Shower Remodeling on a Budget: 11 Tips to Refresh Your Bath for Less

Remodeling a shower can completely transform the look and feel of your bathroom. With some strategic planning and savvy design choices, you can create a luxurious new shower without breaking the bank. Before you start looking for a kitchen and bath contractor, this guide will walk you through 11 budget-friendly ideas to makeover your existing shower or add a new walk-in model. Let’s explore creative ways to get a spa-like shower experience while sticking to your shower remodeling budget.

Table of Contents

1. Assess Your Current Shower Situation

First, take a critical look at your current shower setup. Do you have a standard tub with a showerhead? A basic prefab stall? Or a spacious walk-in model? Evaluating your existing plumbing fixtures, layout, and accessibility is key for planning your shower remodeling project.

Consider these questions:

  • What type of shower do you currently have (tub, stall, walk-in, etc.)?
  • What size is your current shower area?
  • Does it allow for easy accessibility to bathe?
  • Is there room to expand the footprint if you want to install a walk-in model?
  • How’s the current water pressure?
  • Does the plumbing need to be updated?

2. Set Your Shower Remodeling Budget

Once you’ve assessed your current shower, it’s time to map out your budget. Shower remodeling costs can vary widely based on factors like:

Layout Changes

If you’re adjusting walls to change the size or configuration of your shower, costs add up quickly. Some typical changes and their price implications include:

  • Converting a tub to a walk-in shower: $2,000-$6,000
  • Expanding a standard alcove shower: $1,500-$4,000
  • Bumping out a wall to enlarge footprint: $3,000+
  • Adding a seat/niche or storage: $500-$2,000

Plumbing Work Needed

When altering or upgrading features, underlying plumbing updates are usually needed too. Common jobs include:

  • Replacing valves/supply lines: $200-$500
  • Relocating drains/vent pipes: $500-$2,000
  • Adding rainfall shower heads: $200+
  • Installing steam generators: $2,500+
  • Incorporating air baths: $4,000+

Materials Selected

The types of finishes you select have a direct impact on the total project cost. For example:

  • Basic $2 sheet vinyl = $100s
  • High-end tile = $1,000s

Factor ~$5-15 per sq. ft for shower walls/floors. Multiplied over several rooms with a larger footprint, premium materials add up fast.

Special Features Added

Details like the following increase the scope of work and customization price tag:

  • Glass mosaic tiles
  • Digital mixing valves
  • Custom niches
  • Ambient lighting
  • Waterproof Bluetooth
  • Teak shelves

As reported by Consumer Affairs, the average total cost to remodel a shower is between $4,000-$9,000 depending on the features chosen.

DIY vs Hiring a Contractor

If you plan to DIY the demolition work and have some tiling expertise, you can save 25-40% on labor costs. If complex construction or finishes are out of your skillset, consider hiring a general contractor or specialty subs. Their fees range:

  • General contractor: 10-20% of total budget
  • Plumber: $50-$100 per hour
  • Tile installation: $5-$10 per sq. ft.

Keep these cost factors in mind when establishing your overall budget.

As a baseline, you can expect to spend $3,500-$7,000 to fully remodel an existing tub or shower stall. Converting a standard tub to a walk-in shower usually ranges from $7,000-$15,000. Prices go up if you enlarge the footprint, opt for lux features like body sprays, or splurge on premium materials.

Determine how much you can realistically spend per small bathroom before you start planning. This will help you decide which upgrades to prioritize in your shower remodeling vision.

3. Choose a Shower Layout

With your budget set, now you can zero in on the shower layout that best suits your space, needs, and style. Consider these popular configuration options:

Standard Tub/Shower Combo

According to HomeAdvisor, the average bathroom remodel cost for a tub-to-shower conversion is $6,000-15,000.

