How Long Does a Bathroom Renovation Take?
A week, two – a month? Three experts break down bathroom renovation timelines
However, when you’re making plans for having this key room redone – potentially leaving you without facilities for the duration – some kind of timetable is essential to help you manage while work is going on (and get excited about the light at the end of the tunnel).
As part of our Bathroom Planning guide, three experts reveal seven factors that can lengthen a job, as well as the decisions that should help to keep the project moving.
Professional advice from: Cat Hoad of Absolute Project Management; James Lentaigne of Drummonds Bathrooms; Fiona Duke of Fiona Duke Interiors
Starting your bathroom project? Read How to Plan for a Bathroom Renovation
“If you weren’t replacing sanitaryware but just tiles, for example, you could do this sort of refresh in a week,” Cat Hoad says. “However, that’s assuming your new tiles arrive just as the old ones come off.” The complexity of the tiling will also dictate how long it will take, so Cat’s estimate is based on simple tiles on plain walls.
For a full renovation, you’re looking at up to six weeks, as a very rough guide. “That’s if it was complicated, for example putting a bathroom into a room that’s never had a bathroom in it before,” Cat says.
James Lentaigne is reluctant to put a timetable on things. “The length of the renovation is dependent on the work required for the space, so there’s no fixed time,” he says, “although something as simple as changing the taps or the lights is achievable within a day.”
You might think that a ‘simple’ upgrade of just sanitaryware would save time, but this is rare. “It’s extremely difficult to replace sanitaryware without any plumbing adjustments,” James says.
“Chances are your new basin has tap holes in a slightly different position to your old one, or a waste pipe that’s not quite lining up,” Cat explains. “Any of these issues will nudge up the project duration, as the plumber will need the time to make everything fit.”
Whatever sort of renovation you’ve planned, there are many potential delays. The good news is that some can be minimised if you know what to expect. Equally, if you understand what will take time and what could go awry, you’ll have managed your own expectations from the outset.
1. Busy tradespeople
“Whenever I’m asked to take on a new bathroom project, one of the first things I do is contact the trades,” Fiona Duke says. “Good plumbers and tilers are always busy, so make sure these are provisionally booked in as soon as possible.
“Once key trades are booked, you can start to work out timelines for the project and have an idea of when other trades, such as electricians or any specialists, will be needed,” she says. “It’s all a bit of a juggling game when it comes to who’s needed when, so I keep in regular contact with them, so they know what stage the project’s at.”
This highlights how getting a professional to oversee your project could save you a lot of management time and delay (not to mention stress).
“In order to keep to deadlines once trades have been booked, you first need to confirm your layout,” Fiona says.
“A bathroom layout is dictated to a certain extent by where the soil pipe is for the toilet. Sometimes you can get around this, especially if the bathroom is part of a larger renovation project,” she continues. “However, if you’re just doing the bathroom and you don’t want upheaval in other rooms, the soil pipe is often where the layout will start.
“If you’re blessed with an enormous bathroom,” she adds, “then you may have a few options, but bathrooms are often quite limited in size.”
Talking to a professional will help you to understand just what’s viable, rather than hoping for something that might not be, since any last-minute layout changes will cause delays.
On the same topic, James says he often sees delays because of products not fitting the space. “It’s crucial the customer knows the dimensions and where the items are going,” he advises.
Once the layout is sorted, you can think about what design options you may have and begin to envisage how the room will look. “Always work in this order,” Fiona says, “then you’ll know exactly what design you can accommodate, as opposed to creating a wonderful design that, in reality, isn’t going to work in the space you have.”
More: How Easy Would It Be to Change My Bathroom Layout?
“There may be unexpected issues found at the construction stage and it can take time to adapt to these,” James says.
Cat highlights one particularly common issue: a rotten floor. “If you strip out the existing bathroom and discover the base of the floor is rotten from a leaking pipe, then you have to rebuild the shell of the bathroom,” she says.
Of course, you typically won’t discover the problem until you strip out the bathroom, so build the possibility into your timeline.
Browse reviewed bathroom designers and fitters in your area in the Houzz Professionals Directory.
Something all the experts agreed on was that items not being on site when they were needed was a common delay. To keep your project on track, Cat advises, “Look at the lead times for everything. You may not have sufficient storage space to get everything in advance, but this is why a project manager can really help.”
“Research your products and materials and contact each supplier to get a realistic lead time,” James says. “It’s best to work backwards – find out when the materials can be delivered and then add a week or two for shipping delays. A good supplier will be able to hold onto the products until you require them on site.”
It can be advisable to order as much as you can from local merchants. “Sanitaryware is often quite heavy and sometimes quite complex,” Fiona says. “If an item arrives damaged or incomplete, being able to return or replace it locally will be a lot quicker and easier than attempting to do it online.”
Mosaics or tricky tiles that need cutting will take longer. “Small tiles require a great deal of care when being placed, while large tiles can become complicated if they’re part of a bigger pattern,” James says.
Be aware of the risks with fragile tiles, too. “If tiles are very difficult to cut, you might need more than you expect to cover breakages,” Cat says. Again, if you haven’t thought of this in advance and the tiles have a two- or three-week lead time, your timetable may suffer.
“It’s difficult to gauge how much work is required without knowing what the surface or wall is,” James adds. “Often, the space will need to be stripped out first and this takes time. A good contractor will be able to give you an estimated time for the retiling and inform you of the work involved.”
More: How to Choose a Tiler
Add a few days at least to your project if you’re replacing or adding electrics or lighting. This could include, for example, a lit cabinet, a toothbrush charger socket, a dual-fuel radiator or electric underfloor heating. These jobs will put a pause on the rest of the project.
“An electrician can’t work at the same time as the other contractors, as the power will have to be turned off,” Cat explains. “You also can’t mix plumbers doing wet work with electrical work.” As bathrooms tend to be on the small side, there may only be room for one person at a time anyway.
It still makes sense to call in different trades, though. “Sure, if you had one person who could do every part of the job it would be quicker,” Cat says, “but then each wouldn’t be a qualified electrician, a certified plumber or a Gas Safe Registered engineer. We say to our clients that even if it’s a small flat we’re doing, they need a different person for each trade.”
If you’re changing the position of the sanitaryware or creating a totally new bathroom, this is at the longer end of the spectrum in terms of project timescales.
“All the hot and cold pipework needs to run in and the drainage needs to run out from the relevant places,” Cat explains. There’s lots to think about: for example, you can’t have water running uphill, so there will often be fiddly measurements and precision involved in getting the degree of a slope just right.
“That said,” she adds, “if you’re happy to have pipework boxed in – rather than buried into walls – it can be less time-consuming.”
“Make every tiny decision in advance,” Cat says. “You can’t be saying, ‘Oh, we can’t pick the wall tiles until we see the floor in place.’ If you choose tiles that have a four-week wait for delivery – then what?”
She advises homeowners include everything. “For a new loo, you need to choose the loo, a loo seat, a flush, and a cistern,” she says. “For a basin, there’s your taps, what supports the basin, and whether the taps are wall-mounted or on the basin. And what about your bath – tap or Exafill? Shower over the bath? Will it be fixed? What about a hand-held? What kind of bath panel do you want – wood, tiles, rubber or something bespoke? And that comes before all the other design decisions, such as tile trims, door locks, wall hooks, colours…”
“If a homeowner is very detail-orientated and organised, it’s possible for them to manage a project,” James says. “However, I’d generally advise people to work with a professional.”
More: How to Curate Ideas for Your Bathroom Project
What bathroom renovation tips have you picked up along the way? Share your experiences in the Comments.