Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Remodel a Small Bathroom on a Budget

By: Danny Lipford

We remodeled this small, dated bathroom without spending a fortune by replacing the vanity and plumbing fixtures, tiling the floor, adding a vent fan, and painting the walls to give it a whole new look.

The steps taken to update this small (4’ x 9’), older bathroom on a budget included:

  • Remove toilet.
  • Remove sink and vanity.
  • Remove medicine cabinet and mirror.
  • Remove peel and stick vinyl floor tile.
  • Clean existing tile floor.
  • Rewire for switch and vent fan.
  • Cut hole in ceiling for vent fan.
  • Install and wire vent fan.
  • Patch holes in drywall.
  • Lay new tile floor over existing tile.
  • Add baseboard and window trim molding.
  • Paint walls and ceiling.
  • Install new bathroom vanity.
  • Attach faucet to vanity countertop.
  • Install vanity top.
  • Attach sink to drain line.
  • Attach faucet to hot and cold water lines.
  • Install new dual flush toilet.
  • Hang mirror over vanity.
  • Install wall sconces and towel racks.

A total of $2,500 was spent on materials for the bathroom remodel. Labor costs will vary, depending on whether you do the work yourself or hire it out.

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

This week, we’re going to makeover a small, dated bathroom to give the clean, modern look, but we don’t have an unlimited budget so we’re going to show you how to get the most from a few trips to the home center and a lot of elbow grease.

Now a fairly typical older bathroom and very, very small. It’s only four feet by nine feet and over the years, this 50 year old bathroom has seen a little attention in an attempt to upgrade it with a new cultured marble shower stall that was installed a few years ago and they tried to make the floor look better with a very inexpensive peel and stick tile, and a few other little cosmetic things were done here with the vanity and possibly a new toilet.

Now, our plan for this bathroom is to take a very modest approach and replace just about everything in the bathroom with the exception of the cultured marble shower which just a little bit of work on that and that’ll look great. Now beyond just the cosmetic aspects of this bathroom, we’re also going to improve the ventilation which is really in bad shape. We got a number or places where mildew is present because there’s just no ventilation at all. The window doesn’t even open up so that’ll be a big improvement in making the bathroom look better and certainly function better.

Now, if we had all of this work done, we’re talking about by professional, it could cost you seven or eight thousand dollars. We’re going to do it a lot cheaper by going down to the home center and picking out everything we need and installing it ourselves.

If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in one of these places you know there’s an awful lot of stuff to choose from but it isn’t always easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. The faucet, floor tile and things like molding were easy enough to get but some of the larger items we wanted weren’t on display. Here’s where a lot of people miss the deal because they don’t realize they can special order items from these stores. This gives you access to a much broader variety of products, particularly specialty items like this cool vanity we picked out and a super efficient dual flush toilet.

We have everything purchased from the home center that we’ll need on this bathroom renovation and we had to order just a few things and they should be in real soon, and Allen is giving me a hand on all the demolition on this, which really Allen, with this kind of bathroom renovation won’t take long will it?

Won’t take long and with this bathroom it sure does need it.

It does and now Allen’s got a great tip for you on how to remove a toilet without the water getting all over everywhere. Pretty cool tip.

Alright, we’re going to take a lesson from history. And when I say a lesson from history, you remember the old toilet, toilets that had the tank up top and you pulled the chain and that’s what flushed it? Well we’re going to work with gravity today. We’ve already got the water turned off at the source. Alright. We’re going to let all of the water drain out of the tank, which means you want to hold the handle down the entire time.

Now, here’s the problem. We’re getting ready to pull this toilet. But while we’ve got all the water out of the tank, there’s still water in the bowl. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’ve got a bucket of water with me. And just like the old-timey toilets, we’re going to pour it, lift up, and watch this. This is really cool. Pushes a lot of that water out and this toilet is ready to pull.

I must have timed it just right because Allen got stuck with the absolute worse job in a bath remodel: pulling an old toilet. It isn’t that hard, it’s just plan gross. No, that isn’t what you think it is. It’s the old wax seal from the toilet, but believe me, it doesn’t exactly smell like roses either.

