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Bathroom Planning: A Complete How to Guide with Costs & Ideas

Your bathroom is more than just functional. It is a place to unwind in a hot shower or bubble bath or to get away from the stresses of the day.

You start and end your day there. The bathroom should be inviting, relaxing and, yes, practical.

This Bathroom Buying Guide will help you understand the bathroom renovation process and how to develop a project that will deliver the bathroom that fulfills the purposes you have in mind.

Here’s what you’ll find in Our Bathroom Guide

Why are You Renovating the Bathroom?

Modern Bathroom Design Idea

If you loved the bath, you wouldn’t remodel it, right?

So, what aren’t you happy with? Small things or large?

Understanding how the current bathroom falls short is the first step in knowing how to solve the issues. It is also the key to how large and costly your renovation project will be. See the price table below or our full article on bathroom refit costs.

Colours: Are the colors and style of the basic features outdated? You might be content just repainting the walls, painting the furniture and replacing flooring and countertops. This is a minor to mid-range bathroom remodel.

Fixtures: Are the colors wrong, and do the fixtures (sink, bath, toilet) need replacing – and maybe you’d like to add a jetted bath or steam shower? You are solidly into a mid-range renovation. Depending on the quality/cost of what you choose, this could be a major bathroom remodel.

Layout/Expansion: Is the space poorly designed or not large enough (or too large)? You’re planning to “gut” the bathroom and start over. This might include moving a wall or two, moving and possibly adding plumbing or electrical, adding or moving a window and replacing “the whole works” including vanity, countertops and fixtures. This is the very definition of “major bathroom remodel.”

Who Will Use the Bathroom?

This is another way of asking, “is this an en-suite bathroom, a full bath used by multiple family members or a half-bath/cloak room?

En-suite bath: Is the bathroom part of a bedroom suite? According to leading fixture manufacturer Kohler, this bathroom, “is often a private retreat from the rest of the household. It should have space to indulge extra relaxation and luxury features.”

Homeowners are willing to spend more on a master bath because of this.

Ideally, the bathroom will be spacious but efficiently used. Lighting should be adjustable, from bright for applying makeup and checking your wardrobe to dim and gentle while soaking away the cares of the day in the bath.

A shower bench is a nice touch; a jetted bath or steam shower is a luxury item to be considered.

How many people will use the bathroom at a time?

If two people arise and prep for the day or get ready for bed at the same time, then a large worktop with two sinks and taps is essential.

Also consider a large shower with two heads and a toilet isolated with a door for a bathroom that is often used by couples at the same time.

Family bathroom: This bathroom type is usually shared, so two sinks and the isolated toilet are worth considering here too. A large linen and supplies closet will prove useful.

Take the age of the users into account. Would a section of worktop installed to be lower than the rest, with its own sink and mirror, be valuable for young kids? Lowering the bath components is safer than having small children use a step stool, which represents a falling hazard.

What about a child-height toilet?

What about teens? Choosing worktops impervious to nail polish stains or hot hair tool burns will be worthwhile.

Cloak room: Who uses your guest toilet?

Is it just the occasional guest? Then it can be small with a toilet, small vanity and sink.

However, if it is often used by family members in a large household, then storage space for supplies is important.

Would a shower be useful, turning it into a 3/4 bathroom? If your household is very active or if there is a guest bedroom on the first floor but no full bath, then yes, a shower will prove invaluable.

Can you put a shower stall in the existing space, or will space need to be gained from a nearby hall, bedroom or pantry?

Expansion might not be possible, but it is worth considering.

Universal design: This term refers to a bathroom that anyone, including the elderly and those with handicaps and special needs can use.

Features include a walk-in bath/shower enclosure with a permanent or fold-down seat and plenty of grab bars strategically placed.

A universal design bath requires a doorway wide enough for a wheelchair with a zero-threshold entrance for easy access. These are just a few of the features that should be designed into this type bathroom.

Bathroom Costs and Your Budget

Budgets are a nuisance, to be sure, but most of us have to stick to one when planning a bathroom remodel or extension.

