Bathrooms – The Fundamentals
Updating a bathroom is a great way to put your stamp on a property, add some creative flair to an otherwise purely functional room (albeit undeniably being one of the rooms in the house that receives the most footfall) and often a straightforward way to add value to your home.
Here are some important considerations before thinking about renovating your bathroom.
Size and layout
Before thinking about what new fixtures, tiles and colour scheme you would like, it’s important to know how much space you have to work with- factoring in the location of windows and doors, and also the current plumbing layout (including where your soil stack is located). If you are considering configuring the layout of your bathroom it’s important to know that moving and/or re-directing pipes may cost more and add time it takes to complete the job.
Good lighting is really important in any bathroom and can help set a desired mood. If you’re taking a relaxing bath you probably won’t want bright spotlights beaming down on you.
Likewise, if you’re having a shave or putting on makeup you won’t want dim, low-lighting. A mix of lighting such as ceiling lights, vanity mirror/cabinet lights, shower lights, as well as the use of dimmers works well in bathrooms as you will be able to control lighting levels accurately. It’s also important to consider the use of natural light in your bathroom and how this can affect areas where lighting is most important to you, for example around the mirror.
Bathroom flooring needs to be durable, water-resistant and well-sealed. This is commonly achieved using materials such ceramic, marble and stone – often in the form of tiles (see below) with grout to fill gaps between tiles – or vinyl which has seen a resurgence in recent years due to more luxurious options becoming available.
If you have, or are considering installing, underfloor heating then you will need to make sure you choose a flooring material that will not warp or crack under heat. Tiles are a good option if you are having underfloor heating as the will not be damaged by heat, will heat evenly and effectively and, once warmed up, will hold their warmth for long periods.
Tiles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and designs. With this also comes a huge variety in prices and it’s therefore important to consider carefully where you want your tiles to go. Many bathrooms will often use tiles for flooring, as well as areas where there is likely to be water splashing – for example around showers, basins and baths. Around wet areas, especially showers, it’s often worth having walls tiled from floor to ceiling. Walls that are not likely to be splashed can be left painted (with a tiled floor plinth which helps with cleaning) or can be tiled to half way up the wall in order to give a feeling of continuity around the bathroom.
Highly patterned tiles can add a certain style and focus to a bathroom if used correctly but they can also make a space look ‘busy’. Instead we would recommend tiles with heavy patterning be used to create a feature wall or other high focus area, like a shower. If you are not completely tiling your wall then you’ll also need to think about paint colours to contrast or compliment the tiles (see the section on Colours).
The size and colour of your tiles can also change the impression of your bathroom. Large tiles used in a large bathroom can give a real sense of a flow (with the other bonus to having fewer grouting lines resulting in less maintenance – see below) meaning excess space will not seem ‘lost’. Using large tiles in small bathrooms is best avoided as it can make the space seem even smaller. In smaller bathrooms lightly coloured or gloss tiles can be used to reflect more light resulting in the bathroom feeling bigger than it is.
The final consideration is the grout which fills in the gaps between tiles. Dirty or mouldy grout will make a bathroom feel unclean and older than it is. Lighter grout will turn darker over time, especially in areas where water is present. It is therefore important that, if choosing light coloured grout, it may need to changed sooner than a darker grout which could better hide dirt and mould. There are many different colours of grout which exist now (to compliment the huge variety of tiles on the market) and some that claim that they will stay mould and dirt-free for longer than others.
Choosing a colour scheme is a great way to put your stamp on a new bathroom and showcase your personality. Using colours allows you to create focal points of a bathroom, allows you to break up spaces and change the perceived size of your space.
White is a very common colour in bathrooms at it’s clean, sophisticated, modern and appeases most people. However, white does not work for every bathroom and, in our opinion, lacks any excitement! Try injecting a splash of colour such as a tiled feature wall or contrasting vanity unit.
Small bathrooms will certainly feel lighter and larger if neutral colours are used but a more dramatic look can be achieved using dark fixtures, walls and flooring.
The two most popular heating solutions for bathrooms are underfloor heating and heated towel radiators.
Underfloor heating (UFH) comes in two forms, either as a ‘wet’ system (using hot water pipes underneath the floor) or as a ‘dry’ system (using a heated electrical mat below the floor surface). Both solutions can be controlled locally using a thermostat, often on a timer, meaning you’ll be able to set the heating to come on for the morning and avoid the shock of cold tiles when you wake up and step into your bathroom!
Depending on the size of your bathroom UFH can be expensive to install (especially in comparison to radiators) but is surprisingly inexpensive to run and heats a room more effectively than a single radiator or towel rail. UFH is a great solution too if you would like to free up wall space, perhaps in a smaller bathroom or in a space with a minimalistic design.
Heated towel rails work well in many bathrooms and are often used together with UFH. Heated towel rails are not only good at drying and warming your towels but are also versatile and efficient enough to heat most sized bathrooms. They come in a range of styles and finishes so can make a stylish addition to any bathroom. You will need to consider the amount of wall space you have as well as the size of your bathroom as a larger bathroom may need another source of heating to sufficiently warm the room.