It’s wax. It’s just wax. It’s only wax.

The upside is that the peel and stick tiles around the toilet also come right up with it. While Allen moves on to removing th old molding, I’m going to disconnect the sink so that we can pull it out then we can get right to work on the vanity, which is so stubborn it just has to come out in pieces. Then, more tiles, but these are stuck a whole lot better. You know this is a lot of work. I’d kind of maybe hand it off to Allen.

We’re pretty much finished with everything we need to tear out of this little bathroom other than just a couple little pieces of trim, then we can engage in a little bit of minor electrical work. Now one of the things we have to do is relocate this outlet and switch box because the mirror we purchased for here is around 27 inches and of course it’s right in the middle of the outlet. So, something fairly easy to move over, fortunately we have enough slack wire there we can move it over, pop it right back in, a little drywall patch.

Now, this thing will do is solve a real problem with this bathroom and we mentioned it earlier in this show about adding an exhaust fan. You know the exhaust fan and the ventilation it provides is so important for a small bathroom like this, especially when you have a fixed window like this where you’re not getting any ventilation at all. That’ll be installed, that’ll be taken care of, and we can move along on this bathroom renovation.

Before we go into the electrical work, Allen kills the power to the bath with the breaker. Then he lays out exactly where the new mirror will go in order to figure out how far over to move the box which needs to be a little bigger than the original because we’re adding a switch for a vent fan. The hole for the fan can be laid out and cut from inside the bath, then Allen pre-wires the fan for taking it up to the attic. It’s hot and cramped up there, so he did everything he can to minimize the amount of time he spends there. Now after the switches are connected and the fan instillation is complete, there are a few holes in the drywall to patch, so while Allen shifts from electrician to drywall man, let’s see what Joe has for this week’s simple solution.

Since we’re talking about bathroom modeling, here’s a great tip especially if you’re on a budget. It’s a way to revise an old tile wall while, without having to replace it. You take one part muriatic acid and you mix it in five parts water, then you use a nylon scarring pad to apply the cleaning solution to the wall. Now muriatic acid is pretty powerful so you want to mix it outside. But you need something strong to cut though soap scum and hard water deposits. You just want to work in small circles then clean up the scarring bad area every now and then and continue working. Then when you’re done, just rinse the wall down with cold water and the result will be a brand new looking, very clean wall and all it cost you was an afternoons work and a few dollars.

Right after this break, we’re going to start putting this bathroom back together, so don’t go away.

This week we’re making a big change to a small, dated bathroom but we’re doing it on a budget. First, we did some shopping and picked out some cool new fixtures and materials, then we tore out all the old stuff and one of the things that had to go was the old peel and stick vinyl tiles that were apparently added just a few years ago. Now Allen is all set to start laying the new tile floor which should make this bath look a lot different.

Okay, our layout is ready for our new floor. What I’ve done is pop a couple of chalk lines to find the exact center of our room, and this is where we’ll actually start our tile. Now, I did want to have this chalk line remain so that as I lay the tile down I can always tell where it’s supposed to go. Here’s a little tip for you. Once you pop that chalk line, take some hairspray and just spritz it over the top of it. Believe it or not, it really works.

Now, what we’ve got is a very beautiful porcelain tile here, not ceramic, this is porcelain. The difference of porcelain is just that it’s a little more durable. It is warmer, it is a little bit more expensive usually. However, I found this for 99 cents a square foot. Couldn’t turn it down. We’re going to be laying our tile down right on top of the old floor. Now if you remember, the old floor had that nasty old peel and stick that Danny and I were peeling it off, it left an awful residue.

What I had to do was actually come back in here with a degreaser and some bleach and scrub it very well, then take a scraper and get as much of the adhesive off as we possibly could. But as you can see, it has actually come off very nicely. It’s stained, but that’s not going to inhibit our mastic for the adhesive that we put down. Alright, looking at our chalk line, you would think we would lay our tile right along that line.

However, we’ve got a very small bathroom and we want to at least look larger, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to take the tile and actually put it on a diagonal. Now this will actually help it look larger, but check this out. Talk about the luck of the Irish. When I put them side by side, they almost fit a full three tiles across. That means I’m only going to have to cut a fairly small piece off of each edge. This is going to look great.

