Baths are a close second to kitchens in line for design repair; this is due mostly to the volume of use, wear and tear they must endure.
Baths appear tired because they are tired.
Declining value in a home begins in the kitchen and baths; rendering them the biggest culprit in making homes appear old and in a bad state of repair.
Worse still, the design of the bathroom will place you squarely into the vintage time and place it was built. Why?
Even bath designs have changed dramatically over time. Every 10 years or so, a dramatic new design is introduced.
Walk into a bathroom in a home built before 1950 and you will find a small room with a low bathtub that doubles as a shower, a pedestal sink, tile that ranges from very small 1″ tiles to black and white checks on the floor and walls, a commode in front of a window and a wall space to add a free standing cabinet for the bath linens. A second one half bath is usually found ‘off the kitchen.’
Walk into a new home built in 2014 and be prepared to be impressed!
The ‘master bath’ is now the same size as former bedrooms; showers are separate from the roman soaking tub and frequently sport triple or quadruple shower heads and a seat to use while enjoying your shower.
Commodes are much taller and fit for a king (the proverbial throne). They have heated seats, auto flush mechanisms and even a storage in the tank for cleaning chemicals that are, of course, auto dispensed.
Better still, a bidet is perched alongside and both are front and center in their own private room, with a door.
Tile in baths in 2014 range from none except for shower and tub (wet) areas, to showers that have travertine marble walls and ceilings!
Long cabinets, much taller (42″) than their counterparts from years gone by, line the walls to create a ‘his and her space.’
Windows are almost never found near a tub in 2014. If they are, they are large and provide a spectacular view or are frosted; enabling you to use your imagination as to what might lie beyond. Many times windows are located high on the walls to allow natural light to penetrate the room while maintaining privacy.
Skylights still dominate large baths for natural lighting and maximum privacy.
Today’s baths have large closets built-in, to house a multitude of linens and provide storage for a ‘spa’ look and feel in your private space.
It is about intimate time for revitalization.
Your bath need not look like a 2014 bath. It also need not look like a 1950 bath. Our goal is to allow your style and budget to merge with the materials at hand; showcasing them as the very best they can be!
Let’s aim for creating a bath that features the things most important to you. Start with the simple and easy things you can change.
a) If your walls are covered in tile half way up on most or every wall, remove it or paint it a color that works for your design.
Epoxy paint will cover the glass tile, remain adhered to the tile and completely alter the look of your bath.
Removing the tile in all areas except the shower/bath area will update your space dramatically and alter the time capsule you are stuck in. This will require scraping the adhesive that anchored the tile, sanding and probably some slight drywall repair that anyone can complete.
b) Pedestal sinks are a perfect fit for half baths, not so much for master or large guest baths. They offer zero storage, no counter tops and basically just sit there and allow water to pour through.
These sinks are perfect in a half bath; they save space in addition to appearing very sturdy and substantial. Most people associate pedestal sinks with an earlier period in design styles.
c) If your tub is less than your ideal and a replacement is out of the question; look closely at the condition of the tub.
Older tubs are nearly always porcelain, which is fairly easy to patch. The kits are sold at most home improvement stores.
If you have a tub that is constructed from one of the new plastics; you probably never dreamed that it was! Repair kits for these mainly consist of a polymer patch and paint.
The most common complaint about tubs, disregarding the low height, is the buildup of lime and other minerals that have turned the tub either a rusty orange or the grayish lime deposit color.
Even if these appear to be unconquerable; you can wage war against mineral deposits with CLR and Lime Away among other products.
Both of these products are very strong, and have serious warnings for proper usage as do all chemicals. Heed them.
Sometimes harsh chemicals are necessary; they still present a very serious risk when used without the precautionary instructions.
If chemicals are impossible for you to use, take a good look at the citrus or steam cleaning products. The progress may be slower but the benefit is found in the lack of dangerous chemicals. You may have to scrape or use an abrasive pad but, remember tile is glass and porcelain will scratch. Tread carefully with any kind of scraping as a misstep will damage the tile.
In most instances you will be able to remove all of the mineral deposits and shine the tub, faucet, drain and tiles.
I always try this first, and then decide what next step to take regarding the tub and shower area.
To provide a designer look for pennies you can cover the tub with very long fabric, drapes or sheets as your shower curtain. Hang them high, next to the ceiling and use something that carries your theme as tie backs. Simple and inexpensive spring tension rods allow you to easily determine the height for both the cloth curtain and a very inexpensive liner which you will need to add to protect the fabric. With this little trick, you will pretty much be able to disregard the tile’s effect on your design once it is cleaned.
