1. Renovating the Bathroom
Worth it? No. A complete reno can cost thousands, even for a small bathroom. That’s because anytime plumbing is involved, the price tag is going to go way up; the average midrange bathroom remodel is estimated at $15,782. And even if you don’t pay that much for materials, it’s the installation work that will get you.
What our pros suggest: “The simplest thing you can do is update the smaller fixtures: towel bars, toilet paper holders, mirrors, medicine cabinets,” Saks advises. Also, don’t underestimate the impact of clean tiles. I discovered that Tilex works like a charm on grimy tiles, especially if you let it sit for a few hours before scrubbing.
Another expert tip? Regrouting. “[It] makes a rental bathroom feel fresh,” Saks says. You can do it yourself, but it’s also relatively affordable to hire a handyman. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $200 to $300, depending on how pervasive the dirt is.
When to bug your landlord: If there’s a safety risk—i.e., mold in the walls or even in your tiles—you should bring the matter up with the owner. “A landlord is obligated to fix leaks and electrical issues or remedy mold issues,” McHale says. “These are all situations that can create hazardous conditions for a tenant and, frankly, the building. So making these fixes is both required and a good idea.”
Saks is a huge fan of painting: “It can make a space feel bigger and brighter. And if painting a room is too big of a commitment, start with one focal wall.”
2. Investing in a Fresh Coat of Paint
Worth it? Yes. Saks is a huge fan of painting: “It can make a space feel bigger and brighter. And if painting a room is too big of a commitment, start with one focal wall.”
What our pros suggest: If you’re planning to DIY, expect to pay a couple hundred dollars for paint and supplies. A gallon of paint costs $20 on the low end and $100 on the high end—and should cover about 200 square feet.
And the experts agree: Don’t skimp on quality. Saks always uses Benjamin Moore: “It’s a slight upgrade from whatever Home Depot sells, and most painters vouch for it. They also do an eco-friendly line called Natura, with low vapors for anyone into green design.”
If you’re considering hiring help, West Elm will paint your 12’ x 12’ room for $379, which is a reasonable benchmark when you’re gathering estimates.
When to bug your landlord: Repainting is customary and usually done before a tenant moves in, says McHale. But in most cities it’s not mandatory, with the exception of a few places like New York, which requires landlords to repaint every three years.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they don’t offer—owners may even be willing to foot the bill and let you hire the painters. Just be sure to find out if you’ll need to paint it back to white or its original color when you move out.