Hoping to spend just $5K on their Atlanta bathroom remodel, these homeowners leaned on their Black-owned contracting firm for help
Written in partnership with the Sweeten homeowner
Before: Deciding to remodel an uncomfortable bathroom Atlanta
We initially looked for a move-in-ready home, but hadn’t found many within our budget in our desired Atlanta suburb of Clarkston. The bathrooms in our new split-level house—built in 1982—would need to be remodeled eventually; we’d tackle those jobs as we could afford them. Three years later and with a toddler in our midst, we were ready. The master bathroom would be our first big project.
We had many problems with the original en-suite bathroom. Mainly, it was hideous. I disliked the wall color, the warped laminate vanity, and the stick-on floor tiles. Not only was the pattern terrible, but the tiles were coming unglued. The worst offender was the plastic-insert shower. It was small and claustrophobic, and no amount of scrubbing would remove its mold and mildew stains. Even just-cleaned, the bathroom felt dirty. I couldn’t stand showering in there.
The search for a compatible contractor
I’d already gotten a few estimates, but we were looking to work with a Black-owned contracting firm, and hadn’t found one with availability. The fact is, not many contractors want to take on one tiny room, not to mention on a minuscule budget. Then I stumbled on a Sweeten blog post featuring Black-owned firms. I posted my project on Sweeten and found the general contractor I wanted to work with. I felt really good about her, and she was willing to squeeze us into her schedule.
Sweeten matches home renovators with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.
After: Finding solutions on a shoestring budget
As first-time renovators, our biggest question was, “What is this supposed to cost?” We had a limited budget and no idea what was reasonable. Our budget was $5,000, but quickly realized how many corners we’d have to cut. We couldn’t afford to change the floorplan, so we agreed on the goal of transforming the bathroom into a pleasant, relaxing space. I decided to save money by designing the bathroom myself, and doing it around an existing light fixture.
A crash course in bathroom design
I started Pinteresting and vision-boarding. We considered replacing the shower insert for thrift’s sake, but the contractor said it would just get gross again. I had no idea what went into building and tiling a shower. I found out it costs a lot more to install small subway tile than it does to lay a larger tile. In addition, I learned that a shower floor’s drainage slope requires mosaic tile, and the ones that come in sheets save the most labor-wise.
With so many types of tile out there, we were glad to have the options narrowed for us. We chose large-format ceramic tile for the shower walls and sheets of hexagonal mosaic tile for the shower floor—in marble, as I wanted just one aspect to be luxurious. Even with the thoughtful choices, the materials and labor proved costly. We gave up replastering the walls, removing the stippling from the ceiling, and installing a recessed light in the shower, all to keep costs down. We even kept the existing toilet, since it was fine.
Coaching and economy
There were moments when I felt like, “We just can’t afford to do this the right way,” but our Sweeten contractor helped us identify projects we could do ourselves (caulking holes and repairing molding). We chose cheaper floor tile for the room. An inexpensive vanity helped, and I found the mirror at a discount home store for around $30. This allowed us to save and use quality materials where they mattered.
Our Sweeten contractor provided great input and direction—including talking me out of some bad tile choices and kindly suggesting bright, simple colors and patterns. She never took over the vision. She was organized and communicative, and we appreciated her helping us stay (almost) within our revised budget, even after plumbing issues popped up.
The final budget—and excellent outcome
All told, we more than doubled the original budget (thanks to our family for the generous gift!) coming in just at the starting minimum cost for a bathroom. This included labor, materials, random plumbing parts, and a zillion trips to Home Depot for the paint and other stuff I did on my own.
The final result is the spa bathroom of my dreams. It’s so serene! My first bathroom with a glass shower door and a natural stone floor, both of which feel truly luxe. It’s so lovely to walk in there now. Everything is well-installed and of good quality. It’s exactly what we hoped for.
Thank you for sharing your dream bathroom remodel in Atlanta with us!
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Alpine Frost Rigid Core Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVT) floor tile; Pearl Veincut polished ceramic shower wall tile; Blue Forest hexagon polished marble mosaic shower floor tile: Floor & Decor. PROFLO chrome towel racks: Target. Spectra-Versa 4-function complete shower system: American Standard. Glass shower doors: The Shower Door Guy. Behr Ultra paint in Brisk Blue; Behr Premium paint in Distant Star; Home Decorators Collection Sedgewood 30 1/2″ bath vanity in Dove Gray with solid surface vanity top in Arctic and white Sink: Home Depot. Ladera 4″ centerset faucet in polished chrome: Pfister. Mirror: HomeGoods. Toilet and lighting: Existing.
Be prepared for these hidden costs in Atlanta and roll with a smoother renovation journey.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.