Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Remodel a Bathroom on Any Budget

By: Danny Lipford

Bathroom renovation is one of the most popular home improvement projects. Bathroom remodels can range from:

  • Minor Bathroom Remodel: New paint, hardware, and accessories.
  • Major Bathroom Remodel: New walls, flooring, vanity, countertop, fixtures, and accessories.
  • Bathroom Expansion: Gut bathroom and expand the size of the room by taking in space from an adjoining room or add an addition to the outside of the house.

Bathroom Amenities

Bathroom amenities to consider adding include:

  • Walk-in shower.
  • Tile or cultured marble shower walls.
  • Pocket door to save space.
  • Higher vanity for sink.
  • Window seat or toilet topper cabinet for additional storage space.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we are renovating the bath— big, small, and in between. We’re looking at bathroom projects of all sizes and shapes, with budgets from modest to over the top. Don’t go anywhere; there is something for anyone.

Bathroom renovation is among the most popular projects with homeowners because truthfully there are a lot of ugly bathrooms out there. They seem to get dated very easily and since we spend a fair amount of time in these places, particularly at the beginning and the end of our day, we want it to be a pleasant experience. But not everyone has the same needs or the same budgets for that matter so we’re going to look at several different bathrooms this week on different budget levels.

At the most basic you can simply put a fresh coat of paint on and maybe change out a bathmat or two, for many of you though that won’t be quite enough, for instance you may need to remove some slightly dated wallpaper. This bath has plenty of space but it could use some updating. For others, space may be the issue either adding it or making the most of what they have.

The dated look of old tile can be even more of an issue in a small bath, it simply eats up space and light. This one is only 5×8 but it feels even smaller, in this case removing that tile meant losing the vanity and going all the way back to the studs even though all of the fixtures were staying basically in the same spots. We built a recessed storage area in to the walls before recovering the studs with new dry wall. On top of the drywall, we attached quarter-inch bead board paneling, which we then painted white and it added a ton of light in the room and complemented this older home without appearing so dated.

The new tub and surround also helped update the look and the clean new ceramic floor didn’t hurt either. Laying the tiles on a diagonal is a great way to maximize the feeling of space in a small bath like this and it only takes just a little more time to install. But our best trick to increase the feeling of space in this tiny bath was adding mirrors. Large plate mirrors like these need to be handled by a pro because they’re custom cut, heavy, and can be real dangerous. The extra cost was worth it though in this case, because the transformation from the old, dark, cramped bath to the new bright one was simply amazing without adding a single inch to the room.

Another thing we did in that bath to help out on the space was to change the standard door to a pocket door like this, a pocket door will save you an enormous amount of space in your bathroom because that space is pretty valuable. You’re not having to worry about the swing of the door taking up a lot of space. Now, to keep the budget down in that bath, we used a material like this for the tub surround. We also used it as a skirt and apron area around this whirlpool. It’s called cultured marble, and it’s a great budget solution because it’s much less expensive than a tile shower or surround but it’s more substantial than a prefabbed hollow acrylic type shower or tub. It’s also pretty cool to see this stuff made.

Cultured marble, as the name implies, is very different from real marble but it does contain real marble, marble dust. Bags of the marble dust are mixed together with a polyester resin in large vats to form what looks like cake batter. When the marble batter is thoroughly mixed, it’s poured and scooped into molds to create the desired profiles. These molds are waxed beforehand and sprayed with a gel coat that’s similar to the process used on fiberglass boat hulls. The wax will help the pieces release from the molds later and the gel coat will create a slick hard surface on the outside of the material.

Depending on what’s being made the molds may be simple or complex, but the important thing is that there are no bubbles in the mixture when it dries. This would ruin the illusion of a smooth marble like finish so the molds are vibrated on special tables to ensure that all of the air in the batter is released. In some cases a secondary mold is added to contain large recesses like sinks. When the resin cures and the marble is stable it’s removed from the forms. Any rough edges left around the pieces from the forms are ground off from the backside. The front, or the finished surface of the marble, is buffed and polished to create a beautiful shine and a surface that will resist the wear and tear of a bathroom.

