Plan your bathroom renovation
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From starting the day refreshed and energized to coming home to a soothing spa-like sanctuary, today's bathrooms are designed with our wellness in mind. And because this room is used by the whole household, day in, day out, it needs to be a functional, well-planned space with adequate storage, a tub and shower arrangement that suits everyone's needs, low-maintenance materials and a relaxing atmosphere. Planning, layout, choice of materials, remodelling work and decor: read our expert tips on how to create a practical, functional bathroom and a beautiful, rejuvenating retreat.
PLANNING YOUR BATHROOM RENOVATION
So your mind is made up – you're finally going to start renovating the bathroom! A bathroom remodel is as much about designing a functional day-to-day space as it is about creating an inviting and pampering retreat; in both cases you want to put the emphasis on well-being and comfort. There are myriad options. To maximize your investment, it is crucial to plan carefully.
You will need to:
Establish the household’s needs by thinking about everyone’s lifestyles;
Set a budget.
The family’s different needs and lifestyles
There are several factors to consider when working out what you want from your bathroom. These include:
- The size of the household and everyone’s specific needs: the larger the family, the more storage space and range of equipment are required. Maybe a family member has specific physical needs, such as requiring a wheelchair or a walking aid, or perhaps you are thinking of your own mobility in a few years' time? Such needs can be catered for by applying a few universal design rules; for example, by adjusting the height of counters and the kickplate space under the cabinets, and by adding grab bars. You may wish to choose a bathtub designed for people with reduced mobility, alter the shower for easier access, or install more ergonomic faucets.
- Activities and lifestyle: Who will be using the bathroom? Children? Adults? This is an important factor to consider when establishing storage needs and the type of fixtures and furniture to include. If more than one person uses the bathroom at a time, the layout should be planned accordingly. You will probably opt for two washbasins, two mirrors, etc.
- Storage: Hair-care products, hair dryer, make-up, towels, facecloths and so on – even if your bathroom is not very big, all these items need to be stored there. Pay special attention to your storage needs, including the configuration of cabinets.
The budget and specialized work
Remodelling the bathroom will involve carrying out a certain amount of work and buying various fixtures and equipment. Your budget must include estimates for each aspect of the project:
- Cabinets and countertops or vanity unit
- Sinks and faucets
- Paint, trim and detailing
- Plumbing fixtures
- Decoration and accessories
Some major or specialized work will call for qualified professional help, which can sometimes swell the costs considerably. Now is the time to budget for it.
THE FLOOR PLAN
In a well-designed bathroom, it should be easy to circulate between the furniture and the fixtures. Tip: divide the space into dedicated areas, depending on your needs and wishes. A good bathroom layout should include the following:
- A toilet area. Ideally, this area should be in the least visible part of the room. The trend is to separate it from the rest of the room, either with walls and a door, or with a half-wall, room divider or similar. For maximum comfort, allow 30" of space on each side of the toilet and 30" to 40" in front. Include storage space for toilet paper, tissues, etc.
- A shower and bathtub area. Whatever your tub and shower configuration, and regardless of the size and shape of the tub, be sure to leave a space of at least 60" along the side for easy access. Allow another 30" of space in front of the tub. Include a cabinet and/or shelves to store towels and facecloths, soap and other body care products.
- A sink area. Whether you choose a vanity with integrated washbasin, a pedestal lavatory or a drop-in sink and countertop, leave 8" free on either side of the washbasin. Consider countertop height: counters 32" or 34" high are more ergonomic for wheelchair users and smaller people. Install a mirror and a good light for washing, applying make-up, shaving, etc. Include storage space for toiletries such as washcloths, make-up remover pads, beauty products and so on.
Leave at least 36" of space between all the elements in the room. Try to make sure cabinets are installed more than 36" from the edge of the bathtub or deck (for drop-in tub), as the case may be. If there is a wheelchair user in the family, allow at least 60" for easy manoeuvrability between fixtures and furniture.
If you do not intend to alter the plumbing in any way, make sure to choose a tub or shower that can be connected to the existing drain.
An effective lighting plan should complement the natural light and suit the various needs of bathroom users. Plan your lighting scheme in “layers”, i.e.:
- General lighting that is adjustable and can be adapted to the room’s natural light source as it changes throughout the day. Recessed lights, pendant lamps and track lights fitted with dimmer switches all provide this type of lighting.
- Specific lighting near the bathtub and shower, to ensure good visibility and improve safety. Lights near the mirror and sink area are helpful for applying make-up, etc.
- Decorative lighting to add ambience.
