Top five ways to give your bathroom a makeover

You spend a lot of your time in your bathroom. Invest in making it somewhere you actually want to be with these top five tips.

Yahoo Homes

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Your bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home, but it's often the most neglected, too.

In fact, "Nine times out of 10, the bathroom isn't up to par with what we wish it would be," says Julie Berchtold of the California-based design firm, Berchtold Harris.

Whether it's a leaky faucet, outdated countertop, or a much-needed facelift, remodeling a bathroom can be one of the most gratifying projects for improving your entire home. That's right - a bathroom remodel goes far beyond just improving your bathroom.

"Maximizing the space you have and creating an environment where you actually want to spend your time can completely change your outlook on the rest of your home," adds Berchtold's design partner, Samantha Harris.

But when you decide to get down to the nitty-gritty, where do you start?

Read on for five projects that will have you ready to ring up the contractor and get started on your own bathroom remodel today.

Get a Shiny New Floor

You should approach your bathroom remodel from the bottom up, if you want a stunning end product. And "from the bottom up," we're talking about the floor.

The floor is the most important and permanent part of any bathroom upgrade, says Matt Wien of Marshall Carpet One in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

"Because everything will go on top of it, your floor sets the stage for the entire bathroom and is the one element that's the most difficult to change," he says.

So what are some good flooring options? A natural stone or a porcelain tile with a radiant heat system is a great choice if you're looking for durability.

"Because you can't hurt natural stone or porcelain tile, it will last for as long as you want it there," says Wien. "And the radiant heat is nice because it will keep your feet warm and help the floor to dry faster, reducing the likelihood of slipping."

[Planning to install new floors? Click to find the right contractor now.]

However, natural stone and porcelain are also some of the pricier options, with Wien noting that a heated porcelain or natural stone floor will run you anywhere from $15 to $20 per square foot. An unheated floor? Between $8 and $12 per square foot.

If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider going with vinyl.

"Luxury vinyl allows people to put new flooring over their existing floors with minimal prep, saving you a lot of money," says Wien. The downfall is that vinyl floors will need to be replaced in eight to 10 years, unlike the permanency of natural stone or porcelain.

"Vinyl's a great option if you're remodeling to sell. And at $4 to $7 per square foot, you can't beat the price," he adds.

Replace Your Countertops

What's another small change that can make a big difference in your bathroom? Countertops. Because bathrooms are generally smaller than what people want, choosing a light color or a great stone piece is an easy way to make your bathroom feel larger.

"We're big fans of a statuary marble in light white with a thin grey veining," says Berchtold. "It adds a level of luxury while still keeping everything light and fresh."

[Ready to install a new bathroom countertop? Click to find the right contractor now.]

If you're watching your wallet, Wien says you should pay a visit to a granite or stone scrapyard and pick through the smaller cuts. "For smaller bathrooms, you can often pick up a scrap piece of a gorgeous stone for a whole lot less."

If marble or granite still isn't in your budget, Wien recommends laminates or Formica. "They're great alternatives to stone because they give you a similar look at a lower price point." They may also be easier to maintain because unlike a porous natural stone, a laminate doesn't need to be sealed against stains and water.

Reface or Replace Your Cabinets

Cabinets can be one of the most expensive remodel elements of a bathroom, but don't lose all hope: Berchtold says re-purposing what you already have can do wonders.

"Taking your existing cabinets and giving them a layer of a bright white lacquer is a great way to make a statement and barely makes a dent in the budget," she says.

Another option that won't break the bank? Cabinet refacing, which is the process of replacing or upgrading cabinet doors and drawer fronts while retaining the main cabinet structure. Essentially, you'll be giving your bathroom cabinets a facelift. And it costs anywhere from $150 to $300 per cabinet door, according to "Improve Your Cabinet's Style," by Consumer Reports.

[Need help refacing your bathroom cabinets? Click to find the right contractor now.]

If your old cabinets need more than just a facelift, consider splurging on a serious upgrade, says Jillian Gage of JL Powers Design, who offers this design advice: "Custom-made reclaimed wood cabinets aren't cheap, but they're a great eco-friendly way to add a unique and rustic vibe to the room."

For more modern styles or a beach vibe, Gage suggests that you "Ask for cerused oak panels, which are washed with a preparation of white paint, for a clean and chic look. More contemporary homeowners can opt for metal cabinet drawers with frosted glass panels or mirror-on-mirror treatments."

Add a Window or Skylight

Because bathrooms are often in the middle of the house, you might not immediately think that adding a window is a viable option, but Gage begs to differ.

"Skylights are the perfect solution for flooding the bathroom with natural light," she says.

However, she does note that there is one big hurdle for adding a skylight to a bathroom: finding a licensed contractor who is up to par.

[Planning to remodel your bathroom? Click to find the right contractor now.]

"Any time you're making structural changes, be sure to ask for recommendations from previous clients to ensure that you're getting someone reliable. A good design firm should also have at least a handful of contractors they can suggest," Gage adds.

If you're not looking to use a contractor and already have windows in your bathroom, window treatments can be an inexpensive way to kick things up a notch. Gage advises going outside the realm of traditional shades and looking into a bamboo or natural fiber shade.

"It's a nice way of keeping the room private but still letting light come in," she says.

Upgrade Your Hardware

When it comes to renovating your bathroom, it's all in the details. And that's why upgrading the hardware in your bathroom is key.

What's more, the type of hardware you choose makes an important statement on the style of your bathroom.

For example, "We like to focus on the knobs," says Berchtold. "They're the biggest trick we have to upgrading a bathroom on a budget."

She recommends finding the best hardware, whether it's old and vintage or big and oversized. "Rustic, repurposed hardware is a great juxtaposition in a bright modern bathroom. Or you can opt to go all modern and utilize big, oversized knobs," adds Berchtold.

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