Answering Your Bathroom DIY Questions : Part 1

This year so far seems to have been all about bathrooms for Team Moregeous. First of all we popped down to KBB to search out all the hottest new trends and affordable tricks to make your bathing space the very best it can be….. then we started getting to grips with finishing off our guest bathroom here at home…. and finally this coming Easter weekend sees the launch of our Facebook Live Q&A on the Soak website. Lots of you sent in questions – thank you! – and Naomi, the very clever designer responsible for the Soak room sets, picked her favourites and tested me with them. No joke, this was filmed live! I was nervous, wouldn’t you have been? Anyway, I think we got through it ok and the rewarding G&T later was very well deserved 😉2018-03-29_0001.jpgShould you be thinking of doing up your bathing sanctuary, grab yourself a cuppa and watch the video above via YouToob. Or grab yourself a G&T. Well, it is the first Bank Holiday weekend of the year after all!

To further assist you with any bathroom woes, I’ve rounded up some of the answers below. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any others which may tax you over the weekend, and I’ll do my best to help out!

How do I ensure my bathroom is completely watertight?

Let’s assume the person asking is trying to create a wet room situation, far easier to do in rooms with solid floors than those with suspended timber ones. On solid floors, a proprietary tanking system is relatively easily applied, but care still has to be taken to seal all the edges and create an impermeable ‘tank’. There’s little worse than finishing a bathroom only to find a few months later that water is seeping down through the kitchen ceiling. In rooms with suspended timber floors, the timber joists and boards, by their very nature, move slightly: with weight, at different times of the year and with the natural movement of older houses. The creation of a wet room with properly sealed joints has to be done carefully and systematically, using a good quality product.

Experience has shown me that it’s best to using a tray type system under tiles in the shower area and the technology these days is getting better and more affordable every year. Never ever just tile direct onto plywood, even onto marine ply. Water is so sneaky at finding it’s way through tiles, and minuscule cracks in the grout lines always exist. Use specialist boards designed to be water impermeable behind tiles on vertical shower walls, instead of regular plasterboard. Seal all joints before tiling, with either rubberised specialist paint or sealant, and don’t expect tiles and grout to keep the water contained. Test wastes and pipework, certainly before decorating in the room below the bathroom and preferably before ceilings are fitted, to ensure no leaks. Creating a wet room is possible for a competent DIYer, but its best to take advice if you’re unsure what you’re doing. A badly installed wet room is a recipe for disaster. Sorry to be the harbinger of doom but it really is.

The pressure in my shower is really low. What are my options to improve it?

Sudden low pressure is generally either caused by a leak or the water pressure in your area being optimised (lowered) by your utility company, so it’s best to check both out before trying to rectify the situation. For an electric shower, if the pressure is and always has been low, then a low pressure electric shower can help but be aware they are quite loud as they have an inbuilt motor. Another alternative seems old fashioned but is practical, i.e. a cold water tank in the loft. Maybe a more modern method is a pump added to increase the cold water flow into the electric shower unit.

If you have a mixer shower with the hot water provided from a combo or condensing boiler and the pressure is low, it might be that there’s too great a distance from the boiler to the mixer, so again a booster pump might have to be factored in. A good plumber will be able to sort water pressure problems but these issues are always best sorted out at the point of renovating rather than afterwards.  That’s when they get expensive!

What should I consider when choosing storage?

Planning storage for bathrooms is no different to anywhere else in the house. Before a shower is bought and a tile is laid, look at what you already have in your existing bathroom and plan accordingly. Space for cleaning products, loo rolls, shampoos, towels, kids toys, even make-up. Lot of us in period homes have ripped out that large airing cupboard which used to house the hot water tank but seriously how handy was it?! Contemporary or traditional style under counter cabinets with drawers and dividers are affordable as well as good looking.  Cabinets which hide behind above the sink mirrors are the best for smaller bottles, medicine and all his stuff, which isn’t pretty enough to be on display 😉

Be clever and build in overhead storage before plastering or create recessed shelving in shower areas and next to the bath. Wall hung vintage drawers or crates add a modern rustic vibe to display beautiful bottles and plants. I’d say another tip is to design in your storage plans to suit the style of bathroom  you’re looking to create, which is why the aforementioned timber shelved would suit a botanical, organic bathroom and a utilitarian medicine cabinet complete ticks all the boxes for a minimalist. Don’t be that person with all the shampoo bottles lined up on the side of the bath, cause a) it’s very sad and b) it causes mould growth behind the bottles. (That’s the landlord in me creeping out).

What are the pros and cons of wall-hung cabinets?

For the pro’s see above, but what are the cons. Well, none really, because it’s not the actual cabinet which causes the problems, so much as the hanging of them. As fantastic as they are at creating an increased feeling of space in a bathroom boy, are they heavy!

This is fine in houses with good solid brick walls to fix into, but you do still need to ensure a good fixing. When drilling into the wall, watch out for red brick dust as this indicates you’ve hit brick, which is good. Decent sized fischer bolts are better than ordinary screws and rail plugs as they’re longer and specially designed to take wall hung weight such as sinks. The internal brick skins of older houses can be pretty rubbish, often being built using worse quality bricks and mortar with all sorts of gubbins in it. That’s a technical term, I’ll have you know. Creating a frame to hang the cabinet from might be your only option, or getting a cabinet with legs!

If you have a property  with timber framed or metal stud walls, you’ll need to factor in creating a purpose built stud at the heights needed for the cabinet fixings. This is one of the reasons why having all your bathroom fittings is a good idea before you start work, so practical but essential measurements like this can be made and allowed for. Using 18mm ply fixed to the wall behind plasterboard is also a trick used by builders. Gives something to fix to.2018-03-29_0003.jpgWhat if the best place to put my shower is by a window?

First up. Don’t panic. It’s not ideal but I’ve seen lots of bathrooms where the shower has, for reasons of limited space, had to be put next to a window. Try not to point the shower head at the window area and practice good housekeeping, i.e. wipe the cill after showering. The best idea is a completely sealed picture window but obviously most people have at a top opener for ventilation. Do I really need to tell you to ensure timber windows are properly and completely painted & sealed? Also tile the internal reveals as plasterwork will perish, try to create a sloping cill so that water runs off instead of into it and always ensure there’s good extraction to remove excess moisture from the room. Or open the window, that’s what it’s for.

How can I best conceal pipework?

We all know that the best pipework is hidden pipework, in the walls or under the floor, but sometimes it’s just impossible, especially at lower levels. Maybe you’re adding a new sink and don’t want to wreck exiting tiles or you can’t get the loo soil pipe below the floor because of awkward joists? Boxing in pipework is the easiest and cheapest way but a bad joinery job can make this look cheap and nasty. Think about maybe using grooved & painted cladding or making the boxing off the same height as skirting boards so it visually disappears as the skirting flows around the room. I saw some cool white-washed wood timber boxing off recently in a modern rustic style bathroom, just be aware that wood & water don’t go well together so it’s best to matt seal it for protection against moisture. Timber effect ceramic textured tiles get a big tick from me too, and using those on the floor and on boxing off ties in the design.

It’s currently Pinterestable to have exposed pipework in copper and that looks cool in the right setting – just be wary it can look a bit Shoreditch coffee shoppy and hot water makes copper pipes very hot when they aren’t insulated. This can be dangerous for little fingers or bare ankles!

Hopefully some good tips there for you! Pop back at weekend for Part 2 🙂 x

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