Since I’m starting with the center tile, I want to position it perfectly and then mark it with a pencil before I start applying the thinset adhesive. I find it’s easier to control thinset and keep it off my lines if the mix is a little dryer so it’s stiffer. That means I have less working time but in this small bath, that’s really not too big a deal. After setting the first tile, it speeds up because you just line them up one on the other until I get to the toilet flange. Now, here you just have to visualize some so you can transfer the arc of the flange to the tile.

I’m cutting this out with a small, portable wet saw. Now it’s just like a small circular saw, but it’s ideal for this job because you can plunge the blade to rough cut the arc, then fine tune it with the tile nippers. As the name implies, you only want to nip of small amounts at a time, because otherwise you just may wind up breaking the tile. Patience pays off because the fit around the flange is perfect.

Now, most of my other cuts on this floor are straight ones. Diagonally across the tiles, and the scoring cutter is the best tool for this job. But, you want to use a really cut one, otherwise, you’ll only get frustrated, so buy the best one you can afford or rent one like the pros use. Believe me, it makes all the difference with a diagonal layout.

Well Allen did a pretty good job laying this entire tile. He did all this by himself, but he’s roped me into helping him install a little bit of trim here in the bathroom.

All right. Hey, so what do you think of the floor.

It’s all right. You know, it’s okay. Anyway, we’re going to want to trim out the window, trim around the back of the door casing and also we have a little bit of challenge here in this trim in that it doesn’t really look that attractive so we’re trying to improve the look of it by taking this little piece of stop out, and we’ll put wood here and then the trim all the way around it. That’ll make it look a lot more like the adjacent window trim in the other room.

We’ve also got some trim to put around this side of the door. We’ve got some baseboard for both sides of the wall. We’ll go ahead and measure these to cut them, however on this side we do have a 36 inch vanity and, while we can’t put the baseboard in right away, we can at least measure an approximate size for it, so when we get ready to paint we can paint prime everything, when we install it, very minimal paint left to do.

And a lot of times you can go ahead and put the vanity in and then do all the painting then, put really there’s not a lot of room in this bathroom and you hate to risk getting any of the paint dripping on the vanity itself, so this’ll be an easy way to go. Alright, I’ll do the cutting.

Thanks.

Now why I do that, Allen starts removing the old stop around the window glass. This little quarter inch by quarter inch wood strip will be replaced by a board that’s about a half inch big and real to the width of the window casing. Now this’ll create a much cleaner line around the window, especially when we start nailing the end of the case molding around it. We’re also replacing the case molding around the door as well as the base molding, so that everything in this bath works together.

Finally, we’re getting somewhere. Before long, we’re rolling on the first coat of paint. Now while we give this place some color, why don’t you check out Emilie’s Best New Product for this week.

One of the least glamorous choices that you’ll make for a bathroom renovation is the toilet, but that doesn’t mean that the selection isn’t important. Hey did you know that toilets are the largest water users in our home? Yeah. And of course they also need to be comfortable and functional, so Kohler has addressed all of these concerned with a Cimarron Comfort Height toilet. Now as the name implies, the seat height is designed to be comfortable for people of all shapes and sizes. At 17 inches like most of the chairs that you sit on.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the dry-lock system makes putting the bowl and the tank together much easier. And it eliminates the possibility of leaks or broken tank during instillation. And speaking of tanks, this model can operate on either 1.6 or 1.4 gallons of water, whichever you choose. If you really want to be stingy with water, you can spend a few more dollars for the eco-smart model which operates on just 1.28 gallons. This means that it uses 20% less water than the standard toilet. So, no matter what the size, you won’t be sacrificing any flushing power.

After the break, this bath moves from blah to hurray. Don’t miss it!

Hey, we’re right in the middle of our budget bathroom makeover and we’re making a lot of progress. We’ve already finished painting all of the walls, ceramic tiles finishes, all of the trim work is complete which took right a while around this window, it had to be completely redone.

