What If Your Bathroom is Seriously Dated?

You may love your house, but hate your bathroom. That’s okay. Like every one of life’s challenges, you have alternatives for implementing changes. If you’re staring at a bathroom that leaves you feeling unhappy, consider three different approaches.

Option 1: A Complete Renovation

If you have the time, the money and the inclination, you can change everything! Rip it down to the studs, if you like. (Just be sure you can use another bathroom while construction is underway!) Whether you decide to do the work yourself or hire it done, here are a few things to consider:

Know Your Budget and Plan Accordingly – Small bathrooms are not necessarily cheaper to remodel than large ones. Get several estimates before making a decision on a contractor, and be sure to request and check references. Ask specifically if the contractor came in at or under budget and within the designated time frame.

If You Can Afford It, Gut It – Be aware that there may be hidden water damage and accompanying structural damage that may need to be addressed. Updating the plumbing and electric in the walls will help ensure fewer problems in the future—and you’ll be less likely to “mess up” your new remodel later, with a beneath-the-surface repair.

Start from the Top – If you are doing your own remodeling, work on ceilings before walls; showers, tubs, sinks, and toilets before floors. This will minimize the risk of damaging items that are installed below the current portion of your project.

Get Help – If you are going the DIY route, realize this is a complex room to remodel. You might save money by getting a professional’s help in making design and layout decisions before you begin. If you run into problems with the electric or the plumbing, be prepared to call in a professional.

Keep Good Notes – If you are doing this yourself, keep a notebook of measurements, types of connections in place and those needed, paint chips, etc. and bring this with you whenever you go to the hardware store. It will reduce your frustration and the number of trips you have to make.

Option 2: Give Your Bathroom a Facelift

If your budget won’t cover a total bathroom renovation, consider giving it a facelift by replacing the toilet and sink, and resurfacing the tub/shower to match. If you also want to change the color of the tiles, it may be possible to paint them.

If you take this route:

  • Avoid painting tile floors, because the paint will not hold up well to foot traffic.
  • Avoid painting tub/shower surrounds, countertops and any location that gets a great deal of water.
  • Basically, reserve painting for walls that don’t get wet.
  • Understand there are specific preparation steps for good paint adhesion to tile. (Google it!)
  • Realize you will lose much of the structural interest of tile once it’s painted.
  • If you decide to resurface your tub (or sink), understand this is not a permanent fix. It will wear and will have to be done again.

Adding new faucets and fixtures, new lighting, new towel bars, new shower curtains and window treatments will go a long way toward updating a look. Realize, however, that even a facelift is no small job. Be prepared for the expense and the inherent inconveniences, especially if you only have one bathroom in the house.

Option 3: Embrace It!

If you are on a serious budget and there’s no money for a major overhaul, you still have options. If your bathroom is in good working order and the existing tiles are in good shape, but the style simply doesn’t mesh with your aesthetic, think Retro.

If you have a pink toilet or a baby blue sink, and no money (or desire) to rip them out, consider working with these vintage pieces and using decorating techniques common to the era, making the room look planned and polished.

Vintage vs. Old: The Difference is In the Details

Vintage is cool. It’s crisp and clean and well preserved. So…clean it like nobody’s business! This room should sparkle.

Replace caulking that has aged, yellowed or molded. Scrub grout until it glistens and use oxygen bleach to get it as clean as possible (and then reseal the newly-freshened grout to help keep it clean and to prevent water damage).

Damaged Tile or Grout?

Replace any chipped or damaged grout with color-matched mixtures. Unless you are extremely handy, you may want to get professional help for a good match.

Matching chipped or damaged tile is always a headache, and may be particularly challenging in older “vintage” era bathrooms, but it’s not necessarily impossible. You may be able to locate matching tile if it’s a common style/color/pattern for the era.

If you can’t find it in your regular home improvement stores, check out online retailers and architectural salvage dealers. Even if they don’t have the tile, they may know where to find it.

Decorate It

Once the tiles are under control, look at the painted or papered portions of the walls. Remove any wallpaper and prep for a fresh coat of paint. If you are dealing with colored tiles, a white or soft white paint will look more balanced (versus adding another color).

If your bathroom looks like cotton candy, anchor it with touches of black or dark gray. Go white with linens, curtains, and accessories to help tone down the pinks, mint greens or blues. Create softness and lushness with your linens and textiles.

Draw the eye away from what you don’t like by adding a splash of bright color with a flower, or a statement art piece on the wall, or a mirror in a fantastic frame. Don’t overdo this splash. One statement and one reflection of that color elsewhere is enough.

Consider going monochromatic with an all-white palette for everything other than your tile and/or fixtures. Make the flower or the picture reflect different values of the same shade of pink (or mint green, or harvest yellow, or whatever you have).

Do you need a little inspiration to help decorate your vintage bathroom? Not a problem! Go to Pinterest and search for terms like “vintage pink bathroom” or “turquoise bathroom décor” or your own particular flavor/color of vintage bathroom.

Above all else, realize that some homeowners are paying BIG bucks to recreate the vintage look and feel that your house already has. (And yours is original.) So, embrace it and make it the prettiest little vintage room in your house!