Angie's List: Bathroom tune-up

Do you have a bathroom with pink tiles or a blue bathtub? Do you want to update it but can't afford a full blown remodeling job? This week's Angie's List shows little changes that will make a big difference.

For more than nine years, Catherine Young devoted countless hours to scrubbing the dingy gray grout between the creamy white tiles in her bathroom.

Instead of redoing her floors, she hired a company to replace and seal the grout for about $350.

"Now the grout is probably back to what it was when I moved in, but I never realized it had changed over the years,” says Homeowner Catherine Young. “Now the grout is back to a lovely shade of gray and it's sealed so I do not have to worry about it. And it was very inexpensive, very inexpensive choice for something that has a dramatic change in how it looked."

While a full-scale bathroom remodel costs tens of thousands of dollars, there are simple updates you can make without breaking the bank.

"Remodeling your bathroom can be overwhelming, but it can also be one of the best returns on investment,” explains Angie Hicks the Founder of Angie’s List. “You can get up to 85 percent return on the investment, but 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."

You do not have to rip out the bathroom shower tile or tile floors to make them look new again. If your tile is in good shape, consider re-grouting, cleaning, sealing or staining to make tile look like the day it was installed.

"When we walk into a bathroom, if the shower is in pretty bad shape with mold and mildew everywhere, they usually are thinking about tearing it out,” says Contractor Chris Uhland. “We can come in, re-grout it, clean everything, and re-caulk it and it makes the bathroom look brand new."

Over time, the bathtub begins to show signs of wear, stains, scratches or a dull finish. Refinishing an existing bathtub is another simple project that can make a big impact.

"It's really a nice alternative because bathtubs as well as tile over the years they get scoured, stains, and tile becomes porous,” says Contractor Paul Dickerson. “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."

"When replacing a bathtub it might only cost $300 to buy a new one, but what people don't realize is the cost of taking out the old tub and installing the new one can add significant costs to that $300,” says Angie. “An alternative is refinishing your bathtub, and that entire project can be done for about $500."

Another simple update is your toilet. 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.

"Oftentimes the focal point of the bathroom is the toilet, let's face it,” says Angie. “And for about $200 you can buy a new toilet that will not only help from an appearance standpoint but also be a more efficient model. But keep in mind you need to hire a professional to install that so you are going to add a bit of cost when that professional comes in."

Updating your sink's hardware or other bathroom fixtures such as the tub handles, control knobs or shower head are another great way to give your bathroom a newer look without spending a lot of money on a total remodel.

Steer clear of bleach or abrasive cleaners on refinished or re-glazed tubs, tiles and grout. Refinishing and re-glazing projects requires proper ventilation when doing them.

Before you sign a contract, ask which methods the company uses as well as what type of materials will be applied.

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