The bathroom is easily one of the most important rooms in any dwelling. For many people, whether buyers or renters, the aesthetics and functionality of the bathroom is one of their most critical considerations when selecting a home.
For this reason, you want to take great care when renovating this space. While some renovations can be achieved via DIY on a budget, it is not always the best idea to dive into a bathroom project on your own, especially if you’re looking to do major changes.
“When doing a larger bathroom renovation that involves removing tiles and installing new waterproofing, this is not the time to test your DIY skills,” explain Luke Whittington and Shaun Hanley, owners of renovation experts Reno Pack Pty Ltd.
"Bathrooms involve plumbing and water that can cause considerable damage to the rest of your property or to neighbouring properties. There can also be asbestos sheeting or pipe insulation present behind tiles. Carrying out these works yourself or with friends or family can expose you to considerable health risks.”
Your wellbeing and that of your neighbours is vital, so you may need to put together a team of experienced tradies in order to pull off a safe and well-executed bathroom renovation. However, this doesn’t mean it will be impossible to do a well-priced bathroom reno; there are areas in which you can save, and by zeroing in on these, refurbishing your bathroom won’t be hard on your wallet!
THE PROJECT: BATHROOM
STEP ONE: SHOP AROUND – SENSIBLY
Renovators should always consider sourcing materials for the renovation process themselves, as this is often cheaper than making it the builder’s responsibility – but it’s important that you go through the canvassing process with a critical eye with respect to your bathroom’s specific needs.
“When you buy tiles, toilets, vanities, taps, accessories from all different suppliers you may save money on each of these items; however, customers often make errors when purchasing them, such as issues of sizing or suitability,” say Luke and Shaun.
“Products can also be damaged, which can result in additional costs, delays and restocking fees that can outweigh the initial cost-saving.”
For Luke and Shaun, going for more expensive products is not always the best choice. “Choose the brands in your budget that offer the longest warranty periods to minimise the impact of unforeseen future maintenance costs.”
STEP TWO: TILE YOUR PROJECT WISELY
Bathroom tiles can definitely take up a chunk of your budget, as you typically need them for both walls and fl ooring. The cost can be particularly hefty if you’re looking for your tiles to add a decorative element.
“Avoid mosaics, subway tiles or fancy patterns like herringbone to save money on tiling labour costs,” Luke and Shaun suggest. “We recommend spending a higher allowance on the floor tiles as there is less surface involved, and a good-quality darker-toned tile can help hide discoloration of the floor over time. That can be a real feature of your new bathroom.”
Simple white ceramic tiles come at a fraction of the cost of porcelain or coloured tiles. “They will give any new bathroom a clean and classic finish without breaking the bank,” say Luke and Shaun.
STEP THREE: KEEP RENOVATIONS MINOR
There are times when you do need to alter the plumbing – but if you don’t have to do so, leave it as it is. It’s a good idea to keep renovations as simple as possible, as that’s the best way to save.
“It is always cheaper, quicker and involves less management is left in existing locations. Unless there is an obvious benefit and rental return gained by relocating services and the existing footprint works, leave things where they are,” say Luke and Shaun.
“Retrofit shower and bath tapware to save further on relocation costs and thetime delays associated with changing over to mixer taps in the wall.”
Luke and Shaun recommend taps with a standard shower outlet, which are “easier to give a facelift to over time and to update the look to suit current trends without major works to your bathroom”.
STEP FOUR: BUY OFF THE RACK
Having your bathroom fixtures custommade sounds dreamy, but these can be expensive as well as time-consuming to install – and are generally unnecessary in a rental property, unless it’s at the high end of the market.
“Prefabricated, standardised vanities and mirrors will not only be more cost-effective and quicker to install than custom-made items but will also be much easier to change over in the future when it’s time for a freshen-up of the bathroom,” say Luke and Shaun.
You can find a variety of good-quality tapware – among other fixtures – on the shelves of shops almost everywhere, so you’re spoilt for choice.
Mirrors go a long way towards creating the illusion of space. Luke and Shaun advise opting for larger mirrors to make small bathrooms feel more spacious.
And the thinner the borde of a mirror is, the bigger it looks!
STEP FIVE: GO FRAMELESS
If the bathroom is small, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to this. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep visible borders to a minimum, creating flow in the space.
“Frameless glass shower screens are more expensive but definitely add more luxury to a bathroom than framed shower screens. They will add value, reduce cleaning and create a larger, more openlooking space,” say Luke and Shaun. “If your number one goal is to save money and keep costs down, then you could do a semi-framed shower screen as a good compromise.”
