How to cheaply update your bathroom in Charlotte

Retro may be chic again, but those who own vintage homes don’t need to live with pink tiles or blue bathtubs from bygone decades. Charlotte, N.C., service providers say updating bathroom finishes, from the tub surface and tile color to bathroom cabinet hardware and rugs, can retrofit an outdated bathroom to modern tastes — for hundreds of dollars instead of thousands.

Charlotte resident Carol Weber says resurfacing her tubs transformed and updated the bathrooms in her 1970s home. For $500, the Angie’s List member hired highly rated Surface Specialist of Charlotte in Matthews, N.C., to refinish the bottom skids of one tub and to whiten an avocado green tub in another bathroom. “We moved in here in ’88, and I lived with it for 20 years,” Weber says. “I can’t believe I did that.”A year later, Weber says both tubs still shine white and look new. “I read all those remodeling stories and think: ‘A $30,000 [bathroom] remodel? Give me a break,’” Weber says. “I paid $500 for both and it looks perfect. I probably saved a fortune.” Prior to choosing bathtub refinishing, she solicited quotes for putting a new tub insert over one of the existing tubs, but decided against it because of the $2,200 price tag. Beyond cost, tub and tile resurfacing saves time, says Allen Michael, owner of Monroe, N.C.-based Surface Magic, whose highly rated company updates bathrooms in the Charlotte area by refinishing more than 300 tubs and 200 countertops annually. “I’m going to be there two to three hours, and I’ll make your tub look new,” Michael says, noting that even with ventilation equipment, it takes about a day for lingering smells to dissipate and 24 to 48 hours before the refinished bathroom surfaces should get wet.Michael says his bathroom refinishing process starts with deep cleaning the surface, followed by repairing any cracks or chips, then applying an epoxy that binds to the original porcelain, cast iron, fiberglass or other underlying material, and serves as a base for the new acrylic urethane surface. He finishes with a glossy top coat — and a five-year warranty, though he says the product should last 10 to 20 years if treated right, which means avoiding abrasive cleaners and rubber mats.Carolyn Todd, the owner of highly rated Sew Elegant Interiors in Charlotte, says eradicating bathroom countertop clutter and deep cleaning other surfaces, such as grout, also provide quick fixes to improve a bathroom’s look. If your grout’s in bad shape or you want to change the color, she advises hiring someone to replace it entirely.She also suggests other small bathroom upgrades a handyman or other tradesman can help with, such as changing cabinet hardware and light fixtures or painting walls and cabinets a new color. Also, she recommends adding plants, hanging art and shopping for more decorative bathroom rugs outside of the bathroom department. Hire a professional decorator or interior designer to help with color and style selections and assist in finding great pieces. Consultations start at about $100, she says.“So often, homeowners don’t know where to start,” Todd says, adding that many of her clients call to update their bathroom after living in a home for years. “Sometimes, working with a professional, you find that some of the things you didn’t think you could afford, you can.”


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Small upgrades make big impact without bathroom remodeling

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American Bathtub Refinishers owner Jon Cueni resurfaces a shower floor. A refinished tub, tile or shower surface can last 15 years or more, experts say. (Photo courtesy of Jon Cueni)
American Bathtub Refinishers owner Jon Cueni resurfaces a shower floor. A refinished tub, tile or shower surface can last 15 years or more, experts say. (Photo courtesy of Jon Cueni)

Small upgrades brighten up bathrooms without the cost of remodeling. Lower-cost projects include refinishing your tub, tile and grout; installing tub liners; painting; or changing fixtures and hardware.

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