Anticipating your changing needs: universal design
Here are a few ergonomic considerations in order to continue living comfortably and make the most of your bathroom as you get older:
- Outlets and switches installed nearer the ground and more accessible for wheelchair users;
- A minimum of 60" between the different elements of the bathroom, such as countertops and fixtures, to manoeuvre with a wheelchair or a walking aid;
- Faucets with a motion detector or twin lever controls;
- Countertops 32" or 34" high, which are more ergonomic for smaller people or wheelchair users;
- Drawers rather than cabinets; drawers are easier to use;
- Grab bars – next to the tub and the toilet and in the shower;
- Accessible bathroom fixtures: tub with side door, walk-in shower (no curb) large enough to hold a wheelchair, a seat or bench in the shower and one near the bathtub, etc.;
- Adequate and well-adapted lighting;
- Non-slip floor surfaces.
Once you have established your needs and the layout, draw a scale plan of the new space, showing the plumbing elements, electricity, sanitary fixtures, windows, doors and so on.
CHOOSING MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
There are countless choices to be made when renovating the bathroom, in terms of equipment and materials. Fixtures, flooring, countertops, faucets – all need to be considered carefully. Make quality your priority; after all, the bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the home, and your well-being is priceless.
Bathtubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including recessed (or alcove), round, freestanding, clawfoot, deck-mounted (drop-in or platform) and extra-deep (soaking tub). Space is therefore the first factor to consider. Various materials are available, each with their own special characteristics:
- Acrylic remains the most popular choice. Versatile, it can be moulded into almost any shape, it is easy to clean and holds heat well. It is durable and will not fade.
- Enamelled steel (or porcelain on steel) and cast iron are still quite widely used. They are less expensive than acrylic but lose heat more quickly. They are easy to clean and can be resurfaced when they become worn.
Want to really pamper yourself? Consider a whirlpool or therapeutic tub.
Corner, round, square, rectangular, with or without a roof – when it comes to showers, the options run the gamut. The first aspect to consider is obviously space, both in the bathroom itself and for transporting the various parts of the shower through your home. A modular shower will fit just about anywhere; this prefabricated shower kit comes in several pieces that are assembled in the bathroom. If you opt for a single-piece shower, which is delivered in one piece, you need to make sure it will fit through all your doors.
Another popular option is a custom-built shower stall, with tiled walls and glass doors. This project is within reach of most do-it-yourselfers and allows you to personalize your shower as you wish.
Shower doors come in various styles: swinging (pivot), sliding, bifold, or simply a panel. It is important to choose good-quality mechanisms.
A wide spectrum of accessories are available for showers: recessed halogen lights, foot rests, handles, towel racks, moulded shelves, multiple jets, mist and spray systems, etc.
If space is limited in your bathroom, a tub-shower combination is the way to go. By adding an elegant glass door, beautiful tiles and some well-chosen accessories, you'll be amazed at the look you can achieve!
Toilets have come a long way. While older toilets use as much as 20 litres of water per flush, today's models use just 6 litres. For the same price, why not switch to a low-consumption toilet?
Toilets are sold in three categories:
- One-piece toilets, whose seamless design reduces the risk of leaks and lends a more contemporary look. This type of toilet is heavier, however, and therefore more difficult to transport.
- Two-piece toilets – less costly and easier to transport, this style of toilet is very popular.
- Wall-mount toilets, whose tank is built into the wall. These toilets are compact, which makes them ideal for small bathrooms and areas where space is at a premium.
If several people use the bathroom in the morning, you might want to consider installing two separate sinks and mirrors, or a double sink and a large mirror.
You have three options to choose from:
- A traditional sink placed on or built into a washstand or countertop. These types of sinks come in many different styles and offer a range of interesting possibilities: drop-in or semi-recessed, vessel or surface-mount, round, square, rectangular, large, small, and so on.
- A pedestal or freestanding sink is perfect for small spaces. The plumbing can be hidden behind the pedestal or drain shroud. Other models purposefully show off the pipes, which have a more aesthetic design than ordinary pipes to create a modern look.
- A vanity unit includes the cabinet, sink and sometimes the faucets. The vanity has the advantage of being easy to install and providing useful storage space. Vanities come in various styles, from traditional to contemporary.
Sinks are available in several different materials – vitreous china, solid surface (Corian), glass, stainless steel – which are all hard-wearing and relatively easy to clean.
Cabinets and drawers
Bathroom surfaces are in constant contact with moisture and splashes, which quickly mark them. It's therefore wise to choose water-resistant materials that are easy to clean and maintain. You have a variety of options in terms of bathroom cabinets:
- Melamine is both affordable and extremely versatile. Styles range from classic, perhaps with moulding, to a more contemporary, minimalist look. Melamine looks amazingly like real wood. It is also easy to clean.
- PVC can be moulded to suit your chosen style and is available in all colours and textures. It is affordable and very moisture-resistant.
- Glass adds light to the room and provides a pretty surface on which to display accessories. It is easy to keep clean and enhances the decor.
Include as many drawers as possible: they are easier to use than cabinets and can hold just as much; what's more, you can easily see their contents.
