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Common bathroom renovation roadblocks to look out for

The bathroom is often the smallest room in the house. At first glance, renovating a bathroom may seem inexpensive, but there are a number of bathroom renovation roadblocks you need to look out for. Watch out for these ten common roadblocks before you budget your bathroom renovation.

One: Waterproofing

Overlooking the cost of waterproofing is one of the most common mistakes homeowners make. The Australian Standard for waterproofing (AS3740) was updated in 2004 and many bathrooms do not comply with new regulations. While waterproofing is not expensive, you may need to have your bathroom completely stripped out before you can have your waterproofing done:

  • If you have an older home, you will probably have to strip out the bathroom and have the floor inspected for rotting timber.
  • If you have a newer home and want to install a frameless shower, the updated Standard will require you to waterproof your floor.
  • If your sub-floor is particleboard or plywood, the entire floor will have to be waterproofed.

In New South Wales and Queensland, only licensed waterproofing professionals can do the job for you, but wherever you live, waterproofing should be done by a professional who offers a warranty and issues a compliance certificate that proves they have done the job according to Australian Standards.

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Two: Electricity

It’s easy to overlook the cost of electricity in the bathroom. If you live in an older home, your electrical outlets, switches and lighting may not comply with the more recent standards for electricity in the bathroom. AS/NZS 3000-2007, the Australia/New Zealand Standard for electrical wiring in bathrooms has been updated to ensure greater safety in the bathroom.

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Even if your current electrical outlets comply with Australian Standards, do you have enough electricity in your bathroom? Many older bathrooms do not have enough task lighting and you may want to add ambient lighting as well. You might also want to add a heater, a ventilating system or a towel heater. Think about your ideal lighting and other electrical needs and include them in your budget.

Three: Non-Compliant Fixtures

When you’re shopping for fixtures for your bathroom, you may run across beautiful taps and other fixtures at reduced prices. Before you buy the bargain brands, find out if they comply with Australian Standards. Many fixtures are imported from countries that do not have the same safety or efficiency standards as Australia. Compliant fixtures may cost more, but you won’t have to replace them and fixtures such as showerheads and taps will probably be more water-efficient.

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Four: Licensed Trades

The only DIY bathroom renovation is a renovation that doesn’t require any new plumbing, electrical or building work. In all other cases, you will need to hire a licensed building practitioner and other licensed tradies. The regulations vary from state-to-state, but too much can go wrong in the bathroom to trust yourself to the job. It can depend on the cost of the job, but in all states and territories, you must hire licensed electricians and plumbers.

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Five: Over and Under Spending

Budgeting for a bathroom renovation can be tricky. It’s easy to overspend on products you don’t need or that won’t improve the appearance of your bathroom. It’s just as easy to underspend on the things you need to make your bathroom comply with regulations and feel more comfortable. Compare the prices of major inclusions such as your toilet, bath and basin and choose long-lasting products that look as good as far more expensive products. For example:

  • Freestanding baths can be made from acrylic, fibreglass, composite, steel or even stone. The difference in price can be $1000 or more.
  • Basins can be made from a variety of materials and some can cost hundreds of dollars more than others.
  • Frameless shower screens are more expensive than framed shower screens, but the difference in cost may be outweighed by the clean lines and modern appearance of a frameless shower screen. Read How Much Does a New Shower Screen Cost? to find out more about the types of shower screens available and their costs.

Another way you can overspend is to decide to move the bath, toilet or shower to another part of the room. Your plumbing costs will skyrocket and you may not like the new configuration any better than the old. Work with what you have and you will find ways to make the improvements you want to make. For example, if your bathroom feels small, a freestanding bath and toilet with a cistern in the wall may cost a little more, but will cost far less than moving the bath or toilet.

Don’t skimp on anything that will make your bathroom safer and more comfortable. You can’t compromise on safety and the cost of those “little things” that make your bathroom more comfortable shouldn’t break the bank. A bathroom heater and exhaust fan, for instance, will cost money to buy and install, but will make the bathroom more comfortable and hygienic.

Six: Asbestos

If you have an older home, your bathroom may have asbestos cladding and other materials containing asbestos. This is particularly true of homes built before 1984, when asbestos was phased out, bust asbestos may be present in newer homes as well. A total ban wasn’t in place until 2003. If the asbestos doesn’t have to be disturbed, you can work around it, but asbestos removal can be expensive.

Seven: Drainage

In most bathrooms, drainage won’t be an issue. Your bathroom renovator will know to create a “fall” in your shower. Drainage can become an issue if you are planning on converting your bathroom into a wet room, though. The fall may not be enough to stop water from collecting on the floor. One solution might be a linear floor waste that spans the full length of the shower area. It will collect all the water and you won’t have to worry about wet areas on your bathroom floor. Linear drainage can also be the solution for “stepless” shower enclosures.

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Eight: Storage

Finding enough storage space in the bathroom can be a major roadblock. Before you give up on storage, take a closer look at ways you can find more storage areas in the bathroom:

  • Your carpenter can make storage areas in your wall cavities
  • Heated towel racks can hold all your towels and keep them warm, dry and fluffy
  • A shaving cabinet can store dozens of frequently used items
  • Open shelving takes up little space and makes finding the things you need easier

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Nine: Natural Light

Natural lighting adds something to any bathroom. If you have a wall where you can add a window, you won’t regret the extra expense. For privacy, the window can be mounted higher on the wall; you can use frosted glass; or you can place a privacy screen outdoors behind it. If you can’t install a window, consider installing a skylight. A tubular skylight won’t give you a view, but it will give your bathroom natural light during the day. If you can’t find a way to allow natural light to enter the bathroom, pay special attention to your task and ambient electrical lighting.

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Ten: Strata Title Bathroom Renovations

If you own a strata title property, your biggest roadblock will be getting permission from the Owners Corporation. Before you start making grand plans, find out what is allowed and what is not allowed. You may or may not be able to replace your floor tiles, but you may be surprised by other restrictions. You will be responsible for the consequences of mistakes that are made, so only hire established tradies who offer long workmanship warranties and have experience in renovating strata units.

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