Top tips for designing and installing a new bathroom (part 1)


In Consumer Advice, Plumbers, Plumbing

Whether you are building an ensuite in the new loft conversion or finally ripping out the old avocado bathroom, it can be daunting to know where to start. From creating your perfect layout, to buying sanitary ware and finding a professional installer, there’s a whole minefield of issues to consider. But don’t be put off, our guide is here to help.

Whether you are designing the bathroom yourself or getting a plumber or company to design it for you, you will need the following information to get your project off the ground:

  • Room size and layout
  • Soil stack, drainage and incoming water supply placement
  • Type of hot water system
  • Budget
  • Know what you will be using the bathroom for and what you want to include e.g., if it’s the main bathroom is there room for a bath and a separate shower? Are you designing it for yourself or with selling your property in mind?
  • Special requirements e.g., accessibility for those with poor mobility, child friendly etc
  • Idea of colours, styles and brands you like.
  • Time to experiment with design concepts.

If you have all this to hand, it will make the first steps to designing your new bathroom infinitely easier. Next you will need to:

  • Decide on your layout and find a professional plumber to cover the installation side for you.
  • Or find a professional plumber / bathroom design and installation company if you are relying on professional help for both design and installation.
  • Choose sanitary ware, tiles, taps, shower etc.
  • Source sanitary ware and materials if your plumber / installation company is not doing this for you.
  • Ensure everything is on site, ready to start.

We will cover this in part 2 of our blog.

Things you need to know before designing your new bathroom

1) Know what space you have

Before you do anything, you need to know the size of your room. It’s time to get measuring to see what you can realistically squeeze into your space. UK bathrooms are notoriously small, (with most only the size of a king-sized bed) so the 4 metre by 4 metre luxury bathroom you’ve fallen in love with in Grand Designs magazine, won’t work in your 2 metre by 1.8 metre bathroom.

When measuring up you’ll also need to take into account window and door placement, what way doors open, any quirky room shapes you’ll need to accommodate such as boxed in pipework and if you have full head height throughout the room e.g., in the case of a loft conversion you may have a sloping ceiling, so may have to forgo a walk-in shower for a bath to make the most of the space available. Converting a loft space into a room requires planning permission and structural work before you start.

2) Know where your soil stack, drainage and incoming water is

Your floor plan will be dominated by where the toilet goes. If you a retrofitting an existing bathroom note that while you may be able to change the layout and move plumbing for sinks / baths and showers relatively easily (unless it's in concrete floors), there is generally less flexibility for the toilet as it will need to empty into the soil stack, which will be in a fixed position. There will be costs involved in moving your plumbing, which is why many people make the most of the existing layout if there’s nothing wrong with it. You will also need to know where the soil stack and drainage will be for any newly built rooms. This should be on your building plans. If in doubt, seek professional help.

3) Identify your hot water system

You will need to know this to work out what taps and showers to use. In the UK most houses either have a low pressure gravity-fed system (with a cold water storage tank in the loft and hot water cylinder often in an airing cupboard), a high pressure unvented hot water system (with cold water supplied from the mains to a cylinder which is heated via an immersion heater or heating coil), or a high pressure combi system (hot water created on demand by a combination boiler). You need to match your taps and shower to the type of system you have – high or low pressure - or fittings will not operate correctly. Adding a bathroom, adds hot water demand, and therefore you need to consider if you have enough hot water.

4) Budget

Your budget will dictate everything, so make sure you have a clear idea of what you have to work with. Most people expect to spend between £5-10K, with the average hovering around £7000 for a family bathroom. Costs will vary depending on the amount of work required, the quality of sanitary ware, tiles, fixtures and fittings and the installation costs for the part of the country you are in e.g., if you do a straight swap of like-for-like sanitary ware without a new flooring or titling, you can bring costs down considerably. Likewise, a small ensuite or a budget bathroom with lower quality materials will cost you less than the average family bathroom. Of course, if your refurb includes expensive designer sanitary ware, tiles, fixtures and fittings you will incur higher costs. As will changing the room layout. Most bathroom refurbishments involve replastering walls after the old tiles come off or just to straighten them out ready for new tiles. Tiles are the finishing surface and are as expensive as the bathroom suite. Tiling is a skill and experienced qualified tilers do a fantastic job. Some electrical work might be involved for shaver sockets or new lighting, only use a qualified electrician.

5) What do you need?

Think about what you want to achieve in relation to how you will use the room (remember this may be different to how you use it now). Think of any current problems e.g., not enough ventilation, poor layout or not enough storage. Consider if your needs will change in the future – larger family, ageing users – or if you are likely to move, so need to consider resale value.

If it’s your forever home, or you need certain features to make your life easier e.g., a wetroom, then do what’s best for you. However, if you are planning on selling within the next couple of years, installing a high maintenance spa bath, or replacing the only bath with a walk-in shower could put future buyers off.

6) What’s your style?

Hit the shops, go online and check out all the home and renovation magazines to find the style and colour scheme that works for you. Once you have a vision in mind of what you want, the perfect design will be within your reach.

Remember that a bathroom should be a place to feel relaxed, clean and refreshed. If you are looking to sell in the future, steer away from anything too quirky – unless it can be easily removed or painted over. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to refresh, so choose your tiles wisely - if you fall out of love with them, they are expensive to replace.

7) Experiment with design concepts

Now you have all the key aspects you need to get your bathroom design in hand, it’s time to put pen to paper and flesh out some ideas. Even if you are using a professional plumber of design company to plan your layout, it’s still worth putting a little thought into this before your design appointment.

Create a plan of your bathroom to scale, noting down existing doors, windows, drainage, pipework, ventilation fans and any quirks that you’ll need to accommodate such as sloping ceilings. Baths, sinks, toilets and shower cubicles come in a number of standard sizes, so create cut outs of the elements you want to use, in the sizes you think will fit (once again to scale). Once you have located the best place for your toilet, move the other elements about until your design is right.

Remember to factor in aspects such as storage, clearance either side of the toilet seat and if you have young children, give yourself enough room to fit two people in the bathroom at once. Likewise, if you are designing for older family members or those with limited mobility, factoring handrails, a bath seat or a higher toilet can make a big difference to independence.

So that’s it for everything you need to consider to get your bathroom design off the ground. Our next blog will cover our top tips for planning and installing your new bathroom.