How We Completely Renovated Our Outdated Bathroom For Almost No Money

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend going back and reading this post to get some back story on the Zero Dollar Update I was a part of on Instagram over the month of February.

The short of the challenge: spend as close to $0 as possible to update a space.

Jake and I were brainstorming which area of our house that we wanted to update. I had a few ideas in mind, but then I had a big one: let’s tackle the hall bathroom. It’s our main bath and we both absolutely despise it: it had a dropped ceiling (in an 8 foot bathroom), poorly-painted blue walls, and bland original tiles. Nothing was so bad that we wanted to rip it out immediately, but it is the eventual plan, so we figured… why not!?

Okay, we picked a room. Now what?!

We cut the dropped ceiling down and immediately ran into our first problem: the ceiling was not drywall. I’m almost certain that it wasn’t even meant to be used for a ceiling. On top of that, quite literally, we had to deal with outdated, inefficient sawdust/wood shaving insulation from the 1960’s.

This is where we spent money. We had to buy green drywall and we had to buy attic insulation. All said and done, we spent $80 there.

So we broke the rules. Officially.

Yeah, we spent a little money. This was a spot that made me feel a little disappointed, but it was just for the ceiling drywall and the attic insulation, and I justified it by thinking that even if we gut the bathroom down the road the ceiling is going to stay. Everything else from the lighting, the paint, the primer, and the fixtures were already things we owned. Oh, and we bought the one gallon of paint for the walls with a $25 gift card.

So what’s the plan here?

I won’t lie, I’m an absolutely awful planner. I forget and I’m air headed and I just let my spirit guide me through the aisles of Home Depot most of the time. But I knew that I wanted to paint the walls dark green to accent the brown and tan and pink tile and fixtures. I actually love the pink tub, sink, and toilet, and I don’t hate the tiles and original 1960s fixtures. I think the green was going to be a much more modern accent color to all of these pre-existing things.

I had some leftover paint from murals, exterior paint samples, and other small projects that I was planning on using to paint the cabinet with. And we had a ton of scrap wood to do whatever we wanted with.

And I wanted to build myself a bath caddy.

And I figured I may as well create some artwork while I’m at it!

Let’s get down to business.

So over the next few weeks, I got to work. I mudded and sanded for what felt like entirely too long. It was a HARD drywall job though: the new drywall and the old drywall were different thicknesses, and we had to create a huge drywall patch for the old wall heater. Thankfully I had some leftover mud and drywall tape from when we had our kitchen drywall done, so even that was free.

Did I mention that I hate drywalling and didn’t want to hire this job out for obvious reasons (ahem, zero dollar update), but man. I will never drywall again. I can operate lots of power tools and build and paint and create but drywall is an art all its own and I’m cool with never mastering it.

Once the sanding was done and all of the dust was cleaned up, I tackled something that had been bothering me for years: the nasty, old, moldy bathtub caulk. This has been such a bother for me since we moved in but had no motivation to do anything about it until now. And boy. I’m glad I had this excuse.

The next day, I got some primer from our basement paint stash and primed the raw drywall on the ceiling and the walls. If you’ve ever gutted a room, you know how it feels when you put primer on. It starts to feel so real.

And while the primer dried, I decided to paint the existing bathroom cabinet in the color Cinnamon Tea by Behr. It was a beige-pink that looked too warm-brown when I tested it as a potential color for the shutters outside, but was the perfect shade for the bathroom. It’s almost a perfect match to the tub, sink, and toilet and it looks great!

As for the handles: the existing ones were trash. So what do we do? Literally dig in our trash wood pile and find two discarded, triangular pieces of wood and attach them to the front of the cabinet to create a visually-interesting statement. From trash!

For some finishing touches, I created some artwork to hang above the toilet in a 16×20 frame I had, and I created a bath caddy out of some more scrap wood from our trash pile. I will make a tutorial for this because I literally made it in one morning before I went to work. To be honest, I’m way more excited about this than we should be because now I can take super extra, artfully-styled luxe baths like my friends Wendy/@thekwendyhome and Emma/@emma_sugi do on Instagram.

Before and After! iPhone style.

One month later, and our bathroom feels luxe and super fancy. It feels like it actually belongs in our house! I loved taking baths in here before anyway — ugly, moldy caulk and all — but now I can’t wait to soak with my new caddy by candlelight in a room that feels like it has our stamp on it. Shoot, maybe now that our bathroom is (even temporarily) done, we’ll up and move like other bloggers Young House Love and Chris Loves Julia did.

Ha. No.

EDIT: I took some photos with my real camera, but dang taking photos of a bathroom with zero natural light is…. not easy.

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