Over the past thirty years or so, bathrooms have slowly transitioned from being the most unloved room in the house to being a place people want to be, in fact today a bathroom is often a private spa in which people can unwind after a stressful day. Because of this, many people are putting as much thought into planning their bathroom as they are into planning the rest of their home and this has led to a rise in the popularity of buying items separately rather than opting for the more traditional approach of buying a bathroom suite. While this is understandable and indeed has its place, there are also advantages to buying a suite. First of all there are usually cost savings when buying items together and secondly it helps to ensure a coordinated look, which tends to be particularly desirable in bathrooms since even the largest of them tend to be small rooms. In our opinion there is a lot to be said for buying at least a toilet and basin together as a suite and perhaps choosing the bath and/or shower separately. Here is a guide to choosing a bathroom suite.
Start by assessing your bathroom
If you’re looking at appliances such as toilets, basins and baths and/or showers, then there’s a good chance that you’re either planning a bathroom from scratch or planning a substantial remodel of an existing bathroom. Before you get too carried away with your plans for your ideal bathroom, take time to assess what you already have in detail. You want the exact measurements of the room, including the height of the ceiling (and if the ceiling has has one or more slopes then you need exact details of them). This is a good opportunity to assess the condition of the walls and see if they could benefit from any work. You also need the exact location and size of the windows and doors. Remember that windows actually do double-duty in a bathroom in that even though bathroom windows are generally obscured in some way, they both let in light and let out steam, which means that if you are thinking about removing a window, or even just making it smaller, then you need to think about how you are going to replace this functionality. If, by contrast, you are thinking about making a window bigger, then you may need to think about extra heating. Finally, you want to look at the existing plumbing and wiring. Basically all the “bones” of the room, which we’ve mentioned so far can usually be changed if absolutely necessary, but you’ll generally find it far quicker and easier to work within the existing basic structure if you possibly can.
Set a budget
Your budget needs to include both materials and labour and we’d suggest you give some serious thought to what sort of help you’re realistically going to need and the likely cost of it, before you decide how much money you have to spend on material and we’d also suggest you allow yourself at least 10% as a margin of error.
When looking at the cost of labour remember that anything to do with electricity generally has to be done by a qualified electrician in order to be legal. In terms of the law, you may be able to do plumbing work yourself, but your home insurer may start asking questions if you subsequently make a claim with any connection (however tangential) to the work you did. When budgeting for tradespeople remember to consider the costs of disconnecting anything to be removed or relocated as well as the costs of installing the replacements (or new items). The other potentially major aspect of bathroom remodelling is waterproofing and tiling, so let’s take some time out to consider this. All bathrooms need some element of waterproofing, how much depends on the style of bathroom. If you want to create a wet room then you are going to need pretty much all-round waterproofing whereas if your plan is to use a toilet, basin and self-contained shower cabin, then you may just need to waterproof and tile the backsplash behind the basin since one of the great benefits of self-contained shower cabins is that they keep the water (and steam) inside their doors and hence eliminate the need for tiling. If, however, you plan to install a bath and/or standard shower enclosure, then you will need to look at tiling larger areas of the bathroom, particularly in the case of traditional shower enclosures. In basic terms, we’d say that if all that needs waterproofed and tiled is the area behind the basin, this is probably a job you could do yourself. If all that needs tiled is the area behind the basin and the area behind the bath then this is likely to be a job you could do yourself, but you want to take a good hard look at the area behind the bath before you make a final decision, basically if the wall is entirely straight and even then waterproofing and tiling is reasonably easy, otherwise it’s generally a job best left to the professionals. If you need to waterproof and tile large areas, then we’d definitely suggest thinking seriously about hiring a professional, even if the wall looks perfect.
Decide how best to deploy your materials budget
We’d suggest you start by deciding what, in an ideal world, you’d like to have in the way of bathroom appliances. For most people, we suspect, this will be toilet, basin, shower and/or bath. Once you’ve decided this, then take a look at bathroom suites which have everything you need. The reason we say to start with suites is that this is usually the most affordable way to get what you want. Once you have a ballpark idea of how much it will cost to buy a suitable bathroom suite, then you can start to make informed choices about how to make the most of your budget. For example, you may choose simply to buy all the appliances you need as a suite, thereby ensuring that everything coordinates with everything else and then use the rest of your budget for decor and accessories (or if the suite takes up the rest of your budget then commit to upgrading them later). If, however, you have a bit of scope to finesse your funds, then you can be a bit more creative with your options. For example instead of buying a bathroom suite with everything you need, you could opt to buy a bathroom suite with a toilet, basin and bath and then choose a separate, self-contained shower cabin for maximum showering luxury (and minimal tiling). Similarly if space is your issue, then you could look at different options for your key appliances. For example, your ideal may be to have a sink with a vanity unit for maximum storage, but perhaps a pedestal sink or even a wall-hung sink would be a better choice in terms of making use of your space. When looking at your possibilities for creating your dream bathroom, we’d suggest you always keep in mind that bathroom appliances are intended to be long-term investment pieces. This doesn’t mean that you have to stick to the plainest appliances you can possibly find, it does, however, imply that it’s a good idea to think about versatility before you part with your cash. Bathroom suites come in all kinds of styles from traditional to highly contemporary and in all kinds of colours. You need to think about what is going to suit you over the long term and how you can adapt your choices as your lifestyle changes. With this in mind, we’d suggest you go either for a distinctive style or for a distinctive colour. For example, if you know you have a preference for traditional themes, you could go for a period-look bathroom suite and if you opt for a bathroom suite in a neutral colour, then you can ring in the changes later with decor and accessories. By contrast, if you choose to go for a bathroom suite in a strong colour, then it’s usually best to go for a simple style to provide for maximum flexibility if you decide you want to adapt the look of your bathroom at a later date, for example by paneling in a bath to make the original, bold colour less visible.
The final touches
Although the bulk of your “materials” budget will probably go on appliances, remember that there are many other aspects of bathroom design which will enhance safety, functionality and aesthetics. Of these, possibly the most important is lighting, since it is what enables people to see where they are going and to undertake tasks such as shaving in safety. It can also be a key part of your decor. Having a good mirror in the bathroom is also a must for most people and this can also increase the available light and make the bathroom look more spacious. Other accessories such as taps and so forth can also be upgraded as budget allows.