It’s one of the most-used rooms in a house, yet an old bathroom can be quite an eyesore. Leaking showers, tiles that won’t stay put and an outdated style are all reasons you might be considering a renovation.
A full reno can seem daunting, but the overall benefits can make the experience a worthwhile investment.
Read on to find out how you can transform your bathroom into a room that you actually want to spend time in. Our guide will take you through the ins and outs of the renovation process, what costs you can expect and how long a reno will take.
Reasons to renovate your bathroom
From wanting to improve the comfort or look of a bathroom, to fixing up urgent problems such as leaking pipes, cracked tiles or structural issues, a renovation comes with many benefits.
Some common reasons for a reno include:
- To increase the value of your home. Additions and upgrades to your bathroom’s fixtures and fittings can add value to your home if you want to sell.
- To add more storage. Older bathrooms can easily get cluttered and messy because of the lack of storage. Interior design has come a long way in the last few years and you can now do a lot, even with a small space.
- To make it more accessible. A few extra grab rails and supports, non-slip flooring and more space to move around can help make your bathroom more accessible for an elderly family member, a wheelchair, people with disabilities or someone who is mobility-impaired.
- To update to a more modern design. Probably one of the most common reasons is to simply get rid of an outdated look. We do spend a lot of time in our bathrooms and a more modern design can help get the day off to a more pleasant start.
What to do before you start
Once you’ve decided to do a bathroom renovation, it’s easy to get excited and jump onto Pinterest for the latest tile or bathtub design. However, there are some less exciting tasks to consider before you jump into design mode.
1) Work out your budget
Costs can quickly creep up on you and if you haven’t figured out exactly how much you want to spend, your bathroom renovation cost can easily double or triple what you can afford to pay. Set a clear budget including how much you need for labour. Then you’ll know how much you can allocate towards the fun stuff like tiles, fixtures and extras.
2) Consider the timing
Many look at their bathroom and assume that there’s no way such a small area will need more than a few days to renovate. This is usually not the case, so it’s important to consider the timing of when your renovation is happening. Over important holidays is not ideal, for example, as you may have guests visiting. If you only have one bathroom, you’ll also need to make arrangements to shower or use a toilet somewhere else.
3) Figure out the best sequence
Having a contractor will make this an easy task but for those DIY fans, think about completing each job in a logical sequence. You probably want to start at the top of the room and renovate your ceiling first followed by walls and lastly floors. This helps prevent damage to the previously installed components.
4) Choose your design
This is when your creativity can come into play and you can go wild thinking about what design best suits your space. This can get overwhelming quickly, so start with some research. With elements like paint colour, tile choices, showers, vanities, tubs and faucets to consider, you might want to choose a feature item and then work the rest of the bathroom around it. Remember functionality is just as important as your colour scheme, so consider who uses the bathroom and how.
5) Work out the measurements
Size matters, so before you even consider buying anything, make sure you’ve measured and have a clear layout of your bathroom. Include the location of existing plumbing pipes and electrical wiring in the layout. This will help when shopping for fixtures and avoid you purchasing items that don’t fit.
The step-by-step process for renovating a bathroom
- Contact your local council. You may need to get council approval before you start, depending on where you live and how large your bathroom is. Speak with your council to find out what regulations are in place in your area and the steps you’ll have to take to get approval for your bathroom renovation.
- Hire the tradies. Depending on what you’re getting done, there may be multiple tradesmen involved in your bathroom renovation. You’ll need to get quotes and then decide on who you’re going to hire.
- Choose your products. Buy your products ahead of time. This way your tradies will know what you’ve purchased and you’ll also have some breathing space in case a product is out of stock and will be delayed.
- Demolition. While this could be seen as a fun opportunity to get destructive, a controlled and methodic strip-out is important. Remove the old tile, flooring and fixtures, and be careful not to damage plumbing or electrical work.
- Structural work. A builder can step in to do any necessary changes to the structure of the bathroom and repair any water damage if needed.
- Plumbing rough-in. Prepare the plumbing for new fixtures with all the square footage of the bathroom exposed.
- Electrical rough-in. Rework any wiring needed including relocating or installing additional outlets.
- Rendering or re-sheeting walls. This is the main preparation for waterproofing and tiling.
- Waterproofing. One of the most crucial steps for a bathroom renovation, this step can take up to five days for the waterproofing membrane to cure.
- Tiling, grouting and painting. The step when your bathroom starts coming to life. Make sure to use a professional or be very careful if going it alone.
- Install shower door. Another one that should be best left to a professional, especially if installing a glass shower screen.
- Install final wiring. Hook up and install ceiling lights, wall lights and connect the exhaust fan.
