Ask an Expert: What Should I Know Before Designing a New Bathroom?
Planning a new bathroom or refit? Get insider tips on how to iron out any issues your new layout or fittings may raise
So here’s a guide to some of the most common issues you’re likely to come across when renovating your bathroom or, perhaps, building one from scratch. Although you might not be doing the work yourself, but hiring an expert, by understanding the potential issues that could arise from certain style or layout decisions you make, you will be better equipped to ask the important questions, as well as having the knowledge to help you to assess the skill and professionalism of a bathroom fitter.
If it’s electric you’re going with, then really, apart from the aesthetics of the unit itself, your choice comes down to satisfactory flow rate. Somewhere between 10 and 12 litres per minute at a pressure of between 0.1 bar and 0.5 bar will be sufficient.
With a valve shower, first ask yourself what kind of mains cold pressure you have and what kind of hot water system you have. The suitability is for the supplier or installer to decide, but it’s good to understand and have the necessary information when needed. Also, before falling in love with the idea of a concealed valve, check you have, or can accommodate, the necessary studwork to house it in your space.
Find out how to choose the best shower enclosure
Basins are an area of high activity, which is very relevant in the design and installation processes. It will be leaned on and bumped into, and you might have little ones trying to climb it. So the primary concern with the basin is stability.
Of course you can’t go wrong with a basin mounted on a floor-standing cabinet, but wall-hung basin units do certainly look the business. The correct way to install these is to reinforce the wall with 24mm marine ply. Basin manufacturers will usually provide a spec for installation, but the point remains that extra effort is required to ensure the structural integrity of units of this kind.
Baths need more thought than you might imagine. First, triple check your measurements and factor in the space required for access. Then consider the pipe runs – hot and cold and also waste. Which way do your floor joists run? If it’s a freestanding bath, pipework is even more relevant.
As with the concealed shower valve, the wall-mounted spout is a very desirable feature for a bath, but considerations will include studwork and frames for these. So before you fall in love with a particular model, consider the practicalities.
The same points apply to the position of a toilet as to the position of concealed taps – meaning that if you choose a concealed cistern, you’ll need studwork and framing. So, again, factor this into your available space and layout. Also, wall-hung toilets should be installed with extra thought for stability.
However, the soil pipe and venting (SV) are issues unique to the toilet, and mean moving one from its existing position is the thing that will have the greatest impact on cost. Where the toilet can go will depend on how the 4in waste pipe (which carries waste from the back of the toilet and is in itself a lot of work to relocate because of its size), will reach the SV stack (the big pipe that sticks out at the top of your house and terminates down in the drain), which can’t be moved without a lot of work.
If necessary, automatic air admittance valves (which are a replacement for the SV that terminate within the room) will allow the toilet to be positioned somewhere that would not normally be an option, although this will require a design solution to hide it while allowing air movement.
Electricals in the bathroom are, of course, subject to different regulation to the rest of the home. Familiarise yourself with the zoning system of IP (ingress protection) ratings – essentially, the more the potential contact with water, the higher the IP rating necessary for electrics in that zone.
It’s not just lighting and electric showers, either; wall-mounted TVs (like the in-shower television in this bathroom) and speakers are becoming ever more popular in the bathroom, as well as heated mirrors that don’t steam up. Any new electrical work to a bathroom will need to meet building regulations requirements (you can find the relevant information about this under Part P of the regulations, which you can look up on the Government’s Planning Portal online).
One excellent way to achieve a lot when designing a bathroom is to choose one or two walls and stud them out by, say, 200mm. This will then form the housing and framework necessary to hold a concealed cistern, valves, pipework, wiring and so on. Do make sure you incorporate pop-up panels for access to these areas, though, as things such as push-button flushes sometimes need attention. These areas will give you loads of freedom of design. Ensure a high level of strength, too, because the last thing you want in a bathroom is any movement in walls or the floor, however minimal.
The areas of the studded walls that are free can be used to create recesses, niches and ledges. These can really be brought to life by fitting downlights in them – and don’t feel restricted to white lights; bathroom-suitable LEDs are available in a range of colours, and I can certainly recommend a cool blue option for a relaxing evening bath.
Get more advice on bathroom lighting
Walls and wall coverings require more thought in bathrooms than elsewhere in the home. Once you’re satisfied with the strength of the walls in areas needing reinforcement, the next thing to consider is water-resistance.
There are degrees of protection available, depending on what specification you feel is necessary and your budget. The first option is the use of blue water-resistant plasterboard rather than regular plasterboard. Areas requiring timber should have walls of 24mm-thick marine ply, as already mentioned, then beyond that there’s the option of paint-on tanking systems. In a true wet room, you may benefit from these measures throughout, whereas other bathrooms may simply require, for example, the shower area protecting.
The usual choice for the wall covering is ceramic tiles, although there is a growing market for glass and other panelling options, which do have the advantage of far fewer joints and therefore less potential permeability – and there are some very cool designs out there.
How did your bathroom renovation go? Or, if you’re planning one, what do you need to know? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.