Ask Jennifer Adams: Inexpensive tile alternatives for bathroom updates

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White is hot for bathrooms — and other parts of the house.

Q: I have a 1948 ranch house and I’m looking to redo the original bathroom. It’s small, has an ugly toilet and tub/shower color combo, and disgusting, old glass doors. The color is a mix of beige, tan and pink, and that’s not including the rusty water stains. But the sink is a newer vanity, in white, and the newer floor is a nice gray. Fortunately, there is a door that I keep closed, and another nicer bathroom that my husband and I mainly use. In the old bathroom, how easy is it to inexpensively update only the toilet and tub/shower with white ones? I’ve heard better things about acrylic tubs and showers than fiberglass. What do you think? I like the look of tile but don’t want to be cleaning grout.

A: I think I know exactly the color you are trying to describe. I suppose it was popular when it was new, because that color is quite common in houses from the same era as yours. It’s not my favorite color, either.

For any bathroom update, your instincts for white are right on track. Whether you are going to stay in your home for decades, plan to sell it soon or even rent it out, a classic, clean, white bathroom looks great to anyone. And, whites are a very hot color right now, especially mixed with gray, for any room in your house.

Unless you have DIY skills, costs of a bath update like the one you want may still surprise you, even if it is a straightforward tear out and replace. It’s also hard to predict what might be going on behind your walls or with the pipes. So call a few licensed contractors to find out what might be involved.

To simply replace the toilet, you could probably just call a local plumber and have a new white one installed. The new one will probably use less water than the old one, and will look so much better. That, and a new shower curtain rod and curtain will hide those old glass doors and freshen the look of your entire bathroom for very little money.

As far as acrylic vs. fiberglass, both are easy to clean (if you follow the manufacturer’s directions) and can be very durable. A well made and properly installed acrylic tub/shower will probably last longer than a very inexpensive fiberglass unit, but so much depends on what you are looking at and how much you are willing to spend. Or, an acrylic tub or shower floor with a tile surround might give you a great tile look with less maintenance. Any tile and grout will be easier to clean and will last a very long time if it’s properly installed, sealed and maintained. I adore the look of tile and often use very large tiles to minimize the amount of grout, but, it all depends on the look you like the best and your budget.

Good luck and let me know how your project goes.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, author of the upcoming book “Love Coming Home and TV personality. Send your questions to AskJennifer@JenniferAdams.com or for more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at www.jenniferadams.com.