Stainless steel inserts are now available. These are screwed into the drywall or a strong adhesive is used to apply to the wall surface.
Take a look at the new ‘looks like tile’ inserts! Gone are the cheap plastic walls that bent in when you leaned against them! The new inserts come in an array of colors and designs and anyone would be proud to show them off in their new design plan.
They are much less expensive then purchasing tile and having it installed and easier to maintain.
Combine this with floor tile that looks like wood and imagine what you can create!
A little imagination and the willingness to roll up your sleeves or ask friends to help and you will have a ‘new bath’ pretty easily!
If you have built in vanities in your current bath and the space is insufficient for your plan, look critically at the space available and think about shopping thrift stores, yard sales and your local Habitat Thrift store for a small hutch that can be anchored to the wall.
Change the hardware to match the bathroom cabinetry. Trim it out with inexpensive trim pieces if desired. You can paint this a contrasting color or match it to your own cabinets in your search for the perfect piece.
Your ‘Plain Jane’ cabinets become rich, new and can even appear Tuscan by adding the corner trim pieces to the base of your cabinet corners and the edges of your upper cabinetry.
They appear to be deep and thick but actually adhere to and wrap the corners of the cabinets; this completely alters the appearance of the cabinets making them appear far more substantial.
Purchase the trim pieces that extend to the floor for Tuscan, Spanish and Mediterranean designs.
The wood is intricately carved or super simple; choose the one that works with your design plan.
Matching decorative trim pieces can be used to replace the tiny one inch trim at the tops of the cabinets.
It pays off in a big way to jump in and add your own ideas; even in a bath area. Give some serious thought to painting the cabinets a color that is current and helps carry your design idea.
Change out the hardware or add it to the cabinets if none exists.
Don’t be afraid to try some of these methods. The biggest complaint about painted cabinetry is the RUNS! Review the following tips to help you make a decision.
a) If painting is the choice you are making you may be surprised at the myriad of paint treatments available. Study them carefully and choose one that fits your new design plan.
b) To get a good finish that you will be proud of, plan on removing all the cabinet doors and hardware.
c) The hardware can be sprayed in a color or finish that compliments your cabinet paint selection.
d) If your cabinets are wood you can rent a small hand sander and rough up the existing finish and smooth out any blemishes.
e) If your cabinets are plastic coated (this is another shocker, a lot of the newer cabinets are coated with plastic to appear wood) look for the application that will adhere to the smooth finish allowing your paint to adhere to the current finish.
f) Primitive and Country designs look great with the bases painted a dark or neutral color; then add barn siding with adhesive and change out the hardware to match.
g) Cottage designs work perfectly with the bases painted white and bead board adhered to the doors.
h) Southwestern designs look great with the spray on treatment that looks like sandstone. Just apply and then spray the poly as a top coat.
i) Budget permitting, you can purchase new doors and finish them with a stain or Min Wax. You will need to sand the bases and apply the same stain treatment or purchase the covers for the bases when you buy the doors.
This process will produce an entirely new look when it is completed.
If your paint runs, use a very fine grain piece of sand paper and take out the run, wipe off the sanding grit and repaint. Pick up a couple of cans of spray poly in the paint department. This will add a hard, shiny finish that can withstand water splashes and washing.
If you do not have the cabinetry you need, head back to the thrift shopping spots, Habitat for Humanity thrift store and Craig’s List where nearly new cabinets can be found at ridiculously inexpensive prices.
The down side of this is the install. If you can handle either hiring someone or doing it yourself, go for it!
If you have a flat mirror anchored over your sink with little screws in plastic caps… tear down that mirror! Normally four screws will anchor the mirror. Plan on a minor wall repair with your can of patch; let it dry and lightly sand and paint with your wall color.
Decorative mirrors can be found everywhere for every budget. If you have a double sink, hang one above each sink and add wall sconces to properly light the area and complete your design.
If removing the mirror is not possible due to budget concerns or you’re living in a rental, consider Plan B:
Measure the existing mirrors entire surface and hunt down a picture frame in that size or look for natural wood in the desired width and frame your mirror. If you cannot find the wood pieces go to your home improvement store and pick it up. They will cut it for you. While you are there, pick up Min Wax to stain it a color that compliments your design or paint to make it personal!
Pre fabricated trim is available in every style at your local Lowes or Home Depot stores. The edges will require being mitered which is a little tricky.
