10 Insider Bathroom Remodeling Tips for DIYers
Remodeling a bathroom is one of the most satisfying home improvement tasks because of its multi-pronged payoff: It’s your chance to combine all the practical features you need with a personalized style you love — and create a relaxing retreat in the process.
If you’re taking on this project yourself (or even a part of it, like installing tile), it’s helpful to have a go-to source for practical guidance — and with its DIY project guides, how-to workshops, and project calculators to help you figure out how much material to order, The Home Depot is a smart bet. And when you’re ready to get started, you can shop for everything from tubs and vanities to showers, tiles, and finishing touches, all from the same spot. (You can even rent the tools to install them.)
Looking for inspiration? Check out these clever ideas from interiors pro Elaine Griffin to help you nail your bathroom refresh.
Wake Up Your Walls
Patterned tile or wallpaper can give your bath a high-end, custom look — and you don’t need to install it on every wall to make a big impact. Sticking to just the area behind a vanity is a striking look too. (When wallpapering a full bathroom with shower, look for moisture-resistant wallpaper, sometimes referred to as “splashproof,” which will fend off water and steam.) Another option: Add texture instead of pattern, by installing board-and-batten paneling to some designated spots like the wall behind the vanity. The installation is a fairly simple process if you have some DIY experience. You’ll need to use a miter saw to cut the trim boards to the correct length; careful measuring and leveling is key or you’ll end up with slanted or sloping panels. Get all the how-to details here.
More of a painted-wall person and just want to change up the hue? Keep in mind the color you choose will be reflected from the walls onto your face. “You probably don’t want your skin to look seafoam green as you’re trying to put on makeup,” says Griffin. “I personally like a white bathroom, but not a stark, cold white. It should have a little bit of a brown or peach undertone so the room feels warm and welcoming.” To find your perfect paint color, check out The Home Depot’s ProjectColor paint app — you can use it to find a shade that’s the closest to a piece of furniture or practically any object and “try on” your picks in your own room.
Go Big With Tile
“It sounds completely counterintuitive, but large shower tiles look great in all bathrooms, even really small ones,” says Griffin. “They make the space appear larger. The secret is to steer clear of a contrasting grout color, and keep the grout lines as narrow as possible, ideally 1/16”, for the best look. To achieve those narrow grout lines, be sure to choose tile spacers that are 1/16”.
Make a Strategic Vanity Swap
To keep your remodeled space looking as good as it did the day you finished the project, you’ll want to make it easy to control clutter — and that means incorporating plenty of room to hide beauty products and other odds and ends. Look for a vanity with cabinets and drawers. “Today’s vanities are engineered within an inch of their lives, which I love,” says Griffin. “You can even choose one with a central bank of drawers that are U-shaped, so they fit around the plumbing without wasting valuable space.” In a small bath, instead of a space-saving pedestal sink, Griffin advises going with a floating vanity style, which offers storage in a small footprint.
Add Secret Storage
Sure, you can hang a decorative mirror above the vanity and call it a day. But since you’re remodeling anyway, why not install a sleek medicine cabinet — and get the mirrored surface you need, plus extra interior storage? (Always be sure to screw into a wall stud so your new cabinet stays safely in place.) You can even add your own custom frame to a simple medicine cabinet style with the help of a mirror framing kit.
Get Your Lighting Just Right
A remodel is a great chance to upgrade your bathroom lighting. “In a perfect world, you want light on either side of the vanity mirror and above you, so you’re lit from all directions,” says Griffin. Either way, she warns, it’s important to make sure ceiling fixtures — recessed cans or surface-mounted — don’t cast an unflattering shadow on your face. “You don’t want a light source directly over your head when you’re standing at the mirror,” she says.
Go a Little Luxe
The best way to turn your bathroom into a pampering sanctuary is to set it up with the bathing or showering experience you’ve always wanted. If you have the room, a freestanding bathtub is the height of boutique-hotel luxury. But in any size room, you can add a glass shower enclosure (instead of a shower curtain) to impart a high-end look. “The frameless styles look the most elegant, but the more value-oriented options look great too.” says Griffin.
The most important step is measuring correctly. Most shower doors can be adjusted slightly to account for less-than-plumb walls, but you’ll need to start out with very accurate measurements for the height and width the glass will cover and for adequate door-swing clearance if the model you choose has a swing-out or pivot-style door. Learn more about choosing the right shower door for your space and measuring correctly here.
Unify Your Hardware
Sometimes even a simple switch-up has a big impact in a bathroom — and that’s definitely the case if you have some mismatched finishes. Changing up lavatory and bathroom faucets, towel bars, and other room accessories so they’re all in the same metal finish will give the space a cleaner, more streamlined look. Griffin’s pick? Classic chrome. “I use chrome in about 75 percent of the bathrooms I design,” she says. “You don’t have to maintain it like real nickel — you just wipe it down and it’s good to go.”
“If you don’t want to have to drill holes in your countertop, walls, or cabinets for a new faucet, towel bars, or cabinet hardware, you’ll want to swap your outdated centerset faucet with a new centerset model, for example, or choose cabinet handles that are the same width as your old ones. Tip: Take your current fittings to the store, so you can match things up in person.
Upgrade the Most Functional Feature
It may be the least glamorous element in the room, but the toilet really does make a difference in the design and feel of the space. Some good guidelines: For a small bathroom, go with a round-bowl style. A comfort-height design can make rising and sitting easier, and a one-piece design has fewer nooks and crannies to clean.
Replacing a toilet is easier if you have a helper to assist you in removing the old model and lifting the new one into place. But before you bring in the new toilet, don’t forget to inspect the flange, which secures the toilet to the drainpipe in the floor. You may be able to use the old flange, but if it’s cracked or in bad shape, you’ll need a replacement. Not sure which replacement flange to buy? Take a picture of the old one and use the image search function in The Home Depot Mobile App to find similar products.
Put Your Stamp on the Space
A bathroom feels more “finished” when you sprinkle in accessories that let your personality shine through: vases or artwork that inspire you, towels in your favorite color, or small furnishings, like a garden stool to hold a stack of towels. (Just make sure you choose items that are easy to clean and will stand up to the room’s fluctuating moisture levels — it’s not the right space for fine antique furnishings, which could warp or crack with exposure, for example.) Surrounding yourself with things you love will ensure you feel good every time you step through the door.
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