Whether you are planning a brand-new bathroom or making improvements to an old one, taking a moment to think about the exact role of the room may save expensive mistakes later on. Ask yourself the following questions: ls the bathroom to be used by the whole family, just the children, a couple or a single person? Should it be en-suite with the main bedroom? Is it for guest use only or will it serve the whole house? Will it require any special adaptations to suit the elderly or young children? Will it need to double up as a dressing room, exercise area or a laundry with facilities for washing and drying clothes?
The answers to these questions will determine almost every decision you make concerning the bathroom, from the choice of fittings to the choice of decoration. You may have always dreamed of having a super-powerful shower but if the other potential users of the bathroom are all under five years old, you may wish to think again. Similarly, a luxuriously carpeted room may be unbeatable in terms of comfort but it will certainly not give much pleasure or last very long if it is permanently soggy thanks to careless teenage bathers.
The bathroom is a much-used room and both its design and decoration must be strictly tailored to suit its occupants and their requirements. The next step is to establish whether the intended space can be plumbed. Take advice about local water and plumbing regulations; they vary from area to area and it is vital to understand their implications before you start. Secondly, unless your house is very new, the existing plumbing has probably evolved over the years and it may be necessary to make changes so that the system can accommodate the new bathroom. It may be that your hot water tank is not large enough to cope with the extra demand. Existing pipework and plumbing may influence the siting of the bathroom itself and the positioning of the fittings within it: for example, it is much easier to connect a new toilet if it can be linked into an existing waste pipe. Once space has been allocated and the plumbing considered, begin to plan the layout of the bathroom Use graph paper to map out the position of the fittings.
Most bathroom catalogs include a sheet of graph paper for this purpose and some even provide line drawings to scale of toilets, basins, bidets, baths and so on. Cut them out and juggle them around to see how best to incorporate each piece. Don’t forget to allow for access as well: you need enough space to get from one fitting to another and to use them in comfort; this is especially important if more than one person will be using the bathroom at any given time. Keep plumbing guidelines in mind; a toilet may be easiest to connect when sited against an outside wall; toilet and bidet should ideally be placed side by side; basin and bathwater need to be channeled away in the same direction. When choosing the fittings, keep your earlier definition of the bathroom in mind. lf the room is to be used by the whole family, a separate shower unit might be preferable to a shower over the bath, as it would allow more than one person to wash at any time. Double basins are also worth considering. lf space permits, install the toilet in a separate room to avoid delays at peak hours. Choose serviceable, splashproof materials for floors and walls and invest in a large mirror, a laundry basket and plenty of shelving.