That’s why it helps to know what others are spending – and what they’re getting for the pounds spent.

Typical Bathroom Renovation Budgets

The range homeowners spend is 6% for minor bath remodels to more than 20% of their home’s value for a major renovation.

Let’s divide this by Basic/Better/Best for the new bathroom cost.

Basic: £5,500 – £11,000, with an average of about £9,400. In this range, you’ll find attractive laminate worktops and cheap ceramic tile too, vinyl sheet or entry-level laminate and LVP flooring, a stock vanity – or painting your old vanity and lower-cost sink and tap. That’s the operative word: “Basic.” It applies to any materials including lighting and bath furniture.

Better: £11,500 – £20,000, with an average of £16,675. This is the most common bathroom refit cost range for UK homeowners. Materials common here include quality ceramic tile, solid surface and some stone tile worktops plus a nice backsplash. Flooring includes LVT, top-grade laminate or tile. All other features will have a mid-range price tag.

You have allocation decisions to make in this range. If you want high-end worktops or a steam shower, you might have to choose more affordable flooring or furniture, for example. There are trade-offs, whereas with a Basic remodel, you’re mostly tied to low-cost materials and furniture.

Best: £21,000 to £38,000 or more with an average of £31,500. There’s really no upper limit. Still, even in this cost range, most homeowners have budget decisions about where to spend their money. Your options expand to include worktops of quartz, granite or marble, the finest flooring, furniture and fixtures and premium appointments. Most bathrooms in this range include luxury features like a steam shower or jetted bath – or both.

Bathroom Remodel Cost Factors

This table shows the most common factors affecting the cost of bath renovations.

Low Cost
£5,500 – £11,000
Average Cost
£11,500 – £20,000
High Cost
£21,000 to £38,000
Bathroom Size Small to Medium Small to Large Medium to Large
Materials Grade Basic to Better Better Better to Best
Layout Changed No Minor Change Major Change
Plumbing Moved/Added No Minor Change Major Change
Electrics Moved/Added No Yes Yes
Walls Moved No Probably Probably

Allocating Resources

Of course, bathroom sizes are relative. You could put premium components – furniture, fixtures, lighting, luxury features, etc., in a small bathroom and end up in the high-cost range.

Or, you could put relatively cheap components in a large bath and have a job priced in the Average range.

This is where you’ll have decisions to make about allocating your resources.

We recommend having a Plan B. Of course, your “dream bathroom” is Plan A. But it’s possible it might exceed your budget. Have a second-best option for major features such as worktop, flooring, furniture, lighting, layout, tub/shower, toilet, sink and tap.

An experienced bathroom contractor will work with you to stay within your budget and decide which components of the bath you’re willing to spend more on and where you can save money.

Bathroom Cost to Value

Like return on investment (ROI), cost to value measures the effect of bath refitting on your home’s resale value.

Cost to Value is used in the residential building industry. The results are based on thousands of home projects and how they affect sale price.

  1. Cost – The cost of the project
  2. Value – How much it raises your home’s potential market value
  3. Cost to Value Ratio – The Value divided by Cost

Example: Let’s say you spend £22,000 on a kitchen remodel, and you sell your home the next year for £13,640 more than you would have been able to sell it for without the kitchen renovation.

13,640 divided by 22,000 = .62 or 62%. That’s a Cost to Value of 62%.

Here’s what the most recent (2019) data shows for the Cost to Value of bathroom renovations.

  • A basic bathroom remodel has a cost to value return of 71%.
  • A mid-range bathroom remodel has a cost to value return of 67%.
  • A high-end bathroom remodel has a cost to value return of 60.2%.
  • A universal design bathroom remodel has a cost to value return of 62.5%.

The more you spend, the lower the Cost to Value.

Pro Tips: If you plan to move in the next 5 years, choose a basic or mid-range bathroom renovation. You’ll recoup more of the cost at resale, and you won’t have to price your home as high to attract a buyer.

