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Budget Friendly Bath Upgrades

Bathrooms deteriorate faster than other rooms in your home and will require some periodic work to keep them in good repair, prevent leakage, mold and mildew as well as updating for style and finishes to stay current with trends.

Following are some tips for bathroom changes in low to modest budget ranges, Many of which you may be able to do yourself.

If you are planning to sell your home, spending some money on modest updates to the bathrooms can make a big difference to buyers.

$500 to $1,000 Budget

Paint. Painting walls and ceiling can make a significant difference especially if the walls are currently papered with outdated prints. Touch up first to repair blemishes. If there is minor mold formation, clean it first with a bleach solution (1 cup per gallon water) and then use a primer like Kilz that will block any remaining mold from bleeding through the paint. Be certain the wall is dry before applying primer.

New Accessories. Towel bars, toilet paper holders and robe hooks with old tarnished polished brass finishes from the 70s need to be replaced with a style and finish in step with today such as brushed nickel. Expect some drywall repair to be needed since the footprint of the new accessories will probably not match the old. Be sure to do this work before painting the room.

Faucet and Trim Replacement. Like the finishes on accessories, if the finish on the tub and vanity faucets is out of date or tarnished replacing them can make a significant difference in the room. Many times we can replace just the trims on the tub faucet including a new spigot and shower head. The vanity faucet will need to be replaced completely. Be sure you check the hole spacing on the sink before buying a new faucet. The tub drain is another consideration since the finish tends to wear on these. This is probably the work for a plumber and does require access from behind or below.

Toilet. Replacing the toilet with a new Water Sense model will not only upgrade the appearance of the bath but save as much as 42,000 gallons of water annually for a family of four. At the same time, replace the shut off valve so it looks better and it will actually work if you need to shut off the water.

Vanity Top and Faucet. Molded marble and laminate tops are yesterday’s style. Replace them with a new granite, quartz or solid surface top and new faucet. Be sure the new backsplash will cover the old outline of the top at the walls.

Vent Fan. Upgrade or add a good quality vent fan that will operate quietly and work effectively to reduce the moisture in the room. Be certain the vent is actually exhausting to the outside and not just into the attic or overhang.

Upgrade Switches and Outlets. Upgrade the outlet to a GFCI version for safety and change the old switches and plates to be up to date. Little things make a difference.

Replacement Window. Especially if the window is in the tub surround, installing a vinyl replacement window will make a big difference in appearance and energy efficiency and will be resistant to moisture problems. Replacement windows can be ordered to exact sizes to fit inside the existing frame of the window.

Shower Door. Replace or add a shower door. The semi-frameless styles minimize metal trims and provide an up-to-date look at a reasonable cost.

$1,000 to $2,000 Budget

Floor. Replace the old linoleum floor with a new ceramic tile or ceramic composite tile. Usually the base trim is in need of replacement also. Check the areas around the tub and toilet to see if there is rot damage that needs repair. The new ceramic composite tiles can install over many existing floors saving time and money while achieving the same appearance and durability.

Vanity, Top, Mirror & Light. New vanity cabinets offer some great appearance and convenience factors but keep in mind that most new vanities are taller than your existing ones. This may require the outlet or switches to be moved. Many cabinets have matching trimmed mirrors for a coordinated, elegant appearance.

Tub Surround. A new fiberglass tub surround will provide easy cleaning and eliminate problems with tile grout cleaning, cracking and leaking. I recommend removing the existing tile and wall board to be able to clean any mold problems and insure the wall cavity is dry.

$2,000 to $5,000 Budget

Tub Replacement. Replacing a bathtub also requires removing the wall surfacing above the tub. The least expensive approach is to install a fiberglass tub module that includes the wall surround. You need to select a remodel version tub so it can fit into the room and then be assembled and put in place. There will be drywall repair needed around the tub. Many people prefer a cast iron tub with tile or smooth surface wall panels. Wall panels can be a solid surface like Corian®, ceramic tile or a marble composite panel for a truly elegant appearance. Always replace the drain and faucet at this time since doing it later may be impossible.

Replace all except the tub. If the tub and surround are in good order you can probably replace everything else in the bathroom to bring it up to date. A new floor, vanity, top, accessories, lights, vent and electrical upgrade can fit into this budget range.

The most important rule to follow with partial remodeling is to do things in a sequence that you can build on later and don't need to redo to further improve the room.

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