Bathroom renovations

Like the term 'kitchen renovation', 'bathroom renovation' is generally a misleading description, because almost all property renovation projects will require the addition of new bathroom(s), rather than an effort to improve one that is already in place. If the ones I have seen are anything to go by, you are more likely to find a faded 1960's avocado suite than a fine 19th century bathtub.

The intention here isn't to discuss styles of bathrooms, because there are too many to consider, and plenty of glossy magazines that will help you anyway. Rather, I will focus on the practicalities that you need to consider at an earlier stage in the planning process.

The first thing to consider with bathrooms is where to put them. The farmhouse we renovated had a toilet and a shower in a 1950's ground floor extension, and no bathroom or toilet facilities anywhere else. This is not consistent with best modern practice.

En-suite bathrooms are often required, and usually somewhere upstairs. What we did, and may often be the best solution, is to lose a bedroom somewhere centrally placed and to convert it into one or two bathrooms. This enabled us to have a family bathroom and an en-suite shower-room in what had been previously been a bedroom. It also has the significant benefit of keeping the plumbing work restricted to one section of the house, reducing costs and minimising disruption.

Adding bathrooms on to your drawn plans is easy. Adding them in reality is usually more complicated. First, they need a water supply to be put in place, which can sometimes be kept discrete (passing water pipes via the attic is the most common practice), but they also need waste pipes, which are large (10cm diameter), noisy and have to slope downwards.

Concealing a toilet waste pipe in a stone wall is quite a major task if it needs to run 10 metres or more, and care must be taken that the whole wall above isn't going to fall in. If your house is typical, it will have floorboards upstairs that sit directly on the beams of the rooms below. This arrangement leaves no ceiling void where pipes can be hidden.


One alternative is to take the pipes through the walls, and then down the outside of the building. This needs to be planned carefully if it is not going to spoil the look of the exterior.

The layout of each bathroom should be planned carefully. Typical things to consider are:

  • shower doors - they need to have space to open easily
  • toilet - needs at least 30 cm of space on either side if possible
  • bath - the taps usually go at the wall end, but that means when you are in the bath you are looking at a wall instead of your new bathroom. You might consider having taps fitted into the wall at the side of the bath
  • heating, and towel radiators - keep adequate wall space available for these
  • flooring - this needs to be watertight. You don't want water falling into the kitchen every time you get out of the bath. Old floorboards with large gaps between them may need relaying, or even covering with a second surface
  • noise - when the only thing separating the person in the bathroom from the kitchen below is a single layer of floorboards, sound will pass through very clearly. Depending on how sensitive you are, you may be embarrassed if everyone downstairs eating their breakfast can hear what you are doing in the bathroom. A second floor covering, separated from the first by a layer of sound insulation, may be required. This is slightly more complicated than it at first appears, because if you change the floor level in one room there will be a little step up to enter the room. This can cause problems, both with people falling over, and the door no longer closing.
  • visibility from outside - if it is currently not a bathroom, the room probably already has a transparent glass window. We kept ours, to maintain the appearance from the outside, but we added a lace curtain for reasons of modesty. At night, with the light on and the shutters open a lace curtain is almost completely transparent...close the shutters if necessary!