By Cherie Barber
A bathroom can be one of the most trade-intensive rooms in the house to renovate – and that traditionally means high labour costs. Expect your bathroom to be out of action for anywhere from one to three weeks, depending on the scale of the reno and any unforeseen problems that might arise.
A typical bathroom renovation can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 – unless, of course, you are smart with your shortcuts, in which case you can whittle your budget down to under $5000. And you’ll be talking days, not weeks, of work. Here are the five essentials of a cosmetic bathroom refresh.
Retain and rework
The minute you start ripping things out in a bathroom you’re asking for trouble. There’s ancient plumbing, asbestos, old electricals and decrepit walls to possibly contend with, which is why the budget on a full bathroom reno can easily spiral out of control. So the trick for a cosmetic refresh is to look at working with what you have as much as possible and replacing the bare minimum.
If the main problem is simply that the bathroom looks dated, you can achieve a lot simply with the right paints. There’s specialty paints for vanity, tiles, sinks and baths. Together with painting the walls and ceilings in modern colours, a transformation can be pulled off for a few hundred dollars. And if you’re handy and meticulous with your finishes, you can probably DIY the lot yourself. That’s zero labour costs and no tradesmen traipsing through your property.
Replace the minimum
The next cheapest approach is to swap out a few key items. Bulky, old-style toilets take up a lot of unnecessary space, don’t have the water-efficiency of new ones and are just plain ugly. You can buy a smart new one that conceals all the inner workings for under $500. New vanities and baths are often on special, especially old stock and internet bargains, and as long as you work with your existing plumbing, won’t cost the earth to replace. Just be sure you use a licensed plumber for the install.
Shower curtains are a thing of the past, not least because they are mould traps and have no place in a streamlined, modern bathroom. You can pick up fabulous looking frameless glass shower screens for under $500 online, so that’s a no-brainer.
There’s no doubt that tiles can be one of the biggest wow factors in a bathroom, especially now the trend is moving away from clinical all-white bathrooms. Shop around for run-out stock, where they may have limited tiles left of popular lines, and you can pick up fantastic-looking tiles for under $20/sq m. The main cost will be labour: waterproofing and tiling. However, in a small bathroom, the dramatic impact versus financial outlay can be well worth the investment, especially given how much value a contemporary bathroom can add.
At the end of the day, you’re looking for a finished product that looks spectacularly neat, clinically clean, thoroughly modern, but for a price that belies the before and after transformation.
Here are two bathroom projects I’ve recently completed that show just what can be achieved on a modest budget.
What we did:
- Modernise the bathroom joinery by adding trim to the doors, new hardware and laminate paint.
- Install laminate benchtop and dual vanity.
- Install new feature lights to the vanity area.
- Waterproof and retile the bathroom floor and walls.
- Install freestanding bath, open shower and new toilet.
- Install new bathroom fixtures and fittings.
Total cost: approx. $8000
What we did:
- Replace old shower screen with clear glass
- Install new removable timber floor
- Install new mirrored wall hung cabinets.
- Paint tiles, walls and ceiling
- Install new bathroom vanity.
Total cost: $2250
–Cherie Barber is the director of , a company that teaches everyday people how to buy and renovate properties for a profit.