I don’t often tackle a room remodel by myself- I tend to stick to small projects. Not too long ago, however, I took a deep breath and dove into one of my biggest projects: remodeling a tiny bathroom that was cursed with peach tile, peach walls, and an 80’s vanity.
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Lacking the tools, funds, skill, and confidence to do a full demo down to studs and remodeling “properly,” I decided- on a whim and a tiny budget- to see what would happen if I simply installed beadboard over the existing tile. I found wainscotting style MDF paneling on sale that I liked, but this same method should work for installing shiplap over existing tile (you’ll just need to add a recessed line of waterproof caulk in the gaps of the shiplap boards).
Before the Remodel- What I started with:
Total Materials Cost to Cover Tile with MDF Paneling: $63.00
Before starting, I researched “installing paneling or shiplap over tile” and discovered the main issue to be wary about with this approach is the potential for moisture to find its way between the tile and the paneling. To minimize the potential for moisture to wander and mold to grow, the paneling all received two coats of an oil-based waterproof primer and then commercial-grade super-flexible caulking along the full length of every tongue and groove joints- paired with calking at top, bottom, and corners, hopefully locking out moisture long term (2019 update: so far NO issues!)
The hack for installing paneling or shiplap over tile:
I discovered during this project that the trick to installing paneling, beadboard, or shiplap over tile is to bypass the use of nails/screws. Drilling through tile is difficult, messy, and requires special tools, but Liquid Nails can securely and permanently adhere wood or paneling even to slick tile. (You’ll need a caulking gun too, but they’re only about $6.)
Getting the paneling to adhere to the tile proved a challenge, and I’ll confess my first attempt at this project involved heavy 4×8 sheets of plywood-beadboard which proved too heavy to adhere to the wall without nails & screws. I had to scrap this material, but luckily there’s no shortage of good uses for sturdy beadboard and it ended up having a second life in a store display.
On my second attempt, I used lighter, more flexible MDF beadboard panels (which also come in MDF shiplap style panels) which went up must faster due to the smaller, lighter weight interlocking sections which were easily adhered using Liquid Nails. Liquid Nails worked great, but required some patience since I was concerned about the combined weight of the panels peeling off the wall if I added them all at once. Instead, I’d glue up one panel, wait for the glue to set a bit, glue up the next panel, etc. The tongue-in-groove joint on this type of paneling proved useful to secure the next piece while drying.
The paneling, purchased on sale, only cost about $60 for this small bathroom, and the trim all came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for pocket change (one big perk of working on such a small room was that it was easy to find enough trim second hand!)
Paneling over a partial tile wall creates a complication: The wall grows thicker and created a protrusion of the lower wall out from the upper half of the wall. I solved this issue by gluing a plain piece of trim along the top edge of the beadboard.
Mirror & Lighting Update: $55.00
Changing the mirror and 80’s style vanity light made a huge difference in the room and hardly cost more than the price of the new light fixture! I removed the giant plate glass mirror from the wall (Not a fan of waste, I took the plate glass mirror to a glass cutter and had the mirror cut to fit in an antique picture frame to hang as the vanity mirror in another bathroom).
Once the mirror was removed, I discovered layers of wallpaper below the mirror and, to my horror, a giant hole in the wall where a medicine cabinet had previously been removed! Patching the hole and repairing the wall behind the large light required learning to patch drywall and “mud”, but it wasn’t too difficult and the result looks great!
The new light ran about $50 and the vintage medicine cabinet (get one like it here) I hung in place of the old mirror was a $5 garage sale find.
Sink & Vanity Upgrade: $151
In my first and undoubtedly most horrible experience experimenting with plumbing, I pulled the old vanity, sink, and faucet out of this bathroom and took it straight to the curb! In its place, I installed a space-saving sink and vanity from Lowes, at $119 (which I liked SO much that I went back and bought a second vanity for the other downstairs bathroom!) I say “installed”, but actually, I got to the 99% installed point and became hopelessly stuck, with a broken pipe, and had to go without water for nearly a full day until a plumber could arrive to rescue me!
Lowes no longer carries this model of bathroom vanity, but Amazon offers a similarly compact and stylish vanity + sink basin that looks just like mine.
I finished the vanity with this vintage-hotel style classic faucet for about $40.
Cost to Paint: $40
I primed with Zinzer Oil Based Primer, then used Benjamin Moore “Wind’s Breath” on the paneling, Benjamin Moore “White Dove” for the trim, and Benjamin Moore “Camouflage” on top.
I removed the door from the tall built-in cabinet, primed and painted it inside and out. This completed the transformation from 1980’s era honey-oak eyesore into clean and modern open shelving- used to store washroom and first aid products decanted into vintage containers and packaging.
If you are short on bathroom drawers and cabinets- try storing essentials in plain sight by decanting essentials into vintage packaging. Bandaids and swabs in plain sights might be a little odd in most stylish washrooms, but when paired with easy to find vintage band-aid tins and authentic old apothecary jars, you can save space, stay organized, and actually help your houseguests or airbnb guests find what they may need.
Upgraded outlet covers always feel like a small investment for something that makes a big impact on the room:
I ditched the standard fare all-look-a-like towel and toilet paper holders for an industrial style towel rack I found second hand and a horse bit turned toilet paper holder.
I’m certain this tutorial would work equally well for adding shiplap over tile- just be sure to use a flexible caulk filler to seal any gaps between pieces of shiplap, to prevent moisture from getting trapped behind the panels.