12 Ways to Save on a Bathroom Makeover

SPRUCE IT UP FOR LESS

A good spring cleaning may reveal a bathroom in need of a makeover. The average cost of a total bathroom remodel is more than $17,000, according to the National Kitchens and Bath Association, but can be higher or lower depending on the size the bathroom. There are many budget-friendly options that will help keep the price down. Here are 12 ways to save on a remodel using some DIY skills to make the most of what you already have.

USE YOUR MUSCLES

If you're going for a complete bathroom overhaul, doing the demolition yourself, while very hard work, can save on labor cost. You can also save on the cost of dumping the debris if you can sell some of the fixtures, such as copper piping or an old claw-foot tub.

KEEP THE FOOTPRINT

Moving plumbing and reframing walls is expensive. If you can live with the current layout, maintain the footprint while replacing the fixtures. This should save you time as well as money, and you may not need to get inspections and recertification (check with your municipality to be sure).

UPCYCLE THE TUB

You may be able to reuse some of your fixtures. If your tub is staying where it was but looks worn, have it re-glazed instead of replaced. Experts advise against using a re-glazing kit that you can buy at the hardware store, because the glaze can wear off quickly. A professional re-glazing job costs about $400. Swap out the outdated hardware for new, and you have essentially a new tub at a fraction of the roughly $2,000 it costs to install a new tub. While you're at it, if your tile is in good shape but simply a strange color, have it re-glazed as well.

REUSE THE CABINETS

If your vanity and cabinets are well made and you like the design, you may want to keep them. Sand the vanity to remove old paint or finish and prime it with a good quality primer that will keep the wood protected from the humidity and dampness of the bathroom. Use good quality paint in a semi-gloss or enamel finish to keep water off the wood. Replace the old hardware for an updated look.

GO VINTAGE

If you need new cabinets, scour yard sales and thrift stores for vintage dressers and desks that can be made into new vanities. The deep drawers are good for storing toiletries, blow-dryers and extra toilet paper, and the cost is a fraction of buying a new one. If you're handy, cut holes in the back for the pipes, replace the top with stone, and cut a hole for the sink with a jigsaw. Use a drill with a Forstner bit for holes for the faucet fixtures. If you prefer not to do the job yourself, a carpenter will do it for you for about $100. A good paint job and some new hardware will give the old furniture a new lease on life.
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VANITY TOPS FOR A SONG

Stone or quartz countertops that are fabricated and custom cut specifically for your vanity cost about $100 a square foot. If you have an old laminate vanity top, you can refinish it with a granite look without the expense of real stone. Rustoleum's countertop refinishing kit is easy to use, even for a DIY novice, and costs less than $150. If you need to replace the vanity top, big-box stores sell stock granite and marble vanity tops with sinks built in for less than $200.

FLOORING FIXES

If your existing flooring is structurally sound but a bit tired in appearance, you can freshen it up with new grout. And redoing all of the flooring yourself is not that difficult a project. You can save money by using ceramic tile rather than marble, which may be gorgeous but is expensive and slippery when wet. Ceramic is less slippery when the tiles are small, like the old hexagon tiles that come on sheets (about $3.70 a square foot).

REVAMP OLD MIRRORS

Some old bathrooms have large mirrors glued to the walls, and it's practically impossible to remove one without taking a chunk of wall along with it. Instead, update the old reflecting glass with a new frame. You can make a decorative frame out of 1x4 or 1x6 lumber for less than $50. Prime and paint the wood, then glue the pieces to the mirror with clear adhesive caulk. Another option is to glue glass or ceramic tiles around the mirror. If you have a mirror that is not glued to the wall, renew the current frame with stain or paint.

WAKE UP YOUR WALLS

The walls around the bathtub or shower should be tiled to avoid water damage. Unless you are a tiling expert, have a professional do this. Even with expert help, you can save money with the kind of tile you buy. Rather than marble or travertine tiles, which can be expensive, white ceramic subway tiles are both classic and fashionable. Use a colored grout to give the walls some punch. The rest of the room does not need tile on the walls. If you're going for a vintage or cottage look, beadboard panels made out of PVC make nice wainscoting. They are already waterproof and never need to be painted.

SAY IT WITH COLOR

Never underestimate the value of a can of paint. Even if you can do nothing else in your bathroom, a small one needs only about a gallon of paint to completely transform the look of the room. Add some decorative touches that match the new color, like coordinating towels and a shower curtain. You can manage this for under $100. Add new hardware for drawers and doors, new towel rings and racks, and maybe a new faucet, and you've added the nice touches that every room needs to look finished.

THE TOILET

Consider buying a new toilet that is more water efficient. Current models use 1.28 gallons or less per flush, saving money on your water bill. There are some snazzy models that hang on the wall, are higher off the ground than standard, or have dual flushes, but these are all quite expensive, and some have issues such as difficult installation, noise, or nonstandard parts. You can buy a standard toilet for around $250, but stay away from cheap ($50-$100) toilets, which usually don't last. If you want to keep your current toilet, update it with a new seat. To keep the hardware shiny and the seat from sliding around, apply clear nail polish to the screws after installing.

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MORE STORAGE

You always need more storage in the bathroom. Pedestal sinks are pretty, but where do you put the toothpaste? If you're gutting the bathroom, make sure there is enough closet, shelf, or drawer space in the plans. Otherwise, maximize the wall space with shelving. Handy people can cut out little niches between the studs and build shelves. They won't be very deep, but they'll be wide enough to hold containers of Q-tips along with soaps and bottles.