You may have seen my recent post where I shared before and after images from my bathroom renovation. I learned a lot in the process so I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips here.
Before I embarked on the project I had no idea what to expect. Could I just order the suite online or did I need an appointment with an expert? How would I find a quality plumber? How long would the work take to complete? How much would it cost? Would my walls have to be re-plastered if I removed all the tiles? What could I do myself and when was it best to call in the professionals?
If you’re planning a bathroom renovation and have similar questions, here’s everything you need to know.
1. Do I need an appointment with an expert?
Not if you’re replacing everything like for like. By that I mean you’re not planning to shift around the location of the suite so that the bath, toilet, shower or sink are in different locations to where they are currently positioned. I wasted eons of time on appointments at B&Q and in the end it turned out I could just order what I needed online.
2. How much will it cost?
We put in a new suite, new ceiling with spotlights, new flooring and an extractor fan. We also had the walls re-tiled. Here’s a list of exactly what my plumber was planning to do:
Remove old suite.
Place all plumbing in the correct locations for new suite.
Plaster all walls and ceiling as required.
Supply and fit a new timed fan.
Tile all walls as required (tiles supplied by yourself).
Supply and fit shower fire rated down lights to ceiling.
Second fix bathroom suite.
Remove all rubbish from site.
The total cost of this was £2610 and this about two years ago. I’m in London though, so if you live further out you may be able to get a slightly cheaper quote.
The suite cost about £1500 bringing the total outlay to just over £4,000.
3. What can I do myself and when should I call in the professionals?
My bathroom was in a bad way, meaning the walls had to be re-plastered when the tiles were removed. This may not be true for you, though, and you might be able to do this bit yourself if you’re a dab hand with a tile cutter. If you’re laying vinyl flooring instead of tiles or laminate that’s another thing you could possibly do yourself if you’ve had enough practice. To be honest, though, I’d leave most of the work to the professionals. It’s worth shelling out a little extra to know things will be done properly and to a high standard.
4. How do I find a good plumber?
It’s easy to find a plumber but finding a good one is like finding a pair of size 5 shoes in the Boxing Day sales; a task that requires whit, cunning, grit and determination in equal measures. Ours was an old school friend of my husband’s so we were lucky; we had a little background information, knew he’d been in the trade for over twenty years and knew where he lived so we could hunt him down with a sharp object should things go wrong. We did shop around and get a few quotes, though, and were amazed at how much these differed.
It’s easy to jump at a fantastic price when you’re on a tight budget but think before you act. Why is this quote so much cheaper than the others? What corners will they have to cut? Are they fully qualified? There’s usually a good reason why some plumbers will knock off a few quid and I’m afraid it’s got nothing to do with you batting your eyelashes.
Recommendations are so important. Ask around to see if anyone you know can advise. If not, try Rated People or local Facebook groups. ‘Walthamstow Recommends’ is an excellent one but obviously won’t be much good to anyone outside the reaches of E17. Have a look online and see if there’s anything similar in your area – or maybe even set one up yourself.
5. How long will it take?
It took about a week for the work to be completed. The bathroom is tiny and we don’t have a stand-alone shower so factor in a little more time if you do but also keep in mind that we had to have our horrible moldy ceiling ripped out and replaced, which obviously added a day or two to proceedings. Also, prepare to wash from a bucket for a while and be nice to your mum – you’ll be heading round there at least twice to wash your hair and might as well get a hot dinner thrown in.
6. What style should I choose?
It’s your bathroom renovation so go with your gut instead of following trends. Initially the husband commented that the Victorian style sink and bath might look old fashioned (in a bad way – if there is such a thing) and I admit I did hesitate. In the end, though, I went with my instincts and I’m glad I did. There was a moment where I almost wound up with beige floor tiles and the kind of Jacuzzi bath Peter Stringfellow would be proud of. Clearly I must have been suffering from some kind of B&Q induced brain seizure. Thankfully I recovered just in time and Peter has yet to invite himself round for a soak. Having said this, do think about the impact of your choices on your resale value/potential. You may be a massive fan of all things Disney but will a buyer really share your enthusiasm for that ‘Finding Nemo’ toilet seat? (Yes, these do exist.)
It also makes sense to buy the most expensive fixtures and fittings your budget can stretch to. Don’t go crazy but equally don’t dither over an extra £50 if it’s going to make all the difference to the overall look. Taps, shower heads and tiling are the things people are most likely to notice so splash out a little more on these and cut back on the generic items like the toilet and towel rail.
7. Should I get a cast iron bath?
Cast iron tubs are the ultimate in bathroom luxury but consider whether your floorboards can withstand the weight. These beasts can weigh more than 500 pounds – and that’s before you get in it or fill it with water – so think before you buy. Given that my floorboards had seen better days I compromised and bought an acrylic roll top bath. It weighs much less than a traditional one but achieves the same look. This means I can lay back and relax without the fear that I’ll pay an unexpected visit to the downstairs neighbours.
8. Should I pay upfront?
Hell, no! Don’t pay a penny until the work has been completed. Your plumber should have all the tools and materials to get the job done. Obviously you will need to buy the suite, tiles, grouting, accessories and flooring but you should not have to pay for the work before it is completed.
9. How do I select the right size bath?
Get in it before you buy it (if you’re purchasing online try to visit a showroom beforehand). You’ll get some funny looks, (especially if you get your foot caught when climbing out and do a full speed, cleavage-revealing lunge at the manager…) but it is necessary nonetheless. I recently stayed in a hotel with lovely baths but while they were deep they were tiny, resulting in a feeling not dissimilar to sitting in a sea-flooded hole at the beach. Classy.
Additionally, look at the size of the sink you’re ordering. Could it be too big? It’s important to keep things in proportion and you don’t want a massive basin dominating the space if you live in a tiny flat like mine.
10.What would you do differently?
I was happy with the finished renovation but I’d do two things differently given the chance again. Firstly, I’d select a dark grey grouting for the white wall tiles as the contrast would help create the period look I was going for. The grouting we used meant the individual tiles didn’t stand out as much as I’d have liked and I was a little disappointed at the sight of a never ending wall of white.
Secondly, I might re-think the flooring. Humidity can be a problem, particularly with solid wood floors but there are countless wood-effect options available. Ours is laminate and is able to withstand splashes and steam. I have noticed recently, though, that it seems to be sinking slightly under the feet of the bath so I’d go for tiles if I had the choice again.
I hope this has been useful in giving you some guidance for any upcoming projects. Keep in mind that I’m not an expert so always get advice before going ahead. Of course, I’m always happy to help so do get in touch if you have any questions.