How to get your bathroom renovation right

Bring in the experts to get the job done well if your skills are lacking. Bathroom photos from Nail Your Renovation Without Getting Screwed by Steve Burke and Suzanne Burke (Woodslane Press, $34.99).

If you’re planning a bathroom renovation, you probably have a figure in mind of how much you will need to spend.

Double it.

According to Steve Burke, builder and founder of Amerex Renovations and Additions, in Perth, most people dramatically underestimate how much their bathroom renovation will cost.

“Not one person has ever come to me and said, ‘That bathroom renovation I did cost a lot less than I thought,’” Mr Burke said. “People (also) underestimate how long it will take and overestimate their own ability.”

Mr Burke has been called out to so many half-finished bathrooms, indeed homes, in his 20 years of renovation experience that, with the help of his wordsmith wife, Suzanne, he has written a detailed renovation guide, Nail Your Renovation Without Getting Screwed.

Below is some advice from Mr Burke to help your bathroom renovation run smoothly.

Builder Steve Burke with wife Suzanne Burke. Photo: Richard Hatherly

The couple’s book is packed with renovation advice.

Be realistic

The first thing you should decide is how much you want to take on yourself and how much of the renovation should be left to qualified tradies.

“One of my top tips is that if you can’t put together an Ikea flatpack (item), don’t even consider doing a bathroom renovation,” Mr Burke said.

“If you have very little renovation experience, then it’s best to hire a company that specialises in managing bathroom renovations.”

If you feel confident completing part of the renovation yourself, then be honest about how much you can do.

“Recognise what skills you have and then get the tradies to do what you can’t,” Mr Burke said.

You’ll also need to decide exactly what you want — and don’t want — in a bathroom.

“All homes should have a bath if there is room, but ideally you should have it separate from the shower,” Mr Burke said. “I am not a fan of stepping into a shower over the bath.”

Include a bath if possible, and separate your shower from your bath for ease of access.

Talk the talk

Once you know what you would like your bathroom to look like, chat to the trinity of bathroom tradies: the plumber, the electrician and the tiler.

“Have a discussion with them before you buy anything because they will be able to see problems you can’t see,” Mr Burke said.

For example, if you want to repurpose some existing fixtures, check with your plumber if this is possible.

“Talk is cheap and can resolve any issues before you get on site,” Mr Burke said.

Also, draw the shape of the bathroom to scale on paper on the floor and then see if it all works together.

“People will often fall in love with fixtures and buy them before they have worked out whether they work in the space or not,” Mr Burke said.

Draw your floorplan to scale to ensure your choices work together.

Dollars and sense

There is no problem splurging on the odd fixture, but pick something that is important to you — perhaps a nice bath, tap or vanity.

“Fixtures or tiles can blow out a budget easily and a nice bath can be $5000,” Mr Burke said.

You might not be able to afford tiles that reach the ceiling but that is no drama.

“You can choose a lower-level tile around the bath and go higher in the shower,” Mr Burke said.

Most people don’t want a shower they have to step into, but be careful with having no gradation at all.

“I always add a 10mm step down in the shower, otherwise you will get a wet bathroom,” Mr Burke said.

Opt for fixtures that are multipurpose, too, to keep everyone happy.

“You can get a rain showerhead with a shower rail that allows the showerhead to be moved,” he said.

Finally, choose reliable, reputable tradies.

“Ask for references, double-check that the electrician and plumber’s licences are up to date, and don’t pay in cash,” Mr Burke said. “And don’t forget about asking for a certificate of currency for their insurance because everything is fine until something goes wrong.”

Choose reliable, reputable tradies and double-check their licences are up to date.

Bathroom reno mistakes

Mr Burke shares these common errors to avoid:

• Failing to ensure fixtures, such as cabinets and vanities, fit the bathroom before buying them.

• Purchasing on-sale floor tiles that are bowed and impossible to lay. Buy a few samples and show them to your tiler first.

• Opting for a three-in-one light, heater and exhaust fan. The combination exhaust fan is not as effective as a separate exhaust fan.

• Installing insufficient drainage in the shower. Large-format tiles look great, but make sure ample consideration is given to draining the water using channel grates.

• Leaving an insufficient gap around freestanding baths, which makes it very hard to clean behind them.

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