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Building a Basement Bathroom on a Budget

The first project we tackled in our third home was building a basement bathroom. We had a laundry list of projects to tackle so the new bathroom had to be as budget-friendly as possible.

The basement level of our home was huge with half of the space finished and the other half unfinished as a storage room. We had big plans for the master bathroom and guest bath upstairs but needed a functioning bathroom with a shower before we started tearing the other two apart.

In the image below you can see the area that will become the private bedroom once we add a wall and door. The existing doorway you see on the right takes you into the unfinished storage space of the basement. We decided to keep the existing doorway and create a full bathroom using a portion of the storage room.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

The addition of a legal bedroom and full bathroom in the basement adds value to our property and was great for all of our guests. Shortly after this basement en suite was built, our second child was born and we planned to use the basement for an au pair to live with us.

I am excited to share all of the details on how we built this bathroom and where we were able to save on cost!


How we Added a Basement Bathroom on a Budget

First, it is important to point out that we did not hire a general contractor for this project. We acted as the general contractor and hired subcontractors for many of the tasks. I also consulted with a friend who was a general contractor throughout the process, which was incredibly helpful.

The storage room in the basement was huge, it was a no-brainer to take half of the storage room to create a bathroom. As we began planning, google was my best friend. It is important to follow current building codes so we were very careful with the layout. You have to pay attention to the placement of each item, like the distance between the toilet and the tub, the door swing, electrical outlets, etc.  

First, we measured the space we planned to use in the storage room and marked it with tape.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

I found a free program online to create the bathroom layout and we came up with a few options. The image below is one of the options we considered, but did not end up choosing.

Basement bathroom layout
Not the exact layout of the bathroom we chose

Where we Hired the Professionals

We had enough on our plates with getting settled into the house and happily hired out some of the more manual and skilled tasks for this project.

  • Cutting into the cement floor for the plumbing
  • Plumbing
  • Framing (My husband could do this but we got a good deal on the bathroom and bedroom)
  • Heating
  • Electrical
  • Drywall

Pro Tip: Remove everything from a room when cutting into concrete! Debris flew everywhere and all of our stuff was a dusty mess.  I definitely would have taken more time prepping the storage room because it is still a dusty mess.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

The bathroom was quickly plumbed, framed, wired for electrical and heating, and then drywall was installed. To save money, we tackled cosmetic projects in the bathroom.

Basement Bathroom Projects We DIY’ed

  • Bathroom layout/design
  • Painting the walls
  • Tiling the bathroom floor
  • Tiling the bathtub surround
  • Attaching all bathroom accessories

Bathroom Tile Installation

With this renovation, I was determined to try my hand at tiling and the basement bathroom was the safest place to learn. We purchased the floor tile at Home Depot and they were easy to install! I now recognize this same tile in almost every flip and new build. Apparently, everyone appreciates the affordability!

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

Tile Installation Issues

Once the floor tile was installed, we ran into some issues. First, I insisted on grouting the floor because I considered myself more detail-oriented than my husband. Once I started I quickly realized the positioning was not ideal for someone 5 months pregnant.  

Second, I had been reading all of my handy dandy blogs and learned about the benefits of pre-mixed grout. I chose Simple Grout which was not the most expensive but also not the least. This was a mistake.

 When I spread the grout into the cracks and waited a few minutes before wiping it off, the grout would not wipe off! I realized it was a really big issue and called for Chris to help. We spent the next few hours carefully adding the grout to the cracks and removing the grout on the tiles quickly, but it still looked terrible.

Here is what our beautiful tile looked like after we added the grout. I was so mad I wanted to cry!

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

I made one critical error when choosing the materials- I forgot to check the reviews. If I had looked at the product reviews prior to using the product I would have seen that most people who used it would not recommend it.  So if you are looking for a premixed grout, do NOT go with Simple Grout for filling in the cracks!

Because I was pregnant, I could not participate in cleaning up my mess with chemicals, so Chris had to spend the next few days scrubbing the floors.  When nothing seemed to work, he found a product that finally fixed the problem – BLAZE!  Sounds pretty hardcore, huh?  I DEFINITELY recommend this product to remove tough grout haze! 🙂

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

Here are the floors once Blaze was done kicking its ass.  Blaze is my hero.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

Shower Tile Installation

The plumbers installed the tub and the drywallers installed the backer board where the tile would be installed. Next up was installing the shower tile.  Again, I was convinced I wanted to do this tiling project to learn and save on the budget. And again, sitting on the edge of a tub tiling with a big ol’ belly was not ideal.  I also chucked the Simple Grout to the curb and had Chris mix up some basic grout and water.  

Turns out I wasn’t great with this product either!  We could not get the right consistency to stick to the walls, so most of it fell into the tub.  After the second failed attempt and a lot of pouting/whining from me, Chris went out and bought the most expensive premixed grout at Home Depot.

Guess what – it worked!  I never knew a grout could make me SO happy. Fusion Pro was expensive but completely worth the cost for tiling projects.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

And here was the shower once the tiling was finished! We went with smaller subway tiles that came in sheets. We learned SO much from these first tiling projects and I am grateful we had this basement bathroom to practice and make some mistakes.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

My tiling skills have improved since this renovation – check out my full tutorial on how to install subway tile to a kitchen backsplash.


Basement Bathroom | After

I am so incredibly proud of how this basement bathroom turned out! We saved thousands of dollars by tackling some of the labor-intensive projects ourselves and we learned some new skills!

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird
Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

Check out the legal basement bedroom we created next to this bathroom to create a welcoming en suite for guests.

Adding a basement bathroom on a budget | Building Bluebird

Basement Bathroom Source List

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