We all use bathrooms for cleaning up, brushing and…well, you know. (Reading, that’s it. Reading.)
And over years and use, those bathrooms get successively grungy, old, waterstained and downright unpleasant to be in. A cramped, stained or damaged bathroom won’t sell your house, or make your rental any easier to lease out. It’s mood-deflating, expensive (when the floors and frame wood rot out, that is), and it can permanently affect your health, by breathing in mold and spores that tend to accumulate in such an atmosphere.
Updated bathrooms can contribute heavily to your home’s resale value — and recoup up to 71% of their cost, according to this helpful how-to site. If your bathroom needs help, why not start thinking about a renovation?
You could hire someone to fix up your bathroom. A friend decided to do this — until the handyman quoted $700 for just retiling her floor, no product included. She did what any redblooded frugalist would do: she watched a plethora of instructional videos on Youtube; bought her own tiles; then did the job herself, in about 8 hours. Do the math: $700 divided by 8. She paid herself more than $88/hr for her effort.
Doing the work yourself helps. Hire a professional for parts you can’t do, like wiring or plumbing. (Unless, like Husband the Brick, you’ve had military experience running your own electrical shop.) So does sticking to your bathroom’s original layout. (I.e., you won’t be moving pipes or breaking through walls.)
The key here is quality. You may be doing the work yourself (or hiring a friend). You may not have much to spend. But you should always get the highest-quality materials possible.
*Never ever pay full price. No matter what. If Home Depot or Lowe’s aren’t having a sale, ask about a discount. They offer 10% ones for ‘contractors,’ as well as veterans, on occasion. Maybe there’s a senior discount.
*Check Craigslist. (Figure out how many square ft you need, first, before buying tile and similar materials. Will that toilet work in the space you’ve got?)
*’ReStores, run by Habitat for Humanity. These often contain high-end items donated by richer patrons, plus furniture, doors, appliances, rugs…you name it.
*Don’t skimp on the actual working items: showerheads, toilets or faucets. These really speak for your bathroom. Did you take the effort to put in nice tile and a heavy-duty sink, then a cut-rate faucet that clogs up and sprays you every time you use it? Spend more here, if you must. (They’ll last longer, too.)
*It may take time to find everything you need. Tell friends and relatives you’re renovating. Once you find a good source, like your local ReStore, stop by at least once a week to see what’s new.
*Your community probably hosts some kind of curbside/giveaway day. Colorado, for example has a group called Zero Landfill Denver who offer donated wallpaper, tiles and craft items twice a year. This year’s giveaways: Aug. 23 and Sept. 6, but others will be scheduled. Cost: free. (Why not help start something like this in your area, if one doesn’t already exist?)
Once you’ve got quality materials, it’s easier to use shortcuts and quick tricks to give your work even more pizzazz:
*Think trendy — but classic. Tiles have been popular for decades now, especially glass and mosaic tiles. Low-water toilets help minimize water use. Check what’s popular in your region right now — heavy Mexican quarry tiles that bring raves in New Mexico or Arizona may not be as appealing in Massachusetts or Maine.
*Longing for a granite counter? Use granite tiles, instead – they’re easier to install and far cheaper.
*Look for furniture that can be converted into bathroom furnishings. An old-fashioned chest of drawers might be just the thing for holding (and plumbing) that deep sink you scored at a local salvage yard. “Repurposing” is a good idea for all sorts of materials.
*Think medium-colored grout for tiles. Too dark, and it looks dirty; too light, and it collects dirt fast visually. Pick a happy medium.
*Rip out that grubby metal tub and put in a shower, instead. Mr. Money Mustache came up with what he calls a“relatively sweet shower, cheap” using leftover tiles and pouring a concrete foundation.
*Tile your entire area — and you won’t have to put in a shower door, either. Mexican showers are literally shower rooms, with a low wall keeping the majority of the water down the drain.
*Take your time. Do it right.