May 27, 2013

Surviving the installation of a new bathroom (i) – guest post by AJLR


When we first thought about getting a new bathroom, back last autumn, my our plans were fairly simple: ‘the old bathroom fittings have been there 17 years and it would be good to have something new’. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Nope, nothing at all…except it didn’t stop there.

Our old bathroom was a traditional one – pedestal washbasin and loo, bath with electric shower over, old-fashioned 1970s radiator (as were all the radiators in the house), medicine cabinet on the wall. You know the sort of thing. Nice safe stuff – retro-styled white fittings, a vinyl-tiled floor, skirting board round the bottom of the walls. Nothing to make the heart beat faster.

As we started looking at bathroom catalogues and dipping a tentative toe into the world of modern bathroom design it became clear fairly quickly that we wanted more of a change than just a ‘new for old’ type of update. For one thing, neither I nor my husband likes a bath (I realise that this will be heresy to many people). I know a lot of people, Robin included, see a bath session as somewhere/some time to relax. For me, I get into a bath, lie back…and think ‘is this it?’. Give me a good forceful shower and plenty of space and I’m much happier. . Oh yes, that was the first thing – we live in a bungalow, a single-storey house. That was why we had the electric shower originally, some seven years ago, because there isn’t enough of a drop (from the hot water tank in the airing cupboard to the bathroom) to give any sort of force to a shower running off the normal hot water system).  So, if we wanted to run the new shower off the normal hot water, then we would need to add a pump in the loft space.

Second thing – we have solid floors everywhere. If we wanted to change the layout of the bathroom then we were going to have to have the floor dug up in places for the pipework changes to be made.

Third thing – the lighting in the bathroom was something I had always loathed, entirely. An old-fashioned strip light that buzzed so much it was like sharing the room with a demented hornet. Plus, the light it gave was guaranteed to put the worst possible view of oneself to the forefront of one’s mind, every time an incautious glance was directed towards the mirror stand. Eeeeeee…..! Not good for the heart, or the emotions.

Fourth thing – even with opening the window on all possible occasions, it was difficult to keep the bathroom clear of damp, given the amount of washing time we normally clock up between us. We needed some sort of extractor fan, particularly as the bathroom comes off our hallway, between sitting room and bedrooms. No-one wants their visitors to be wreathed in steam…

Fifth thing – I just wanted something better, something interesting, something that would mean I could enjoy that space. The room is a reasonable size for a bathroom in a smallish house– around nine feet by seven feet – we had a bit of leeway to try and rearrange things.

And finally, neither of us wanted all the hassle of contracting and scheduling plumbers, plasterers, electricians, floor-layers, etc, etc. We wanted, if possible, to find one company that would arrange and project-manage the whole thing.

So, where did we go with all this? We were lucky in that one of our neighbours had had a new bathroom installed by a local firm some two years ago. Our friends invited us in to look around, see how they had changed things and why, discuss how things had worked out. It was very helpful, seeing how they’d done things and what the outcome had been. Plus it gave us some idea of what the likely cost might be – we were probably going to be living on bread and dripping for years afterwards but it would be worth it!

We then talked to a couple of (very brave or very foolhardy) bathroom companies and eventually settled on the people that our neighbours had used, given their positive reports on the experience and the aftercare. We went deep into the wonderland of giant shower stalls, digital controls, wall-mounted everything, you name it, we wanted it. I felt a bit like a child in a sweet shop – ‘Oooh, one of those, and that one, and could you throw in a bit of….’. We had some design ideas of our own when it came to layout but we also relied heavily on the professional knowledge of the installers. Finally, after a completely boggling session with them on the colours of various elements: wall panels; flooring; tiles; tops of cupboards; walls – and the shapes of taps, washbasin (we’re both splashy people so the basin had to be BIG if we were to avoid perpetually mopping the floor), walk-in shower area, lighting – we had everything as settled as it could be. OK, we can do this (we thought).

Do you know how long it takes to gut a bathroom and completely re-do it? Two weeks we were told. Once everything had been ripped out then the floor had to be partly dug up and the walls excavated for the pipework changes, the walls and new ceiling needed to be replastered. I may have drifted off a bit part way through the list but what it amounted to was that everything had to be made good and then allowed to dry out over at least a weekend before any of the new stuff could be put in. We only have one bathroom and no separate cloakroom. Plus – and this was a fairly big plus – for reasons I won’t go into it had seemed like a good idea some weeks previously to get a new CH boiler installed and update the radiators so that they each had their own thermostat. Guess what dates the central heating people wanted to come? Yup, two days of those same two weeks.  So, right in the middle of the coldest spring in 40 years, we were going to be reduced to what might politely be termed ad hoc washing arrangements, there would be no heating for two days, we would have at least four workmen in the house during all daylight hours, and one of our two cats Does Not Like Strangers. Is it any wonder I started to think wistfully of the nice warm quiet business hotels I used regularly to go away to for work?

To be continued.


Oh help, what have we done?!


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