Splash palace: building perfect bathrooms on a budget

Your guide to building the perfect bathroom - even on a budget.

When we were planning the ultimate family bathroom a few years ago, we had the luxury of space and thought we were putting it to good use with a separate tiled shower box and a lovely large corner bath, which was worth its weight in gold when our children were small!

In retrospect, what we did “wrong” was putting the only loo in the house in there, instead of keeping it next door. When mum’s putting her face on and a teenage boy needs to “go” there’s bound to be a hot word or two – especially when he’s only just emerged from bed 10 minutes before the school bus arrives!

Which all brings me to an important point. With a new bathroom on the horizon, you need to make lists and they need to be based on absolute honesty – plus some realistic foresight. Don’t gloss over the toilet issue figuring you’ll all be polite enough to make it work. If there are more than two in the house, take my word for it – you won’t!

Ditto the sink or basin. It seems we’re all more cleanliness conscious these days, so again there are pitfalls in stopping at one – especially if you have a husband who slowly and carefully wet shaves in the morning and a teenager whose rapidly growing moustache has recently incurred the displeasure of his school masters.

Check it off

So, start with your absolute dream list: the huge tub, the wet room with gorgeous glass tiles from Italy, a ceiling shower rose, room for the gym gear and huge storage areas where towels and toiletries can be displayed prettily. Then look at the space you’ve got, check the bank statement and figure what you can realistically achieve. Remember to factor in the following features:

  • Ease of cleaning: This is an area that should never be underestimated. If you’re the chief housekeeper, you will never forgive yourself for choosing surfaces, such as my afore-mentioned matte black tiles, which looked super when new, but now have me tearing my hair out.
  • Ventilation: This is one of your most important decisions, since damp air can play havoc with your paint and finishes – even with mould-resistant ones. Anyone who’s found themselves up a ladder with a long handled mop, trying to clean the ceiling while avoiding getting bleach in their eyes, will identify with this. So, a good quality extractor fan is worth the investment – and don’t forget to clean it regularly.
  • Heating: Wall heating can be adequate in a well-insulated bathroom, particularly in northern climes, but if you can’t bear the feel of cold tiles underfoot in winter, consider under-floor heating. Once seen as a luxury for the rich and famous, it’s now more efficient and able to be better regulated, which means you can avoid huge power bills.

  • Powerpoints: For some reason, we didn’t include these in ours and regret it now, with a son who uses an electric shaver and a girl in love with her hairdryer. Not to mention all those fancy new electric toothbrushes that have to be charged on the kitchen bench!

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