Bathroom Remodel on the Cheap

It can be really expensive to remodel a bathroom, but if original features of your old bathroom are intact, maybe all it needs is a good cleaning. Some of you may have followed our bathroom tile restoration on Instagram, where I posted the before, during, and after pictures of my linoleum removal. I get so many positive comments about the transformation, that I wanted to pull off the insta-tinted lenses and detail the process here.

Ever since we bought our house a year ago, I’ve had a suspicion that there was some original tile on the bathroom floor that had been covered by the linoleum. When we decided to replace our pedestal sink with a new-to-us vanity, I took the opportunity to tear off a little piece of linoleum where it would be hidden underneath. I was prepared to find anything: colorful tile, completely broken tile, ugly tile, or even just plywood. I was completely giddy when I found the dreamiest mini-hexagon, white, but very dirty tile underneath! I knew it had to be the tile that was put in when the house was built.

In typical Simpkins Fixer fashion, I ruin something and we are forced to get it fixed in a hurry. I was in for a smelly surprise when I pulled back the sheet of linoleum and wafted the fishy smell of mildew throughout the house. This is our only bathroom, but I was not about to bathe my baby in the tub with all that mold and mildew in the air. The clock was ticking to get this mess cleaned up before he had to wait too long for a bath.

So we scraped and scrubbed, and sprayed, and wiped, and polished for days and days. After getting to a point where I could actually see the floor, I came across two problems. First, there was a big crack going across the middle of the floor and second, the tile didn’t reach all the way to the tub. I know at this point this just sounds like a nightmare instead of a dream, but I was determined to not let these things ruin the tile that has lasted for almost eighty years. At the same time, I hoped that future owners of this home see the tile as a beautiful asset and not an eyesore that needs to be replaced.

The foundation inspection we had when we bought the house came back good and any existing cracks have been there for years and years, meaning they are not getting worse. I could tell there was a slight dip in the floor causing the tile to crack, so any tiles we replaced in that spot would eventually crack as well. After cleaning the floor really well, we decided to reset the loose tiles and grout all along the crack and it looks so much better!

In addition to fixing the tile, we decided to replace the cheap baseboards with new trim that matches the rest of the house which were just 1×6 pieces of pine. To cover the missing tile next to the tub, we got an extra-large piece of DuraFlex quarter-round made of polyurethane. It’s flexible and water resistant, but can also be sanded, nailed, and painted just like wood. Once it was painted you really couldn’t tell the difference between the real wood and the fake.

Although time consuming, this project was relatively easy and the payoff was totally worth it. If I had to buy this tile new, it would cost hundreds. All-in-all, it only cost about $200 for the vanity, trim materials, and grouting supplies. I didn’t buy any special cleaning supplies for the tile. I had everything I needed on hand:

  • Paint scraper
  • Utility knife
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Scrub brush
  • Paper towels
  • Natural tile cleaner (This product does contain citric acid which you want to avoid in large amounts since it may take the sheen off of old tiles.)

When I clean my bathroom now, I spray some mild cleaning solution on the tiles and wipe it down by hand. It’s four months later I’m still wiping up residue from the linoleum glue, although you wouldn’t notice it unless you see what comes up when I clean. Whether you rent or own your home, I bet you’ve had to do some cleaning to take away some of the uncherished memories other tenants have left behind. I think we can all agree that elbow-grease is the best formula, but are there any tips you can share to make it easier?

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One thought on “Bathroom Remodel on the Cheap

  1. I swear by sprinkling a good bit of baking soda and then spraying white vinegar on top and scrubbing!! It’s the best cleaner I’ve discovered! I keep vinegar in a plastic spray bottle.

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