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Bathroom Renovation - How to Do it Cheaply

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Next to kitchens, bathrooms tend to be the most expensive rooms in a house to renovate, as they require specialised trade services such as plumbing, tiling, and electrical work. Even when buying a house or apartment that has already had a lick of paint and a few 'renovations' applied to bedrooms, hallways and living rooms, the kitchen and bathroom have probably been left untouched, or may not suit your discerning sense of taste and style.

This is a guide to doing a bathroom 'on the cheap' without it looking cheap.

Step One: Avoiding Major Costs

Take a good look at your bathroom. You may not like where the bath is, or wish the shower was just 'a couple of inches to the left'. Take a deep breath and toss away any grand plans to move any of these fixtures (toilet, bidet, basin, bath and shower), as the biggest budget-buster in a bathroom renovation is plumbing work.

Unless your layout is absolutely and completely unlivable (which is a matter of opinion), ditch any ideas of moving anything that's connected to water or waste pipes.

The second way to keep those costs down is adhering to the 'KISS' principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

For example, options for daggy or dark tiles include buying tiles and hiring a tiler (expensive) or choosing a product to paint over the tiles to give them a fresh look. If your budget is already straining under a mortgage, it is advisable to choose the latter.

An epoxy enamel paint, such as Tub 'n' Tile1 does this job nicely, consisting of a two part epoxy resin that simply gets painted over tiles to produce a brilliant, porcelain finish. This limits decor choices, but also helps in sticking to the KISS principle.

Similarly, replacing unsightly floor tiles, which cannot be painted with epoxy resin and require heavier tiles than walls, is another budget blow-out. Consider taking the option of laying down bathroom carpet, which is rubber-backed and made from nylon. This is practical if the shower lacks a screen to prevent water splashing over the floor, making the carpet soggy. If this does not apply, perhaps making room in the budget for good quality floor tiles may be the only option.

Step Two: Preparation

There is simply no good substitute for preparation when it comes to renovations. Unfortunately, this is the most tedious and thankless part of the process.

Unless you are an exemplary house cleaner, the bathroom will have a build-up of grime from soaps, body fats and other dirt in those hard-to-reach places.

Before considering painting or applying a product like Tub 'n' Tile, it is essential to get rid of this build-up from any surfaces which are going to be revamped.

Preparation includes sugar soaping the walls and ceilings to be painted, bleaching any mould spots that have accumulated and sanding all surfaces to be rejuvenated.

Another area of preparation is covering any taps, pipes and cornices you don't want paint splashed over with easy-to-remove masking tape. Also removing any items to be replaced, such as cabinets, tapware, etc.

Also, wash down all surfaces to ensure they are free from dust before painting.

Step Three: Painting Surfaces

Measure wall surfaces in square metres/feet and consult your local paint distributor for the required amount of paint2. You will also need to measure the surface area of tiles to be covered, to determine how many packets of epoxy enamel paint are needed - local variants may differ in instructions and quantities.

Start by painting the ceiling, then come down to the wall surfaces. Give both two coats of paint and allow to dry. This may take longer if the weather is humid or raining, as more time between coats may be necessary.

Applying the product will take much longer because each tile needs to be painted individually to achieve the best effect. But the result is worth it; the tiles (and bathtub/basin) will have a gleaming, pristine porcelain finish.

Step Four: Decorations

A stark white bathroom is all very well for minimalists, but some need a bit of colour in their life. Instead of replacing a row of tiles with feature border, consider purchasing tile transfers that you can simply place over tiles to act as decorative features.

Another idea to add colour to a bathroom is stenciling3 a border around the walls.

After applying the tile transfers, and while waiting for those to dry, cut the carpet to size leaving holes for pipes.

Laying bathroom carpet is simply a matter of laying it straight over the floor tiles. If you want it to be semi-permanent, double-sided tape takes care of this.

Step Five: Installing Accessories, Tapware and Extractor Fans

After waiting the required time for all surfaces to dry and seal, now comes the fun part: dressing up your bathroom. This includes installing any new cabinets, towel rails, soap holders and tapware you may have bought.

It may be possible to buy all the accessories from the same hardware supermarket as the paint. More and more of these stores are springing up everywhere, with competitive prices that reflect the growing trend in DIY.

Finally, if you do not already have an extractor fan (the absence of which would have contributed to any mould on ceilings and walls) it would be wise to purchase and install one now. If your country has restrictions on wiring up appliances like these, you'll need to hire an electrician. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to have one in the family...

1Manufactured in Australia by White Knight Paints (currently available only in white or vanilla).2It is worth purchasing paint with a mould resistant formula.3Using paint and a cutout pattern to achieve a repeated pattern in one or several colours.

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