A very small bathroom that hadn’t been touched since the 1980s was given a much-needed update for just over $1,000.
We live in a late 1950s triple-fronted brick veneer house. Initially our home had one bathroom, but in the early 1980s the previous owners added on an extension that was basically a large room with a half bathroom tacked on. Half bathroom? I call it a half bathroom because all it has is a toilet at one end and a shower at the other. No basin. Not sure if that was a mistake or people didn’t wash their hands in the 80s.
This room clearly hasn’t been touched since the day it was built. If you wanted to give someone an idea of what early-1980s decor looked like then this is it – brown tiles on the floor, ugly brown-patterned tiles on the wall, brown aluminium window, mission brown window frames. I think you get the picture.
With plans to give our main bathroom a complete renovation, our goal was to give this room an update for under $1000.
As part of our back room renovation, we’d removed all the nasty brown floor tiles and had the timber floors polished, so flooring wasn’t an issue. The walls on the other hand were. With a club hammer and a brick bolster in hand, I chipped each tile off the wall – it took a whole day. By the end of the day I had a green bin full to the brim with busted tile pieces, a right arm that looked like Popeye’s forearm after swinging a club hammer all day and a stack of random cuts from flying tile pieces (note: as well as protective equipment for your eyes, ears and hands, a long-sleeve shirt is a good idea too).
With the tiles gone, the room was already starting to feel lighter but there was still some brown. I sanded the window frames back to timber – I can’t tell you how satisfying this was. Next, I sprayed the aluminium window frames black. For this I used Dulux Metalshield in satin black – a super quick, cheap and easy job but it makes a huge difference. A word of advice here, be sure to tape everything and cover the window with newspaper and any other area you want to protect as there can be a bit of overspray when working with spray cans. Also, remove the tape while the paint is wet, otherwise if you wait until the paint is dry there is a risk that the paint will come off with the tape. Last thing on this, spray paint stinks – use a respirator and open a window if you can.
Step two was to tidy up the walls a bit. I wasn’t a fan of the deep gaps between the brickwork, so I mixed up some mortar and filled the gaps. I still wanted to be able to see the outline of the bricks after painting, so I didn’t fill all the way to the edge. It was a messy job, loads of mortar ended up on the floor (use a drop sheet, particularly if you have no skills like me) but the end result was surprisingly ok.
With the walls and window frames prepped, it was finally time to paint. The undercoat took forever. Not only does brick soak up paint like a dry sponge but getting in all the cracks and crevices of such an uneven wall took much longer than I expected. In hindsight, spraying this wall would have made it a much quicker job but our budget didn’t allow for that. Rollers and brushes it had to be.
I completed two top coats on the walls – Dulux Wash&Wear plus Kitchen & Bathroom. Next up were the shower tiles. Our budget didn’t stretch to re-tiling, so we once again turned to paint to hide the ugly. We used White Knight Tile and Laminate primer followed by White Knight Tile Paint in white. Painting tiles does take a bit of work – as with all painting, the preparation stage will make or break the overall finish. Take the time, follow the instructions and you’ll end up with a pretty good finish. It may not be as good as new tiles, but it’s better than it was.
In the end, we decided to leave the timber panelling on the ceiling – it’s a bit Swedish sauna, but seeing as the walls and tiles are white, it’s not as offensive as it was before painting the room white. However, the light will be updated at a later date to an IXL-Tastic for light and heat.
The plumber came in and installed the new toilet (Mondella Concerto) and shower rail (Mondella Vivace), both of which look great and weren’t expensive.
I installed the shelf myself, this took much longer than expected (lack of skills strikes again). In the past, I’ve never had an issue screwing into brick, but for some reason this time the screws just wouldn’t hold. I ended up using some DynaBolts and they worked a treat (we won’t be putting anything heavy on the shelf just to be safe) with some black L brackets from Bunnings. The shelf itself is a piece of recycled wormy chestnut that I sourced from a local reclaimed timber yard. After giving the shelf a good sand I waxed it with carnauba polish to maintain the look of the timber.
The final touches included new skirting boards, new shower curtain rail, caulking and a new toilet roll holder (Mondella Vivace in matte black) and the job was finally done.
So, did we hit our budget? Not quite. The total job came in slightly over at $1250, but this included the cost of the plumber and all materials.
With this budget, unfortunately there was no way of incorporating any new plumbing. We thought about putting in one of those toilets that has a tap above the cistern but we didn't love the look of it. So, in the end we didn't include a basin. Luckily for us the laundry trough is next to our small bathroom, so this is what we use.
It’s certainly not fancy, but it’s a lot better than the mission brown wonderland it used to be.