Before & after: A dated bathroom gets a modern upgrade

From old-school style to contemporary.

Bathrooms found in older homes are often the spaces we all wish we could change in a heartbeat – but renovating often comes with a hefty price tag. Thankfully, there are things you can do to save cash, from the demolition stage and beyond. (Knowing when to call the professionals is an important step, too! See our tips over the page.) Check out this beautiful bathroom for inspiration.

Before (Credit: Chris Jones)
After (Credit: Chris Jones)

Before you begin

Look at your layout – do you want to move things around, like taps and power points? this will add to the cost, but if your current bathroom really doesn’t work then it can be money well spent. speak with your plumber first, as this is where most of the extra cost will be. also decide on all the fixtures and fittings, such as toilet and taps. Different products have different positions for water inlet and wastes, so your plumber will need to know this early on in your planning.

Now it’s time to get started, here’s how. 

1. Rip into it!

ripping tiles
(Credit: Chris Jones)

Book the rubbish skip and break out the sledgehammer – it’s time to get rid of the old bathroom. Before you take that first swing, make sure you have the whole range of safety gear (dust masks, gloves, ear and eye protection) and, if you’re in an older home, check wall linings for asbestos, which needs to be professionally removed. Then go for it! For brick walls, use a hammer and chisel to knock off the tiles and render and get back to bare brick (You might need a hammer drill if they prove to be stubborn). With timber-framed walls, rip off and replace the old wall sheets and to get rid of the floor tiles, hire an electric jackhammer (around $100 a day).

2. Pipes and power

new sink
(Credit: Chris Jones)

Now you have a clean slate! If your bath is to be built in, start there. Wall linings will be installed around it, so attach supports to the wall and prepare a sand/cement bed on the floor. Make sure the tub won’t move, as this can cause big problems later. First trades in are the plumber and electrician to rough in their respective services. Make sure you know where everything will go and have the product specifications (or even better, the actual products) at the ready for reference. Don’t forget to speak with your tiler to make allowance for how much the floor level will rise with the screed bed and new tiles.

3. Raise the walls 

(Credit: Chris Jones)

For timber-framed construction, you’ll need a plasterer to install and set fibre cement linings to the walls (and ceiling, if this is being changed). For masonry walls, get a cement renderer. Keep in mind that fresh cement render needs to be left to cure for at least a week before you can proceed with your renovation.

4. Seal it tight

(Credit: Chris Jones)

The next step is your most important – waterproofing. Most problems with bathroom renovations occur due to failed waterproofing, and it’s one of the most expensive things to fix later, as you have to remove the tiles to get to the problem. Do your research before you DIY, or have a professional waterproofer take care of it and enjoy peace of mind that the job is done right.

5. Time to tile 

(Credit: Chris Jones)

The secret to a top tiling job is in the setting out. You want the cut tiles along the edges of the wall and floor to be even so you don’t have a narrow tile in one corner and a wide tile in the other. The height of wall tiles also needs to be considered, to avoid having narrow tiles at horizontal cuts around the bath or floor. If you have a patterned border tile, it is preferable to have the pattern continue around a corner. Make sure silicone is applied to the corners and the wall/floor junction when tiling is complete.

6. Fitting out 

finished bathroom
(Credit: Chris Jones)

After tiling, get your shower screen supplier in to measure up, since it can take time to manufacture if its custom made the plumber can return to fit out the taps, toilet, sink and shower. If you have a basin bench, it should be installed first so it’s ready for the plumber to hook it up. The electrician can also connect any light fittings, power points and fans. Finish by installing fittings like towel rails, shaving cabinets and soap holders.

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