Another thing that is great about a cultured marble, it’s so versatile, you can use it on almost any surface in your bathroom except the floor. And it’s fairly durable, this material’s been in here about 18 years and has a few little chips on it here and there, so it will chip, you have to be careful with that, and I have seen a few burns that are a result of a curling iron being left on a little bit too long, but overall great material. To tell you the truth it’s held up a lot better than the cabinets in this bathroom. Now speaking of cabinets, you know you always have a limited space in your bathroom, so utilizing every bit of space you have with your cabinetry is very important. And we’re about to look at that right after our buddy Joe Truini shares with us another Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: I’m assuming you enjoy cleaning the shower door as much as I do. The first option, and the best option, is to get somebody else to do it. But if you can’t, and you have to do it yourself, then do it correctly, and do it in a way so that you won’t have to clean so often. First, here I am removing the soap scum and some water deposits with just regular white vinegar, which it works great because it’s a bit of an acid. Now once you get the soap scum off, you are going to treat the glass so that you don’t have to clean it so often. One way to do that is with a product that you can get at an automotive store, which is a windshield sealer. It is a clear liquid that you can spray on a rag and then wipe directly onto the glass. And the way you need to apply it is in overlapping circular motions. You want to get all of the glass. Then, let that dry for about five minutes, apply more to the rag, more of this treatment, and go over the whole glass. And what you are going for is one hundred percent coverage. Then once that dries, again it will be maybe 10 minutes you will get a haze, you come back and you buff it off. And what you end up with, you can see after just a couple of minutes here, you end up with a perfectly crystal clear glass pane that will repel water and soap scum, and you won’t have to clean so often.

Danny Lipford: Hey, welcome back! This week we’re digging into bathroom renovation, and we’re looking at a variety of projects of different sizes and budget levels. The idea is to give you some inspiration and information you can use on that bathroom project you’ve been putting off all these years. Now one of the things you should do in a bathroom design, whether you’re building a new home or updating one, is to future proof it.

Here’s what I mean. Styles and trends change all the time, sometimes pretty drastically in a short period of time. There’s nothing wrong with updating a bath to keep pace but how you do it will seriously affect the cost now and later if you chose to update the bathroom again. This bathroom is a great example, it was redecorated a few years ago for two teenage girls who obviously wanted some fairly bold colors and that’s exactly what their parents used. But what you’ll notice though is that they used the color on the walls, the linens, and some of the accessories, not in the counter tops or some of the fixtures that would be difficult and very expensive to replace when they remodel or update later on. They kept the big ticket items a simple timeless white so in a few years when they want a different look, it won’t be a major undertaking to make a change.

Unfortunately, not everyone who wants color shows this much restraint. In fact, we recently remodeled a bathroom in an older home that’s a perfect example. Dated is probably the kindest words we can use to describe the bathroom that was here. This house is about 45 years old, and the bath was original to the home. Obviously pink was the trendy color at the time of construction. There was pink tile on the floor, pink tile on the walls, pink lavatory, pink tub, even a pink toilet. We think the wallpaper was added in later years, but even it was pink and beginning to peel. Everything was functional and fairly well laid out just very dated and again, very pink.

So nobody was shedding any tears when the guys started tearing out the pepto pink at the beginning of the demolition phase, it was stripped off the walls and carted out in wheel barrows leaving only the studs. We left only a little pink tile in the middle of the floor where we didn’t have to trench out for the plumber to make his connections of new water and drain lines. When the plumber’s work was done we sealed the floor with concrete and the walls with new dry wall. The new bathroom had begun. The last of the pink finally disappeared as a new marble styled ceramic was laid in place on top of the old floor.

The new tiles are much larger at 13×13 inches, much lighter in color and most importantly not pink. The new fixtures are also not pink; these homeowners learned from their predecessor’s mistake and used classic white all around. They wanted color though so they let the wallpaper hangers add it for them, are you surprised, it’s not pink?

