Bathroom Installation

The bathroom is an essential room in the house. After the kitchen it is the other main room that must be functional as well as being clean and pleasing to be in. The bathroom is where most water gets used in the house. Water damage is not pleasant as mould and staining occurs. It is therefore, very important to have the bathroom professionally installed.

Bathroom Design

Bathrooms generally do not need design. The size and shape and the position of the services usually dictate where things have to be. If you are lucky enough to have a big room or a new extension where many of these constraints are removed I would recommend to get at least three planners. Treat each separately and never introduce what another has come up with. The purpose is to get some ideas.

Don’t be afraid to ask a planner what is limiting the design. Often moving a doorway a few inches can make a huge difference. A good planner will know this and it may not be as costly as you think to get what you want.

Having got the layout go back to get competetive quotes for the basic design. You will need to compromise a little depending the supplier as each one will  have slightly different variations on the same item. Don’t fall for the buy-it-now deals either. You must speak to an installer first. Also waiting to the end of the month when a store is short of their target, the price miraculously drops. Once you have the design, obtain a dimensioned plan and speak to an installer before purchasing.

Baths

Do you need one? Most people shower these days and a good showerroom may be a better answer. Does it affect the resale of the house? Who cares, surely you are installing the bathroom for your own enjoyment and assuming that you are changing your bathroom to improve your own life, you are not intending moving shortly. On the other hand if you are developing the house specifically for a young family then a bath is probably a good idea.

The majority of baths sold now are Acrylic although enamelled steel are still available. Enamelled steel are generally simple in shape and are extremely tough. They are excellent to fit into rented accomodation for this reason. The downside is that they are cold to the touch and the water cools quicker. However, this can be rectified partially by insulation or even routing cental heating pipes in a loop around underneath.

Acrylic baths come in all shapes and sizes. Despite many claims thicker acrylic baths are no better than thinner ones. The acrylic forms the shape and surface skin of the bath. The thickness of the acrylic is determined by the moulding process. The strength comes from reinforcement. Baths will be reinforced with a board on the base. In cheaper baths this is bonded on. Better baths have this board encapsulated with firbreglass in addition to the fibreglass reinforcement around the sides.

Baths will suffer from scratching if abrasive cleaners are used. Sometimes scratches can be polished out on acrylic.

Free standing baths look great in large bathrooms. They are no good for showers and next to a wall become difficult to clean around. Pipes also need to be routed through the floor to give a clean look. If this is not possible – avoid them.

Double ended baths may conjour up romantic images of relaxing in the bath with your partner and a glass of wine. Unless it is really big or you and your partner are very small the amount of relaxation may be limited. The waste outlet on these baths are usually in the middle, this usually adds to the discomfort.

Shower baths are very popular as they offer a good compromise in limited space. These offer a really good alternative to a regular bath if the space at the shower end is available.

Bath screens do not keep the water contained with the bath and water will spray around them, particularly with a powerful shower. Shower curtains although less attractive are far better at keeping the water in the bath.

Vitreous China

WC’s Basins and Bidets to you and me. All these items are normally made from Vitreous China which is a fired clay that is glazed to give the nice finish. So don’t be fooled into thinking the expensive toilet is better material than the cheap one, it is not. It is the same product. So what makes one more expensive than another? There are several parts to this answer:

  • Name – You will certainly pay for some branding, but in truth this is less than the main reason which is the cost to manufacture.
  • Cost to manufacture – Expensive toilets are made from more complex moulds. This is often to give lean lines back to the wall hiding the bend pipe. So firstly the mould is more expensive. As the mould is more complicated the number of toilets that fail this step is higher, creating more wastage. With a more complex shape the stress points created during firing cause more wastage. Lastly as the production quantities of expensive WCs is less the chances of the moulds being refined is less continuing hihg wastage rates, whereas cheap toilets can have all the glitches ironed out. Wastage can be down to a few % upto many failures for every finished toilet manufactured. This is reflected in the price.

Don’t be fooled either that you must buy matching WC and Basin to get a colour match. A basin and it’s pedestal will not come from the same glaze batch, it may not even be manufactured in the same factory or even country. The reason to choose matching basin and WC is so the design is similar.

The last word on WCs is that they are designed to function with a certain volume of water/ flush. This is now 6l for a full flush. Placing a brick in the cistern to reduce the volume will stop the pan from working effectively.

Taps

Without going into the varoius types of tap, there are two important points to remember when chosing a tap:

  1. Is the tap designed to operate on the water pressure you have in the house. Many taps will only operate on high pressure supplies. These will have small bore pipes supplying them and will give very poor water flow if fitted to a low pressure system. The minimum flow rate to taps and baths is given regulations, but more practically your bath may take an hour to fill.
  2. Is the tap WRAS approved? Approval is required to connect a tap directly to the mains water supply to prevent contamination to the supply. If it is not then additional plumbing may be required.

