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Renovating a Bathroom: 7 Steps to Design Success

Renovating a bathroom
(Image credit: Abstract House)

Renovating a bathroom can often seem like a daunting project to take on. Anything that involves plumbing, electrics and heating all in one go can be a little off-putting. As well as the logistics if you’ve only one bathroom. 

It can be tempting to just choose your sanitaryware, tiles and flooring and go full steam ahead renovating a bathroom quickly to get it done and dusted.

But, following a few steps before renovating a bathroom will help plan the detail so that you design a space that works for you now and in the future.

Here, we’ve pulled together some top bathroom renovating tips. Once your details are set, you can decide whether to opt for a modern bathroom or traditional bathroom design. 

1. Set a Budget for your Bathroom Renovation

How much does renovating a bathroom cost? The average cost of a new bathroom is from around £3,000+, but costs will of course vary depending on where you are in the UK, the finish you go for and the size of your bathroom renovation project. Updating the space won’t cost as much as remodelling or reconfiguring the layout of the bathroom as moving soil stacks and pipework can be costly. Doing work yourself, like tiling, painting or laying flooring will bring costs down further. 

A plumber should take two to three days to remove your old bathroom and retrofit your new one, which will cost around £1,000.

If you’re factoring in a tiler, a small bathroom would take one to three days and cost between £350 and £800.

2. Pinpoint a Layout When Renovating a Bathroom

First of all plot the layout of your current bathroom, including sanitaryware, windows, doors, pipework and radiators/towel rails for example. Note down what areas of the space you want to change or keep when renovating the bathroom. 

Ask a few questions like:   

  • What doesn’t work?
  • Who’s going to be using it?
  • Is there room for a separate shower?
  • Can more bathroom storage be added?
  • Do you want a better family bathroom?

If space is tight and your bathroom is small think about introducing wall hung basins and units. They open up the floorspace creating the illusion that the room is bigger than it is.

But do bear in mind that wall hung sanitaryware often needs reinforcement work to ensure it’s fixed securely so may impact your budget. Concealed cisterns, wall mounted taps and wall-hung toilets require stud walls to fit in the workings so they’re hidden from view. Sometimes they will fit into the cavity of a stud partition wall but often a stud partition will have to be built, which will increase how much it will cost to renovate a bathroom.

Now’s the time to pin down exactly what you want from the space. It’ll also help initiate conversations with builders and bathroom companies about what you want and what work will be involved to achieve it vs sticking to your budget.

Contemporary bathroom renovation

The Matki EauZone Plus Ultra Bespoke Shower Door in Matt Black is a striking addition to this relatively small bathroom, and features a wall hung WC. Designed by Draw a Bath (Image credit: Matki)

3. Simple Design Will Help Keep Costs Down

When renovating a bathroom keeping the layout the same will minimise the amount of work involved and therefore the cost of doing it. If you’re happy with the current configuration and will keep the plumbing in place, then the design is a lot more straightforward. You’ll already have your layout partly done.

So, think about how you can create a more functional bathroom with the configuration you have: space for a shower cubicle if you haven’t already got one, built-in storage shelves, a heated towel rail or underfloor heating (UFH).

4. Remodel and Renovate

Remodelling a bathroom while renovating gives you the scope to play around with the design of the space. For example, bringing together a separate WC and bathroom or removing a boiler or water tank from a cupboard to free up more room. 

But, remodelling does also mean more work. Plumbing will need to move to accommodate the new layout when renovating a bathroom so think about what impact this will have on the design and your budget.

Your layout plan will come in handy here. Pay particular attention to the pipework and soil stack. It’s important to establish where it all is and where it all goes so that you can be sure your new layout will work. For instance, it can be costly to move a soil stack, so it can often pay to leave the toilet where it is.

You can discuss the relocation of plumbing/pipework at the design stage with your plumber and builder.

Renovating a bathroom

Made from one piece of clearstone, this Clearwater Uno Clear Stone 1550mm Freestanding Bath is £2,399 from Blue Sky Bathrooms. (Image credit: Blue Sky Bathrooms)

5. Check Walls and Floors When Renovating a Bathroom

Wonky walls and uneven floors often crop up when renovating a bathroom, especially in older properties. Once floors are ripped up and tiles chipped off, get the surfaces checked out to see if you’ll need to replaster walls or screed floors before any finished surfaces get laid. This is often an area where a contingency fund gets spent because you don’t know what’s underneath until you reveal all!

Colourful bathroom renovation design

Don’t be afraid to introduce colour into your bathroom scheme. The softy dusky pinks and beautiful blues combine to create a fun but sophisticated scheme. The luxurious wallpaper starts from £65 and is from Charlton Island (Image credit: Charlton Island)

6. Pick Your Sanitaryware Before First Fix

When renovating a bathroom, pick your sanitaryware before first fix stage so that the electrician and plumber know where in the room pipework and electrics will need to go at the design stage. This will hopefully avoid any work being redone. 

7. Introduce a Statement Piece in Your Bathroom Renovation

Renovating a bathroom

This Linen Wildflower wallpaper by Carol Robinson at Wallsauce.com makes a striking statement in this bathroom.  (Image credit: wallsauce.com)

If you’re renovating a luxurious en suite bathroom include statement pieces like a raindrop shower head or a roll top free standing bath. Or go all-out and design a wet room. If your budget or bathroom space is tight, opt for statement tiles or flooring as a focal point or choose quality brassware for understated luxury.

A Simple Checklist for Renovating a Bathroom

It’s easy to get caught up in the design and forget about the function, so use this simple checklist to cover all areas of your bathroom renovation design and budget:

  • The plumbing & soil stack: Is it moving or staying put?
  • Heating: Think about UFH and heated towel rails
  • Flooring: Pick a style that’s non-slip, easy to clean and suitable for wet areas
  • Lighting: A bathroom is zoned so make sure any lighting conforms to regulations
  • Wall covering: If budget is tight, tile just around the shower/bath and basin and paint the rest of the wall.
  • Storage: Do you need more? Where can it go? Can it be built-in?
  • Sanitaryware: Shop around and do your research, it pays to be a savvy shopper.
Michelle Guy

Michelle is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Assistant Editor. With an editorial career spanning more than 18 years, Michelle spent time working on educational magazines and websites until her career took an exciting turn into the world of home interest and interiors. Working on sister titles Real Homes and Period Living, she then joined the Homebuilding team in November 2018. She’s just about to take on her second kitchen renovation project, armed with an ever-growing knowledge of homebuilding advice and design inspo (and a Pinterest board or two, of course).