  • Pros: No plumbing changes needed, affordable, standard feature expected in most homes
  • Cons: Limited space for showering, must enter/exit for tub, less “spa” feel

Basic Shower Stall

  • Pros: More room than a tub/shower, budget price point, simple upgrade
  • Cons: Typically smaller than walk-in, utilizes standard shower components

Spacious Walk-In Shower

  • Pros: Open access creates a spa-like feel, fully customized space & features
  • Cons: Higher cost, existing layout may limit footprint

Incorporate Seating

Another key layout decision – is whether to add seating inside your new shower. Options include:

  • Built-in bench or niche
  • Linear or corner seats
  • Fold-down teak seat
  • Paver tile blocks for modular seating

Seating makes showers more accessible and enjoyable if you like to go back wall relax or shave/shower legs.

4. Choose Your Shower Doors

Another big decision is the shower door. From swinging to slides, frameless to French doors, you have lots of options! Consider factors like room dimensions, accessibility needs, easy cleaning, and visual appeal. Popular choices include:

Shower Curtain

  • Budget-friendly
  • Allows for wider openings
  • Must hang properly to contain water
  • Less polished look

Framed Sliding Shower Doors

  • Classic style, medium cost
  • Can custom-fit opening sizes
  • Some maintenance required

Frameless Glass Shower Doors

  • A sleek, contemporary look
  • Custom sizes, walk-in access
  • Higher cost, glass requires thorough cleaning

5. Select Your Shower Walls

Now that your shower footprint is defined, it’s time to choose wall materials. Water resistance is a must! Many homeowners pair two materials: richer tiles on the bottom half and easier-to-clean painted cement board or waterproof drywall on top.

Best Water-Resistant Wall Options

When choosing your shower tiles and wall materials, water resistance is the priority. Tile and stone offer style and versatility to design your dream shower within budget. Consider these top-rated wall-covering options:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

A classic choice loved for its endless pattern and color options.

  • Budget-friendly: as low as $2/sq ft
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Grout requires sealing
  • Painted tile on cement board walls = extra water protection

Glass Tile

Small glass mosaics create a sleek, contemporary look.

  • Light reflects for added dimension
  • Metal or glass tiles start around $15/sq ft installed
  • Fewer grout lines than ceramic tile

Natural Stone Slate

Rich, organic pattern and texture.

  • Mid-range cost: $15-25/sq ft installed
  • Can be cut thin to reduce weight
  • Limit water exposure time to prevent discoloration

Solid Surface Materials

Seamless feel with integral waterproofing.

  • Branded acrylic/poly blends like Corian & Avonite
  • Expensive: $50-150 /sq ft installed
  • Impervious to moisture – entire walls can get wet
  • Limitless custom looks

Beyond the watertight essentials, factor special shower features like accent walls, borders, niches, and seating into your budget.

Consider the total square footage you’ll need to cover and opt for affordably priced tile or stone. Add defined borders or geometric designs if your budget allows.

Accent walls are also popular, featuring:

  • A focal decorative tile wall
  • Contrast grout colors
  • 3D tile patterns
  • River rock resin panels
  • Creative murals

6. Upgrade Your Shower Floor

Don’t overlook the importance of your shower flooring. As a surface that’s consistently wet and walked on during rain showers, it needs to offer durability, slip resistance, and waterproof integrity.

Choose a Waterproof Flooring Material

Start by selecting a completely waterproof flooring material that can withstand direct water contact and humidity day after day. Top options include:

  • Porcelain tile
  • Natural stone
  • Poured polymer resin
  • Sheet vinyl
  • Fiberglass/acrylic shower pans

Porcelain and stone rate best for water resistance, while preformed shower pans offer quicker installation.

Add Slip Resistance

Any hard flooring material can become slippery when wet. Look for tile, stone, or solid surface options engineered to be non-slip, or opt for textured finishes like:

  • Honed stone for grip underfoot
  • Mosaic tiles with pebble accents
  • Poured floors with grip additives

You can also incorporate removable vinyl shower mats or apply specialty coatings to ramp up traction.

