Bathrooms may be small but they’re also one of the most important rooms in your home. Hubby and I have just finished renovating our ensuite. We’re so thrilled with the end result and, I’m happy to report, it was a relatively smooth process, so much so we are now tackling the main bathroom.
Bathrooms need to be functional and if you can also achieve a look that you love, then you’ll have definitely hit the jackpot! A well-planned renovation can also add value to your home so, having just survived the process, here are my essential tips for renovating a bathroom.
- Set a budget. It may be small but fitting out a bathroom can also be very expensive. I completely gutted my ensuite, stripping it back to just the timber frame and concrete floors, however, you might want to only freshen up your bathroom with a makeover. Either way set a realistic budget and stick to it! I would also recommend adding 10% to account for any unexpected expenses that crop up. Be careful not to overspend and remember to consider the overall value of your home to avoid over-capitalising.
- Plan. It might be a small room but there’s a lot to think about … plumbing, tiles, toilets, showers, taps, vanities, and the list goes on. I started with 2 lists … a “MUST” list, the things that were basic and essential and a “LUST” list, the things that I really wanted if I could stretch the budget. Savings on some basic items allowed me to spend on other items on my “LUST” list without blowing the budget or feeling guilty. During the planning stage, consider also your future needs and any lifestyle changes that may affect the design of your bathroom. If you are ripping the bathroom out completely, trace the layout directly onto the floor with a marker pen or alternatively draw a floor plan to scale on some graph paper. It’s also a good idea to get others to look at your layout/design as they may see or think of things that you don’t. Take the time to get it right and don’t rush! Be sure you measure everything because it is usually something simple that will bring you unstuck … your tape measure needs to be your best friend. Think about the width, depth and height of every item. Think about how the plumbing will impact on your vanity/cabinet design and get advice from your plumber before you buy or order anything. Consider which way the shower door and bathroom door will open and how that will impact on your space. Try not to overlook anything.
- Decide on your “look”. There are so many products to choose from and it can be confusing and a little overwhelming. Start by borrowing or buying some bathroom magazines and books to get some ideas. Search the internet and visit bathroom and tile showrooms and hardware stores to see what’s available. This will also allow you to “touch and feel” everything and try before you buy. Gather brochures that will also give size and dimension details. It’s a good idea to put together a “scrapbook” or folder as you see things you like. Do remember, however, that trends and styles come and go. I chose fairly neutral colours that wouldn’t “date” and then added colour and texture with towels, bathmats and decorator items … all things that can be changed easily and inexpensively. Feature tiles are nice but I purposely steered away from them because what’s fashionable today can be outdated tomorrow. It’s always a good idea to think about any style choices as if you were about to sell your home. Would the look appeal to most people?
- Shop around. Once you have set a budget, break it down into separate items and then try to save yourself some money. A few dollars saved on tiles may allow you to upgrade your tapware or buy the basin that you’ve fallen in love with. Look out for specials and also find out which stores or companies you’re tradesmen may have accounts with. You may be able to get a trade or builders discount by ordering your items through their accounts. I would also suggest having all your taps, baths, sinks and other fittings on site before the job begins so there are no hold ups. It’s really disappointing when an item that you’ve fallen in love with is either unavailable or discontinued. You don’t want to settle for second best or have the renovation delayed while you wait for items to be delivered.
- Find good tradesmen. Sounds obvious but good tradies can be hard to find. The cheapest isn’t always the best so, if possible, get recommendations from family, friends or workmates. If you can, try to inspect their work and, make sure your tradesmen are qualified. Good communication is also key to a successful renovation, so be sure you choose tradies who answer their phones, return calls and respond to emails. If you don’t want to or can’t project manage your renovation yourself, one of your tradies may be willing to do it for you. It will cost a little extra but it can definitely be worth it. We had an incredible tiler who oversaw the entire renovation. He coordinated the electrical, cabinets, plastering, plumbing, shower screens, mirrors … basically everything, which saved me time, prevented mistakes and eliminated any stress or frustration. These guys often work together and will fit in with each other across several jobs. My tiler was also a great problem solver and worked hard to fully understand what I was trying to achieve and actively problem-solved to come up with creative ideas.
- Avoid moving any plumbing. Anything is possible if you want to throw enough money at it but, if you can leave your existing plumbing where it is, you will save a lot of money. Moving toilets, vanities, baths and showers may not be practical or cost-effective so talk to your plumber, builder, tiler, cabinetmaker, etc. to see what’s possible and affordable.
- Increase storage. If at all possible, use your renovation as an opportunity to increase the storage in your bathroom. We ripped out a massive spa bath, which we never used because it was too big and used too much water to fill it up. We replaced it instead with a beautiful, free-standing bath which took up way less space. Not only did this give the bathroom a less cluttered appearance, it allowed us to use some of the extra space to increase the size of our vanity. This in turn allowed us to install two basins instead of one, which was our number one goal when we set out to renovate the bathroom. Where we once had a small pokey double cupboard with 3 small, narrow drawers, we now have 6 massive, deep drawers and a vanity that measures over 2 metres long. This means everything can be tucked away ensuring that the ensuite is easy to clean and maintain, which saves me time … mission accomplished!
- Don’t forget the Hot Water System. Renovating a bathroom is a great time to review your hot water system. Now that we’re starting to renovate the main bathroom, we’ve decided to push the external wall out to the edge of the eave, consequently, the hot water system needed to be moved. Because it was 15 years old, we chose to replace it and install a bigger one that would better cater to our growing family.
- Supervise. Work can sometimes get in the way but, if at all possible, be around when the renovation is actually happening. That way you can oversee everything as it happens, hopefully preventing costly mistakes, as well as be on hand to make decisions or answer questions as they arise. This will also prevent the renovation from being held up unnecessarily because you can’t be contacted.
- Keep smiling and retain your sense of humour. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from renovating, it’s that things can and will go wrong … so just go with it! You won’t always know what you’re dealing with until you start ripping things apart and that’s when surprises crop up. If you can accept that it’s a possibility, it will be easier to maintain your composure and tackle any problems with a positive attitude. Focus less on the problem and more on the solution and you should come up smiling.
So tell me, have you ever renovated? If so, what room? Were you happy with the result and did you experience any major dramas? Do tell …