DIY Renovation for Small Bathroom With Small Budget

Introduction: DIY Renovation for Small Bathroom With Small Budget

Small bathroom in one room city apartment

We discovered moisture damage in our bathroom and it had to be fixed. Even we will have plumbing in our apartment complex within 5 years, we decided to take it apart and make renovation with small budget about 1000EUR.

I have many tiling tools from old renovation so I also saved some money in them. Try to borrow from your friends, relatives or job as much as you can if you don't want to buy trowels, tile cutter etc. and save money also that way. Shower cabin, which is in the pictures is not included in the budget.

Here in Finland you can renovate by yourself only if apartment complex manager agrees with it. Also certain things as water isolation and pipe modification require certificated person, so if you decide to make renovation clarify and follow your country's and apartment complex regulations/instructions. 

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Step 1: Tear It Down!

First you need to gather all essential tools for demolition

You will need

  • Protective gloves and goggles
  • Dumpster or big bags
  • Regular saw, jigsaw optional
  • Hammer & chisel to remove tiles (best way to do it)
  • Utility knife
  • Whetstone for removing old mortar (use for thick layers wide chisel)
  • Other tools & equipment for example warm air fan for drying moisture damage
First remove all items and fittings such as mirror, sink, toilet, thermostats etc. Take off old tiles with hammer and chisel. If tiles are on plasterboard it probably will break down. If you have chipboard it's possible to take tiles off with smaller damage but you still have to smooth it in preparation phase. In my case we also had to take down outer walls for drying it all out. Because this renovation is "temporary" for us, we didn't take all tiles off and did leave them on two main walls.

Remove tiles from floor and sand it with whetstone. After demolition clean everything up and vacuum dust.

Be careful that you don't hit any pipes or electrical wires!

Step 2: Surface Preparation

This phase will influent on your tiling result. If your surfaces aren't smooth enough this will recoil in tiling phase. 

You will need

  • Time & patience to make this well
  • Mortar (I recommend flexible cementitious adhesive, I used same as I did for tiling)
  • Floor leveling mortar
  • Buckets for mortar and water
  • Bucket trowel & regular trowel
  • Spatula for filling bigger gaps between drywalls
  • Drywall or other wall material
  • Drywall screws and cordless drill
  • Mixing paddle
  • Level
  • Water based primer
  • Grinder with diamond blade (If you need to modify tile corners etc)
  • Paint roller & brush for primer
  • Other tools you may need depending of your bathroom
Follow recommendations and instructions on your materials such as mortar and primer.

Start with wall struts if needed. Measure, cut and install drywalls.

If you leave old tiles:
Apply primer on tiles and let it dry for recommended time. Mix mortar (same that you will use for tiling) and apply it on the tiles with regular trowel. Use light touch and start from bottom making curve. Your goal here is to get as smooth surface as possible. You can also fill possible gaps between drywalls and if gap is big you can use also isolating foam. Let it dry well and remember to always wash your tools after use.

For floor use special leveling mortar, mix it to be bit looser so it will spread well on the floor. Start from end of room and move to the door using regular trowel. Let it dry. Remember to make incline so water will stream into the floor drain.

Apply primer starting with walls and then floor. Let it dry.

Step 3: Waterproofing

Waterproofing membrane

We used KIILTO Kerafiber waterproofing membrane and this installation requires in Finland certificated person. We also needed to pass inspection afterwards and there is regulation on thickness of isolation. Waterproofing was done in 2 layers. Kerafiber is almost like rubber when it's dry. Even if this is not necessary in your country I recommend to do this if you want to avoid water damages and build durable bathroom. If I understand it correctly, different manufactures have own methods for their products which you need to follow. 

You will need

You have done groundwork and applied primer. Now you can start painting with membrane.
Start from the walls and apply thick layer of it, you don't need to get it "looking good" or smooth.


  • put reinforcement tape in all corners, drain holes, pipes and also on floor drain (for floor drain you can use also use special reinforcement sheet) and paint good layer of membrane on it
  • For KIILTO Kerafiber instructions is to let it dry for 2 hrs minimum and apply second layer then. After second layer is applied wait minimum 6 hrs before tiling
  • If you use other membrane check drying time from instructions etc.
  • install retaining ring in floor drain after it's dry

You can check KIILTO Kerafiber installation instructions from here (it's in Finnish but includes pictures of whole process).

Step 4: Tiling

Most important part of tiling is planning

When selecting tiles take under consideration color, price, size and quality. In our renovation we bought regular quality tiles for reasonable price and total cost with floor tiles was around 400USD. Mosaic tiles in the corner next to the toilet are leftovers from my other apartment floor tiling. Just visit your local store and discuss their options and recommendations for your bathroom. Remember to ask they recommendation for titling trowel indentationIf you haven't done tiling before I recommend to check technique from youtube, there's tons of tiling videos.

