When it comes to remodeling, there are usually four types of people in two broad categories. You have the “Don’t-Even-Try-ers” with those who don’t attempt anything on their own, usually because they have no confidence in their skills, and therefore nothing ever changes. Then, you have those who are also Don’t-Even-Try-ers, except they hire out all the work to professionals.

But then you have the DIY-ers in two basic camps: some attempt everything even though they have absolutely no business doing so — and their projects usually result in the professionals being called in after the fact to make things right again.

And then there are those DIY-ers who exist within the balance between the “Yes, I can” and “No, I probably shouldn’t.” It is within this group that more of us should aspire to belong — recognizing what we can tackle ourselves and what is better left to the professionals from the beginning.

Let’s consider how we can become more like the balanced DIY-ers within the context of a bathroom renovation project. After all, a bathroom is the perfect blank canvas to examine because you have every element of modern convenience in one convenient location — you’re dealing with electrical, plumbing and décor aspects and they all come with different levels of DIY and Don’t-Even-Try.

DIY Baby Steps!

Here are some of the simple updates and swap outs that you should be able to handle even if you’re not especially handy.

A great update that takes seconds to perform is replacing old, energy-hogging incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or the new residential LED light bulbs. Either one will save on your electricity bills and bring you into the modern era, but if you are not a fan of the curlicue-shaped CFLs and want a more traditional look, the new LEDs look just like your old Edison bulbs from back in the day. Although they cost a bit more on the front end (some can run you in the $10 to $15 range), they will save you in the long run — and when you move, take them with you!

Replacing tired, threadbare bathmats and dingy, dated shower curtains is a great start but you can take this up a notch by swapping out the hardware on your bathroom vanities or bathroom cabinets to immediately update the feel of your space. As long as you can turn a screwdriver, you should be good.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of matching accent pieces. Trash cans, soap dishes, toothbrush holders and toiletry containers that coordinate with your softer elements (towels, mats, curtains, window treatments, etc.) are an easy, yet effective, room overhaul that can be completed in a flash!


Now, here are some of the more intermediate updates (although some are more difficult than others, they can all be done with practice, patience and attention to detail).

The worst thing that can happen if you botch a paint job is just that: You have a bad paint job! You can always paint over it if you don’t like the color, you can use a paint remover if you smear it around the bathroom fixtures, or you can apply crown molding if you just can’t seem to create smooth lines around the ceiling (a technique the pro’s call: “cutting in”).

  • Remove switch plates and outlet covers first.
  • Use plenty of painter’s tape and drop-cloths to protect your floors.
  • Buy enough paint and take your time.

Refinish your Bathroom Cabinets or Vanities
While you’re painting, don’t shy away from refinishing your cabinets! If they’re wood, simply remove the doors from the hinges to sand and paint them separately, tape up around the wall and sink before you paint the base cabinet, and reattach the doors once everything is dry.

Don’t-Even-Try…Without Help

For some heavier-duty projects, you should either work alongside a professional that you’ve hired or leave it to them entirely. These include:

  • Relocating Outlets or Installing Additional Lighting – When it is not a simple lighting fixture update, anything related to moving or creating electrical work needs to be done by someone with certified skill.
  • Changing the Bathroom Layout – Anytime you want to rearrange the placement of bathroom components like tubs, showers, toilets and bathroom sinks, plumbing is involved and therefore, you should not be – unless you are highly experienced or skilled in pipework!
  • Replacing Faucets in the Shower or Bathtub – Although you may be able to work with a trim kit to replace shower fixtures from the outside if they are made by the same manufacturer (and thus, are specifically designed to fit), if you want to reconfigure the faucets behind the tile or drywall in any way, you need to call in the heavy hitters for help.

What are some of the “intermediate” bathroom projects you’ve completed on your own? What about “expert” projects you tackled but shouldn’t have?

Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris writes for the Home Depot website on bathroom decor topics of interest to homeowners. Topics that Chris writes on include vanities, cabinets, faucets and showers.

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