- Install vanity and benchtop. Get the sink and vanity into place ready for the plumbing to be installed.
- Install plumbing. Hook up the plumbing to all the new fixtures.
- Finishing touches. Now that all the grunt work is complete, it’s time to add in all those decorative touches that will make your bathroom feel like your own.
How much does a bathroom renovation cost?
The average bathroom renovation cost in Australia, according to the Housing Industry Association (HIA), is $17,522. These costs can vary widely depending on the size of your bathroom, structural changes needed and how much you choose to renovate. For example, a small or budget bathroom renovation can cost as little as $6,000 while a larger or luxury bathroom can cost well over $20,000.
Fittings and material can make up a large part of your overall expenses and choosing high-range fittings over more budget options can more than double the costs. Here are a few examples of typical price differences when looking at a renovation.
Cost of Bathroom Materials and Fittings
|Bath tap set||$100||$300||$500|
Source: Exclusiv Bathrooms
What impacts the cost of a bathroom renovation?
There is a slew of factors that can impact the cost of your bathroom renovation, including:
- Timing. The longer a renovation takes, the higher the labour costs. Also, if you need to temporarily move out while your bathroom is out of action, then the cost of temporary accommodation will increase by the day.
- Complicated trade work. If speciality work is required (such as heated flooring or adding a skylight), then you will have to look at hiring a more experienced and costly tradesman, along with the additional cost of the fixtures.
- Extending the floorplan. Deciding to enlarge your bathroom space or changing location altogether means higher costs for major structural and plumbing work.
- Overall design. Whether you go for budget, mid-range or luxury, products and finishes can have a huge impact. Each item you need to purchase for your bathroom can seriously add up.
- Unknown hazards. Water damage, mould and the need to remove asbestos all generally need a professional hand and can add significant costs to your budget.
What materials are needed for a bathroom renovation?
- Accessories and decor, including a shower curtain, soap dish, wall art, plants, bath mats and any ornaments
- Building materials such as wood, drywall, cement board, insulation
- Electrical appliances and lighting which you might want to replace include electrical wiring, sockets for appliances, switches and a vent fan
- Paint and tiles for both the floor and wall along with grout and caulk
- Plumbing fixtures including a toilet, sink, bathtub or shower plus faucets and showerheads
- Storage including a vanity and medicine cabinet
How can I finance a bathroom renovation?
- Credit card. For smaller renovations or to cover any unexpected expenses, a credit card is a convenient option. Consider a low interest rate credit card if you’re not planning to pay off the amount in full.
- Home equity loan. You can take out a secured personal loan on a portion of your home’s equity. This only works if you’ve built up enough equity in your home.
- Home equity line of credit. This is a form of personal loan that acts more like a credit card. It allows you to draw on funds in the form of a revolving line of credit. You withdraw the amount you need as you need it and only pay interest on what you borrow.
- Personal loan. The most flexible option allows you to borrow a set amount at a lower interest rate than most credit cards.
How long does a bathroom renovation take?
If everything goes according to plan, you can expect your bathroom renovation to take as little as 3 to 4 weeks to complete. Add in any surprises such as sick days, products not arriving or unplanned tasks and it can take up to 7 weeks.
How to find tradesmen for bathroom renovations in Australia
Word-of-mouth is one of the easiest ways to find a tradesman, but if your friends are coming up short then sites like Oneflare, Airtasker, hipages and their many alternatives are also a great place to start. You can request the work you need and receive quotes from multiple qualified workers.
For your renovation to be successful, make sure to hire quality tradies that will get the job done professionally and on time. A bit of effort picking the right tradesmen, in the beginning, will save you time and money in the long run. These are some of the tradesmen you might need for your bathroom renovation:
- Architect. Will help you design the layout and plans, and make sure everything fits into the space.
- Builder. Usually involved from start to finish and can be tasked with managing the whole process.
- Carpenter. Helps build any storage space and cabinets in the bathroom.
- Electrician. Handles lighting, power, heating and ventilation.
- Painters. Usually step in once the building and design work is finished.
- Plumbers. Take care of anything that involves water, including the bath, shower, toilet and bathroom fixtures.
- Tilers. Besides the tiling work, tilers are also tasked with drain management and overall quality of design.
- Waterproofer. They make sure that everything is watertight and stays dry.
What questions should I ask a tradesman?
Besides asking for their relevant qualifications and licences, here are some questions that can help you decide which tradesmen to hire:
- Are you insured? Even the best tradies can make a mistake or have an accident, so make sure they hold public liability insurance.
- Do you have references I can contact? Reach out to past clients to check on the tradies past work and conduct.
- Can I see examples of your workmanship? Make sure their style fits with your own and that they can do quality work.
