Thinking about replacing your own bathroom? Read on for some top tips and expert advice from Victoria Plum...
Replacing your own bathroom belongs in the category of tricky things that people talk about doing, but never actually go ahead with. That and clearing the garden shed, installing partitions around the house and turning the garage space into something useful.
This is no accident. When getting down to it, replacing your own bathroom suite sounds way simpler just saying it. How hard can it be to twist a few pipes and screw in a tap? Decorating? Easy. Bathroom tiles? Well, they just go on with glue right?
Although it isn't quite that simple, you can replace your own bathroom if you make sure to be careful about where you spend your efforts and take proper precautions. Some things you also are not allowed to do by yourself. A professional bathroom fitter may need to connect all the pipes and the water supply. There are some tips and advice however to make things more straightforward along the way, whilst also sticking to a budget for your project.
A lot of people might feel pretty hands on, with many DIY fans having access to small power tools and a decent work shed. If this is you, you might feel like you are able to complete small tasks around the house. However, even seasoned handymen think twice about handling a new bathroom jobs with water pipes, waste connection, fittings, a toilet, taps, a basin and bath shower.
Bathroom suite remodelling consists of electrical, plumbing and tile work. Each of these requires significantly different skill sets, differing greatly from the usual metalwork and carpentry.
Unlike the garden shed or a small extension to the house, the bathroom is an essential, used space, and having the renovation drag on due to tool issues or inexperience can lead to anxiety and inconvenience. If you are replacing your existing bathroom, you also need to organise when the new suite will arrive and removing things like the old bath, extractor fan and previous tiling. This can be tricky to manoeuvre, especially if you are working in such a small room.
The space you have to work in is usually very tight—you’ll be surprised at how many things can potentially go wrong. Find a rotting joist below a shower floor? Cracked tiles? You better be prepared for these issues to show up before you can even get started on installing your new bathroom suite.
Although you may want to save money on your new bathroom by shopping around for the latest deals on all the fittings, make sure you research and look for professional advice. Bathrooms can be put in place on a budget, but make sure it's not done as a half-hearted job. Common market knowledge has shown that more than 60% of the cost of bathroom renovations goes toward the labour costs of the professionals, as even dedicated handymen need assistance on the new bathroom job.
Whilst it's definitely a valuable service you’re paying for, chances are that you’re looking to spend more of your budget on better, luxurious bathroom fixtures instead. It’s important to still spend money where it’s worthwhile, instead of getting the rewiring or copper pipe wrong, for example, as this could cause further problems and fire hazards down the line.
Leaving it to the pros
So, just leave it to the pros right? Of course, if it were that straightforward and convenient, everyone would do it. Most people are concerned about money and how much a job like this will cost. Some research suggests that the labour costs of the professionals alone make up over 55% of the cost of renovations and installing a new bathroom. You can save money on that for some little fixes here and there, and that money could really add up.
However, this is not the case for everything in the new bathroom.
Regulation in the UK requires homeowners, without exception, to ensure that all electrical work is done under a contract of a licensed, certified electrician. If you want to install or modify heating systems and boilers, a certified Gas-safe engineer is also required. Electric work, when done shoddily, can turn the bathroom into a fire hazard and can possibly pose an electrocution threat.
DIY it out
Having a professional perform the installation of your cabinets or countertop fittings in your new bathroom is great for convenience. Professionals often work in pairs or teams of three on a complete project and can mount these countertops very swiftly in the room.
Your bathroom is unlikely to have a lot of cabinet space to install unless it is large is and luxurious. This means that with a bit of planning, you can potentially do the installation in bathrooms yourself. The main advantage of this is to save money and stick to your budget, but you must have a good idea on how to replicate a professional fittings job. Homeowners often DIY the fixtures themselves unless they’re extremely short on time or manpower. There are plenty of tips and advice out there to read when looking at bathrooms and putting your skills to use.
Shower and bathtub
It's an extremely complicated job to install a shower or new bath with plumbing yourself from scratch. Building up your shower pan, making sure your waterproofing is solid and tiling the walls are already too many tasks to balance for an amateur. Unless your shower stall is pre-fabricated, opt for a professional putting these fixtures together, as replacing the old bathroom and placing items like the bath back in the same place is a big task. This is especially difficult if you've chosen a cast iron bath due to the weight.
If you just need to patch up on the finishing for your bath and tap end or your shower, with enough research you should be able to scrape through with decent results. DIY stores may offer some expertise on tools.
Painting and trim
This is just like other parts of home DIY, things like mirrors, paint and the trim have already been designed specifically to be easy to be installed easily into one bathroom. Hiring a painting company can be a waste of both money and time for both parties. The bathroom is usually a smaller room in the house, and the area you’ll need to paint is so minuscule that you gain truly little by hiring a painting and decorating company.
Sink and tap
As simple as it sounds, there may be no need for a plumber in the case of installing the fixtures of either a sink or tap. It's more of an issue to do with piping. The actual installation is simple but if the pipes supplying water haven’t been already set up, then running new lines to the sink is hard work. If you’re doing a quick swap out, then it can be done by yourself for absolutely no cost, and just an hour of sweat and elbow grease.
Easy-to-install floor coverings like vinyl planks or wood planks can be done easily in an evening. Even if you’re extremely clumsy, just 30 minutes of watching an online video should hopefully prepare everyone and anyone to take on this project. It is key to pay attention.
If you’re tiling, however, this requires more concentration. Take the weekend to get it right, and you’ll find yourself easily tiling out your bathroom floor and wall, and saving enough money in the process. A tile is a great addition to any bathroom and suite and is great for the floor, as well as the area around the bath shower. A full tile can be purchased within your budget and the project shouldn't cost too much. Old tiles should also be removed safely, along with the old bathroom.
To answer the question, yes, you can build your own bathroom, and you absolutely should. Saving money is so important and it helps us to budget for larger jobs like a plumber and plumbing work. If you’re uncomfortable at all, do your bathroom research. With laying downpipes and wiring, some jobs you just aren’t allowed, or really shouldn’t be taken yourself without experience. The people you’re hiring are skilled tradespeople and professionals who know exactly what to do and how to handle any situation that might arise.
More bathroom design tips
Check out our room planning guides for more bathroom design tips and advice.