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Remodeling Your Bathroom on a Budget

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Simple ways to revamp your bathroom without spending a fortune . . . Is your bathroom looking more shabby than chic these days? Are you tired of the outdated look but don’t feel you have the budget to make improvements? The truth is, there are a lot of things that you can do to add new life to an old looking bathroom without having to gut the entire room back to the studs.

Remodeling Your Bathroom on a Budget

If the basics of the bath are still in good condition then it’s not really necessary to completely tear out the entire bath. As long as the sink, toilet and tub or shower are still usable and there are no plumbing leaks and no rot to the floor or walls you should be able to do what is called a surface remodel.

A surface remodel can save you thousands of dollars over a complete remodeling project and the look can be just as impressive. In fact, if you’re a smart shopper you could probably get a new bath for a couple hundred dollars.


Is a Surface Remodel Right for Your Bathroom?

The most important thing is to assess the current condition of your bathroom. Not every bathroom is a candidate for a surface remodel. If there is a substantial amount of floor rot around or under the sink or toilet you will need to make some more extensive repairs.

This can be a common problem, especially in older baths where moisture has had years to do its damage. But if the floor and lower edges of the wallboard are sound, you should be able to move ahead with a surface remodel.

A surface remodeling project starts just like any other remodeling project. Move everything out! You can leave the tub toilet and sink in place but if you have a second bathroom you can use for a few days, removing them will give you more room to work and if you plan to lay a new floor, your job will be a lot easier. Just remember to turn off the water supply to the bathroom before you start disconnecting the plumbing!

If moving them out of the room isn’t an option for you, (perhaps you don’t want to play plumber!), use painters tape and plastic to protect the sink, toilet and fixtures. It will save you a great deal of time from scrubbing paint off surfaces with paint thinner!

Where Elbow Grease is More Important than the Hammer

Now is the time to scrub, scrape, patch and repair. Clean anything that’s not being removed. Scrape away old wall paper and clean the residue with warm soap and water.

Patch any holes with wallboard patching compound and sand smooth when dry. Make repairs to chipped or dented baseboard and molding. Latex wood filler works well for this but in order to do a good job you need to be willing to spend the time to sand it out to blend in with the surrounding area.

Once you’ve completed all the prep work, your bathroom is now the perfect blank canvas for creating your dream bath. If you want a country bath, try installing bead board panels on the walls. You can either cover the entire wall or use it as wainscoting on the lower portion and top it with chair rail molding.

The great thing about any type of paneling is that it tends to cover a number of imperfections, so if your walls are less than perfect this might be the ideal solution. Another benefit of the bead board is that it comes in vinyl, which is washable and long lasting.

In our case, the bathtub really needed a pick-up. It’s 20 year old plastic had yellowed and now amount of bleach or scrubbing would return the coloring. We mixed our favorite shower scrubbing cleanser, rinsed it well and wiped it down with towels to ensure it was completely dry.

We then taped the existing fixtures (which are heavy duty shower grab bars as this is our guest bath) and re-painted the tub with a specialty Rust-Oleum tub and tile spray paint. The spray is dry to the touch in 15 minutes flat and fully cures in 3 days.

Once the tub/shower were repainted, the walls were repainted. This particular shade of green was a discarded/rejected color on the discount rack of our local Lowes.

It was $8 for the gallon, mind you I doctored it up a bit by adding some white paint we had leftover from another project.


We added a cast iron adirondack towel rack and a new curtain bath mat set that we found on Amazon for under $18. Rather than replacing the shower curtain rod, we reused the existing one, but lightly sanded it (to remove rust) then spray painted it with brushed nickel spray paint to give it new luster.

Want a Relaxing Spa?

Spa baths are the latest must-have in bathrooms. If you want to recreate the look, use light colors for your walls and choose faucets and shower heads in a sleek European look. Add shelving with wicker baskets for storage of towels and bath accessories. And remember, in any bathroom, clutter is out!

So while you’re planning your remodeling project, be sure to allow for plenty of storage. It’s amazing how much space you can find, even in a tiny bathroom. Consider removing a section of wall between two studs and adding shelves. If you have the room, an old curio cabinet makes great storage. Add frosted glass or curtain panels to hide the contents.

A bathroom remodel isn’t about spending a lot of money but about using what you have and being creative. You don’t need to live with a tired and outdated bathroom anymore. If your bathroom is in good structural condition it may only need a surface remodel. So grab your tool belt and give that old bathroom a face lift!

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