Friday, October 28, 2016

Bathroom renovation begins

So after more than 5 years in my house, my bathroom renovation finally happened. My brother introduced me to an amazing carpenter friend, and that made all the difference. He organised all the other trades, and was so accommodating in all of my back and forth about what I wanted to do. All of the hurdles I saw blocking my way turned into minor bumps - it's just amazing how having a tradie who is knowledgeable and keen to do the work makes all the difference.

My bathroom was original, with almond coloured fixtures and brown patterned tile. It actually wasn't so bad, except for the shower screen, which was as dysfunctional as it was ugly. The roller thingys kept falling off because the screw holes were warped and bent, which meant the door panels would get stuck or were tricky to open smoothly. It all came to a head when I was virtually trapped in the shower with a giant black spider that descended from the ceiling vent directly above me, and I could not get the damn door open! I'm sure the neighbours can still remember the shrieks!

For years I kept thinking maybe I could just use tile paint and get the back resprayed, to do a quick and cheap makeover. But that still left the ugly floor tile, along with a layout that wasn't ideal.

Here's the original layout:

So we have a separate toilet, and a narrow bathroom. I realised there was so much wasted space in the hallway between the door going into the bathroom and the toilet. My concern was that by removing the wall and squaring off the room, I created two problems:

  1. Two different windows in the one room that weren't even the same height. My immediate assumption was that it would be expensive and onerous to replace the window, and I was trying to do this on a budget. 
  2. No separate toilet in a two bedroom unit. 
After talking to my carpenter about this, he said it would be quite easy to replace the window. I could buy a second-hand/factory seconds window for a few hundred dollars, and then it would just be a matter of getting a bricklayer to deal with bricking up the gaps on the outside of the house. The overall quote of removing the wall and replacing the window was about $2000 more than leaving the wall in place (not including the cost of the window). The added advantage would be that I could replace the old sliding aluminium window which was full of gunk and hard to open. Also, leaving the original window (if I kept the wall) would have created an oddly-placed window, since the current window has the all-in-one mirrored shelving cabinet incorporated under the window, which is extremely dated and was not going to stay. You can sort of see in in the before photo:



The second problem wasn't really an issue for me, since there's no one else there 90% of the time. I thought about when I lived in my share house, which had a main bedroom with an ensuite, and another two bedrooms that shared the main bathroom. And I can count on one hand the number of times this was a problem over five years of living there. I was conscious of resale considerations, and had a look online at other new-build two bedroom apartments to see what was on the market. I knew that the separate toilet was quite an old-fashioned design, albeit a practical one! After a bit of research I felt confident that removing the wall and squaring off the room was the way to go: almost all of the new-build 2-bed 1-bath apartments I was seeing online had the toilet inside the bathroom.

To finalise my decision, I drew a to-scale version of both options, with all the fixtures cut out separately so I could play around with the layout and different sized fixtures (for example, a 900mm x 900mm shower and a bigger option, and a 1400mm or 1600mm bath length, as well as a vanity option from 900mm to 1200mm in length.

Option 1: 'basic' renovation - no structural changes, a few plumbing changes:



Option 2: 'luxury' renovation - remove wall, new window and square off the room, about the same amount of plumbing changes:


The weird toilet placement was so that there were no plumbing changes required - as we got closer to the start of the renovation I decided it looked odd, and changed it 90 degrees to sit on the same wall as the vanity. This meant I didn't need to leave as much clearance and the vanity could be moved over to ultimately have a longer countertop. 

So I finally had a plan! Remove the wall and windows, put in a new window and create a new doorway to square off the room. This would allow me to have a much bigger room with a layout that worked. After a few false starts where we pushed the schedule back a few weeks due to tradie availability, we were ready to demo. I was able to save money by having my brother and a mate do the demo, and my brother did all the electrical work for me at no cost for labour - despite these savings, the whole renovation ended up costing just under $20,000 which I paid for in cash (I say this to demonstrate that this was as a result of years of saving, and that I wasn't taking out a loan or putting things on my credit card to be paid for at a later date, not to brag about how much cash I had). I would have liked to have spent less, but in the end I decided since this was a personal renovation and I had some specific wants, that would cost me a little more. 


I can easily see how people spend $30,000 or more on a bathroom renovation, as my price tag included free demolition labour (I had to hire a skip bin), free electrician (I had to pay cost price for the downlights, plug points, cable etc) and plenty of bargain/low-cost purchases of tiles, fixtures and fittings. 

The end results was amazing. A friend even asked if I had hired a designer! Here's a sneak peek:


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