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Sure, bathroom remodeling is easy if your clients have a big budget – just rip out everything and start over. But what’s a person to do if they have limited funds and a bathroom that is in dire need of a facelift? There are several highly effective, low-cost changes you can make for them that can produce impressive results.
Here are some suggestions listed from least costly to most costly – some obvious and some not-so-obvious:
1. Simple Upgrades. The least expensive bathroom remodeling upgrade is to change the cabinet hardware and accessories, including towel and grab bars. Although these are small items, they say a lot about the condition of the bathroom – especially if they are broken or missing. Be sure to coordinate the color and finish with the faucet and shower fixtures for the best look. Unless you are also changing their cabinets, you will need to pick cabinet hardware that matches the screw holes of the old hardware to avoid having to patch old holes.
2. It’s All in the Paint. Next in order of cost is paint. This may be the single-most effective thing to change when doing a bathroom remodel on a budget. A fresh coat of paint in a new, and uplifting color can make a huge difference in a bathroom. But no matter what your client’s budget is, please don’t go too cheap on the quality. Low-quality paint is a waste of time and money. You want to use a paint that is durable, washable and covers well. I usually advise my clients away from glossy paints because they will show every blemish on the surface, and they are impossible to touch up. If you need to touch up a spot, you will be doomed to recoat the entire wall to get it to look right.
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3. Fixture Perfect. If you’re changing the cabinet hardware during a renovation, you might want to change those plumbing fixtures too. The faucets are the easiest to change and can have a dramatic aesthetic effect on a bathroom remodel. Select faucets that fit in the holes you already have in the countertop; they aren’t all the same. Some have one hole, some have three holes, and the holes might be spaced differently for different faucets.
4. Toilet Tips. For a few hundred dollars more, you can replace your client’s toilet. This is the fixture that gets the most use and can look the worst. Consider a comfort-height model, which are becoming more and more popular. Never get a round-bowl toilet unless nothing else fits in the room – those look cheap and are uncomfortable to use. Always choose the elongated-bowl variety for more comfort and style.
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5. Vanity Vanity. Replacing the vanity can be a bit more costly and may not fit into a bathroom remodel on a tight budget. Sometimes it’s possible to just change the doors on existing cabinets, but often the cabinet needs more repair. The drawers may not work right, or the hinges are shot. However, if the cabinet is functionally sound, replacing it just to change the look may not be worth the cost. Try cleaning it up and possibly painting it with a good alkyd (oil-based) paint to get a hard, smooth finish that’s almost as good as a factory finish.
6. Counters and Sinks. Going further, you might think about replacing the countertop and the sink, which will be the lesser cost of the two. A simple oval, undermount sink is less than $100. Solid countertop surfaces like granite and quartz are expensive, however, the countertop in a bathroom is not nearly as large as in a kitchen. Since these products are sold by the square foot, a new top might just fit into your client’s budget. Try looking through the off-cuts or remnants at a stone countertop company. These are leftover pieces cut from large slabs used for bigger projects. Chances are you can find a piece that will fit your client’s bathroom and come at a discount of up to 20 percent.
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Cultured marble is a less costly countertop and sink replacement option. This is a synthetic stone-like material that is made with the sink bowl molded right in, and there are more color options than in the past. They are custom made to easily fit even an irregular-shaped top.
If you do all of the things listed here, you would still qualify as doing a bathroom remodeling project on a budget. And the aesthetic effect and your client’s enjoyment will be dramatic.
– William Hirsch is the author of Designing Your Perfect House (www.designingyourperfecthouse.com) and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. He is the former president of the Delaware Society of Architects and is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.