I’ve lived in my house on and off for the last 30 years. I grew up in a single parent household where money understandably went on feeding and clothing 3 kids – not keeping up with the Jones’. While we’ve managed to get some work over the years, huge projects still remain. The biggest of which was our bathroom which was last done over 20 years ago. In fact, there is still work existing from the previous owners of the house such as an oversized window, cheap hollow door and whole host of other horrors.
I knew fixing this bathroom wasn’t going to be easy, but I was determined. Now us kids are grown up it’s time to leave the struggling narrative behind. So I set to work to plan, design and pay for this renovation. It took me about 18 months to save for as well as figure out what we really wanted. But I was absolutely determined to get it done!
Making The Bathroom Window Smaller
The first step was to remove the tiles and also sort out the window. The previous owners had installed a brown bathroom suite, and because this made the bathroom dark and dingy they decided to knock through the wall to create a large window. Only, this giant window took up precious wall space in what is a tiny, end-of-terrace bathroom.
In retrospect I took the tiles off far to early. I grew up watching the likes of Changing Rooms and honestly thought the whole project could be done in a couple of days! Try 2 to 3 weeks – yes, even for a small bathroom. The window wasn’t only too big, but the hinges were too weak. This meant whenever you opened the window, it would fly all the way open and you’d need a step ladder to close it. So my next step was to get a local window company in to install a smaller window.
And, voila! My request to reduce our ‘Mount Everest’ sized viewing platform of a window was kindly granted. It was a big job as it involved bricking up the interior and exterior of the house. The exterior brickwork also had to be rendered to prevent rain from seeping in, which is also a problem in the front of house. But that’s for another project!
It wasn’t easy getting the window fixed. The windows had to be specially made and were ordered in from Germany. Level 4 privacy glass was installed in place of 80s opaque leaves. Oh, and between the window, building materials and labour it cost me almost a months wages to get done. But, I knew it was absolutely essential as the window was far too big and didn’t work properly.
I found an amazing tool in Room Sketcher. It allowed me to draw out my bathroom to the exact dimensions and add in everything. I recommend doing this with any renovation, as it really allows you to visualise how everything is going to look. Although the software doesn’t have everything exactly (for example, I didn’t want white tiles) it still gives you a general idea.
Often, bathroom design companies will charge a lot for a similar service. In actual fact, Room Sketcher and even B&Q and Ikea have their own room planning tools on their website. So, it’s worth going on a hunt before you shell out lots of time or money on paying others to do it for you. If you ever played The Sims like I did growing up, you’ll love the nostalgia it creates when you’re sat there designing!
Shopping For My New Bathroom
Then came the fun part…. the shopping! Well I say fun, it certainly was but there was also a lot of pressure. I’ve saved for almost 2 years to pull this off. Everything had to be right. The problem is with so much choice, you don’t know what you want right away. Even if you go in a shop and you love a tile or sink, is it appropriate for the size and theme of your project? There is so much to consider that it was honestly a blessing I couldn’t afford everything right away, because it gave me much needed thinking time.
I also had some less than fun experiences while shopping. The Bath Store had lovely items but quoted me £10,000 for the job (most of which was for project management). In a tile shop I also had the assistant tell me that “I’m a woman. I’m going to change my mind about what I want”… Me: “Mate, the only thing I’ve changed my mind about is shopping in here!” So yeah, there were plenty of highs and lows but with determination we found everything we wanted over a period of a few weeks.
Bathroom Makeover Time
Well there’s no going back now! When it came to the choice between lots of independent tradespeople or a single contractor, I opted for the latter. The reason was that bathroom renovations are a huge job that cause a lot of disruption to the house. If you’re waiting on a plumber so that the tiler can come in, or if you need a builder but they cancel… you get the picture. Having one firm come in keeps everything managed and the time frame under control.
We were extremely lucky with our contractor. Over the years when we have had work done, often they’ve taken advantage of the fact my mum was a single parent on her own. Honestly, some of the work has been awful (a brand new roof that kept leaking, for example). That’s why I carefully vetted the company I chose, and they couldn’t have done a better job. Yes, there were hiccups (we had some tiles fall off due to a previous bodge job on the walls), and the bath got cracked so had to be replaced. But, the team handled everything with the utmost professionalism throughout.
Small Bathroom Makeover Reveal
When everything was completed, it literally felt like we were living in a dream. Remember, the bathroom had stood the same for 20 years. Now everything was brand new and beautiful. For the first time ever we had a working, standalone shower in the house, and boy is it powerful! You have the option between a rainstorm effect or a direct pressure with the smaller showerhead. It would polish up even the most mud-stricken Glastonbury revelers in seconds.
Before we had no storage either. So, products would sit along the side of the bath or windowsill and it felt very cluttered. Now with our Ikea vanity unit and shower caddy, there is plenty of room for products keeping everything clean and tidy. The addition of the towel rail also means it’s just a short walk from the piping hot shower to an equally toasty towel.
Chromotherapy Bath… The Cheat’s Way!
When I first starting planning the bathroom, I loved the idea of a light up bath (known as a chromotherapy bath). The idea being that each of the light colours symbolise different moods and feelings. I’ve been in spas before where they have chromotherapy saunas and I really liked the idea of having the same vibe in our new bathroom. Only, chromotherapy baths are upwards of £1,000-£1,500 so this was way out of my budget.
Instead I opted for water lights from Amazon for the princely sum of £12! They are suitable for baths, pools, ponds… basically anywhere with water. They have lots of different modes and settings and will just do their thing while you soak your worries away. Whether you have a lot of stress or even kids in the house… I highly recommend giving them a try!
UK Bathroom Renovation: My Top Tips
This was my first bathroom renovation, and needless to say there is a lot you learn throughout the process. Firstly, a bathroom (even a small one like ours) is going to take a few weeks to renovate, not a few days. It’s going to be more expensive than you anticipated and there will be hiccups. That’s just the nature of renovations, so it pays to be realistic about this.
Take your time to really consider what you want. Yes, metro subway tiles are in now… but what about in 2 years time? Try not to go too of the moment. Think about who needs to use the bathroom, and the decor throughout the rest of your home. Everything should have purpose and flow.
Finally, do your research when it comes to the contractor or tradespeople you hire. Look at their work, meet them in person…. don’t rush this step. Also, don’t just choose the cheapest. It’s worth waiting a little longer to start versus hiring someone inexperienced or someone who doesn’t care about your project as much as you do.
- Bath – Independent
- Bath Taps – Victoria Plumb
- Sink – Ikea
- Toilet – Victoria Plumb
- Tiles – Independent
- Towel Radiator – B&Q
- Floor – United Carpets & Beds
- Door – B&Q
- Door Handle – B&Q
- Door Lock – B&Q
- Bathmat – Tesco
- Bath Lights – Amazon
- Bath Tray – Amazon
- Shower Caddy – Ikea
- Extractor Fan – B&Q
To Sum Up
Bathroom renovations are stressful, costly and messy. But, when you take the time to plan them out they are SO worth it. For us personally, it’s really improved our quality of life. For the first time we have a bathroom that works properly. The design is exactly what we wanted, and we are really pleased with quality of the finish.
Let me know what you think! Be sure to leave me a comment below with any queries about the process. You can also see the renovation in action over on my channel.