To save even more space, go for a wall-hanging vanity unit. It adds more surface area by opening up the floor. “The more floor you can see, the bigger the room will feel!”
STEP SIX: LET AIR IN AND OUT
One crucial factor in bathroom work that many people forget about is whether air can flow easily through the space. A bathroom that lacks appropriate ventilation not only feels uncomfortable and study but smells bad too.
“Bathroom ventilation is important but is often overlooked during renovations. Poorly ventilated bathrooms are a breeding ground for mould and mildew, which will make a new bathroom look old and tired in no time,” say Luke and Shaun. “If space permits, invest in a good-quality air extractor – it will be money well spent down the track.”
Another good way to create natural ventilation in the bathroom is to install windows, which also let in the sunlight. Be mindful of security, though – and make sure the windows are positioned so that privacy is maintained.
STEP SEVEN: ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH
There are times when you want a look COST that’s a bit more personal, and while it’s a pricier prospect than buying
ready-made, you can still save by purchasing ‘leftovers’.“Try calling local stonemasons to see if they have stone offcuts available that they can supply for use on a vanity top to save money, instead of having to buy the whole slab of stone,” Luke and Shaun advise.
It may take a bit of shopping around, but it could be a win-win situation for both you and the stonemason. You may even get a great discount by helping them clear out the offcuts.
Working with a tradie friend may get you a better rate, but it’s not always the best idea, especially if they are squeezing you in around other jobs. “The most common issue we see is timing, as your job is often not taken seriously,” say Luke and Shaun.
Channel and Sam Dormer had to work through body corporate laws to get their bathroom renovation off the ground Channel and Sam Dormer had been the proud owners of a two-bedroom investment apartment in the premium Sydney suburb of Bellevue Hill for 15 years when they realised it was time to refurbish it. “
The apartment was so rundown that we were struggling to find quality tenants,” they explain. “Even though it was in a nice area and close to the beach, the condition was so bad we found that tenants didn’t care about looking after it to prevent further damage, so it just got worse and worse. It was desperate for an overhaul.”
However, the Dormers couldn’t just jump right renovation work of the apartment due to body corporate restrictions.
“It took a bit longer than expected to apply for and obtain approvals as we had to attend body corporate meetings and produce all kinds of paperwork, getting certificates for things like flooring. We even needed a separate approval just for waterproofing, as it was part of one of the by-laws.”
The couple initially wanted to alter the layout of the bathroom as well, but the body corporate wouldn’t give approval. To move forward with the project, the Dormers finally agreed to leave it the layout it was,
focusing on other aspects of the reno that would also keep them within a healthy budget. They opted for aesthetically pleasing but inexpensive wall finishes and plain white tiles, as well as waterproof and durable laminate flooring.
“It really helped having a designer to help choose materials and colours, as we didn’t really know much about why to choose certain things over others. Because of this, the perceived value of the renovation in the end was greater than the actual cost of the works.”
Efficiency was also a consideration for the Dormers in choosing the tradies to work with, as they did not want to disturb their neighbours for longer than they had to. They also wanted someone who would tread carefully around the building’s common areas. Ultimately, the couple’s efforts and care paid off.
“The renovation made a huge difference to the rent potential – we were able to increase it from $550 to $750 a week, which was an excellent outcome!”
STEP EIGHT: THINK ABOUT YOUR BOTTOM LINE
There’s a fine line between adding COST enough wow factor that the bathroom impresses future tenants and buyers, and not breaking the bank.
“You don’t want to get hung up on having the best of the best and overcapitalise on your investment,” say Luke and Shaun. “So, think about what is good for rental returns and resale. If your property is in a nicer suburb and you’re on a budget, you still need to try to appeal to that market to get the best return on investment and make your property easier to rent out over the long term.”
Freestanding baths are a great way to give your bathroom some oomph. Luke and Shaun also point out that “bathtubs are appealing for families with children, and a brand-new one can be picked uppretty cheap”.
Luke Whittington and Shaun Hanley are co-founders of Reno Pack Pty Ltd. They are apartment renovation experts offering an easy, cost-effective, all-inclusive renovation service
Disclaimer: All products and prices listed are correct at the time of printing. The advice contained in this article is for general information only and should not be taken as fi nancial advice. Please make sure to speak to a qualifi ed professional person before making any investment decision.