How to Plan for a Bathroom Renovation
Wondering where to start when renovating your bathroom? Ask yourself these questions to ensure you plan well
Professional advice from: Cat Hoad of Absolute Project Management; Sara Levy of Sara Levy Designs; Emma Merry of Emma Merry Styling
Think through key elements as a starting point, Cat Hoad suggests. “Do you definitely want a bath, or not necessarily if there’s a good shower? Is a bidet or Japanese-style loo a must have? Is it crucial to have lots of cupboards for linens, or just a convenient place for bathroom products?” she says.
If you’re fitting a shower, the design you’d like is also something to assess early on. Do you fancy a wetroom style with a flush floor or would you prefer a low shower tray or a cubicle? A wetroom style is usually possible, but be aware it’s costlier and more disruptive.
“A wetroom floor looks fabulous and sleek, with just a pane of glass separating the shower from the rest of the room,” Sara Levy says, “but it’s more expensive than using a tray, both in terms of materials and labour. However, we also prepare our clients that water could spread out from a tray, too, so we use waterproof board and waterproof the flooring around the shower area.
“Another thing to think about with an open shower,” she adds, “is that you will feel the cool air from the bathroom and should plan your heating accordingly.”
More: 8 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation
Function is crucial, of course, but how you want your bathroom to make you feel is also important. Think about whether you’d like it to be a relaxing space or a quick shower zone, and the look you’re aiming for, whether modern or traditional.
Try making a moodboard of styles, materials and colours, so you can get a feel of what works for you as a whole, and to make it easier to convey your vision to your designer.
“Look at pictures on Houzz and create an ideabook of things you like – and don’t like! – to show your designer,” Sara Levy suggests. “Be specific with photos and circle the items in a picture you like, such as the tap or the shape of the bath.
“You don’t need to follow trends,” she adds. “Choose the items that make you feel good in your space. A designer can help you with unique wall and floor coverings, colours, tap shapes, bath sizes and finish.”
More: How to Curate Ideas for Your Bathroom Project
Ready to hire? Find a local bathroom designer on Houzz and read reviews from previous clients.
“A bathroom designer will know if it’s feasible to change your layout,” Sara says. “For instance, you may not be able to swap a bath for a low-level shower tray – it depends on the plumbing underneath and sometimes you won’t know until you look behind the existing bath panel. Usually, however, you can raise the shower tray on a small step [as here] to allow the appropriate slope in the waste.”
Cat adds, “To some extent, how much you can change a layout will depend on whether you live in a house or flat, how it’s constructed (timber joisted floors or solid concrete slabs), where the existing soil pipes are, and whether it’s feasible (economically and practically) to move them.”
It’s certainly worth exploring whether moving elements would improve the flow and functionality of your bathroom. “If you’re paying a designer to look at the space, it’s probably worth asking them to consider whether other layouts are possible, even if you don’t think they will be,” Cat says. “We can often ‘find’ space by using formerly boxed-in walls or ‘borrowing’ space from adjacent unused areas to increase the options.”
More: How Easy Would It Be to Change My Bathroom Layout?
“Bathroom lights can be tricky, as they need to be IP [Ingress Protection] rated,” Emma Merry says. “As a rule of thumb, you have to think, if I can physically splash it with water, it needs to be a sealed light. As we typically have small bathrooms in the UK, I always specify closed lights due to the steam and moisture.
“If space is at a premium, then lights within the wall cabinetry or a smart mirror is an effective solution to this issue,” she continues. “I also often find some great alternative bathroom lights in the exterior lighting section.”
Think about having different lights for different moods. “If your budget allows, use more than one lighting circuit,” Sara says. “We often use low-level night lights on a sensor, so you don’t need to turn on the main lights at night.”
While the electrics are being fitted, she adds, consider including a shaving socket to charge your electric toothbrush.
More: What Are the Best Ways to Light My Bathroom?
As your bathroom floor is likely to be a cool, hard surface, it’s worth considering underfloor heating, but Cat suggests it’s teamed with a towel radiator.
“Ideally, go for piped [wet] underfloor heating, but for a small space, electric [dry] with a good control system can work well,” she says. “We almost always advise some sort of dual-fuel radiator/towel rail, too, so it’s warmed by the central heating during the months that that’s functioning, but also has an immersion/electric heating option, so you can still dry towels during the summer months.”
More: How do I Heat my Bathroom?
It goes without saying that the key to keeping your newly minted bathroom smart is good storage, so think about what you’d like to stash in there – linens and towels or just toiletries? And don’t dismiss the space as too small for much until you’ve talked to your designer, as they might find places to squeeze it in.
“Storage for your cleaning products, loo roll and toiletries can be under the basin, next to or above the toilet, even behind the bath panel,” Sara says. “Also think about any personal items you might want to store. For example, we’ve recently built a small cupboard with a heater just for a client’s swimming trunks.”
“We like to maximise storage in any areas that are boxed in to conceal pipes and so on,” Cat says. “You can get fairly inexpensive, freestanding, off-the-shelf cabinetry, but, for a more luxurious option that makes the most of every millimetre of space, have bespoke storage designed.”
More: Which Types of Bathroom Storage Do Designers Favour?
“Disruption will be more than you think,” Cat says. “Unless it’s a very simple, like-for-like replacement, allow a couple of weeks as a bare minimum.
“Even if the builders are only working in a small bathroom, there will be a number of different trades involved (plumbers, electricians, decorators, tilers) and they’ll need somewhere (almost certainly not in the bathroom) to store tools and materials (ie, the bath and/or shower enclosure) before the room is ready for them to be fitted,” she says.
Sara agrees. “Your builder will need space to leave his tools and rubbish if you can’t put a skip on your street,” she says.
“Assume your builder will need to turn off the water and power at some point (and should give you plenty of notice) during demolition,” she continues. “However, they should be able to leave you a working toilet every night, even if the rest of the room is empty.”
More: How Long Does a Bathroom Renovation Take?
All our experts agree that the key is to list everything you’ll need – and might need.
“You’ll have to factor in the builder’s costs to do any reconfiguring, electrics, plumbing, tiling and decorating, plus the cost of the sanitaryware,” Cat says. “And don’t forget tiles, storage and accessories such as a loo roll holder and shower shelf.”
“I recommend you create a spreadsheet,” Emma says. “List every item from the floor up – tedious, but I promise it will pay dividends. The bathrooms I [typically] create are on average £5,000 to £8,000 for the products including tiles, with the installation a further £6,000 to £8,000, depending on your tile laying choices. (Bear in mind that prices have been rising faster than usual of late, so do check recent average costs with your pro when budgeting.)
“I would always ensure your boiler can work with the new bathroom products you hope to install,” she adds. “If you’re considering [wet] underfloor heating, this, too, will require a larger capacity boiler. Should you need to upgrade the boiler, this will substantially affect your budget.”
Sara mentions that if your water pressure isn’t strong enough for a big shower head, but you’re very keen to have one, you can ask your builder to add a pump, but this will impact on the budget, too.
More: How Much Does a Bathroom Renovation Cost?
“Also ensure you allow for demolition and waste removal,” she adds,” as well as a contingency for issues that might arise or items you may want to add once the project has started.”
As bathrooms increasingly become ‘sanctuaries’, you may also want to introduce some tech, such as, Cat suggests, a TV or intelligent systems including lighting, music and remote-controlled window coverings, so give these some thought when you’re planning your budget, too.
Are you about to embark on a bathroom renovation? Have you found this advice useful? Let us know in the Comments.