Our $15,000 Bathroom Upgrade

An inspired renovation drags a dated bathroom into the 21st century

a renovated bathroom with brown tiles and white cabinetry

This bathroom cost $15, 000 to transform

The catalyst for John and Dianne Bowler’s bathroom renovation was a leaky pipe. Although the couple, from NSW, was tired of the dated fixtures, cracked tiles and water-wasting spa bath, they’d put off doing anything about it until John investigated the mildew in the adjacent toilet.
 
‘We took the lining off the toilet wall and found one of the pipes had sprung a leak and the whole wall was rotted out,’ says John.
 
‘Not only does waterproofing keep water out of walls, when there is a leak like this it also keeps water inside the wall cavity.’
 
The leak had damaged the wall lining on both sides, making tiles drummy and causing grout to crumble.
 
‘I had to repair the wall anyhow so we decided to just go ahead and redo the whole thing,’ says John.
 

Making the plans

After many visits to exhibition homes and bathroom showrooms, and days spent browsing internet sites and magazines, the couple came up with a modern design to suit their needs. The plan was to replace the old tub with a larger shower recess and install a bigger vanity.
 
After shopping around for fittings, they chose a single bowl vanity with a white onyx top, flick mixer taps and a wall-faced toilet suite.
 
‘We obtained quotes from local bathroom companies, ranging from $7k to almost $22k, depending on how much work they would do.
 
‘This took weeks as a lot of them didn’t even show up to look at the job. Just as well we had another bathroom at the back of the house,’ says John.
 
A carpenter by trade, John decided to manage the job himself, arranging all the tradies and calling them in when needed.
 

The demolition process

Despite the age of the house the walls were not asbestos, so there were no concerns about the demolition process. If asbestos had been found, it would have needed to be removed professionally at additional cost.
 
The water and electricity were isolated, a skip ordered and John set about tearing out the old fittings, floor and wall lining.
 
‘We left the ceiling to save work as there was no damage. Just the cornice was removed and the old exhaust fan and light holes repaired later.
‘I fixed the rotted wall by replacing the studs, base plates and noggins. A damp-proof course was applied to the old floor before I built the new non-structural wall.’
 

Doing the preparation

The plumber extended the water pipes and taps out of the wall. There were no major refits so it was a simple job even with relocating two new floor wastes.
 
‘The new showerhead required a bit of work as it’s on the opposite wall to where the water came up through the floor for the old spa,’ says John.
 
‘The mixer tap was left on the same wall, so the water had to be chased around the rear wall of the shower.’
 
New flashing angle was placed in the corners then the walls were re-sheeted with Villaboard, with provision for a storage alcove in the shower recess for shampoo and soap.
 
‘I filled the old floor waste holes and some larger imperfections with sand and cement. The floor was then cleaned so the tiler could apply waterproofing compound,’ says John.
 
Gaps and corners were filled with a closed cellulose strip and painted over with waterproofing compound.
 
‘The compound was left for 48 hours to cure before work could continue, but this didn’t stop our cats walking all over it as the door had been removed for easy access. We had dirty pawprints all over the house!’
 
Meanwhile Dianne had chosen new porcelain tiles, a 300 x 300mm mocha for the floors and a matching 600 x 300mm tile for the shower wall.  The other walls were tiled in a contrasting cream crystal tile in the 600 x 300mm size. Feature strips in the shower and to the right of the vanity were added for contrast.
 

Laying the tiles

The tiler applied a sand-and-cement base reinforced with chicken wire mesh across the whole floor to get the correct fall to the floor waste.
 
‘We had a long grate installed along the shower wall and smart tile floor wastes, which have a recess in the top to take a matching floor tile so they’re less obtrusive,’ says John.
 
After the floor, the shower wall was tiled along with a silver tile edge mitred around the alcove.
 
The feature tiles were glued to a strip of fibre cement 150mm wide for ease of handling and to make them the same thickness as the wall tiles.
 
‘At the other end of the room I refitted a new architrave so the tiler could cut the tiles around the opening.
 
‘When the bathroom was done he moved into the separate toilet where the same process took place, then he grouted all the tiles.’

Lessons learned

John and Dianne love their new bathroom but John admits he would not have picked porcelain tiles if he’d been aware of the work involved.
 
He says, ‘Porcelain tiles have to be sealed before using. They are coated with protective wax before they’re imported and it took us a good half a day to scrub the floor clean.
 
‘We used a special porcelain cleaner a couple of times and finished with a solution of white vinegar and water, then a lot of polishing with clean cloths before sealing.’
 
The couple also had to replace the new exhaust fan after only a few weeks of operation because it wasn’t powerful enough for the room.
 
‘A new exhaust fan with a two speed motor was fitted and vented outside to prevent excess moisture in the roof. I fitted a chinaman’s hat and ducting through the roof and flashed it for a weatherproof seal.’
 
One thing they are particularly happy with is the frameless shower screen consisting of a single panel of glass two metres high.
 
‘The rainwater showerhead has jets of water that go straight down rather than fanning out, reducing the risk of splashes,’ says John.
 

Finishing off

‘After the grout dried I repaired the ceiling with offcuts of plasterboard and setting compound, and applied a coat of wallboard sealer,’ says John.
 
The electrician came and fitted new power points at each end of the vanity, LED lights that had been roughed in earlier and an exhaust fan in the skywell over the shower.
 
The shower screen was installed using three L shaped brackets and silicone, with a corner glass shelf for extra strength.
 
‘We fitted vanities in the bathroom and toilet and adjusted the legs for level. The plumber connected the fittings and added the tops which feature integrated bowls.
 
‘I installed a 1500mm wide mirror on clips above the vanity, painted with quality bathroom and kitchen paint in Whisper White. I also mounted the towel rails, drilling through the wall tiles before inserting the rawl plugs and screws,’ says John.

inbuilt storage in a modern shower
The couple also included features like in-built storage for soaps and creams  

What it cost

The reno took three weeks of tiling, waterproofing, plumbing and electrics.
 
Labour - $9,100
Skip bin - $220
Wall repairs and lining - $520
Paint - $101
Lights - $120
Basin mixers - $180
Shower fittings - $575
Floor wastes - $310
Shower screen - $230
Mirror - $170
Vanity - $990
Toilet and roll holder - $356
Towel rails - $78
Exhaust fan and ducting - $233
Ceiling diffuser, roof flashing and chinaman’s hat - $60
Tiles and tile sealer - $2,476

TOTAL $15,719

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