Tools for tiling

  • Tape measure & level
  • Tile cutter 
  • Tile pilers
  • Tiling trowel
  • Bucket and bucket trowel
  • Drill and mortar mixer paddle
  • Tile spacers or string
  • Planks for support
  • Saw
  • Grinder with diamond blade for making cuts into tile (pipes, socket etc).


Now when you have your tiles you want to put then on your walls. Measure and plan your tiling by putting tiles in the row on your floor and you will see how big cuts there will be needed. You will want minimize cuts and use as many whole tiles as possible so it will look better. I'm 99% sure that cuts will be needed, so make them in those corners that will not be seen immediately from door step. For example my bathroom will have shower cabin and cuttings will be hidden behind it.

Support your tiles

Prepare planks for support by measuring length of all walls and cut them. Measure place for support plank that cut in tiles will be on the bottom and whole tile will go in upper row (see picture). Tiling should start always with walls. To attach planks you can screw them to the wall or good trick is to mix small amount of mortar, put it on the plank (just in couple places should be enough) and attach to the wall. Let it dry and support it with some tools or tiles. 


Follow manufacturers instructions to mix right amount of water for your thinset. Mix and use mixing paddle with drill.
I recommend to have a sidekick to pour water slowly while you mix it on slow speed. To test your thinset place the small amount on a piece of scrap tile, forming a peaked shape. If the shape holds, you have mixed the mortar properly and if it slumps, you need more mortar and if it crumbles, you need more water. Give it a rest for 5 - 10 min (grab a beer or coffee) and then mix it again for couple minutes and you are done.

Applying thinset

Use tiling trowel and spread thinset starting from your planks. Drag trowel from bottom to top of your spread section, which is amount of tiles that you can attach in 3-5 min. If you are beginner I recommend to spread for 2-3 rows maximum. Make sure that indentation leaves enough deep gap so tile will attach properly.  Keep your trowel at 45 degrees.

Grout joints

For joints you can use tile spacers or string which I prefer. Their size depends on your tiles but usual are 3-4mm.


There is couple styles to start tiling. If you have wide and open walls you should start tiling from midpoint so both ends of the wall will be even. If your walls are oblique start tiling from midpoint also.

We wanted to start from corners that will be seen and leave cuts to the corners that will be covered. Do the walls and then the floor. When floor tiles are adjusted and dry (next day) take planks off and add missing row of wall tiles.

Now you need to spread grout in the joints - see next step.

Step 5: Apply Grout

Steps and tips

Mix grout by following manufacture's instructions and let it to set down for 10 min, mix a bit. Consistence should be like mayonnaise. 

Cover the floor to avoid cleaning it later.

Start spreading grout with upward strokes. Use grout trowel and do small areas at a time so it won't dry and stick to tiles. Hold grout float at 45 degrees and make several passes over the same area from different directions. Don't fill corners but if some of grout gets into them, no problem, you can cut them out later.

Wet your sponge in clean water and squeeze it out until it's just damp. Take extra grout off from tiles (don't touch joints just jet) with sponge edges, use all edges and then rinse. Do this couple times. Thin film of grout may appear when the water evaporates and you will clean this off with a soft cloth later. Remember to be fast so grout won't dry too much. Read and follow package instructions.

Start cleaning the excess grout from the face of the tile and shaping the joints. It's important that you don't use too much water on the sponge and don't scrub too hard.

If you use different grout color for the floor apply that grout next day or after minimum drying time. If it's same as on the walls do the floor in same time.

Start cleaning the excess grout from the face of the tile and shaping the joints. It's important that you don't use too much water on the sponge and don't scrub too hard.

If you use different grout color for the floor apply that grout next day or after minimum drying time. If it's same as on the walls do the floor in same time.

Step 6: Finishing

Finishing up

Buff tiles with soft cloth to remove thin grout film. Clean corners from grout with utility knife or small chisel. You want to clean them well because then caulk will look better also.

Apply caulk in all corners. I recommend to use tape to protect tile surface near the corner. Mix small amount of liquid soap in spray bottle with clean water. Spray it on the applied caulk and use ice cream stick to even out the corner. Clean your ice cream stick after every stroke in disposal cup.

After everything is done and dry you can wash the brand new bathroom and apply tile protector, if decided so.

Now you just need to install toilet, sink, socket etc. I used left over caulk to install toilet - no need to drill holes.

Remember to use professional electrician with socket etc and plumber if you modify pipes.

Step 7: Result


We are very pleased with our result and budget (we stayed under 1000EUR). This is my second renovation with my best friend Alex and I want to thank him for his effort and time. Life is good when you have good people around you.

Thank you for reading my instructable. Please, comment if you have questions.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    I live in Canada and thinking of renovating and waterproofing may basement walls.
    Do you know where I can find these producs:
    Waterproofing membrane, KIILTO Kerafiber
    Corner reinforcement tape, KIILTO Corner reinforcement tape
    Fibre-reinforced sheet for floor drain KIILTO Floor drain reinforcement sheet