Choose good-quality handles and hardware; they will enhance the look of drawers and cabinets. Some closing systems are now fitted with soft-close mechanisms, which prevent fingers getting caught – an added advantage if you have young children.
Colours, finishes, textures and materials – countertop options are limitless.
- Laminate comes in different shades, textures and finishes, and convincingly imitates noble materials like stone, concrete or wood. It can be cut to different shapes and sizes, is budget friendly and requires little maintenance.
- Solid surfaces (synthetic materials), such as Corian, mimic different materials and are available in a wide palette of colours, designs and finishes. They are stain resistant and do not fade even when exposed to sunlight. With this type of material, the sink can be moulded into the countertop – a low-maintenance option, since there is no seam joining the sink to the counter.
- Tiles – ceramic, stone or porcelain – are the most versatile option; they can be combined in infinite ways to harmonize with the decor. Choose tiles that complement those used in the shower, on the floor or around the tub, to create a veritable spa ambience.
Bathroom floors need to be water- and moisture-resistant. Some materials are particularly suitable for this purpose:
- Ceramic tile is versatile and hard-wearing; it is stain-resistant, withstands bumps and scratches, and repels water and moisture. Tiles can be arranged in many different ways to create beautiful and stylish effects. Be careful not to choose tiles with very smooth or glossy finishes, which will become slippery and hazardous when wet.
- Stone is particularly durable and elegant, and, once sealed, repels stains. Slate, marble and granite lend a highly sophisticated look.
- Vinyl and linoleum come in a multitude of patterns, colours and textures, some with designs replicating ceramic and wood. They are inexpensive and easy to install, can be easily cut to shape and require very little maintenance.
- Cork comes in a variety of colours. It is water- and moisture-resistant once sealed.
Whether for the shower, tub or sink, there are many faucet styles and finishes to choose from. Always look for quality and durability. The most popular finish is chrome, but you will also find brass, copper and stainless steel models. Faucets are obviously a necessity, but they are also an important aesthetic feature, so take care to match the style of your faucets throughout the bathroom.
Shower heads come in all shapes and sizes; choose from body jets of different strengths or opt for a multiple-jet system. Fixed or hand-held, some shower heads produce a rainfall effect, while others create a sauna-style mist spray.
For the bathtub, it is useful to have a hand-shower attachment for washing hair or rinsing out the tub (especially if it is a large tub). In the case of a freestanding tub, the faucet will be mounted either on the floor or on the wall.
Sink faucets can be mounted on the sink itself or installed on the counter, while some are designed for wall-mount installation. The number of handles or levers you choose will depend on your sink.
If your home does not have an air exchanger, installing a fan in your bathroom will extract excess moisture and improve your comfort. Choose from two types of fans: blade (impeller) fans and blower (centrifugal) fans, the latter generally being quieter and more efficient. Look for a fan with an exhaust capacity of at least 25 litres per second or 50 cubic feet per minute, depending on the size of the room.
LET THE WORK COMMENCE: THE MAIN STEPS
Ready to get started? Yes, but where? The vital working order:
Plumbing and electricity
The water supply is obviously crucial in the bathroom. Plumbing work should therefore be your number-one priority. Unless you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, leave this to a qualified professional, who will complete the work faster and according to safety standards. The same goes for the electrics; unless you’re confident you have the know-how, let a competent electrician fit the electrical outlets for the lights, fan, radiator, etc.
Painting and flooring
Take the opportunity to get any paintwork done before the fixtures, cabinets, drawers and flooring are fitted. It is so much faster when you don’t have to paint around obstacles or protect surfaces. Next install the wall tiles, then the flooring. If you have decided to build a tiled shower stall, now is the time to do this. These remodelling tasks are within reach of most do-it-yourselfers.
Now it's time to install the fixtures: tub, shower, vanity or washstand, and toilet.
Cabinets and countertop
If you have not opted for a vanity unit, now is the time to fit cabinets and drawers, as well as the countertop, as applicable. If installing a drop-in sink, secure the washbasin to the counter first and then lower the counter onto the base cabinet unit.
DECORATING YOUR NEW ROOM
Take inspiration from calm and soothing styles and colours to create your chosen ambience for the bathroom.
Drawers and cabinets can be adjusted inch by inch to fit the family's needs. Check out the storage systems available to keep your bathroom tidy. Pull-out racks, adjustable shelving, modules and compartments – the possibilities are endless.
Choose towel racks of a suitable length and include enough of them. For optimum comfort, why not install heated towel rails?
Less is more when it comes to bathroom accessories: elegant mirrors, some attractive picture frames, soft towels and a pretty bathmat are all that's needed to decorate your new room. Try not to over-fill the space; clean, uncluttered surfaces contribute to a stress-free atmosphere.
To dress windows, choose blinds or curtains that are easy to clean. Water splashes, moisture, soap and beauty products will soon soil them. Make sure that they can be put in the washing machine or at least wiped clean with a damp cloth.