Follow these 7 easy steps to a trouble free (almost) start to your bathroom renovation

Let’s renovate the bathroom!

With those simple words, you have started down the debris-strewn path to a beautiful new bathroom. Be warned, the journey you’re starting comes at a price, and it’s not just about the dollars. Sanity and marriages have been sacrificed at the hands of a renovation project.

Step 1 – Finding the right trades to get started.

Most steps of a bathroom renovation need to be completed by qualified tradespeople under the Australian Building Code.

Bathroom renovations need licensed professionals such as plumbers, electricians, tilers, painters, and expert water proofing specialists. You can hire them individually and co-ordinate the tradies yourself, but chances are that without experience you may make mistakes.

Why would you supervise the job yourself? Are you going to be doing this repeatedly or is this a one off? Are the possible savings worth the probable risks? Renovating bathrooms where electricity and water exist together is a serious business, not a learning opportunity.

If your building project is likely to cost more than $1,000 in NSW, you will need to employ a licenced building practitioner. If the work is likely to cost more than $10,000 then you need to be licenced as an Owner Builder, if you want to supervise the work yourself. In Victoria, if the work is likely to cost more than $5,000 then you need a licenced building practitioner – unless it is for a single trade. The rules are slightly different in each state, so you will need to check. Licensed Trades is a handy site with a summary of the rules for bathroom renovations but you should check the rules in your state on the official government website before you sign a contract.

Managing the job means the buck stops with you when it comes to compliance. Do you want that responsibility, or indeed that stress? As an owner-builder, it’s your responsibility to check what is required and to ensure that your tradies are doing the right thing. If that’s too much then supervising the renovation yourself may well be too hard!

A bathroom renovation specialist is an expert and can make the difference between Hollywood glamour in your bathroom, or your prized project being Down and Out in Las Vegas (from a plumbing perspective). Ask your friends for recommendations. Get quotes from at least three companies. Listen to what each supplier says. Then read each contract carefully and make sure you understand before you sign. It may be a standard contract where you “fill in the blanks”. Make sure that you do fill in those blanks – leave no space vacant in the contract. Those clauses are there for your protection.

Step 2 – The layout or ‘where will the toilet go?’

We all dream of the luxurious bathroom, the picture of which we’ve carefully clipped, from a magazine ending up in our home. The reality may have to be more practical. That huge bathtub you are dreaming about may not fit. Moving plumbing can be expensive or even impossible. Discuss these issues with each contractor. And while that stunning $2,000 toilet may look just the thing to give your bathroom zing, consider whether it will add value to the house overall – or would a $400 not-quite-so-avant-garde-pan do just the job without the price tag?

Step 3 – Choosing taps and toots …it is a process!

Take all measurements and photos you can. How many millimetres are there between the door and the wall/window/light switches? Which way does the door swing? Can that be changed?

Once you are in the biggest, blingiest showroom in your area, look around you. Feel, take notes, take photos and take those brochures with all the worthy-but-boring specifications.

If you crave a rainwater showerhead, does it have to come from the ceiling or will it need an arm to extend from the wall?

Will that shower head still look beautiful over the bathtub hidden behind a shower screen?

Does the vanity unit have enough storage?

Can you recess a stylish shaving cabinet into the wall cavity, minimising its bulk, to allow for more convenient storage?

A tap is not just a tap – they can be a feature of your favourite room. Play with taps. They feel different.

Do you want mixer taps or do you need a traditional set?

Are your taps on the wall or on the basin/sink/tub?

Does your bath have one hole or three for taps?

If you get that tall spout, will it fit under the overhead cabinet or will it prevent the door from opening?

Do you have aged parents or the tiny hands of a two-year-old to consider here?

The tiles? There are some amazing tiles out there, but will they forever mark your bathroom as ‘so 2017’? Accessories are the way to show your style, while a bright red herringbone wall with black grout may say “So stylish!” today it may be the ghost of bathrooms past that will haunt you for years.

Step 4 – Forking out the $$$

Do your research!

You can pay $ or $$$ for what essentially looks like the same tap/toilet/bathtub/vanity. Sometimes you are paying for the brand or the seller’s retail overheads; shopping online may be best. However, you do get what you pay for so be careful of cheap, nasty look-a-likes – ensure you part with your dollars at a reputable online store.

Whatever you do, make sure what you buy complies with Australian Standards. The internet makes it a buyer’s market. Good research will help you find quality products at a reasonable price.

Step 5 – Your toilet is being delivered!

Having ALL your bathroom components on site before the job starts is preferred. Just because the vanity goes in close to the finish it doesn’t mean it’s not needed for the tap location and plumbing “rough in”. Good specs can substitute for products not on site. But ensure you deal with professional suppliers so items do arrive on time.

Step 6 – So ‘it’ begins…

Get ready for early starts. Tradies start early – unless they are running late! Get used to both. One is frustrating. The other is more frustrating.

The strip out is very noisy and dusty. If you think you will work from home that day… don’t.

Step 7 – You’ve dodged a bathroom bullet.

Day 1 has ended and you have walked in to find a gutted shell of a bathroom. If you haven’t heard from the builder there is good chance all went well and day 2 will dawn with no Variation Order in sight. Pour your beverage of choice and celebrate the successful start of your renovation.

Then go to bed, because you have an early start every day for the next few weeks.