bathroom building: week one

The bathroom building begins! Here’s how week one went.


The plumber pulled up the floorboards, and investigated the existing pipework from the heating. He dismantled the boxing round the boiler and attached pipes to take the water upstairs.

First gotcha came along, with a problem of how to get the pipes from our main water entry point through the floor. An error of judgement during the planning stage meant they thought the boiler was under the bathroom-to-be, but it’s not. Directly above the boiler is the flat roof. A phone call to the boss resolved the issue. There’ll be some more pipework on show in the back lobby, but we care not a jot. It’s a place of passage, we won’t notice it. There’s going to be a small box in the kitchen to cover up where the pipes go upstairs, but again, we don’t mind. It’ll be fine once it’s painted. Plus, hopefully we’ll have the kitchen redone in a couple of years and we tackle hiding pipes neatly then.

We had to duck under dangling pipes to get into the downstairs bathroom, which was interesting. They’re now partly hooked up, so we’re free from accidental middle-of-the-night garotting.

pulling up floorboards

pulling up floorboards


3 men with drills, stone cutters, hammers and chisels took the house apart. We have gaps in the brickwork, pipes dangling out of internal and external walls, great chasms cut into the walls of the bathroom.

There’s dust EVERYWHERE.

starting to make holes in walls

starting to make holes in walls


The plumber spent the day finishing off the pipework. All the pipes are now in place and joined up. They’re not all fixed down, but we have water upstairs now. high fives

The electrics are half done with cables ready for the extractor fan and the mirror light. The socket and light switch have gone.

The floor is partly covered in ply, there’s a layer of cement and the shower tray is set into it. My first purchase to be used. Have I made the right choice? It looks smaller than I thought. minor panic

An hour later booyaa came home and said something along the lines of, “Whoa, that’s huge.” So maybe it was just bathroom planner’s nerves.

shower tray sitting on its cement base

shower tray sitting on its cement base


The tiles are going on! It’s really starting to look like a bathroom. There’s a wall and a half done so far. They’re not grouted yet, so it’ll look cleaner with white grout instead of grey adhesive.



It’s very tempting to sing Down in the Tube Station at Midnight in here.

And that’s it until Monday.


Smaller tiles are fiddly and take longer to fit. Which is obvious when you think about it. But if we’d chosen large format tiles, as is the trend these days, they would have looked horrendous because of our wobbly walls. The plumber, with his tiler’s hat on today, said we’re much better off with smaller tiles. He’s able to compensate for the bumps and lack of square corners. If we’d used large format tiles they would have been wonky, or, presumably, we’d have to have the walls replastered first.

tools of the trade

Planning and costing is quite a complex business.

You need to work out what to do first. You need to get quotes or check multiple places online. Then you need to agree which one you like best or work out a budget. There are lots of lists, snippets of information, emails in different inboxes. How do you keep track of it all?

We use spreadsheets on Google Drive to make detailed cost calculations. We generally have a list of requirements down the left, so for the new bathroom, for instance, it would have lines for the various trades, each of the items of sanitary ware, floor and wall tiles, paint, cabinets, accessories and so on. Then we have two columns, one for the budget option and another for the one we’d really like, or if it’s a ‘nice to have’. Then we have links to products. That means we can calculate the cost fairly accurately and we know when we’ll be able to afford to do that. We can decide if we’d rather wait and save a little longer so that we can pick from the top-end column.

Spreadsheets are fantastic for this kind of thing. We use the online version purely because that way it’s dynamic: we can both edit them and see the changes in real time. If you have a gmail account then you have access to Drive. You could share a static file on Dropbox or similar instead.

For jobs we’re going to do ourselves or other house-based to-dos we use Trello. By default you get three columns in Trello: To do, Doing, Done. You can colour-code cards (that’s a single item) so we’ve got ours linked to different rooms and projects. You can comment, add notes, assign to someone on your team, set a deadline and more. It’s really useful. I mostly use it on my laptop, but the iPhone app is fully functional. It’s a free service, you just need an email address to create an account.

To get started, create your board and assign it to the team or invite interested parties so that they can see everything on the board. Make a card for every to-do. Colour-code or sort them according to your needs. If you have a complex project you could set up a separate board for that so that you can have different labels and rules. You can create/name your own columns per project on one board, but to be honest I’d have a different board for each project instead so you still follow the to do/doing/done method. As you tick things off you move them across the columns. It’s a very satisfying end to the weekend, dragging items to the Done column.

The last thing I’d add is that for bigger changes, whether they’re big on work or money, then mulling things over, sleeping on it, is always worth it. Just because you’ve planned it, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind if a better, neater, or cheaper solution comes up. So give it time. For me, the desire to want everything done right now is tempered by perfectionism, wanting to get it right first time. So we never make a final decision straight away. We come back to it a few days later and see how we feel, or leave it on a to-do list until we know we’ve exhausted all our options.