out the sink for a newer model.

A thorough cleaning will also give more sparkle to the items you decide to keep.

bathroom decor items


Your bathroom decor has an impact on potential buyers’ perceptions when it comes time to sell. If you have limited time, budget or resources, some new decor elements can be used to easily level up your bathroom. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Repaint, using moisture-resistant paint specially designed for bathrooms, selecting light colours that make the space look larger.
  • Create an accent wall with wallpaper to add some personality.
  • Add artwork to bare walls.
  • Replace the mirror, vanity, and countertop with recent models.
  • Make use of decorative accessories like candles, a mat or rug, and towels.
  • Put away less-appealing products in drawers or closed boxes.
  • Add plants that thrive in humid environments to add life to the room.
  • Install some shelves, which at the same time will increase the available storage space.

Keep in mind that a pared-down space is always more appealing than a cluttered one. Here’s your chance to do some purging! In short, if you invest a little time and follow these affordable tips, your bathroom will become a new selling point for your home.

Renovate: Change everything from the ground up

If your bathroom needs a lot of attention, then investing in renovating it could make your home easier to sell to buyers looking for something that’s move-in ready. They will also be less tempted to try to negotiate your price down. Large-scale renos however require more caution and involvement at the start.

Reduce stress by preparing well

Careful planning is key to get the greatest return from renovations done before selling your house. Once your needs are clearly identified, then it’s time to go on to the next stage.

Bathroom remodel plan and decor inspiration

1. Set a budget

Since bathroom renovation costs can mount quickly, ask different experts for estimates, visit specialized stores and shop around for the accessories you’ll need, to get a better picture of the upcoming expense. And most of all, remain realistic.

Any renovation project can take unexpected turns, like additional needs or delays. It’s best to prepare and set aside 10% of your budget for such contingencies.

2. Measure twice, cut once!

Know the size of your vanity and the relative locations of the tub, shower, and toilet. That way you can create a well-thought-out space that will appeal to future buyers and that you can also enjoy in the meantime.

3. Be cautious

Be sure to keep all your documents together: invoices, budget, ideas, product documentation and warranties. That way, you can monitor the work as it advances and keep track of what’s been spent and what’s coming. You should also check the references of any experts you want to hire.

3. Plan your time

Renovating is a series of small and large tasks, one after the other. Create a detailed plan of the work that will be done to your bathroom, including the appointments you have with various experts, the order in which they are coming, and how long each task will take.

Make bankable choices

When you’re renovating to sell, it’s important to always keep the future buyers’ interests in mind. Some decisions are made for budgetary reasons, and others, to make your bathroom more pleasant for the future owners.

Double flush new toilet

To keep expenses down

  • Keep what can be kept (that’s still in good condition and in style).
  • If possible, avoid having to move pipes (that means hiring a plumber, which will make the bill climb fast).

To focus on the environment

  • Choose sustainable materials (your buyers and the planet will thank you).
  • Opt for LED lights (they have a longer lifespan than ordinary light bulbs).
  • Install a dual-flush toilet and an aerator on the tap (these reduce water use).

Find out whether you’re eligible for renovation grants for your bathroom, to make your home greener!

To make the room useful and comfortable

  • Make sure you have enough electrical outlets (better too many than too few!).
  • Install or keep the bathtub and shower (separate if possible).
  • Decorate with relaxation and quality in mind (choose understated and timeless materials for permanent fixtures; be bold if you want to with the paint and decor).

Since trends are always changing, give your buyers a chance to do their own modifications to your renos once they buy the property. For instance, if you install the new ceramic tile under the vanity, this will allow the new owner to replace it in the future.

Tips from Marilena from RenoAssistance

An interior designer specialized in renovations, Marilena Tricarico has helped a lot of clients over the years. Here are her tips to improve a bathroom when preparing to sell your property:

Prioritize functionality

According to Marilena, you should first do work that improves the room’s functionality, for example, the plumbing or installing a separate bath and shower (space permitting).

Think “timeless”

She suggests “not following the trends too closely and opting for timeless materials, like marble and metro-type tiles.” The key is to not rely on your personal taste, but to keep general preferences in mind.

Marble new remodeled bathroom by RenoAssistance

Do things properly

When renovating, it’s important, according to Marilena, to protect yourself against a potential lawsuit for hidden defects after the sale. “For example, it’s not recommended to just install new tiles over the existing ones, because that can lead to water infiltration,” she pointed out. Calling on experts, particularly when it comes to electricity and plumbing, is a must. The RenoAssistance expert advises against doing this work yourself. These jobs ought to be done by certified professionals; otherwise, if a defect appears, the liability will be the seller’s.

Plumber installing new bathroom sink

Also important is talking to contractors before the project: this can help you make the right decisions. A chartered appraiser has the expertise to make sure you’re investing in the right upgrades and determine what value your property will have once the renos are done.

To find a contractor for your bathroom renovations, you can trust RenoAssistance and its exclusive 53-Point Verification Process. Get inspired by looking at some of their past projects!

RenoAssistance bathroom remodel project

The DuProprio teams supports you in selling your property, during or after renovations. Learn more about our services and the visibility our tools offer you, by contacting our customer service at 1-866-387-7677 or by watching this webinar:

Planning to sell? We can help you! Watch our video.
1. La Presse, “Rénovations : dépenses ou investissement ?” February 15, 2018. https://www.lapresse.ca/maison/renovation/201802/15/01-5153971-renovations-depense-ou-investissement.php 2. National Bank, “How to make a home renovation budget,” June 1, 2021. https://www.nbc.ca/personal/advice/home/tips-for-making-a-renovation-budget.html