Angie's List: Simple and inexpensive changes can update your bathroom without breaking the bank

You don't have to spend thousands on remodel

TAMPA - Full-scale bathroom remodels can cost tens of thousands of dollars. That's not always within reach. But little updates like changing the grout color or refinishing the tub, can provide major aesthetic improvements for significantly less money.

"Remodeling your bathroom can be overwhelming," said Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer group Angie's List . "It can also be one of the best returns on investment. You can get up to and 85% return on the investment, and you don't have to spend thousands of dollars. You can do some simple upgrades like changing that pink tile or blue tile to a more neutral color or update the handles on your cabinets to make the bathroom more modern."

Angie's List tips: 4 Simple bathroom updates

  • Give grout a new look: Homeowners don't have to rip out their bathroom shower tile or tile floors to make it look new again. If your tile is in good shape you can hire a company to re-grout, clean, seal, or stain grout to make it look like it did the day it was installed. Costs are determined by the amount of work, but generally range from $100 to $400. If your tiles are in good shape, but you are not fond of the color – you can reglaze them. A trick to test if your tile is good or needs to be repaired/replaced: knock on the tile, it if rattles or if you find cracks, call a professional before water gets behind the tiles, which can cause further damage.

When faced with dingy grey grout in her bathroom, homeowner Catherine Young decided to have the tile re-grouted. "After years of trying to get that grout cleaned I realized it wasn't going to happen. The choices were either put new floors in or try to find somebody who knew about re-grouting, sealing that type of thing," she said. Young is very pleased with the results. "Now the grout is probably back to what it was when I moved in," she said. "And it was very inexpensive, a very inexpensive choice for something that has a dramatic change in how it looked."

  • Bathtub refinishing/reglazing: Over time, the bathtub begins to show signs of wear – stains, scratches or a dull finish. Refinishing an existing bathtub can achieve the look of a brand-new tub and consumes much less time and money than replacing one. Bathtub refinishing is an option that can return a bathtub or shower enclosure to like-new appearance for about $500. However, homeowners need to maintain the tub with proper cleaners. Steer clear of beach or abrasive cleaners, and avoid dripping faucets and leaving down wet rubber bath mats – which could wear down the finish over time. This project also requires proper ventilation – ask which methods the company uses as well as what type of materials/chemicals/coatings they will use before you sign a contract and begin work.

"It's really a nice alternative," said contractor Paul Dickerson, "because bathtubs as well as tile over the years get scoured, stains, and tile becomes porous. So this creates a barrier so that the water can't get behind the tile. It also puts a coating on the tub to make it look pretty much brand new. It's a very shiny, durable surface. It's a nice alternative to replacing everything."

  • Faucets & other bathroom fixtures: Updating your sink's hardware or other bathroom fixtures such as the tub handles, control knobs or shower head are a great way to give your bathroom a newer look without spending a lot of money on a total remodel. There are a number of finishes available for sink faucet fixtures and other bathroom fixtures, including chrome, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and steel. Styles and finish should be chosen carefully because of the strong impact faucets make to overall decor.
  • Update your toilet: Toilets with colors like avocado green and coral pink were once in vogue, but today may make your home's bathroom appear hopelessly outdated. Or perhaps you have leaky bowl. It may be more cost-effect to replace that toilet than find and repair leaks – which not only cause damage, but consume water and increase your utility bill. Many models cost less than $200, but you have to factor in cost for removal and installation. Replacing a toilet is best left to a qualified plumbing professional because porcelain can be extremely heavy and you want to be sure the unit is properly plumbed to the existing drain system to prevent leaks.
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