Now, I’m moving forward with the instillation of the vanity. Now everything we’ve bought for this project we’ve bought from the home center and this was purchased as a special order item. It only took just a few days to get in, and it has an open back on it here, which makes it a lot easier to install a cabinet like this, because you don’t have to cut around all of the plumbing pipes. Even though, when I put it in place just to see how it works, I noticed that we’re a little tight on one of the cold water line. And so instead of having the plumber move it over, I had to do a slight modification with a jigsaw to cut a little notch in it, and if I’ve done that right, it should slip right in place. There we go, we’re good. And I was able to transfer marks off the old vanity onto the top of this one so that I know exactly where the studs are in the wall. So, all I have to do now is secure it to the wall and I’m ready to move forward with putting on the vanity top.

Because this vanity is so shallow, it’s ideal for this small space, but once we add the top, with its integrated sink, the whole thing will have a very nice custom look even though we only paid about 480 dollars for it. Installing the faucet and the drain before you set the sink makes the job so much easier because, once it’s in place, all you have to do is connect the supply line to the P-trap to get the sink up and running.

With the vanity in place, the last of the molding can go in around it before Allen and I begin assembling the shower door. Now these things are designed to fit a range of opening sizes, so you’ll need to know those dimensions before you go shopping. This kit was around 300 dollars and it’s not really that complicated to put together if you follow the instructions carefully. As we told you earlier, the toilet is a dual flush model that wash special ordered, and it was a bit pricier than a basic model, but it should save around 6,000 of gallons of water a year, which is very important both financially and environmentally. The new light fixture and a few more details should just about wrap this thing up.

We’re so close to completing our little minor bathroom renovation, but this is a stage in the job well you need to slow down and make sure everything comes out just right, and one of the real important things to do at this point is to install all the accessories securely to the wall. Now if we were tearing out all of the walls, that would be easy, because we put a few little two by sixes or two by fours for blocking so that you’re securing into something solid, but with existing drywall, you’re not sure what you’ll find behind the drywall. Here, also lucky both of the screws went right into wall studs.

I’m sure I won’t be that lucky with this little towel holder that I’m going to put on this wall. Now, when you buy things like this, you’ll find that a lot of them have little anchors like this. Little plastic anchors. I wouldn’t recommend using these in wall. They’ll end up pulling out and you’ll have a little damage to deal with then. It’s better to use something more substantial like this spiral fastener anchor that goes into the wall and then your screw goes into it or better yet, a molly bolt that expands behind the wall that’s really secure. Now, we’re pretty much finished here, but right now, here’s a question from you.

Hey Danny, I’m really concerned about mold in my house. Is it that dangerous?

Okay, Gene, you’re going to spark a major debate with that question. Truthfully, the only answer, is it depends. There’s a lot of disagreement among doctors about how dangerous mold is, but they all tend to agree it definitely affects people who are prone to allergies and asthma, and children are particularly at risk. But on the other side of the debate is that we breathe in millions of mold spores in with no real ill effects. The best thing is to make sure that it isn’t even an issue.

In kitchens and bathrooms, stop any leaks that can encourage mold growth and provide adequate ventilation in this area. Any signs of mold like black spots or a white powdery substance on the walls and ceilings. Then, you can use an environmentally improved cleaner to get ready of any of the thriving mold cultures, or maybe have a professional service come by and do the work for you, that way dangerous or not, you’ll be breathing a lot easier.

Coming up next, don’t miss the tour, and the final tally.

Well the transformation is complete, and the tiny, tired bathroom we started with is gone. The new bathroom has a warm, comfortable feel to it, but with better ventilation and more efficient plumbing fixtures, it also works a lot better. For about $2,500 in materials, we completely changed the style and function of this bathroom. And because we picked out our own materials, and did the work ourselves, we probably saved about two times that amount in labor.

Now even though we had a very modest budget for this bathroom renovation, it looks like a million bucks. Remember, save a little of that budget for some of the decorative touches that really do make a difference. Now if you only have one bathroom, make sure you have everything in hand that you need for your bathroom renovation, so that it goes very smoothly because your neighbor might get a little tired of you dropping by for a visit for you all the time. And if you have more than one bathroom, it’s still best to do just one bathroom at a time.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this week’s show and got a little information that will help you on your next bathroom renovation. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week.



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