5 Tips for the D.I.Y Bathroom Reno

 Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

When we discovered that our only bathroom was leaking, and leaking bad (straight through into our laundry and granny flat downstairs), we decided it was time for the whole room to go. While a cracked pipe in the wall should have been an easy thing to fix, our bathroom was clad floor to ceiling in asbestos. Plus, every day that we didn’t rip through the asbestos wall to fix the pipe, water was leaking through the timber floorboards underneath our tiles and rotting our floor.

We asked eight plumbers and bathroom renovators to come and give us a quote. Two of them showed up. One of them actually followed up with a quote. For $35 000. So we cleared our schedules for a few weeks and hopped to it ourselves.

We had professionals remove the asbestos, rewire the lighting and power points, fix and reposition the plumbing and plaster the ceiling. Everything else was up to us. As our first wet room renovation, there were a lot of lessons we learned the hard way, so I’ve compiled my top 5 tips to renovate a bathroom right.

 1.    Take the time to get the layout right.

Luckily, we invested a lot of time into this before we started. Cut out moving boxes or big sheets of cardboard into the standard dimensions of showers, bathtub, vanities and toilets. Use some tape to mark out the dimensions of your bathroom (and doorway) on a garage floor or flat space, then arrange your items into every combination you can think of. Once you have a layout you like, test the moving space around each item – eg. do you have enough room to bend over or crouch down in front of your open vanity cupboards? Taking the time to map this out before you get started will save a lot of heartache once your hardware is in the space.

 Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

 2.    Preparation is everything.

Don’t be like us, spending a precious day of bathroom-free living chipping up ineffective floor leveller with a hammer and chisel, damaging the waterproofing and floorboards underneath.

While tiling preparation will vary depending on the floor you have, it is the most important step of the tiling process. A smooth, level and rigid surface will allow your tiles to lay flat, without movement, minimising cracks and breakage throughout the life of the bathroom. ‘How to’ DVDs, youtube videos and the instructions on products did us no good in this area, so I highly recommend asking a tiler, whether a friend or an apprentice who will offer their advice for a cash donation, to advise the right product for your surface and whether it should be laid over or under a waterproofing membrane.

 3.    Choose your tiles to suit your skill level.

With so many tile choices on the market, you can afford to consider more than just the cosmetics when choosing your tiles. For a first time tiler, try to stay away from rectified tiles. These are tiles cut with a laser, creating a sharp edge. When tiling, this means that any slight variation in thickness of the glue you are applying, or the surface beneath, will create a ridge or mini step that becomes an obvious fault when walking around in bare feet. In addition, the sharp stop of colour and texture at the tile edge requires that rectified tiles need to be laid very close together and with very precise accuracy to avoid a wobbly grout line.

 A cushion edged tile is much more forgiving, with the tile glaze extending slightly over the side of the tile, removing the sharp edges. Not only does this feel nicer underfoot if there is any slight height variations, it also allows a slightly wider grout line that will hide any tiles that are marginally out of place.

 Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

4.    Allow plenty of contingency room in your measurements

When measuring up your space for fixtures and fittings, be sure to account for contingencies. Giprock, waterproofing, tile glue and tiles all cut into your valuable space by more than you might imagine. Allowing a minimum of a few centimetres of space on each side of your fixtures is the easiest way to make sure everything will fit.

 5.    Think about how you will use the space

In a bathroom, a non-functional space can drive you crazy – speaking from experience! As much as you can afford to, try to choose fittings that will make your life easier, as well as being beautiful. Simple elements can make a big difference to your feeling about your bathroom: a bath spout that can swivel to the side so you can relax and put your head back without cracking it open, a fix and swing shower screen so you can keep the water in and open up the space when you need to, or a mixer that controls the temperature of both the shower and bath from a single point, allowing you to get the temperature right before you step in to the shower. Get the finishing touches that will be right for your bathroom and lifestyle.

 Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

Photo courtesy of Raechel Kercher

 Tips written by Raechel Kercher.