Bathroom renos: Before

4 02 2023

Our bathroom renovations are getting closer…

We moved into our current house 13 years ago, and, right from the get-go I’ve had issues with aspects of the en suite bathroom, initially related to the stupid and monstrous corner bath (not even a spa bath) that was already there, and that we had to climb into and out of to open the window. Then as we’ve got older, it’s become more obvious this bathroom is not accessible or useable if one of us was incapacitated for even the short term. We have a second bathroom, but that’s even harder to access if you were on crutches, using a walker, or in a wheelchair as it’s down a narrow passage.

Ten years ago I decided the en suite bathroom (including a separate toilet with a door within the en suite) needed to have wider doors and no corner bath, but my DH wasn’t too keen as he didn’t want the disruption, and besides ‘it’s fine’. But after a couple of small falls (bruises only) for both of us on the shower hob and getting into/out of the bath, about 5 years ago he finally agreed to get the bathroom done. I didn’t do much about it (work, life etc.) but I did start collecting ideas and writing up a spec sheet of what was absolutely necessary versus what would be nice to have, including what we didn’t want—no bath!). Then in late 2020, I contacted the only 2 bathroom reno companies in my nearby town. Both came out within days to take a look, talk through my needs, and take a copy of the spec sheet with them. Both promised me a quote either ‘just before or just after the Christmas break’. Then… nothing!

I called them both again in February 2021, leaving a voice message with one and leaving a message with the receptionist for the other (she promised he’d get back to me within the week). And then I got ghosted. I’ve heard absolutely nothing from either of them from December 2020 to February 2023.

We had continual lockdowns for COVID, supply chains were disrupted, housing was going through the roof, and the labour market was really tight. I thought we’d wait it out until things had settled down a bit, but I certainly wasn’t keen to try the 2 local companies again. Fast forward to 2022 and I was having a chat with my cleaner who mentioned she was getting her bathroom reno’ed. I asked her who she was using and it was a different company to those I’d contacted—it was a company that was an arm of the tile and bathroom fittings retailer, and as the owners had plumbing and building skills and as they saw a huge need for a bathroom reno company, they set up their own reno division in the height of the pandemic.

I contacted them, and the lovely Tony came out to take a look, talk with me about options, etc. And he got back to me promptly!! After several weeks of back and forth via emails and a visit to the showroom to look at options, we finally had a firm quote. On payment of the deposit we’d get a firm start date, though he did warn me that it would be several months away. Not a problem—I’d already waited 13 years! I paid the 30% deposit on 13 September 2022, and got a start date of 13 February 2023. Meantime, my cleaner’s reno had been finished and she LOVED it. She especially loved how the tradies cleaned up after themselves and how professional they all were (she loved it so much she’s already booked her own en suite bathroom to be done!).

So here we are, about 1 week out from the renos starting. Tony came out yesterday to mark walls and discuss final logistics. We’ll sleep in our bedroom for the last time on Thursday night, then Tony and a couple of others will come on Friday and get some prep work done (e.g. pull back the bedroom carpet, drop off the skip bin, isolate some electrical points and light switches) before the bathroom demolition starts on Monday 13th. Because we have to have doors widened (double-brick house, with single-brick internal walls), there’ll be a lot of noise and dust, which they’ll try to minimise as much as possible. Tony said the worst of that will take 1 to 2 days (brick saws make a helluva noise, as do machines and tools to lift tiles from walls and floors!). He also said it’s a 3-week job, so we’ll be sleeping in the spare bedroom and using the other bathroom and toilet for that time—fortunately, we have that so we don’t have to move out. The 3-week time frame is just small inconvenience, I hope.

I’ve already taken the ‘before’ photos—the one below shows most of the issues.

Picture of bathroom showing shower with a hob and large corner bath and step

Other than the ‘as is’ mess, there are a LOT of things wrong with the design of this bathroom that make it inaccessible and unsafe. In the photo you can see:

  • Raised hob in shower (yes, we’ve both tripped on it at least once in 13 years).
  • Stupid corner bath that’s useless for anything (I tried to run a bath the first year we were here—the hot water ran out before I had about an inch in the bath!). But its biggest problem is that you have to get into it to open/close the window! (DH tries to lean over it!) And see that little step? You can’t use it as it’s too narrow, and it’s an impediment both climbing into and out of the bath. You have to be super careful (slip hazard, trip hazard, no handholds for 2+ points of connection), and yes, we’ve both slipped at least once, and had bruises to prove it.
  • You can’t see the doors in this picture, but the door into the en suite is about 720 mm wide and then into the toilet is 620 mm wide. The MINIMUM requirement for wheelchairs and other mobility aids is 820 mm (preferably 850 mm).
  • There’s a gap between the vanity and bath where the dust bunnies lurk (too narrow for the vacuum cleaner head).
  • There’s wasted space on the vanity—the plinth and the top are both deep nothingness spaces.

In addition to solving all these issues (wider doorways, no bath, walk-in shower), we’re going to be getting a set of mirrored overhead cupboards to replace the large mirror that just sits on the wall and has no other function than a mirror, and a smart toilet! I figured we’d only do this once and none of us is getting any younger, so why not?

BTW, Tony’s company has been so busy he told us on Friday that they are now booked all the way to the end of the year, and starting to book for January 2024!

Photos below (9 Feb 2023) after we removed everything, including the handles on the vanity! (I kept them because they’re the same as the handles in the kitchen and if one of those needs to be replaced, we likely won’t get an exact match as these handles were all put in when the house was built, around 2005, and I can guarantee you can’t get exact replacements!). The blue tape labels the things we want them to take off for us to keep, and NOT throw in the skip bin—the second bathroom can use another towel rail and we may have someone who will take the mirror. And the pencil lines on the wall (there are a lot of them, mostly not seen in the other photos) show where the door to the en suite will be widened to. The toilet door will be widened even further as it is much narrower again.