Now, they’ve also made some good choices on their bathroom cabinetry. One of the first things you notice on a cabinet like this, it’s a little taller then most bathroom vanity cabinets and a lot of people are going up to the 36-inch mark on the height of these cabinets to make it a little more comfortable when you’re using the vanity as well as it gives you a little extra storage space and we all need that. You can see the drawers, you have one set of drawers on each side that kind of graduate from smaller all the way up to larger. And then on the underside of the sink the cabinetmaker did a really good thing here by putting some shelving on each side to fully utilize all the space that’s available under the sink. And the lacquer white finish really blends in well with all the trim color that the painter painted.

Now, another way of maximizing some space, storage space, is a little cabinet like this, a window seat cabinet. Now a bathroom like this will also double as a dressing area so homeowners plan on putting a little cushion here, a perfect place for the kids to sit down and put on the shoes and also a nice deep drawer for storage underneath. Another great way to pick up some storage: toilet topper cabinets. I’ll tell you, so many times I’ve seen homeowners install toilet topper cabinets and really eliminate the need for a linen closet. Now this one’s about three-foot wide, three-and-a-half-foot tall, and about ten inches deep—plenty of room for all types of linen storage and toilet paper, that kind of thing. Adjustable shelves also makes it a lot easier.

All of these good decisions added up to a great new bathroom that was stylish and attractive but it also is one that can be easily updated as trends change over time. In that bathroom we didn’t actually add any space, even though it did look a lot bigger when we were done. I think all that pink made it feel like those walls were just closing in on you before. Now that bathroom and this one share something else in common, they’re both secondary baths used by the children or guests. In other words, not the master bathroom in the house. More and more when people renovate a master bathroom they want a lot more space. So that’s what we’ll look into right after Jodi shows us this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: Just when you thought there wasn’t another tool out there that you could put in your toolbox, guess again! I found one for you. This is by Milwaukee. This is part of their 12-volt lithium ion system, and it is called the M-spector. And what this is, this is a digital inspection camera. Now, this cord stretches out to three feet. And on the end of it you can see there is a light, and there is also a camera. So let me just make sure that light is all the way up. Alright, look at this. If you are going to be doing some work inside your house and you need to know what’s going on inside the wall cavity, take a look at this. You just drill a little hole, stick that little camera down in there, and look, I can start looking around in there to see what is going on. I can zoom in, I can zoom out, I can see all the way around there. See if there is any duct work, see if there is any electrical work that I need to avoid because boy, you are going to create a lot of headache if you damage that inside your walls. You can also look down pipes if you have a pipe that is clogged, you can look down that as well. This is a perfect addition to anybodys toolbox. I’m going to have to get Danny to buy it for me.

Danny Lipford: So far this week we’ve looked at a small bath renovation on a small budget, the remodel of a slightly larger bath on a slightly healthier budget, and now we’re ready to look at the expansion of a bathroom. As you’ve already guessed this kind of project usually has the highest budget of all because there’s a lot more work involved. Anytime you start moving walls around, the time and money start adding up, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea.

Larger spa like bathrooms, like this one, can be a real big selling point for a home, since they’re rare in older homes and they can really set a house apart from any other houses that might be for sale in the same area. In fact this used to be one of those tiny little bathrooms and believe it or not, it was all pink. We expanded it by borrowing some space from an adjacent bedroom and created this larger very comfortable master bathroom. The layout here was pretty straightforward, but often to get more space you really have to get creative.

That was the case with the renovation we did recently where we had a maze of small little hallways and closets we wanted to use to expand the bathroom and in keeping with the theme, the original designer of the bathroom had used some pretty interesting color choices. Apparently the original owner of this house was fairly fond of avocado green because it was everywhere, the walls, the floors, the toilet, and the sink. And if the color pallet didn’t give away the age of the house, the size of this bath would have. Basically it was just a narrow hallway with toilet and vanity on one side and a tub/shower combo on the other. Now demolition is always fun but the guys kind of fought over who would take out the gorgeous green tub enclosure. The odd little closets and hallways were also gutted to the studs like the bathroom and soon we were busting up the concrete sub floor to rearrange all the plumbing fixtures. Next, we begin laying out the locations for the new walls and nailing them in place.