- How long have you been in business? Even if the references check out, you might not feel comfortable hiring someone fresh out of their apprenticeship.
- What are the terms of payment? Some tradesmen might require a deposit upfront or will be happy to bill you once the work is completed.
How do I negotiate with tradesmen?
Negotiating doesn’t come easy to everyone and, for some, it can be a very stressful experience. Here are some tips to help get the best outcome and price for your bathroom renovation:
- Have a clear price in mind with how much you want and how high you’re willing to accept.
- Do some research or have someone more knowledgeable than you available to talk specifics.
- Beware of the classic tactics used by salespeople.
- Don’t appear desperate to get the job done.
- Make it clear you’re looking for the best price as well as a quality job.
- If you know you’re not able to stand your ground, ask a friend to help with the negotiations.
- Offer something they want to help bring the cost down (such as paying a deposit upfront).
- Don’t accept anything too low as that might be an indication of potentially poor or rushed quality.
Expert tips about bathroom renovations
By Chris Stead, Finder’s expert DIY and home renovations writer
How to save money on a bathroom renovation
- Remove waste yourself. A common theme in all my expert DIY tips regards waste. Whenever you get a trade to quote – and with plumbers, carpenters, electricians, glaziers, plasterers, painters, joiners and tilers all involved in a bathroom, there’s no shortage of them – ask them for a second price whereby you take care of the waste. They’ll quote on taking the rubbish they create to the tip and they will charge a lot more than it will cost you to do it yourself (if you’re capable).
- Think about the cheapest layout for your renovation. When planning out your bathroom’s layout, consider where the plumbing will go. What’s beneath the room, next to it or above it? How will the plumber get the hot and cold water to the room from wherever it enters the house and, secondly, get the waste from your toilet and drains to your sewer pipes? If you think about that in advance, you may, for example, be able to put the toilet against a wall where the waste can easily descend straight down to your sub-floor and not have to be piped around obstacles (like a downstairs window) or involve renovations to adjacent rooms to provide access or hide pipes. The less work spent connecting your pipes, the less materials and time for your plumber, and the lower the quote.
- Do you need tiles all the way to the roof? Tiles are much more expensive overall than Aquachek Gyprock. Outside of your shower, water generally does not splash above chest high. So, you could just stop your tiles halfway up the wall – perhaps finishing with a feature colour – and then complete the rest in plasterboard that you can paint and finish yourself. You may also find that a big feature mirror is a lot cheaper than a small mirror surrounded by tiles. When you consider the material itself, plus the labour of the tiler to cut them to fit, mount and grout, tiles are likely more expensive.
- Think about your power points. If you do go for a large mirror, just be conscious of the fact that placing a power point in it increases its cost. You may be better off positioning the power point on the tiles or in the vanity. Just be aware that power points need to be around 800mm or more from the top of a body of water, such as sink or bath, which you’ll need to consider when you plan your layout.
- Consider pre-cut shower glass sizes. Frameless shower glass is awesome; we did it for all our bathrooms. However, it can be expensive. Not just the glass, but the hinges, too. If you’re really on a budget but want that posh glass look, there are pre-cut glass sizes available everywhere from Bunnings to bathroom showrooms. If you think in advance, you can look to build your shower to dimensions that work with pre-cut glass. If this doesn’t compromise your space too much, you can get the premium finish at an affordable price.
- Don’t go exotic with your drains. It’s just a drain. We’d all love big long strip drains running the length of our shower, but the cost is absolutely outrageous. A more elegant solution is to get a tile inset drain, where you can get your tiler to cut a piece of your floor tile and place it in the top of the drain itself. Much cheaper and still sexy.
- Consider your fittings with budget in mind. You don’t need to have the best of the best straight away. It’s alright to go cheap on fittings during the financial pressure of getting your bathroom complete, and then to phase them out down the track with your dream look as you come into more money.
How to create space in a small bathroom
Our downstairs bathroom is cramped, but it also needed to be fully fitted out. It’s our guest bathroom (read: the place the mother-in-law will inevitably end up one day). There are four tactics I took to make sure I could fit a good-sized vanity, shower and toilet in the 2m x 2m space and still make it feel big.
- Place the shower in the corner and put the entrance doorway across the exposed corner. This design is simply called a corner shower or sometimes a diamond shape shower. By effectively cutting off the most exposed corner of the square shower, you still get a nice wide entrance and plenty of in-shower space, but you also gain a lot more floor in the bathroom proper.
- Utilise layout tricks. Speaking of showers, you can make a small shower feel bigger than it is through two tricks. Recess a shelf into the wall rather than have it stick out, and use a shower head that drops from the roof and not the wall. I have one of these; they’re awesome.