Showers Controls

There are four main types of shower control. Depending on the water system installed each have their advantages and disadvantages. These are:

  1. Shower mixer – as the name implies it simply mixes the hot and cold water together. These give excellent showers on high pressure water systems such as from a combi-boiler or a pressurised hot water tank. On a low pressure system they can be used in conjunction with a shower pump to also give an excellent shower, but can be adequate on some systems without one. Shower mixers can be surface mounted or concealed. Concealed cannot be fitted in some walls. Mixers are generally very good value for money.
  2. Electric Shower – is a shower that heats the water internally using what is effectively a powerful kettle. These give adequate showers but do need a dedicated electrical supply. They run only off the cold water mains supply and are fairly simple to install (if the electric is available). Electric showers are a really good back up in houses with combi-boilers.
  3. Power shower – These look like electric showers but should not be confused with them as they do not heat the water. They run of low pressure hot and cold supplies and are a mixer and pump combined into one unit. These give good showers and are a good cost effective alternative to a pumped system.
  4. Digital showers – Expensive to buy initially but have many advantages. They are easily installed as they can be installed remotely. They come in both pumped for low pressure water and non-pumped versions for combi-boilers. These give good showers.

Shower Enclosures

A shower enclosure is the best option for a shower as it will keep the water inside when installed properly.

Shower trays come in stone and Acrylic versions. Stone is heavy but very strong. Acrylic is lighter and is available in many shapes giving rise to all sorts of new enclosure shapes. Most acrylic trays are low level, meaning that they cannot hold mach water before they overflow. A high flow shower combined with any blockage in the waste such as hair can easily lead to flooding. New acrylic trays do not suffer from cracking often experienced with the older types which were often foam filled. Many manufacturers offer riser systems today to make installation easier, the quality of these is tremendously variable. So speak to an installer.

Shower enclosures come in many shapes. Framed enclosures are generally the cheapest as the frame is there to support the glass and protect the edges meaning thinner glass can be used. Some enclosures use acrylic panels but glass is probably more common and will be toughened for safety.

Frameless enclosures are becoming popular due to the fact they do not have a frame and so they doo not intrude into the room so much. A variety of semi-framed options are available inbetween offering a compromise between the extremes.

Walk-in enclosures are very popular. They do not have a door and use offset panels to keep the water in. They are not 100% god at doing this. The do also take up a lot of floor space, but do give a drying area at the entrance.

Pivot doors are the simplest. Some suffer from water running off them when opened which drips onto the floor, but most have some way of preventing this. Bifold doors are good for a limited space as they open into the cubicle. The downside is they take up room in the enclosure when opened.

Sliding doors are the alternative to bifolds for limited space. Some low cost ones stick and can be awkward to slide. Newer systems with wheels are much better than the tracks on older types. Cleaning between the doors and the enclosure can be an issue, but some systems allow the door to be easily lifted off for cleaning.

Enclosures now come with anti-limescale coatings. They help, but I have not found a fully effective one yet.

Built in furniture

Like kitchen cabinets, for enclosed cisterns and recessed sinks. The same rules apply as for kitchens.

Tiles

Tiles remain the most common and effective waterproof covering available in a bathroom although Splashwalls are becoming more popular. I do not want to say too much about tiles except to avoid real stone and other porous tiles in a bathroom, particularly shower enclosures. Porours tiles need to be sealed and re-sealed during their life. If water penetrates it can lead to wet rot, dry rot and other fungus growth causing severe structural damage.

Jacuzzi’s

Jacuzzi’s, whirlpool baths and spa baths are luxurious to own. They can be bought complete and the technology can be added to many bath shapes by the manufacturer. The only thing to bear in mind with these is that they require disinfecting regularly to prevent mould forming in the pipes. Swirling black mould can be disconcerting when the pumps are switched on. It tends to ruin your relaxation in a nice hot bath.

Wet Rooms

Wet rooms have not really caught on in the UK. Consequently houses are often not constructed in a way to allow their installation. The principle is to waterproof or tank the whole room and place a drain in the floor converting the whole room into a giant shower cubicle. Works very well for converting cloakrooms into showerroooms.

Many systems are available on the market and if you are thinking of a wet room you need to speak to a professional installer.

Experience

Paul Jackman has been trained by 20-20 in bathroom design. 20-20 is the software package that many companies use to layout bathrooms. Also having fitted many bathrooms Paul worked as a surveyor and work-site manager for one of the big  installation companies. Handling up to 40 installations each week. The advice given above is from personal experience and working with suppliers.