Now, this area will also have a number of angled walls and pocket doors so the guys took their time to get them right. At this point we’ve completed almost all of the construction of the new walls which will allow me to kind of take you through the new bathroom layout and show you how it’s worked out so well. Now the layout calls for both his and her closets, this being his and this being hers, seems to always work out that way doesn’t it? Now the hallway here to bring you from the bedroom into the bathroom, comes right down the middle and along the way we’ll have a vanity and sink and cabinets over on this side, then back in this corner we’re creating a large custom shower.

Now, a lot of homeowners have decided not to put in tubs in their master baths for several reasons. One, it saves you a lot of money and it saves you a lot of space, and people realize they just don’t use their tubs very much. So these homeowners have just made the decision that a large custom shower will be fine with them, and if they want a tub bath they can use one of the other bathrooms in the house. Over on this side we have our water closet area where a toilet will be positioned and just behind that is the powder room that will have access off of the hallway. This is the point where a lot of stuff goes on at once. Plumbing, electrical, ventilation, it all has to be done before the new walls are closed in with drywall and finished.

And in this case, there’s also a lot of detail work with focal points like the custom shower. It starts with the flexible water tight pan on the floor and then cement backer board on the walls overlaps that. Next the pan is covered with a grout bed to create the right slope for the shower to drain, before the tiles start going up on the walls. A good tile layout like this will really help achieve the goal of drawing attention to the shower and as it nears completion, it’s obvious that that’s what it’s doing. To get a similar effect to the vanities, granite is being used on them and there are some odd angles here to work with, so it’s slow and very time consuming.

Once these surfaces are done, the plumber can trim out the fixtures to complete the bathroom. The maze that was here before has been replaced by a well planned bathroom with plenty of closet space, two striking vanity areas and a gorgeous custom shower. As I mentioned earlier, an expansion like that one, or this one for that matter, is always expensive. And adding things like custom tiled showers and granite countertops will make the price go up even further. Those kind of things obviously aren’t necessary to add space. But what a lot of homeowners tell me is they’re expanding their bathrooms because they want the time they spend there to be somewhat of an escape from the ordinary, so they make these rooms as nice as their budgets will allow. I have to say I can see their point.

One of the components of thinking green is reusing. In other words, it’s taking something that might end up in a landfill, and putting it to another use. And, you can reuse items on a really grand scale, but even the simplest things can be turned green when you use just a little imagination. Here is a great example. These old plastic bottles and milk jugs can be turned into a variety of new things. Once you wash them thoroughly, you can make scoops for scooping up grain or seed, and they are great for birdfeeders, or you can cut the tops off and use them as a planter for herbs in your kitchen. Now, even the caps can be used for holding things like safety pins or paperclips. It is all about creativity and this is something the whole family can do together. So before you throw it out, take a second look and see if your artistic side has a little green in it.

If you’re thinking about a bathroom renovation to update your home and brighten your view on the day, I hope you picked up some great ideas this week. Remember even a small bath can feel a lot larger if you plan the space well and add lots of light colors and mirrors.

If you want to go trendy with your model, make sure you do it with the stuff you can easily change. A coat of paint or a few rolls of wallpaper are much easier to fit into the budget than a bathroom full of new fixtures. And if you’re expanding a bathroom, think carefully about where you’ll get the space and what you want to achieve, you may have to expand the budget as well, but the results can be stunning.

You know anytime you improve your home you make it a nicer place to live, not just because of the features or materials you put into it but because with every project your home becomes more and more an extension of you. It’s not just any old house, it’s your home and there’s an enormous satisfaction in that.

If you’re looking for even more ways to improve the place you call home, be sure to check out our website at dannylipford.com, you’ll find the inspiration and information to make it happen. I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you next week.

Next week on Today’s Homeowner we are opening up the floor plan in an older home that’s been stuck in the seventies for quite a while. We are making it more attractive and functional for the new owner, who has some interesting history here.



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