- Consider a narrower vanity where the sink extends past the edge of the top, overhanging the floor. There are plenty of different styles and looks out there, including undermount and semi-overmount. This approach still gives you significant sink space despite the narrower bench. But because the vanity is nestled further back towards the wall, you gain a volume of space in front of it that makes the room feel less oppressive. If you’re worried about vanity space, you can always look at a mirrored cabinet above the sink which you can recess into the wall, so it doesn’t stick out into the space above the sink.
- Put in a sliding door. It’s something of a compromise as sliding doors don’t seal as nicely as traditional doors and therefore unsightly sounds may escape more easily. But you can still optimise the seal by building a nook the door can close into and a pelmet over the top. The big benefit of the sliding door is that it doesn’t need to open into your bathroom. This gives you more space on the wall to put things like a towel rack, as well as ensuring you don’t have to squish your way around the door when you try to get in and out of the room.
- Have a nice big mirror. As mentioned earlier, mirrors are generally cheaper overall than tiles. Plus, they can be done by your glazier if you are getting a glass shower installed, so you already have the trade on site. But most importantly, mirrors reflect the room, making it look and feel bigger than it is.
Everyone wants natural light in their bathroom, but it’s not always possible. We wanted our toilet separate from our main bathroom because we have two young sons and a young daughter. I fear when the latter transitions to tween, she may occupy the bathroom for long periods of time, leaving the boys without a place to go to the loo. Unfortunately, to do this it meant creating a toilet with no windows. Yuk!
The fix was to put in a skylight tube, which brings natural light into the room all day. Now the expert tip here is that, should you end up with a similar mindset, make sure you get a solar tube that doesn’t conduct heat. They’re a little more expensive, but these thermal-friendly skylight tubes transition light, but not heat, into the little room.
How long should a bathroom renovation last?
As mentioned at the top, a bathroom involves a complex cast of trades to complete. Lining up all those trades in a row so they can efficiently install your bathroom is a near impossibility. This is one room in your house that can really drag out, especially when you consider that some trades will have to come back at different stages of the job as they wait for another trade to complete their task.
For example, your plumber will need to fit out all the piping when the room is still just frames, but then return once it’s all tiled to fit everything off and test. Or the tiler may need to waterproof, then leave it – and it’s horrible smell – to cure for a few days before returning. Your joiner will not want to make your vanity until objects around it – such as a bath and a shower – are in place, so they can get precise measurements.
Assuming you have all your fittings and porcelain ready to rock, you’d be stoked if it all got completed in under a month.
When is it worth hiring a professional bathroom renovation company?
When you’re on a tight deadline or if you don’t have the energy to organise each of the individual trades yourself, a professional reno company could be the best choice.
Professional bathroom renovation companies will have their own trades, or indeed preferred trades, on their books. As such, they can do a better job of making sure that the trades turn up when they’re supposed to. If time is of utmost importance to you, this can mean you have a better chance – not a 100% certainty, but a better chance – of getting the job done by your deadline. They can also help with organising quotes, finding supplies and dealing with waste, but you’ll no doubt lose some say in the final touches and finishes in return.
About Chris Stead
Finder’s expert DIY and home renovation writer, Chris Stead, spent two years as an owner-builder. He was involved day-to-day from the groundwork up in constructing a two-story family home with a pool and separate granny flat. Working alongside every trade on the journey, tools in hand, he went through all the successes, failures, stress and financial decision making required to renovate in Australia.
Pros and cons: Is a bathroom renovation worth it?
- Improved look and aesthetics
- Increase the value of your home
- Add more space and storage
- Potentially high cost, especially for luxury renovations
- Downtime without a bathroom
The bathroom is one of the most frequently used rooms in the home, so it makes sense that you would want to spruce it up as much as possible. Whether it’s a small renovation or a complete remodel, check out your options for financing a home renovation so you can start on yours today.
Frequently asked questions about bathroom renovations
How much should I set aside for a contingency budget?
About 5 to 10% of your budget is a good amount for a contingency fund. Most contractors will already have this factored into their estimate.
How can I future-proof my bathroom for when I get older?
To help make your bathroom more accessible, have a wide door opening and an open shower recess. You can also put some extra supports within the walls to accommodate grab rails in the future.
How can I minimise maintenance once my bathroom renovation is complete?
- Built-in wall cabinetry and fewer gaps between products will help avoid dust accumulation.
- Frameless shower screens accumulate less mould build-up.
- An EPOXY grout can reduce mould and mildew.
Can I still use my bathroom once the renovation has begun?
Generally not. Most of the area will be stripped and demolished, and may be unsafe to enter.