Articles and Features
Tips for Surviving Your Bathroom Remodel
Post written by Louisa Street.
This year I had the joyful stress of having a new bathroom put in. Of all things to be worrying about and stressing over, having big work done on your house has to be one of the best. It was a learning curve for me and my partner as we had never had to hire people to do work for us before and the process was fairly daunting. So much so that if we hadn’t bought our house with the express intention of replacing the bathroom almost straight away, I think we probably would have put it off or chickened out completely. That being said, now it’s done I love my new bathroom, so from this side of the seemingly impossible, I thought I’d share my top tips for surviving your bathroom remodel!
Deciding on design can be the very first barrier to having any work done. My partner and I don’t have very similar tastes when it comes to interiors, so finding something we could both be happy with was a real challenge. After spending several months looking at every single small bathroom on Pinterest, and critically assessing every bathroom we could, we eventually agreed on a few things. First, we wanted to have both patterned tiles and subway tiles, because my partner likes colour and patterns and I like bright, simple and airy spaces. With this in mind, we visited Topps Tiles, B&Q, Homebase and a range of the obvious online shops, but I was dismayed to see not only how much halfway decent tiles were going to cost us but that there was nothing that really matched my brief. Fortunately, I then found Ceramic Planet who had a much wider range of patterned tiles at a better price.
We had already decided to keep the loo and sink from the existing suite as they were both in good working order, but I had set my heart on having a brass shower whilst my partner was adamant we shouldn’t have anything with over complicated, fiddly controls. After much searching and enlisting the help of a friend with much better online shopping skills than me, I found House of Enki, who specialise in bathrooms and had the shower of my dreams just waiting for me! Having such a clear idea of what I wanted was really exciting, but at the same time quite worrying as I was aware that finding a plumber to execute it exactly to my specifications could be a challenge…
Choose the Right Plumber or Builder
Choosing the right person for the job can be really daunting, and you probably won’t want to just google ‘local plumber’ for fear of ending up with a real cowboy. I always think a recommendation from a friend is worth its weight in gold, but failing that a really good place to start is with a website like www.mybuilder.com or www.trustatrader.com. These allow customers to leave reviews, which can help you find someone reputable. We used mybuilder.com, which I would highly recommend – you describe the job you want doing and various local tradespeople can bid for it. You can then shortlist them, get them round to give you a quote and chose the person you prefer. The site also has loads of advice about choosing the right person for the job and a whole range of other things you may not have considered. Getting a few quotes you can be fairly confident that the price you’re being charged is fair.
The quote you get should be what you pay at the end. In my case, we had extra work that needed doing, but this was in turn quoted for, and this quote didn’t go up after I had agreed to it. You should make sure you’re clear what the quote includes. For bathrooms, the quote generally won’t include the sanitaryware, shower screen, towel rail, tiles etc. But it should include other materials such as pipes, grout, plaster.
I really liked the plumber we chose and felt comfortable talking to him, mainly because he didn’t ever make anything seem more complicated than it needed to be. He had a really positive approach to problems – he never did the classic sucking air in over his teeth and shaking his head! Actually being able to talk to the person you choose to do the work is really important, as you will probably have to talk to them all the time. They will both want and need to keep you updated about progress. If you’re at home whilst they’re doing the work you’ll be able to speak to them in person, but if not be ready to add your plumber to speed dial.
Be Prepared for Bad News
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Grand Designs you’ll know that things go wrong when you undertake a big project. The same is just as true for small projects, as I found out. Our plan for our bathroom remodel was simple, take the old suite out, build a small stud wall and put a new suite in. I didn’t reckon for the rising damp that the plumbers found when they stripped away the old tiles. Fortunately, our budget was about £2k over the quote we had had. Unfortunately, this still wasn’t quite enough to cover the cost of having the damp problem fixed.
If a problem like this arises, a good tradesperson will do their best to give you options on how to proceed. In our case, the shower, sink and all the all tiles had already been ripped out, but when they found the damp the plumber left the bath and the toilet plumbed in, so that if we couldn’t afford to have the remedial work done straight away we would still have essential facilities (even if they would have been a bit grim).
Fortunately, we were able to borrow the shortfall so we could proceed, but this did mean the work and disruption went on for longer than we originally expected.
Work out what you can do without, and what you can’t.
I’ll be honest, having the only bathroom out of action for nearly three weeks was a real pain, but I found that by planning ahead I actually didn’t need to do without too much. In the lead up to the work being started a number of friends had offered the use of their facilities, but due to conflicting schedules I didn’t end up taking them up on the offer.
The biggest concern for me was not having a functioning loo, but we actually got hold of a very basic camping chemical loo. Aside from the fact that it needed emptying every day or so, it actually solved the problem very efficiently, and you can pick them up from around £20. We used one like this which was ideal as it functioned almost like a real loo!
Once this was taken care of I started worrying about where I would shower. If you have a similar schedule to a friend you may find you can easily pop over before or after work or the school run to use their shower, but what actually worked out best for me was the showers at my partners’ work. Failing that there are often public showers in service stations and some public toilets. With a bit of a re-jig of my usual schedule, I was able to shower pretty much every day, which made a huge difference when the house felt so dusty!
If you have more than one bathroom you might be lulled into the belief that this won’t affect you, but when my mum had her bathroom done (in a house with two bathrooms and a downstairs loo) she still found herself at the whim of the plumber turning the water on and off, adjusting the pressure and changing the boiler programme. So you might have to consider that certain facilities won’t be available during working hours.
Mess, Dust and the Cleaning Dilemma
The workmen we had in were pretty considerate: they put dust sheets down to protect the carpets and kept the majority of the chaos to the bathroom and the kitchen next door. However, what with digging up the entire floor to put in a new damp proof course, mixing cement for the new floor, mixing plaster for the new walls and the various other tasks associated with this sort of building work, there was dust everywhere.
I found myself oscillating between feeling totally helpless, thinking I would just leave the dust with the intention of having a really good clean up when they were gone and feeling that I should try to stay on top of it.
In the end, I had two big clean-ups, one before a weekend that we were going to be at home, and the other when I just couldn’t face the mess anymore. Things that really did make a difference were keeping on top of the washing up and laundry as this reduced the amount of impact on my day to day life outside of the house.
I think the key is to accept that it doesn’t matter whether you clean or not – one evening I started to worry that the plumber would judge me for the state of the house, but I’m reliably informed that tradesmen recognise the futility of keeping a house pristine whilst there are big works going on.
If you can, try to keep some areas of the house closed off during the day, so that you have a refuge to come home to.
When you start to see the project coming together it’s important to look closely at the work and raise any concerns swiftly. No matter how good your plumber, there will be some things that might not be how you’d imagined. For us, the plumber boxed in a load of pipework right where we were planning to put a sliding door. It was a simple matter to resolve and they took the box off in the section we needed, but I definitely had a moment of thinking maybe I wouldn’t raise it and would just fix the issue myself after they had gone. Whilst it wouldn’t have been impossible for me to do, it was much easier for them, and they obviously wanted to make sure we were happy with the finished product.
I’d recommend making a list of any concerns and discussing this with the plumber towards the end of the job, just to make sure that you’re both on the same page. Then once all the work is done, give yourself a few days to put your house back to normal before you leave a review as it’ll give you a chance to forget the turmoil and enjoy your new bathroom.
And finally, once you’ve had all the messy work done, you can focus on getting the last few lovely bits to dress the room. Why not head over to our bathroom section for ideas, and don’t forget to consider what sort of lock you’ll be putting on the door (see our selection here).