Case Study: An expert bathroom reno


This bathroom reno was carried out by Renovating for Profit founder Cherie Barber as part of a wholesale cosmetic renovation of a $340,000 house in Claremont Meadows, Sydney.

The house featured a small bathroom – approximately 3m x 2m – with a separate 3m x 1m toilet. Barber's plan was to combine the two into a single bathroom that would be bigger, lighter and brighter.

“The bathroom was small, pokey and impractical. There was just a small pedestal basin, a small bath, a tiny shower and next to no storage space,” says Barber. “The toilet, meanwhile, was dark and gloomy – there was hardly any light.”

Barber's first step was to strip out the existing fittings, and demolish the wall separating the two rooms – making them into one bigger bathroom that incorporated the toilet.

“It gave me the opportunity to rejig the space and make it a lot more spacious,” she adds. By rearranging the layout, she was able to rework the space to include a bigger bath, a 1.8m two-basin vanity and recessed shaving cabinets with significantly more storage space.”

Key to being able to do this was moving the toilet to the other side of the room, and therefore rearranging the plumbing – often seen as a no-no in renovations to save costs.

“It's one of the big urban myths of renovation – 'don't change the plumbing',” adds Barber. “What you need to look at is the practicality of the bathroom, and what's going to be of best use. It made sense to change the toilet's location: it cost me $350 to do that, and we ended up with a much more practical bathroom, and added more value than the cost.”

Step one: Demolition/strip out

In order to put a new bathroom in, you have to take the old one out first.

In this case, Barber removed the old bath, the old shower, the old toilet and so on, and sold those in a demolition sale. You can write off these articles too by obtaining a scrapping schedule. Ripped out everything – walls, ceilings – ceilings were at different heights, so stripped back to concrete floor and timber studwork.

Step two: block in one door

After knocking the wall through, there were two doorways, so the original bathroom door was blocked in. That gave Barber extra room to put in a bigger vanity.

Step three: Jackhammer floor, rough ins

Got plumber in to jackhammer floor, relocate the sewage line for the toilet, then got him to rough in the plumbing work. Then you have your electrical rough in

Step four: plasterboard and waterproofing, tiling floor and walls

Waterproof plasterboard walls and ceilings were installed, followed by waterproofing, then tiles. The floor was tiled first, followed by the walls.

Barber replaced the existing Federation tiles with more modern large-format tiles

“These have a higher perceived value, despite being only $17 per square metre: they were appropriate for the value of the home,” says Barber. “I always use shiny tiles on the walls in bathrooms, never matt. You want your bathrooms to shine – gloss tiles, gloss units, basins, mirrors. It's that shine, that sparkle that makes it feel brand new.

The only exception to the 'shinier is better' rule is with floors, due to the risk of slipping. She also recommends choosing a darker shade of tile for floors, so that dirt and hair doesn't show up as much.

Step five: Installation of bath, shower, toilet, cabinetry, benchtops

Barber sourced a designer bath from classified website The Trading Post.

“Someone had bought it for their bathroom and got it wrong – too small or didn't fit, whatever it may be,” she comments. “They paid $1,600 for the bath, I got it for $700.”

Barber spent less than $1,000 on cabinets by going direct.

“A tip if you're renovating elsewhere in the house as well is to go straight to a cabinetmaker, rather than a showroom,” she says. “The cabinetmakers can bring their cabinets in. They can do vanities, overhead shaving cabinets for not much at all.”

If you're getting in a stonemason, the installation of benchtops is a separate step: if they're built into the cabinets, they come together

Step six: Installation of taps, holders etc

For fixtures and fittings, Barber shopped around for fittings that looked like designer fittings but were budget range – what she calls 'fake clones'.

“I got the basins for $70 each from China; the taps were the Caroma base range, which cost around $2,000 for the whole bathroom. Similar ranges sell for upwards of $5,000.”

The bathroom ended up with two windows (at different heights). Because it was a cosmetic renovation, Barber didn't want to replace the windows: these were  covered with aluminium plantation shutters by the owner at a later date.

The overall renovation added $80,000 to the value of the property, with Barber estimating that the bathroom reno alone added $15,000 to the property. It also made the previously pokey bathroom and toilet into a much more functional space, with significantly more storage capacity.

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  • light487 says on 24/12/2013 04:44:27 PM

    Where is the floor plan.. it says "see plans" but there is no link there. We have basically the same setup in the new apartment we bought (2x3 bathroom with separate, adjoining 1x2 toilet).. we were just going to leave the toilet separate since we'd have to get approval and more messing around to knock down a wall in a strata complex.. but if I could see your floor plans and ideas visually, I might change my mind..

  • mcg2003 says on 28/06/2015 01:15:53 PM

    I agree with light487 as I too have a similar sized bathroom and would like to see the floor plans of this renovation.

  • pmack says on 31/03/2016 02:57:54 PM

    i want the plumbers name and number. to move the toilet for $350.00 is amazing. as a builder i know they charge way more than that. $350 would only cover moving the actual toilet, not jack hammering the floor and moving the drainage etc.

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