You don’t need to spend $30,000 to leverage value from your bathroom renovation, but it pays to know what you can skimp on and where to invest your budget for big impact.
The first major decision you’ll need to make is whether to gut the bathroom completely and start with a blank canvas or use the existing plumbing systems. The first option requires more work and consequently costs more but it can also be more satisfying, especially if the original bathroom was horrendous and/or if the plumbing system needs to be updated anyway.
Starting from scratch
If you go the blank canvas route, here’s why it costs more:
- Changing points: If you need to change the position of fixtures in the bathroom, or even just change tap type (i.e. from two taps to mixer or mixer to two taps) you’ll need to change the water points and that will require work.
- New pipework: Incurs costs as it is, but even more so if you have brick walls because the pipework needs to be chased into the wall where a pathway is cut out for them in the wall cavity.
- Jack-hammering: Any time you need to break into solid concrete, either to access pipes or to chase them, you’ll need someone to jackhammer through it. You could consider using another material when you renovate such as concrete sheeting, which is thinner, so it doesn’t cost as much to fix or update next time.
- Luxuries: Underfloor heating, control panels that allow you to control water temperature for baths/showers (or even remotely fill the bath from another room) and skylights all incur costs. Both the products themselves and the time/labor it takes to install them.
If you don’t need to undergo the full monty, you can consider working with the existing bathroom skeleton. While there are some restrictions on what you can do, you can update the space with newer fixtures and tiling on a smaller budget and with minimal disruption.
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing fixtures here is that the location of the points will limit what can go on top.
- Vanity: Note where the water and waste points need to be, as well as other features like drawers and shelves, to ensure they don’t obstruct those points.
- Toilet: The distance between your water and waste points and the wall will determine the type of toilet you can install. Many people like concealed cisterns where the water tank is embedded in the wall, however be aware that this makes it difficult to access so it’ll be expensive to repair in the future. Opt for a close-coupled toilet if you like a streamlined look.
- Bath: Note the difference between the height of the water and waste points if you’re switching between built-in and freestanding baths. To conceal the points for a freestanding bath you’ll need the plumbing coming up under the bath, which may require you to build a platform, and you’ll need to figure out where the water will come from: will you have a freestanding tap, a tap attached to the bath, or a tap reaching from elsewhere? A built-in bath usually uses points in the wall so changing from one to the other will require some work.
Where to invest
Quality will repay itself in longevity so don’t skimp on hardware. All new fittings look shiny so do a little research and spend a little more to get better hardware that won’t incur repair or maintenance costs a year after installation. Shop around and always ask quality fixture suppliers if they can work you a deal if you buy all your fixtures from them.
Taps: Buy the best you can afford and look for at least a five-year guarantee. Beware of cheap imports that don’t meet Australian standards, as it is illegal to install them. Stick with brands and retailers with a trusted reputation such as Dorf, Grohe, Hansgrohe, Reece, Cass Bros and Candana.
Toilets: Cheap ceramic toilets can crack and cheap cisterns will leak in the short-to-medium term. Mid-to-high range toilets are easier to keep clean and they’ll save you in repair costs for many years.
Now you are ready for your plumber!
While you are renovating
If you’re going to make changes to your bathroom, there are a whole lot of other things to consider that will be worth your while to check out and update while your bathroom is stripped and in disarray.
Apportion a little time and money to:
- Fixing pipework. If the pipes are old or showing signs of wear, take the opportunity to update them. Leaving pipework in a potentially leaky state means it can undo your makeover in the near future (anyone remember that bathroom incident on The Block – Sky High?).
- Waterproofing: Waterproofing has a shelf life so if you get a chance to renew the waterproofing, do it. Waterproofing is the foundation of your bathroom; bad waterproofing can ruin not just your bathroom but affect your whole house. Don’t skimp on the workmanship: it’s better to spend money on a tradie with waterproofing certification and have simple tiles than splurge on designer tiles and hire cheap, uncertified labour.
- Updating the sewer: Many older homes have clay sewer pipes that eventually crack and leak. If you find that your existing bathroom is laid on a clay sewer, spend the money on getting it updated. Be aware that it costs around $8,000 but if you don’t update it you may as well throw out the rest of your reno budget because when (not if) it breaks you’ll have to redo everything anyway.
Pair what you’ve learnt here with what you’ve learnt about your bathroom’s anatomy and you’ll be well ahead when it comes to getting the most from your bathroom renovation.
What’s your favorite tip for reining in your bathroom reno budget?
About Laney Clancy
Laney Clancy is the Marketing and Finance Manager at Pipe Perfection Plumbers in Sydney. She is married to Darren, the owner of the business, which has a team that includes specialist Enviroplumbers and more, servicing the Inner West and Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Laney gets to talk to plumbers about plumbing and home maintenance a lot, and loves a good bathroom makeover. http://pipeperfection.com.au/