Ideas to try from a frugal bathroom makeover

  • By Mary Beth Breckenridge Akron Beacon Journal
  • Friday, October 11, 2013 2:11pm
  • Life

I am a cheapskate.

Frugal is a nicer word, but the truth is I can pinch a penny till Abe gets bruises.

So of course I brought my skin-flintiest spirit to my recent renovation of my powder room.

The room had long bugged me, with its outdated vanity, country blue walls and saccharine wallpaper border printed with beribboned bouquets. Oh, and a gold faucet. At least, it was gold before the finish started corroding.

But the project was fairly far down my priority list, and my original dreams of an overhaul would have cost more than my bank account allowed.

Finally, though, I could stand it no longer. I abandoned my vision of wood floors, a wainscot and a pedestal sink, and decided to make the best of what I had.

I’m pretty pleased with the results, especially considering my investment — less than $700, plus another $125 or so in towels and accessories. Advil not included.

The room won’t make the cover of House Beautiful, but it’s a big improvement.

My proudest accomplishment is my makeover of the vanity, which was covered in white plastic laminate with a blue laminate top.

I wanted to replace it but found that wasn’t an option, since my tiled floor extends just to the edges of the vanity but not underneath it. Since I couldn’t find another vanity with a bigger footprint that would cover the gap, and a new floor for the bathroom and the adjoining laundry room wasn’t in the budget, I’d have to make do.

I primed the base with a good-quality primer formulated for use on plastic laminate, and then painted it in a beautiful brownish gray. I replaced the doors with unfinished wood doors painted to match, which I’d found for $10 apiece at Building 9, a discount building-materials warehouse near downtown Akron, Ohio. The doors were narrower than the originals, but I knew that by adding a stile — a vertical piece of wood between the doors — they’d cover the opening just fine.

But the stile would have made the openings in the vanity too narrow to be practical, so I borrowed a trick I learned from a carpenter acquaintance: I attached the stile to the edge of one of the doors instead of the cabinet. When the doors are closed, you can’t tell the difference. Three screws were plenty to hold the stile in place.

A new light brown travertine vanity top with an integrated sink purchased online (free shipping!), a new faucet and a couple of glass knobs, and I had a whole new vanity.

Don’t want to replace the doors? If you don’t like their style, you can always create the illusion of raised-panel doors by gluing a rectangle of trim molding onto the front of each. Seal all the joints with paintable caulk so you won’t see cracks after you paint. If the doors have a design carved into them, fill the grooves with wood putty first and sand smooth.

Another hurdle I faced in my bathroom renovation was the mirror, which was glued to the wall. Sawing behind it with wire got me nothing but sore hands, so I resorted to pulling the mirror off the wall with a couple of dent pullers, strong suction cups sold at auto parts store for removing car dents.

My husband and I attached one dent puller to each of the upper corners of the mirror and pulled, and we were surprised by how easily the mirror gave way.

I knew this method would tear away some of the drywall covering and was prepared for some significant patching, but the damage was limited to a couple fairly small spots. Since they’d be mostly hidden by the new mirror, I was able to fix them with just a skim coating of drywall compound.

The towel bar was a bit of a challenge, too, since the standard sizes didn’t fit my space. That was easily resolved: I bought a type consisting of a hollow metal rod that fits into two end brackets, and then I used a tubing cutter to cut the rod down to the size I needed.

With a fresh coat of paint and a few pictures on the wall, the powder room has a fresh new look.

And I still have money left for the next project on the list.

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