Buying guide: How to renovate your bathroom on a budget

Read on for the latest and most durable in bathroom décor and finishes. We've got advice on how to choose the right fixture, lighting, flooring, tile backsplash, shower door, tub, faucets, paint, and fans to suite your needs and style.

By Karen Kirk

Buying Guide: How to renovate your bathroom on a budget
Room designed by Jane Lockhart, janelockhart.com.
Photo by Brandon Barré, courtesy of Kylemore Communities, kylemorecommunities.com.
A bathroom update can be one of the most expensive renovations you'll do in your home, so be sure to set a budget and do your homework before purchasing any bathroom furniture and fixtures. There are a variety of different designs, styles and features available today to suit any budget and style. Choosing the right products will allow you to personalize your space and save time and money. Here we explore some of the latest options to guide you in making the right choices for your new bathroom.

Flooring
Ceramic and porcelain tiles aren't your only options for bathroom floors. Design trends are leaning toward the sleek, clean look achieved by using large tiles (which means less grout) or wide planks – flooring options that are highly durable and low maintenance.

• Natural stone is porous and should be sealed regularly. Granite, marble, slate, sandstone and limestone are all typically pricier than ceramic and porcelain tiles, but they also offer a more luxurious look. The surface of natural stone is hard, cold and slippery when wet. It can easily be installed over an in-floor heating system, like Nuheat.

• Engineered stone, like quartz, is commonly used for countertops. It has a harder surface than natural stone and is non-porous and never needs to be sealed. Also slippery when wet, engineered stone comes in a variety of designs and colours that mimic the look of natural granite and marble.

• Luxury vinyl, like that produced by Karndean Designflooring, is available in both planks and tiles, offering the texture and look of either solid wood or natural stone. The flooring is made of a highly durable water-resistant vinyl that is easy to install and maintain.

• Solid wood or engineered wood flooring may not be ideal for a main bathroom since water can easily damage it if it's not coated or installed properly. However, it is suitable for a guest bathroom where water and steam aren't an issue. Use durable oak, maple, cherry, bamboo or cork to add vintage or contemporary style to a bathroom.

Tubs
Bathtubs are available in a variety of materials, including acrylic, enamelled cast iron or steel and fibreglass, and in several different styles, including freestanding tubs, recessed or corner tubs and tubs in various sizes. How often you use your tub will directly affect not only the budget, but also the style, size and material you choose.

• Standard recessed tubs (tubs that are enclosed by two or three walls) are the least expensive bathtub option, but the installation costs can eat away at your budget – especially if you're relocating the plumbing in your new design.

• Freestanding tubs are popular in modern bathrooms, adding a touch of elegance and romance. Available in claw, ball and pedestal styles, they generally cost more than a standard built-in recessed tub. However, they're easy to install and offer versatility when it comes to placement.

• Whirlpool tubs are expensive, but they offer the ultimate relaxation and comfort. Whether you opt for air- or water-jet style, whirlpool tubs require a well-supported floor, extra water and a power source, and generally need more care and maintenance than a traditional bathtub.
 
Colour
The walls in busy family or ensuite bathrooms call for calming colours. Whether you choose tile, paint or wallpaper, soft greens, pale beiges with hints of pink, muted blues and warm whites work best.

Be sure to use a mould- and mildew-resistant acrylic latex paint or a scrubbable vinyl-coated wallpaper. Glazed ceramic, glass mosaic or large porcelain, quartz or marble tiles are easiest to clean, and add glamour, style and colour. Keep in mind that although there are some gorgeous colourful sinks and toilets available in rich, deep colours, white is still by far the most popular choice.

Lights
Bathroom lighting has come a long way. Consider a combination of natural, task, ambient and general lighting using LED or halogen bulbs. Include recessed pot lights, chandeliers or ceiling fixtures, wall sconces and vanity lights. Put all lights on dimmers to conserve energy and create just the light needed.

Faucets and taps
Bathroom sink faucets come in four basic varieties, based on the configuration of the sink on which they're mounted: 8 inches (also called widespread), 4 inches, single hole and wall mount. The first three varieties can be mounted on the sink deck.

Look for models that conserve water and buy the best quality faucets and taps you can afford to avoid having to go back into the wall for repairs. Be sure to coordinate your faucet colour and finishes with the rest of the fixtures and accessories in your bathroom. Polished chrome and nickel finishes are on trend, and freestanding tub fillers with shower wands in both modern and vintage styles are available for today's popular freestanding tubs.

Showering systems
Be sure to consult an expert before choosing your showering system as you'll want to ensure your choices are compatible with your existing plumbing and heating layout. Among the most popular systems today are rain showerheads paired with multi-functional adjustable slide-bar hand-shower systems or shower towers that are available in a variety of combinations. Look for eco-seals to ensure that the system you choose is both water and energy wise. New eco-friendly digital systems allow you to customize all of your shower settings to help reduce energy output and save water.

Showers
Frameless glass showers create an airy, modern and clean look, especially when paired with floors, walls and ceilings lined with large tiles or large-scale sheets of marble or porcelain. Glass door enclosures are available in sliding door or hinged styles, while you may want to consider a doorless entry for a stand-alone shower or shower-tub combo. Curved shower curtain rods maximize the space inside a small tub or shower.

Vanities
Updating your vanity, which is often the focal point of the room, can take your bathroom to a whole new level. From pedestal sinks for small bathrooms to double-sink vanity cabinets for ensuites, the sky is the limit when it comes to style and size. Furniture or dresser-style vanities are popular today and are available from retailers either ready to install or custom designed. Keep in mind that custom built-in cabinetry maximizes space and storage.

Natural stone countertops, such as marble and granite, should be sealed regularly, while solid-surface engineered tops, such as quartz and Corian, are an excellent antibacterial surface.

Sinks
There are so many sink styles to choose from, including pedestal sinks, farmhouse or apron sinks, bowl or vessel sinks, under-mount sinks, top-mount sinks and integrated sinks (fabricated from a solid-surface material sink and countertop in one seamless piece). Popular materials include natural stone, solid-surface materials such as quartz or acrylic/polyester, porcelain, ceramic and glass.

Toilets
Today's toilets come in single or dual-flush models (two buttons let you choose a partial flush for liquid waste or a full flush for solid waste). The best water-efficient models will bear an EPA WaterSense or similar seal, allowing 1.28 gallons per flush. For comfort, look for models that are designed to minimize stress on the body and that offer various height and bowl-size options. Soft-close seats and lids, as well as algae- and fungus-resistant finishes, are convenient and healthy features to look for.

Ventilating fans
Install a good-quality ventilating fan in your bathroom to help eliminate odours and foggy windows and mirrors, and – most importantly – to help prevent the growth of mould and mildew. Choose from recessed or surface-mounted fans with optional lights, timers and heaters. A quiet bathroom fan will be rated at about 1.5 sones (sound rating) or less. The larger the cubic-feet-per-minute (CPM) rating the more quickly humidity is removed from the room.


Check out some common mistakes made when decorating a bathroom and the easy fixes for them.


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