The project started with a relatively simple goal: replacing a decades-old bathroom sink and vanity. The wooden base of the vanity was rotting away, and clearly had to go.

The project started with a relatively simple goal: replacing a decades-old bathroom sink and vanity. The wooden base of the vanity was rotting away, and clearly had to go.
But upon closer inspection, this job needed more. Much more. The pipes under the sink had seen better days. So had the toilet, which seemed to have been around since the start of the Cold War. And the small ceramic floor tiles which were surely a nice amenity back when Kennedy was in the White House were also showing their age.
So why not replace the whole bathroom the vanity, sink, toilet and flooring? And while we're at it, why not try to keep the price tag under $500? And finish it in a weekend?
It might sound like far-fetched goal. But it's not as tough as you might think, and the payoff in owning a newly remodeled bathroom is huge. Even small improvements to a bathroom can add a ton of value to your home, on top of the comfort of waking up every morning to glimmering porcelain, shiny flooring and faucets that don't leak.
Thursday: I fired up my Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and drove to a home improvement store to begin scouting vanities. This task can be daunting without a clear vision of what you're looking for, so don't rumble your rickety shopping cart into the vanity aisle without a sense of direction.
In my case, I was looking for something more practical than pristine. I settled on a vanity/sink combination, with a cherry wood base that seemed to match the rest of the apartment. Price tag: $159.
Friday: Reinforcements arrived. This was never intended to be a one-man project, rather a family-bonding endeavor involving mom and dad during a long weekend visit.
Dad brings three decades of Bob Vila-like home improvement expertise, and mom comes equipped with a superhuman ability to organize and match color schemes while coordinating the effort with Martha Stewart-esque precision.
Sunday: We dug into the plumbing under the sink to remove the vanity. It is at this point we realized we needed a shopping list.
The fragile and aging drain pipe and trap under the sink shredded when we put a wrench on it. Then I noticed a fairly large crack in the base of the toilet. And while on the floor with my head jammed between the vanity and toilet, I noticed the extent of the crumbling tile in the corners.
The shopping list was quickly a page long: "Drain pipe. Trap. Toilet. Silicone. Caulk. Linoleum. Wax ring. Putty knife. Hacksaw. Faucet ... "
The project morphed into something that mom and dad didn't envision when they were back home in South Dakota, but we stayed calm in the face of this suddenly daunting project and stuck to our budget. The toilet an American Standard Space Saver cost $142. The two-handle silver faucet (Peerless) cost $54.
We made the decision to put linoleum over the tile a move that might seem blasphemous to the home improvement purists of the world, but one that made sense considering our budget constraints. We opted for a ceramic-tile-like design. (It looks very much like real tile and nothing like your grandmother's linoleum.)
The linoleum cost only $47.88 we needed just enough to cover the bathroom's 6-foot-by-6-foot space. With other supplies needed for the project, the final bill for this trip came in at $325.
The next phase of the project involved hours more hard work. Dad and I installed the new toilet to ensure that we had indoor plumbing again. Then we moved on to the plumbing, an area in which dad excels. Then to the faucet and sink installation.
All the while, mom plotted ways to better organize the bathroom. Out was the giant dust-covered boombox on top of the toilet. In was a tiny battery-operated radio/CD player combination. She also came up with the plan to add shelving to better manage the small space.
Monday: The parents flew back to South Dakota, leaving behind an almost-new bathroom that didn't break the bank to renovate. All told, the price tag came in right around $500 not bad for a weekend of quality time with the family.