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How to renovate a bathroom

A bathroom is a big room to renovate, not least because no one wants to be without a shower or loo for long. Let's take a look at how it's done.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


Tiles, toilet or tub? It’s not always clear where to start when it comes to major renovations.

Putting in a new bathroom can be tricky, because it involves a mixture of different skills.

Plus, nobody wants to be without a loo or a bath in their home for long.

So how much will it cost, what's the order of jobs and can it all be done on a budget?

Let's find out.

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How much does it cost to put in a new bathroom?

The average cost of installing a new bathroom is £5,000, according to Checkatrade

This includes the price of buying a bath, sink and toilet (known as sanitaryware), plus the cost of materials, labour and fitting everything from new pipes to electrics.

Of course, it’s possible to spend a lot more than £5,000 if you choose fancy fixtures or want to do something unusual.

Likewise, if you buy an affordable set of sanitaryware and do some of the fitting yourself, you might be able to bring the price down.

The cost of removing your old bathroom is estimated at between £300 to £1,000.

The table below shows the average costs for re-installing a brand new one:

Bathroom furnitureAverage installation cost
Shower enclosure£400
Electrical work£600
Wall tiling£900
Heated towel rail£250

How long does it take to renovate a bathroom?

On average it takes between five and 10 days for a new bathroom to be installed by professionals.

That said, if you’re carrying out major works, such as knocking down a wall, it can take up to 5-6 weeks.

Specialist bathroom builders and fitters will know the order of jobs and tradespeople required to do them, so can help to keep timings succinct.

Conversely, managing the job yourself and booking different experts for each task, from electrics and plumbing to tiling and heating, brings the risk of delays.

How do I design a new bathroom?

Now's the time to work out your budget. A new bathroom suite can be bought for a few hundred or a few thousand pounds.

Likewise, tiles come with a wide range of price tags.

These are the things to consider when planning a new bathroom:

  1. Do you want to change the existing layout?

  2. Will the pipes need to be rerouted? 

  3. Will the position of drainage pipes on exterior walls determine what can or can’t be moved? 

  4. Will everything fit? Sometimes space-saving or unusually-shaped bathtubs can offer a solution here.

  5. Do you want a hard-wearing floor? If you have kids, the answer is yes.

  6. Do you want underfloor heating under that hardwearing floor? If you’re putting down tiles, it’s probably a yes too. No one likes freezing toes in winter.

  7. One basin, or two?

  8. Shower over the bath, or separate?

  9. Storage, storage, storage. A vanity stand basin with drawer storage is brilliant. And you’re likely to want a built-in cupboard for towels too.

  10. Radiator or towel rail? 

  11. And if it’s a towel rail, dual fuel or electric? (A dual fuel radiator heats up when the heating’s on, but can also be switched on separately without firing up the heating.)

  12. Big tiles (cheaper to install) or small?

  13. Suspended loo or hidden cistern? 

  14. Lighting: do you want spotlights, a backlit bathroom mirror or bathroom cabinet lighting?

Once you’ve looked at some bathrooms, measured up and decided where you want everything to be, check with your builder that everything’s possible.

As soon as you can, get a start date from your builder and have the new suite ordered ready in time for that date.

It’s usually best to have one building company managing the whole project, as they’ll have all the skilled tradespeople needed for the job. 

And there’s a lot of skill involved in changing a bathroom. Plumbers, tilers, electricians, heating engineers and plasterers will all be needed. 

A specialist bathroom fitting company may also cover installation. 

What order do you update a bathroom?

The bathroom is an exceptional room to renovate because of how many specialist skills it requires.

And everything will need to be done in a specific order:

1. Hire a skip for the old bathroom 

2. Turn the water and electrics off

3. Remove wall tiles

4. Remove the old bathroom suite, fixtures and fittings

5. Remove the flooring

6. Re order pipes 

7. Re order electrical wiring

8. Install under floor heating

9. Lay subfloor boarding

10. Plastering

11. Wall tiling

12. Radiator/towel rail installation

13. Floor tiling

13. Installation of new sanitaryware

14. Second fix electrics

15. Painting

16. Mirrors and cabinets

Bear in mind that new pipes will need to be re-routed under the floor, while new wiring will need to be chased into the walls.

Moving the position of your toilet can also be fiddly, as this involves moving a soil stack (that’s the long pipe that goes from the loo down the back of a house to the drain). 

Make sure you talk to a plumber as soon as possible to find out what can be done.

Moving lights, putting in a backlit mirror, adding a new shaving socket or moving lightswitches will mean you'll need to get your electrician to do a first fix on the electrics. 

First fix electrical work makes sure the wires you need for your appliances are in the right place.

The second fix, where light switches and sockets are added, makes everything work at a later date.

There are strict regulations in the UK for bathroom electrics, so if you’re doing any of this work yourself make sure you get a professional in to check it.

If you’re moving the radiator, adding a new heated towel rail or installing underfloor heating, you’ll need a heating engineer to make sure everything’s in the right place.

Can I update my old bathroom cheaply?

If you’re happy to keep your existing toilet, sink, shower and bath then there are plenty of ways to spruce up your bathroom at minimal cost.

It’s when the sanitaryware needs to be replaced or moved that the costs begin to stack up.

There are plenty of ways to refresh your washroom and much of this can be done yourself. 

Quick fixes to inject new life into your bathroom:

New taps

Investing in a set of stylish bath or basin taps can bring wow factor to your bathroom on a budget.

Replacement taps can cost a few hundred pounds and will cost about £50 a set to install. 

Wayne Spriggs, CEO of Lusso, says: "In response to the current economic climate, we're seeing a lot more interest in our collections of smaller homeware pieces, with sales of basin taps and bath taps increasing by over 25% across the last 3 months.

“This suggests a growing number of UK homeowners are looking to update their bathrooms without investing in a full refurbishment right now.”

Customise tiles

If replacing wall tiles is beyond your budget, then painting your existing ones can bring new life to a tired bathroom. 

You’ll need to invest in some specialist tile paint and tools in order to ensure a professional-looking finish.

If your bathroom currently has plain tiles, a tile stencil is a great way to get a more impactful look. Check out Ideal Stencils for some inspiration.

New accessories

A new toilet seat, a stylish loo brush and a snazzy new bin can go a long way to sprucing up your bathroom quickly and on a budget. 

Why not consider a new bathroom cabinet or shelf to help with storage and provide a new feel too? 

Fluffy towels, a new bath mat and a candle won’t set you back much, but will make the room feel luxurious. 

Refresh and reseal 

What you don’t want in your bathroom is mould or grubby-looking sealant.

With a bit of know-how, you should be able to remove your old grout and replace it yourself. Check YouTube for helpful tutorials.

Discoloured grout is another thing that makes bathrooms look tired. You can easily touch it up with a cheap grout pen from a hardware shop. 

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.