Without doubt my most ambitious DIY project to date, and all credit to my long suffering family who have waited patiently for over two years for me to complete it – but our new family bathroom is finally finished!
We moved into our Victorian cottage in 2010. The cottage had undergone quite a lot of renovations in the 1970s, leaving some classic howlers from the period – wood chip ceiling paper (yet to be removed…), and two bathrooms next to each other on the upstairs corridor – one hallucinogenic pink and the other avocado green.
The pink bathroom had a small walk in shower room next to it. Whilst this worked, it had that disconcerting smell of damp. I bought a new shower tray, intending to somehow remove the existing one, check the plumbing, insert the new one and make good. But this never happened because in removing the tray the tiles started falling off the walls, and so my son and I enthusiastically removed the tiles and render beneath, and the shower room sadly sat idle pretty much until a couple of years ago when I finally managed to muster the money to think about installing a new bathroom. By this time we had decided to knock through the pink bathroom into the separate shower room to create a larger family bathroom.
Looking back from that point to today, I now have a huge respect for builders in general, and more specifically bathroom installers (or the good ones at any rate).
The list of what needed to be done was endless, and most of the tasks I would be undertaking with no previous experience: re-rendering brickwork,
strengthening floor boards; complete re-plumbing which included re-routing the waste for two toilets and creating two new holes in the external walls for drainage; a new power shower pump plus associated modifications to existing pipework to and from the hot water cylinder and loft tank; sound insulating the floor; laying a new floor; insulating and boarding the walls, new wastes for the bath, shower and wash stand; new shower tray; tile backing the shower enclosure; tiling the shower enclosure; building a new airing cupboard; replacing both windows; turning an old cupboard into a wash stand, and the list goes on…. The only job I got someone in to do was the electrics.
Clearly I can’t describe in detail every single step, but here’s a summary of the significant steps that took me from a brick shell to the finished bathroom, above.
With the old bathroom ripped out and the floor removed I was able to start planning the new pipework. The existing pipework needed re-configuring to suit the location of the new bath, washstand, toilet and shower. The trick to this lay in looking closely at the old pipes, working out what jobs they were doing, and then planning how they needed to be modified for the new bathroom suite.
As the pipework was going to be hidden under the floor I decided to stick to soldered copper pipework rather than push fit joints that might fail in the future. To do the new plumbing I bought an Irwin Hilmor pipebender (capable of bending 15mm and 22mm pipework) and a new Rothenberger Rofire Pro Gas hand torch and canister, which had a built in ignition – I was finding it a real pain trying to light my old torch with a lighter each time I was ready to solder.
I was concerned that the new shower and roll top bath would not get sufficient pressure from the existing gravity fed hot water cylinder so after much research I fitted a Stuart Turner 3.0 bar power shower pump (see left). This required a new dedicated 22mm feed from both the cold water storage tank in the loft, and the hot water cylinder. I fitted a Stuart flange to the top of the hot water cylinder to provide this feed, and a 22mm tank connector in the cold water storage tank in the loft.
The plumbing ended up being the most satisfying job I undertook in the bathroom. Armed with my torch, flux, wire wool and solder it was like putting together a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle!
With the plumbing complete, I was keen to get the new floor down, after narrowly avoiding serious injury when I put my foot through the lath and plaster ceiling one weekend whilst fitting the new bathroom window (see above, right!). I sourced a new tongue and grooved 220mm wide engineered oak floor from a wonderful company, JFJ Wood Flooring .
After insulating between the floor joists with soundproofing I laid the floor, and after some research decided that tongue tite screws (rather than investing in a porter nailer) would be the easiest and cheapest method of screwing the flooring down to the joists.
I then made a special clamp out of a piece of 2″x2″ timber cut along the diagonal. When hammered together (see photo right) the clamp drove the floor boards firmly together enabling me to screw them down with no gaps in between each board.
At this point I inserted noggins between the floor joists along the length of the shower tray to ensure the tray was perfectly horizontal, and well supported. In the foreground (left) you can just see the ply sheet that was then screwed down to the joists, to provide support for the shower tray.
To mirror the Victorian oak floor in our hallway, I mixed two colour tones from Treatex (1/3 ebony, 2/3 victorian oak) and then enlisted the help of my enthusiastic son to apply the stain and hardwax oil top coat.
With the floor now finished and covered in cardboard and bubble wrap to protect it, I battened the walls and inserted ecotherm insulation in between the battens, before screwing plasterboard onto the battens with drywall screws.
In the shower area I used tile backer rather than plasterboard – a glass reinforced gypsum board ideal for areas exposed to water and moisture. I don’t intend for any moisture to penetrate through the tiles into the wall behind, but tile backer is the belt and braces approach to shower enclosures, and provides an excellent key for tiles.
A local handyman then plastered the walls and ceiling for me – something I have come to regret as this is the one job other than the electrics that I didn’t do, and I am not very happy with the finish of the plasterwork. I would have been better to have done this myself, or enlisted the help of a professional plasterer instead!
It was now time to open the various boxes that had been building up in the spare room – containing toilet, sinks, bath, bath and shower mixers, towel rails, and to gradually assemble these.
This was the fun bit after all the hard work and at this point, after a build of nearly two years – mostly during spare time at weekends – I began to feel that the end was truly in sight.
In the shower area we had a recessed window and three recessed shelf areas for towels and shower products. With so many exposed edges I decided to use hand made Malborough tiles – which have one fully glazed side edge. I bought a Plasplugs electric tile cutter and set about the laborious task of tiling the shower area over a couple of weekends.
I opted for a powdered tile adhesive as I was told this would provide better adhesion than the premixed adhesives – a must for these tiles, as with their uneven edges it was very difficult to use tile spacers – so much of the spacing had to be done by eye.
So that there was no diminution in pressure to the bath I plumbed the 22mm copper pipework right into the bath mixer rather than using flexi hoses which I’ve learnt aren’t full bore. You’ll find loads of forums on this conundrum but I decided I was confident enough by now with my pipe bending to be able to produce my own feed into the bath mixer!
For the washstand, we took an old Victorian chest we bought for £35 on Ebay and converted it into a double (undermount) basin washstand with marble top sourced from a local marble company. I also made the oak mirror pictured above from a reclaimed oak floorboard.
The glass shower screen was sourced from Ebay and, although it was 1900mm high rather than the 2000mm advertised I was very happy with the quality of the screen and the chrome supporting bracket. The screen also came with a free chrome wiper, which we now use after every shower to keep the screen free from lime scale.
The last job was to make the airing cupboard – which you can see from the photo above we were by this stage already using! I constructed this from a combination of timber and mdf. The timber formed the framework for the front of the cupboard, and the sides and the cupboard doors themselves were made with two layers of 12mm mdf, layered on top of each other to create the rebate for the decorative moulding. The decorative moulding itself (bought from B&Q) actually cost more than the rest of the wood put together!
So I hope you found this post of interest or use for your own bathroom projects. If you have any questions about the tools I used, or the products I sourced, please do leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!