When you plan to stay put, then go ahead and put in some luxury items that will enhance your enjoyment of the bathroom.

Another tip is to keep neighbourhood norms in mind. Are the homes in your area modestly appointed?

Then a high-end bathroom remodel will price your home above others and make it more difficult to sell – or it will reduce your Cost to Value well below the 62.5% norm.

On the other hand, if yours is a posh neighbourhood, then going cheap on the renovation will hinder your resale too. Buyers will expect more.

Planning your Bathroom

Bathroom Small Layout

Now that you have an idea of the scope of the project, its cost and what return you’ll realize, it’s time to start choosing specific styles, colours and bath components.

These tips will help you narrow your selection.

Look at Loads of Bathrooms

The process will allow you to develop your vision for the personality, style, layout, colours, materials, lighting, fixtures and furniture you’d like to have in your bathroom.

See bathrooms in person:

  • Bath showrooms
  • Real estate open houses

Browse bathroom pictures:

  • Using a search engine. Search the type of bathroom you’re considering – En-suite bathroom, family bathroom, guest bathroom, etc. We recommend choosing Images rather than Web. This will load pictures directly rather than you having to go to individual websites. You’ll find lots of inspiration there.
  • Magazines

Watch home renovation shows

The images will help shape your vision for the bath style you prefer. Once you have the general style in mind, you can narrow your search to various components like the bath, worktops, furniture/cabinets, sink and tap.

Hiring a Bathroom Contractor

You can plan the bathroom yourself, order the components and hire workmen to install them.

However, there is definite value in hiring an experienced contractor for the work. You’ll pay a contractor’s fee, but in return, the contractor will provide:

  • Bathroom planning and design help
  • Knowledge of bath components, their cost and quality, which will optimise both the value of your choices and the enjoyment you’ll get from them
  • Knowledge of permissions needed and how to obtain them
  • Skill in scheduling the various tradespeople required for plumbing, electrics, fitting the bathroom, to keep the work moving at a good pace

How to choose a contractor: We recommend asking several respected contractors for quotations.

Compare the quotes to determine which offers the best value. When possible, the quotes should include the same flooring, furniture, fixtures, etc.

It’s a good idea to check the online reviews for each contractor. What do other homeowners think about their services?

You’ll often have to pay a bit more to hire experienced fitters with a proven track record for quality bathroom renovation. But when the job is done properly the first time, it will be worth the extra expense.

Bathroom Renovation Timeline

How long does it take to refit a bathroom?

Here are the stages and a general timeframe for most projects:

Planning Time: Do this at your pace, being sure to take enough time to see lots of bathrooms and develop a clear vision for what style and components you prefer – and those that fit your budget. Many homeowners start 6-12 months ahead of when they want the bathroom completed.

Receiving Quotations: 3-5 months prior to the start of the work. This gives you time to compare the estimates and choose your preferred contractor well ahead of the work start date.

Hiring a Contractor: 2-4 months before the start date. This allows time to work with the contractor’s planning and design people to produce the “perfect” plan for your bathroom renovation. Most will want a signed contract and a down-payment of up to 50%. A down-payment of 15% to 25% is more common.

Ordering Components: This should be done as soon as the contractor is hired.

When the project begins, here is what you can expect:

  • 1-4 Days: Remove the old bathroom
  • 7-21 Days: Complete alterations to plumbing and electrics, if they are part of the plan.
  • 10-21 Days: Installation of the new bathroom
  • 3-7 Days: Inspection and clean-up

Frequently Asked Questions when choosing a Bathroom?

  • Q. My contractor insists upon installing ventilation in the bath. Is it necessary?
  • Ans. Venting excess moisture from the bathroom is very important. It will reduce the likelihood of mold, mildew and rotting wood window frames. Every new bathroom is required to have a vent for this purpose.
  • Q. What are the most expensive components of a new bathroom?
  • Ans. “If you choose a luxury item like a steam shower or jetted bath, it will be the single costliest component.After that, tiling the floor and wall, if that is what you choose to do, will be the highest cost.”

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