The way we think about our bathrooms has radically changed from the utilitarian spaces of years ago. They still need to be designed to be functional and easy to clean, but today we also often dream of creating a relaxing sanctuary, a spa-like retreat to pamper ourselves.
How do you make your bathroom a space to enjoy and a room to be proud of?
No matter what type of bathroom you have in mind, it all starts with planning and research to discover how you can make maximum use of what is often the smallest room in the house.
Having a basic plan is essential for you to understand how much space you have to work with. It can help you determine how you might move fixtures around or do things such as increase the size of the shower stall or a vanity.
You may ultimately need a professional to draw up formal plans, especially if your renovation will need council or Owners Corporate approval, but drawing your own sketch can help you get the ball rolling on your project. If you have copies of your house plans then you can take a photo or scan.
If you don’t have a plan to utlise, drawing your own is a simple process. Al you need is an A4-sized notepad, a pencil, a ruler and tape measure. The real trick with this process is converting your bathroom’s measurements to a meaningful and useable scale on your paper. That’s actually simpler than it may sound. Turn 1m (1000mm) measured into say, 10cm (100mm) on your paper. If this won’t fit your paper them convert 1m to 5cm. Just try to stick with down-scaled numbers that are easy to work with.
Now measure the wall lengths, converting them and pencilling in as you go. For example, 2.5m (2500mm) becomes 25cm (250mm) on your plan when using 1m to 10cm.
Add locations and sizes of doors and windows, including direction of swing of the door too. You’ll also want to add location of taps, waste pipes from toilet and vanity, floor drains, light switches, power-points and extractor fans. This becomes the “base plan” for your bathroom. Make a good, clear copy of this either by taking a photo on your phone or scanning into your computer.
Now add outlines of existing fixtures – vanity, bathtub, shower stall, toilet – to your base plan. You can add elements such as towel racks too if you wish.
Keep a list of key points such as where the toilet waste pipe goes. Is it through the floor or back through the wall? Also note the vanity waste position and visible water pipes for the toilet cistern, too.
Once you have a reasonably accurate representation of your existing bathroom down on paper you can start to think about where you want to take it.
There are three early stages to redesigning your bathroom: thinking about strengths and weaknesses of the current bathroom and layout, playing around with different designs, and then picking new fixtures and finishes.
Looking closely at how the bathroom works (or doesn’t work) currently is really important. This can include simple things such as towels rails being too far from the shower or the vanity being poorly positioned or the wrong size, to more complex issues such as a shower stall that is too small or has a narrow entry.
Just remember a bathroom renovation doesn’t have to mean a complete redesign. It may be that your bathroom functions perfectly well, but it’s tired and needs a refresh so you are simply replacing old with new. This can also be a cheaper approach.
Once you have an idea of what you would like to change, it’s time to play around with your design. Print-out multiple copies of your base plan and pencil in different ideas. Remember when adding anything to your base-plan to attempt to keep the new items roughly to the correct scale.
To work out if redesign ideas will work, compare your proposed sizes to the existing. Always remember to include space for moving around the space. Allow comfortable gaps between, for example, the end of the vanity and the side of the shower screen. If space allows, you might also want to consider more dramatic changes such as hiving off the toilet into its own powder room and keeping your new bathroom purely for vanity, shower and/or bath.
Remember that smart product choices can save you space. Something as simple as choice of toilet suite could give you an extra 100mm or more of floor space. Take the time to do the research to find the rights products and materials that will work for your intended style and (more importantly) space.
It’s easy to fall in love with a luxuriously large bath but it might be too large or the wrong shape for your space. Ensure any additions are of a scale that is in keeping with your available area: you don’t want a single element to overwhelm the space.
It’s at this stage that you can become clever with space too. If you want the look of a freestanding bath but don’t have the room, consider a back-to-wall freestanding or corner model. If your shower stall previously felt too small, consider a walk-in shower using a long, frameless glass panel with one end open. If your vanity created a visual narrow-neck, look at a wall-mounted unit. That extra space beneath creates a feeling of more room. Also consider recessing wall cabinets into the wall and creating niches for shampoo bottles and other potions in the shower stall wall and beside the bath.
Even your toilet has space saving options. There are cisterns (the part that holds the water) which can be set inside the wall and then these are combined with back-to-wall toilet pans.
To get an idea of how much flexibility you have to move fixtures, plumbing and power around for your dream bathroom, you need to know how your home is built and how all the existing pipes and electrics are run.
Start with the walls. Are they sheeting on timber frame (typical for most modern homes) or solid masonry? This can impact your budget and timeframe when it comes to moving plumbing and electrics. To move services is achievable in any home, but in brick, block or concrete walls it’s a more laborious (and therefore more expensive) exercise.
If you can access a sub-floor space, have a look beneath your existing bathroom. From here you can clearly see the location of existing pipe work. You might also be able to see electrics, although electrical work will more likely run up walls and through the roof or inter-floor space.
Make a note of the direction that floor joists are running and their spacing as this determines where you can move waste pipes to should you need to. Remember, you can’t cut through joists or bearers to reposition pipes, pipes need to be in the spaces between.
With two-storey or split-level homes it might be that pipes are concealed in a ceiling/floor void or inter-floor space. You may be able to move these waste pipes around, but it might involve either lifting the existing bathroom floor or removing the ceiling below.
If your home is an on-ground concrete slab then you will need to design your renovation around the location of the existing waste outlets.
You don’t necessarily have to move waste pipes around. In some cases you may be able to change their uses. You’ll need to discuss this with your bathroom designer (if using one) and plumber or builder.
If you are planning on managing your bathroom renovation as an owner-builder, be aware that bathrooms are one of the more complex areas of renovation when it comes to juggling trades. You’ll need a plumber, electrician, a carpenter or builder. And if you plan on making any physical changes to walls, doors, windows, possibly a plasterer, a tiler and painter. All areas will need re-waterproofing, so you might also need a waterproofing specialist (although many tilers do their own waterproofing).
If you want to take the easier option, find a builder who specialises in bathroom renovations as they should have all of those trades working with them.
The general sequence of works and trades required is:
You might also need a custom shower screen and vanity, and the supplier will let you know the appropriate stage to install.
If you choose to use tradies for much of your work, they are likely to organise materials but when it comes to the pointy end of the design, procuring will fall on you.
Start browsing for your inclusions early. The best way can be to start searching online to narrow down your design and colour preferences and then get hands-on in-store.
You may find that items, particularly larger inclusions such as bathtubs or vanities, need to be organised as a special order so make sure you allow at least a couple of weeks lead-time for delivery. The last thing you want is to have a renovation delayed (risking losing your tradies to another job) as you wait for tiles, a toilet or a bath to arrive.
It might sound like a lot of work but your dream bathroom is an achievable project and well worth the effort. Besides, getting more engaged with the design process makes the outcome all the more satisfying.
Every project will be different but understanding the process and sequence of works beforehand will help with your planning, budgeting and, importantly, making sure materials are all on-site when needed. You’ll also find that doing all the preparation work such as investigating existing structures and services and doing preliminary designs will in-fact speed the entire process up once you get professionals involved.
Need a hand with your bathroom project? Don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re here to help.
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