20 tips for bathroom renovation success

Ensure your renovation project runs smoothly with this essential advice

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Designing a bathroom from scratch may sound more daunting than a bathroom refurb, but when you are trying to reimagine an existing layout, or navigate the quirks of the current pipework, you might at times feel tempted to knock it all down and start again. 

Fear not, we have pulled together the best expert tips for renovating a bathroom, to make sure your remodel is a success.

Main image: Caesarstone countertops in Airy Concrete from the Metropolitan range have been used to create a large surface with integrated sinks

1. Plan a layout and stick to it

Avoid making unnecessary changes to your existing sanitaryware layout — the fewer alterations you make, the lower your plumbing costs will be. If you do need to move some key elements, then at least keep the toilet close enough to connect to the existing soil pipe.

Once the design is finalised do not change it, but before signing it off show it to the electrician, tiler and other related trades to make sure they can't see any issues that will interfere with their part of the project.

2. Don't forget to appoint an electrician early on

You will need an electrician for any rewiring, lighting schemes and the addition of an electric shower or shower pump. Chat to one before any building or plumbing work starts so they can plan their jobs into the schedule.

Make sure you choose a registered electrician as you will get additional protection should something go wrong. The approved schemes and regulations around electrical installations differ between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but you can find a comprehensive list of registered electricians in your area by going to electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.

Square King 2-in-1 Matte Black Shower Rail Set by Meir Australia

Spotlighting has been used in this stunning bathroom showcasing the Square King 2-in-1 Matte Black Shower Rail Set by Meir Australia

(Image: © Meir Australia)

3. Choose sanitaryware before plastering or tiling

To ensure the hot and cold pipes and waste are in the correct positions, you need to choose all sanitaryware, taps and showers before plastering or tiling. Specify everything before first-fix stage, as leaving key decisions until the sales are on can mean expensive alterations.

4. Salvage any usable sanitaryware

Reuse any good-quality taps or sanitaryware, such as a classic roll-top bath, or, for a cost-effective way to update existing fittings, you can always re-enamel or add a new surround to a bath. This is not only cost-effective, but a great way to maintain character.

5. Mix and match to make savings

Stick with white, and mix items of sanitaryware from different suppliers, in order to offset affordable buys against luxuries such as a quality bath. However, avoid cheap fixes such as plastic baths or shower trays that are so thin they are flexible and, therefore difficult to seal and make watertight.

Optima bathroom set with corner cubicle from Coram

This corner shower from the Optima range by Coram has been used in a white bathroom with warm wood elements

(Image: © Coram)

6. Simple is effective

Keep the design simple and avoid curves, steps, ornate decorative mouldings and non-essential details or ornamentation. The simpler the design, the more cost-effective it will be to fit out.

7. Remember you can haggle

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a discount – in fact, it’s built into some shops’ official policies. Even the big highstreet DIY stores will be open to negotiation on prices. In a recent poll by Martin Lewis for This Morning hagglers had 54 per cent and 59 per cent success rates at B&Q and Homebase respectively, showing that you could be throwing cash away by not haggling.

8. Think about waterproofing the space

Tile backer boards can be used to line bathroom walls and shower enclosures. They are 100 per cent waterproof when taped and jointed, and act as insulation too (so are a great recommendation when installed below underfloor heating). These will limit the risk of leaks which can be incredibly damaging and costly to repair.

Architect Your Home designed bathroom with walk in shower

9. Take the opportunity to include tech

For tech fans, myriad options include waterproof televisions that sit flush within a wall, built-in hi-fi systems, smart lighting controls with preset moods for atmosphere, and automation of blinds and bath fillers. Again, these need planning in at the offset so that wiring can be accounted for.

10. Use mirrors to make a small bathroom feel bigger

Use large mirrors to make a small bathroom feel lighter and more spacious — a frameless mirror covering the whole of one wall is very effective. To avoid misting up after showers and baths, fit heated pads behind the mirror (try styles from Demista).

See more tips on designing a small bathroom.

11. Pick reputable tradespeople

Be it plumbers, builders, decorators or electricians, always pick a trusted tradesperson. Use recommendations from friends and ask to see previous examples of their work.

  • Avoid traders who ask for cash – it is illegal for them not to declare their income and if you have no receipt, you have no comeback should things go wrong.
  • Likewise, beware of requests for upfront payments which can imply cash flow problems, or that builders' merchants won't give them credit.
  • Any reputable builder will be happy to sign a simple contract with you and a third party to ensure the agreed work is on schedule.

vastus fixed shower head

12. Never skimp on brassware

These are the items that are in use every day, in particular concealed valves that regulate your home’s water temperature. Look for “rub clean” showerheads with easy-clean nozzles that will prevent limescale build-up; great in a hard-water area.

13. Conceal pipework

For a clean look, ask your plumber to conceal pipework and services in flooring, ceilings and boxing wherever possible. This also makes tiling and laying flooring much easier. However, be sure to make sure vital components are accessible in the event of a leak.

If you are installing a freestanding bath away from walls, you can raise it on a plinth and hide pipework underneath.

14. Don't forget about ventilation

Many cases of damp are due to condensation. A bathroom is damp and steamy by nature, so install adequate ventilation systems (such as an extractor fan) to keep moisture to a minimum. 

If your bathroom has wooden windows, a window vac that can suck up condensation can prove invaluable for quickly getting rid of water that may rot the frames.

small bathroom with white subway tile finish

The Affini sanitaryware from B&Q is timeless and great for a small space

(Image: © B&Q)

15. Avoid wall-mounted sanitaryware where possible

Ditch wall-mounted fittings, as less work equals less cost. Wall-mounted taps, basins and toilets often require specialist fixings, chasing out to house plumbing, and the concealment of cisterns. It’s quicker and cheaper to fit deck-mounted taps, pedestal basins and close-coupled WCs.

16. Don’t go overboard with lighting

Opt for pendant lighting — a single central fitting will prove much cheaper than individual downlights or wall lights. Check out multi-bulb fittings that only require a single power cable, for a flexible scheme. If you are rewiring the house as part of a renovation, then you could take the opportunity to do something more complex, such as having two circuits of bathroom lighting for task lights and dimmable mood lights.

17. Invest in one statement feature for a luxe look on a budget

Choose one thing to really make your bathroom have wow factor. This might be (as mentioned before) mixing a basic basin and look with a classy, freestanding bath, or splashing out on some really fancy taps. Or, if you’ve found tiles beyond your budget, use them on a statement wall with a more affordable complementary tile elsewhere.

18. A bigger space will need more heat

If you are extending the bathroom space don't forget that this will mean a larger area to heat. As a result, re-assess existing heating and upgrade the heat output if needed with a more powerful radiator, or take the opportunity to include underfloor heating. At the same time, check that the water pressure isn't affected by the addition of new sanitaryware.

Debba range from Roca bathrooms in grey white bathroom

19. Remember to include plenty of storage

Nothing can ruin a nice new bathroom faster than clutter, so don't forget about storage. Use storage furniture and baskets to keep everything out of sight (apart from your posh toiletries of course).

Fitted furniture offers the chance to achieve a co-ordinated finish, but it needs to be planned from the start. Freestanding and modular furniture offer more flexibility and can be added after the sanitaryware is in place. Modular furniture can also be wall-mounted, making effective use of space in clutter-prone areas of the bathroom.

20. Check materials are suited to a bathroom environment

Always choose materials that can withstand the conditions of a bathroom. From appropriate bathroom flooring to waterproof paints and sealed wall tiles, there are products designed to withstand high volumes of water.