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How to plan a bathroom renovation

Image showing the bathroom of @its_a_nannas_life

How to plan a bathroom renovation

Tired of your old bathroom? We asked Philippa Tuttiett, managing director of Female Builders & Interiors, to take us through the bathroom renovation process.

Image of Philippa Tuttiett founder of Female Builders & Interiors
Image: Philippa Tuttiett, founder of Female Builders & Interiors
Step one

Your new bathroom starts with a decision: do you want to update or renovate? A simple update is the best option if you’re on a budget. Upgrade your sanitaryware but keep it in its current layout to avoid moving plumbing. A bathroom renovation is likely to involve rerouting the plumbing. This is especially true if you’re remodelling the room, extending the space to incorporate a separate WC or stealing space from an adjacent room. And this can be more costly.

Manage your team

There are several tradespeople potentially involved in a bathroom renovation, including a builder, tiler, electrician and plumber. If you need them all, you may also need a project manager to keep things running smoothly. You could manage the renovation yourself, or, if you don’t have time, there are a few options for making your life easier.

Find a company that can supply the workforce. This is ideal if you don’t have the time (or organisational skills) to coordinate the project yourself. Be aware that this approach is potentially more costly than sourcing individual tradespeople. Alternatively, look for a bathroom specialist that offers an in-house supply and fit service, which again saves time and stress. Although you’ll be choosing from the retailer’s selection of products, if you see something they don’t offer, they may be happy to source it for you.

Source your own tradespeople

If you want to keep an eye on the budget, why not source individual tradespeople yourself? There are specialist companies that can supply the whole workforce for your project, but this option will add costs. Sourcing them yourself also adds an element of security. You’ll be doing your own research, checking references, meeting the individuals concerned and discussing what you want and how much it’ll cost. Just be aware that this approach takes time and careful management as well as knowledge of which people to bring in when.

Image showing a bathroom renovation by @em.gurner
Image: @em.gurner
Do you need a builder?

In some situations, it’s essential to use a builder to renovate a bathroom. According to The Federation of Master Builders, these include:

  1. When you’re installing a brand-new bathroom from scratch.
  2. Situations where party walls (walls shared with a neighbour) could be affected.
  3. If internal walls need constructing or removing (particularly load-bearing walls).
  4. Where new fittings call for the existing floors to be reinforced. This is a common issue when a freestanding bath made from a heavy material, such as marble, is installed.

You will also need a builder when installing a wet room, as this involves carefully considered structural calculations, waterproofing and drainage. Finally, you’ll need a builder’s involvement where building regulations approval or compliance is needed.

First fix plumbing

In cases where you’re simply replacing the bathroom suite, you won’t need a builder. But you’ll need to call on a plumber to disconnect the water and drain the central heating system. You can then rip out your existing suite.

Once the water’s turned off and old bathroom suite removed, your plumber will run supply pipes to your new bath, shower, basin and toilet. Waste pipes are then laid to take waste water away. While your basin and toilet won’t be connected until later in the renovation process, your bath and shower are connected at first fix. It is important that this is done before tiling to ensure that they are properly sealed against potential leaks.

If your new bathroom layout involves moving sanitaryware to new positions, your plumber will be responsible for relocating pipes. This is particularly important when it comes to the toilet because you may need to move the soil pipe. This is quite a costly option, so if you’re on a strict budget, keep your toilet where it is. Design note: water pipes are not as costly to relocate. This is simply because they are smaller and can be run through walls, ceilings and joists more easily than a big soil pipe.

First fix electrics

If your bathroom makeover doesn’t involve changes to the lighting or electrical wiring, you probably won’t need an electrician. However, you will need one if you’re updating the lighting or fitting shaver points, an extractor fan and electric underfloor heating. First fix electrical work involves laying the cables that will power all these elements.

Do you need a plasterer?

There are several reasons to involve a plasterer in your bathroom renovation. You’ll need an expert on hand if you’re making structural changes, for example. Equally, if you’re replacing existing tiles and there’s significant damage to the wall underneath. Ensure the wall is carefully prepared before it’s retiled.

When to tile

Before you tile your bathroom, tank (waterproof) the walls around your bath and shower to make sure that no water can penetrate the wall. If you don’t feel confident doing this, check The Tile Association (TTA) website for a quality tiler in your area.

Similarly, when installing underfloor heating, lay the cables before tiling the floor. Always test the heating cable at this point to make sure it works. If you discover it doesn’t work after the tiles are laid, it will be a costly and frustrating job to remove them.

Lay the bathroom floor after you tile the walls. A tiler can take care of any tiling work that’s needed. If you’re laying vinyl flooring or engineered wood, talk to your supplier about installation.

Second fix plumbing and electrics

Now it’s time to bring the electrician back for second fix electrics. Depending on your design, this might be connecting up the underfloor heating thermostat, ceiling spotlights (and pull cord), shaver socket, extractor fan and isolating switch.

Next up is second fix plumbing. This could include anything from connecting up the thermostatic shower and toilet, to the basin and basin tap.

Last but not least

The final step in a bathroom renovation is painting the walls, woodwork and ceiling. If your bathroom lacks ventilation, make sure you use a paint specially developed for humid environments. There is always the risk of standard paint cracking in a hot and steamy bathroom.

About Philippa Tuttiett: Philippa is the managing director of Female Builders & Interiors, a firm she founded in 2007 that can offer an all-female workforce.

Featured image: The stunning black and white bathroom renovation undertaken by Andrea of @its_a_nannas_life.

Want more? Find out how Philippa got started in the building industry in our in-depth interview Behind the Brand.