Your bathroom is probably the most labor-intensive — and costly — parts of your home to upgrade. When I say costly, I’m thinking per square foot. In many apartments and houses bathrooms are 5'x7' (35 Square feet). For a basic renovation -- keeping everything in the same place -- minimum costs in the NY metro area are 18-20g.
Gulp. And why?
The ‘why’ is because even though it’s a small space, renovating a bathroom involves a lot of skilled trades. First, there’s the demolition, then the plumber comes in. After that, the framing, the electrician, the sheetrock and finish work, the tile people, painters, then the electrician again, and the plumber again. Whew. It’s not the cost of the tile or toilet that gets you, it’s the many people it takes to get everything done in that small space.
This is why I often hear prospective clients say "I just want to do a couple of small things in the bathroom -- just cosmetics". This discussion often leads to a full bathroom renovation, or the decision to wait until it's time to do a full renovation.
While there are limits to what can be done 'cosmetically', there are some things that CAN be done.
Cosmetic work in a bathroom: what you can do and what you shouldn't attempt
Toilet - This is the easiest to switch of all the fixtures in the bathroom. Make sure you measure the ‘rough in’ (the distance between the back wall and the bolt holding the toilet down) and make sure your replacement is the same (usually 12", sometimes 10"). Also, the shut off valve (which brings water to the toilet) needs to be fully operational. Bottom line: Easy / check the rough-in / test the shut offs
Lighting - Also pretty easy, if you are simply replacing a sconce or overhead in the same location. Bottom line: Easy / check the dimensions/ make sure your replacement is 'damp rated'.
Sink Faucet - do-able in most cases by a plumber. As long as the shut-off valves (the valves that turn water on and off to the sink) are working. Bottom Line: Easy / use the correct replacement (3 hole, widespread, single hole) / test the shut offs.
Sink - If you have a boxy sink vanity and plan to replace it with another boxy sink vanity of the same size, this may not be a big deal either. If you want to switch to a pedestal sink, you may run into one of these issues:
- Once that vanity comes out, there may be damage to the wall or floor tile. Or, the plumbing (drain & shutoffs) may not be located where they need to be.
- You want drawers in your vanity? Make sure, again, that the plumbing can fit in the cutouts of the drawers and the sink trap (that dippy metal piece at the bottom of the drain) will fit fully inside the vanity.
Bottom Line: Risky / Check with your plumber or handyman first
Wall tile - once that tile comes out, so does the wall. This means fully replacing the wall with new sheetrock. You’re doing a gut Reno at this point. Bottom Line: Don't try it unless you're ready to do the whole project
Floor tile - if your floor is pretty level, you might be able to tile on top of the existing tile, but this depends on a number of factors. Generally, I’d suggest waiting until you are ready to do a larger ‘re-do’. Bottom Line: Risky / check with your contractor
Shower Handles. Strangely enough, these are not to a uniform standard so you would need to replace it with the same brand and type. This is a ‘maybe’. Bottom Line: Do-able if you find the right part
Recessed medicine cabinet: you would need to have the contractor reframe for the new one. It’s possible contingent on the conditions. It’s usually easier to go higher (if you don’t have a light in the way) than it is to go wider. Bottom Line: Do-able under the right conditions. Check with your contractor
So, what can you change?
A fresh coat of paint (in a matte or satin finish) always brings new life. I like to stay close to the tile color or a light neutral to make the room look bigger. There are also some great new products for painting laminated cabinet finishes, like this trim and cabinet enamel.
Cabinetry hardware. Replacing the knobs with something modern and cute is an instant upgrade.
Lighting - using an updated sconce (make sure your medicine cabinet door will still swing open) can transform your space. Always use a ‘damp rated’ fixture in the bathroom.
And for the easiest fix, fresh towels, bath mats and a shower curtain.
Interested in chatting about your project? Schedule a free phone consultation today.