Renovate Your Home for Less
In the Bathroom
What You Want: A new tub ($2,000 to $6,000)
Save By: Lining the one you already have (approximately $1,000).
How It Works: Rather than tearing out your old tub, you can have a new custom tub made to fit right over it (think of one paper cup nesting inside another one). The installer takes exact measurements of your tub -- and sometimes makes an impression of its shape with a paint-on rubber mold. A few weeks later he returns with a one-piece liner manufactured to a precise fit that's made from the same acrylic used for new tubs. He then bonds it in place over the old tub.
What to Think About: This process won't get you a bigger tub or let you change the configuration of the room, but you also won't have to go through a messy and disruptive construction project.
Who Does the Job: Specialty companies, many of which are national chains (see bathfitter.com, rebath.com, and luxurybath.com).
An Even-Lower-Cost Option: Have your chipped, pitted, or rust-stained tub reglazed in the color of your choice ($400 to $700; search for "bathtub refinishing" online to find local companies).
What You Want: To replace outdated tile wainscot ($3,000 to $5,000)
Save By: Installing wood beadboard paneling right over the tile ($1,000 to $1,500).
How It Works: A tile wainscot -- a half wall of tile -- is a nice bathroom feature, but not if the tiles are bright pink or avocado green. (What were they thinking?) For an instant update a woodworker can glue beadboard plywood over the tile and create a small shelf along the top, then paint the woodwork white.
What to Think About: Make sure the plywood that your contractor uses has fully rounded grooves (or "beads"), rather than just a shallow suggestion of the shape, which is common with some cheaper products.
Who Does the Job: A contractor, carpenter, or experienced neighborhood handyman.
An Even-Lower-Cost Option: Paint the tile white with a specialized epoxy coating available at refinishingonline.com ($68 per kit).