Budget Friendly Do-It-Yourself Bath and Kitchen Transformations


Cathy Warner

My husband and I bought a 60-year-old house a few years ago that desperately needed updating.

The bathtub and tile surround were original and no matter how much I cleaned, it looked dirty—stained and discolored from years of use. The kitchen cabinets were installed in the 1970s; depressing dark wood sticky from decades of buildup that no amount of Murphy’s Oil Soap or TSP or could remove.

We had lots of time on our hands but not much money. My husband, who is always ready for a DIY challenge, found some budget-friendly options that were easy enough for me, a beginner with only painting experience, to use to transform our kitchen and baths with some assistance from him.

We chose Rustoleum’s Tub and Tile Refreshing kit for the bathroom, a two-part paint-on version of the product that is no longer readily available. The replacement, Tub and Tile Aerosol, is sold at home improvement stores and appears easier to use.

You will also need tools to remove all metal fixtures, such as faucets and drains, as well as a blade to remove caulk before spraying. Prepare the tub and tile surface with fine grit sandpaper in advance and get new caulk to apply after the product cures.

Good ventilation is critical: We opened doors and windows throughout the house and placed a fan in the open bathroom window to exhaust air. I also wore a “paint project respirator mask” during the process. Once finished, there’s a three-day wait to use the tub.

We used Rustoleum’s Cabinet Transformation Kit for the kitchen and it contained everything we needed to turn our blah caterpillar brown into bright monarch butterfly (we chose the shade “paprika”): deglosser and scrubbing pads to prepare the cabinets, bond coat, cheesecloth and polyurethane sealer. The kits are custom mixed in stores and available in a wide range of colors and stains.

In addition to using the kit, I painted the interior of our cabinets and drawers white and upgraded the hinges. I painted the doors flat in an open garage but wasn’t satisfied with the flat sheen of the sealer, so after the recommended two coats, I applied a high-gloss, water-based polyurethane with good results.

If you choose to refinish your kitchen cabinets, wait for warm weather and work on doors in a covered area (an open garage or carport) with plenty of ventilation. Move everything out of your kitchen and prepare for it to be out of commission for anything but using the fridge and microwave for at least a week while built-in surfaces dry and cure.

And, of course, once your tub and cabinets look like new, the counters will cry out for rejuvenation as well. We replaced the chipped laminate in our kitchen with new counters from IKEA, the least expensive in-stock option anywhere. But, if your counters are in good shape, there’s an alternative to replacing them, and that’s just what my husband did this summer. He updated a house with faded laminate and pink tile countertops using Giani stone paint systems. Using the reasonably priced paint kit is a multiday process, but he created an attractive appearance on both laminate and tile countertops in the kitchen and bath.

If you’ve got time and patience and follow the manufacturer’s directions closely, you too can transform your hardworking kitchen and bath on a tiny budget.