7 Vital Bathroom Questions

With over 30 years experience I feel it is important to have all the facts before making any big decisions. These 7 questions will help you on the way to complete confidence in your bathroom aspirations.

1. My bathroom is so small! With our life style today I really do need a bath, a separate shower, plus that vital storage space to avoid clutter. How could I possibly fit all this in? 

If you physically don’t have the room for a bath and separate shower, there are various ‘SHOWER BATH’ options available. These are specially designed to be wider at the showering end to create more room, and incorporate a designated curved glass screen to match. This way you have the best of both, a full length bath and a spacious showering area.

To help with storage small vanity units are available with a larger basin on top (for built in units see question 4) or alternatively wall units with or without mirrors, lights and shower sockets. Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer.

2. Should I have an acrylic, pressed steel or cast iron bath, and does a whirlpool system really cost the earth or if I have a shower cubicle, how do I choose which design and make? 

80-90% of the UK bath market is taken up with 5mm reinforced acrylic baths. However alternatives are available. For extra peace of mind some baths are available in 8 or 10mm. Some manufactures offer an additional reinforced coating to standard 5mm baths making them super rigid. Various other ‘super strength’ materials are available, however some of these are traditional or modern free standing roll top baths. These higher specifications will always cost more check your budget.

Pressed steel baths are popular in a wide range of shapes, sizes and strengths and prices vary. Then there is ‘cast iron’, costlier than acrylic and pressed steel and in years gone by built to last a lifetime. Whirlpool systems can normally be fitted to any bath. I have compiled a list of varying bath sizes and prides to give you some ideas.

Approximate guideline product costs:

Standard 5in acrylic and pressed steel baths  – £120 – £500 inc VAT
8mm acrylic baths   – £230 – £600 inc VAT
Super strength acrylic baths  £350 – £800 inc VAT
Whirlpool systems (additional costs)  £340 – £800 inc VAT

Bath sizes vary from 1200×700 (47”x27”) to 2000×1200 (78”x47”). The most often-used bath size is 1700×700 (66”x27”) with widths increasing to 750mm (29”) and 800mm (31”). There are also oval, round, corner and offset corner baths in varying sizes as well. If you don’t have 1700 for the length but have more width available there is a 1500×900 (60”x36”) offset corner bath available that would give you more bathing length than a straight 1500×700 (60”x27”) bath.

Choosing shower cubicles involves more than one choice. Firstly there is the shower tray, these are available in acrylic, resin stone and pressed steel and costs vary a lot and the type that is best for you can depend on the type of floor and where the waste can go. Shapes and sizes vary a lot, as do the cubicles to match. Quality and price vary a lot e.g. the glass thickness can vary from 3mm up to 8mm. Frame colour and quality also contribute to the cost. The best place to start is to look at what options are available to suit the space you have and that fall inside your budget. Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer.

3. I’m told a thermostatic shower valve is much safer for my family instead of a manual valve, which costs less. Why is this and what about a more powerful shower? 

Thermostatic shower valves are more costly but are safer than manual valves, because they contain a safety device which helps keep your chosen temperature consistent. If other taps are turned on in the house whilst you are showering, or if there is a cold water supply failure, the valve will automatically shut off to prevent scalding.

Today houses in the UK have varying types of plumbing systems. They are generally either low pressure or high pressure. High pressure gives a more powerful shower with low pressure needing the assistance of a pump to create the same performance. When installing a pump remember this can dramatically increase water consumption if you are on a meter and one shower can often empty your hot water cylinder. Combi-boilers give powerful showers and a constant supply of hot water, as do instant electric showers. Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer.

4. I need to hide all those horrible looking pipes, plus I need additional storage space. Can I do this with vanity units? 

Hiding pipe work is often the most difficult part of an installation. Sometimes they can be chased into walls, hidden under floors, behind boxing or best of all put behind bathroom furniture. This option always allows you access to them in case of future problems. Bathroom furniture is available in many standard sizes, colours and designs with matching sanitary ware. However if you are tight for space made to measure units are available to exactly fit your bathroom and doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer.

5. I would love to tile all four walls in my bathroom, or use shower panelling could this be really expensive and restrict the possibility of changing colours in the future without any walls to paint? 

If you tile all 4 walls this does increase costs on materials and labour compared to part tiling. Once this is done its done and can be expensive to change anything in the future. However if part of the room is painted it does allow you to freshen up in the future with a different colour. Sometimes the choice will come down to your budget.

There are generally 3 types of tiles on the market all available in varying colours, sizes and shapes. The most economical is Glazed Ceramic normally white or red clay base with your chosen glaze pattern on the surface. Then there are Porcelain tiles, these are the same colour throughout, generally cost more but are much harder wearing (and harder to cut), these are recommended on high traffic floor areas as well. Then there is Natural Stone (for example travertine or marble) these often cost more, but vary in quality. They normally need pre-sealing prior to fixing and resealing from time to time in the future.

Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer. Guideline product costs:

Glazed Ceramic wall tiles  – £12.00 – £30.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Porcelain wall tiles  – £20.00 – £40.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Natural Stone wall tiles  – £30.00 – £70.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Showering panelling is often used either around the showering area alcove or can be used to panel the whole room. This usually costs about the same as mid priced tiles but labour costs are reduced. When the showering area only is panelled the remaining areas can be tiled, painted or both.

6. Ceramic floor tiles are great, but a little cold, can I afford under floor heating or should I use alternatives like vinyl or laminate flooring? 

Lots of people want floor tiles today, glazed ceramic, porcelain or natural stone ie travertine or marble (see question 5 for product differences). Concrete floors are straight forward, but wooden floors need specialist flexible adhesive and grout. It is possible to fit under floor heating to both. For energy efficiency it is recommended that and insulation board is fitted underneath which can raise the floor level so a look at the existing height of door thresholds is essential. The same threshold problems can also occur if laying laminate or wooden flooring. Heating is also available for these.

Tiling will involve higher costs, be more permanent and costly to change in the future compared to laminate, wood or vinyl. These will often have a warmer feel under foot. There are hundreds of vinyl options out there many have a slip resistand surface and if you wanted to freshen things up in years to come with a different design it is relatively quick and inexpensive to replace.

Seek on site advice from your supplier or installer. Approximate guideline product costs:

Under floor heating  – £200.00 – £550.00 Inc VAT (approx)
Glazed Ceramic floor tiles  – £15.00 – £30.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Porcelain floor tiles  – £23.00 – £40.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Natural Stone floor tiles  – £30.00 – £70.00 mtr2 Inc VAT
Vinyl/Laminate wood  – £5.00 – £35.00 mtr2 Inc  AT

7. People say to put a new heated towel rail in, but should I also get an extractor fan installed and change the lighting? 

Heated towel rails can really change the look of a bathroom, mostly available in white or chrome ladder style and cost around £65.00 – £200.00. However other colours and finishes are available with a massive range of designer styles etc but costs will always change accordingly. One note to bear in mind is that white towel rails offer approx 30% ore heat output than the equivalent chrome towel rails and usually cost approx 30% less.

Under current building regulations extractor fans should be fitted to new installations, providing they have a separate switch, I generally suggest that one is fitted. They firstly remove unpleasant odours, but also steam from the shower, which dramatically reduces condensation on walls and mirrors in the bathroom and help prevent tile grout discolouration. Specific types of fans need to be fitted in specific areas. As does lighting for health and safety reasons. A cluster of spotlights is often simplest, because one of these spots can often be pointed towards the mirror if there is no lighting at the mirror. For assistance on these details seek on site advice from your supplier or installer.

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