Consider Radiant Heating

For a pure luxury bathroom remodel, look into electric radiant heat systems installed under the floor surface. Nothing beats stepping out onto a heated floor, especially come winter.

Select an Eye-Catching Design

With your shower floor material needs covered, get creative with shapes, textures, patterns, and colors to make it both practical and beautiful. Options span:

  • Geometric mosaic tile
  • Wood-look porcelain planks
  • Poured floors polishing agate, quartz, or glass flecks
  • River rock tiles and 3D resin panels

Size Your Shower Drain

Don’t forget to incorporate the right size linear or center drain based on your own shower head and pan footprint. This ensures optimal drainage and prevents pooling water.

Pro tip: Include a tile extension outside the shower threshold. This helps contain drips and connects the bathroom to the whole room.

7. Select Shower Fixtures

Fixtures have a big visual impact, so select styles that align with your overall aesthetic vision. While costs add up quickly, nice fixtures can make a basic shower feel ultra-luxurious.


Go big with these statement-making showerheads:

  • Extra large 12”-16” rainfall showerhead ($200-$800+)
  • Full shower column with body sprays ($800-$2,500+)
  • Multiple regular showerheads for different users/vantage points ($50-$300 each)

Or stick to standard adjustable showerheads offering great coverage starting around $50.

Shower Mixing Valves

Look for models with scald protection that offer both overhead and handheld use. Prices range widely:

  • Basic single-handle mixer valve ($50-$250)
  • Thermostatic digital mixing valve with settings ($250-$750+)
  • A fully digital system with body sprays, steam, etc ($2,000+)

8. Consider Special Features

Turn your shower into a sanctuary with special features like:

Steam Shower

Relaxing steam showers offer hydrotherapy benefits and require waterproofing, ventilation, and a vapor-tight door. Prices start around $2,500.

Bluetooth Audio

Set the mood with your favorite audio playlists seamlessly piped into an integrated shower audio system or wireless waterproof speaker. ($200+)

Chromatherapy Lighting

Color-changing LED lights create a soothing spa atmosphere. ($50+)

Heated Floors/Benches

Warm your feet on cold mornings and fall, with electric radiant heat under tiles or a fold-down teak seat warmer. ($500+)

9. Install Storage Niches

Tuck away all your bath items in small bathrooms with built-in shower niches and organizing features. Options include:

  • Corner shelves
  • Recessed wall cavities
  • Narrow vertical storage slots

Or go big with:

  • Freestanding floor cabinets
  • Half-wall partition with shelves
  • Framed or frameless glass doors

Mixing open and closed storage keeps everything handy but visually decluttered.

10. DIY vs Hire a Contractor

If you’re fairly handy and plan to work within your existing footprint, a shower remodel is DIY-able. Watch online tutorials and set aside 4+ weekends for the work.

But for complex layouts, significant plumbing changes, or specialty features, consider hiring a contractor. Their expertise allows you to focus on design selections while they handle installation logistics.

Either route, remember to pull the required permits and have the work inspected when complete.

11. Final Touches & Accessories

The little details make all the difference! Don’t forget these beautifying shower extras:

Niche Shelves

Built-in shelves sized for all your products keep things organized yet hidden.

Coordinating Bath Rugs

Ground your new spa-style shower with cushy cotton, memory foam, or bamboo bath mats.

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Listen to music or podcasts while you unwind in the steam.

Squeegee & Shower Spray

Keep glass doors spotless with these everyday cleaning tools.


Follow this comprehensive guide to evaluate your needs, layout, and style vision. Determine which of these tips allows you to check off your shower wish list affordably. Then put together an itemized budget and schedule to execute your plans.

Soon you’ll be enjoying a refreshing rain shower head soak or unwinding amidst gentle ceiling steam before wrapping yourself in a plush new bathrobe. Use your upgraded shower as a personal sanctuary to wash away the day’s stress – a little piece of heaven you deserve in your home every day!


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