Many times I have managed to get the workers at Lowes to make the cuts for me. You MUST be sure of your sizes because if they are wrong, you cannot return the pieces for a refund.
I have many times managed to secure a piece of remnant granite for bathrooms for $100.00. The supplier will also cut the opening if you ask. This is a perfect time to search for a vessel sink. These sit on top of the countertop with only a small opening for the plumbing.
You can also look around your home or thrift stores and find a gorgeous desk or buffet and have the opening cut out for the sink and plumbing. If possible avoid metal stands that hold towels and other whatnots and opt for large baskets to hold towels.
Another outdated bath accessory is the little wicker or rattan hanging shelving. You’ll have a much richer look if you hang a cabinet or wood shelving unit. Glass shelving is also easy to install and works very nicely with modern, classic and contemporary designs.
If you have decided to keep your current countertop and sink then continue the cleaning process and add your favorite candles or accessories that will instill a feeling of relaxation and rejuvenation.
If you currently have a very low and outdated commode in your bathroom, go back to the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store or Craig’s list for newly used commodes very, very inexpensively.
Commodes are not that expensive when purchased new. If your budget will accommodate one, head back to your favorite home improvement store. Commodes are amazingly easy to install. They require only a wax ring to seal it and two screws with caps.
After spending all that time on painting and properly defining your home with perfect lighting; there’s the same old floor! Now what? They are a roadway that carries the traffic through your home, even in the bath area. Who knew!
Floors will shout or whisper, depending on how you treat them. Some styles seem to feel like they must be defined by specific flooring. That is the shouting method!
If your floors do not ‘match’ your idea of the design you are creating you have a few choices to make them whisper so the bulk of your masterpiece will shout.
If you live in an apartment or a rental home you may think you are stuck with your floors; take heart.
Solutions for shouters:
a) Cover the floor! That’s right; cover it with something that ties it to the style you are creating. Even if the floor has carpet, cover it with a large room size rug or one that leaves only a border of the original color, if there is anything you like about it. I urge you to check out Flea Markets, Thrift Stores, Consignment Stores, Craig’s List and Overstocked.com to find a rug that will make the cut.
b) Select the very inexpensive woven mats to create an oriental feeling in the space.
c) Tile and carpet squares are sold by the box pretty inexpensively. Find the nap and color that you work for your idea and put them in place.
d) If you own your home, have carpet and cannot afford to replace it with anything; take it up and paint the subflooring! In the bath area you will need to add a protective coating to waterproof it or you will find you have really serious issues. It works great with rugs to complete the design.
e) If you have wood floors that are the wrong color or in a bad state of repair; make the repairs and rent a floor sander.
Sanding is a fairly easy job that provides you with a clean slate. Then select the stain that makes you want to shout about it!
f) Barter the work with someone who has materials and experience.
Kicking your old floor to the curb?
Consider other options. If you have always wanted wood floors and they are not practical for your bath; search out the new tile selections. Tile manufactures have listened to their buying audience and created beautiful tiles that look like wood. It is easy care, scuff proof and humidity does not affect its performance.
Save diagonal ceramic or marble tile jobs for large rooms. While they are beautiful, they also attract attention to the floor space and make the room appear smaller.
Select light tile colors to make your room appear larger. Larger tile sizes also make the room appear more spacious.
Pergo or other manufactured wood flooring is far less expensive but also, far less durable. It is manmade wood and a little easier to install but have a care here, if it is not properly adhered to the subflooring, it ‘bounces’ when you walk across it and screams ‘thrift.’
Real hard wood is more expensive but if time is on your side you can watch for the spring specials and the dead of winter liquidation of these materials.
Carpeting is not considered a good option for baths because of the exposure to water they must endure. Lose the notion that a carpeted kitchen, bath or dining room is a good idea. Most people prefer to be able to easily clean the surfaces of these areas.
Unless you plan to live forever in your home, or don’t mind repainting later, avoid fads and colors that you will tire of. Select colors that you can interchange accessories with to create a new look and feel later.
When you begin to install flooring, doors, hardware or plumbing you must decide whether you are handy and want to learn or tackle these tasks alone or, whether it is time to search for qualified and affordable assistance.
If so, review the options in your area for contractors and subs. This is an area where cutting corners has definite rules of procedure.
What’s it all about? It is about doing what you can, where you can to claim your space and make it work for you!
All finished? Maybe, but maybe not… opt for an overhead chandelier if possible to complete your knock out bath!