Bathroom Spring Makeover

This time of year is still a little too cold to get out and consider any major work in the garden so perhaps its time to change that old bathroom suite. Enjoy a few hours looking through the brochures and deciding which new bathroom appeals to you.

In this article, I would like to consider a few ideas about planning the alterations to a bathroom. Whenever I plan a bathroom, I draw a scale plan to make sure all the appliances will fit and to be certain that there is sufficient space once the new suite has been installed. If you find drawing a plan too much of a chore then mark the location of the new suite on the wall and floor. I’ve found that pieces of masking tape will give you a very good idea of where each item will fit. When doing this make sure you leave sufficient room to use each appliance; there must be plenty of space to stand at the basin or sit on the W.C.

Perhaps I should give you some idea of the space required. Between the bath and the wall, there should be at least 700mm. In front of the W.C. you need a space of at least 600mm and the basin needs about 700 mm between it and a wall or the bath. If you are not altering the position of the appliances, the plumbing should not present a problem. However, if you are shifting their position, be certain that the waste and water pipes can be run to the new location. I’ve found that running the overflow (warning) pipe from the lavatory cistern can be a problem – now it is possible to buy a cistern that has a built-in overflow, so avoiding the need for a separate pipe.

When deciding which bath you want, think about whether you want side or end taps. Once you have come to an agreement on this then consider whether you need a shower head attachment on the taps. One other thing to think about is whether you need handles (grips) on the bath. These can be useful when bathing children to give them something to hang on to or if you find getting out of the bath a bit tricky.

The sort of thing to think about is how easy will it be to clean the bath, consider where the mirror, bathroom cabinets and towel rail will be fitted. Plan the new flooring and also bear in mind that you may want to update the lighting system in some way. Don’t rush into finalizing the design – make sure you get it right.

Above all, talk over the plans and be sure you’ve got them correct to everyone’s satisfaction then remove the tape before it becomes difficult to remove. If you are asking a plumber to install the new appliances, ask him/her to look over the plans to make sure you’ve not missed anything important and check when he/she will be available. Then order the new suite – giving yourself plenty of time for delivery. If this is your only bathroom, check how long the job will take and ask the plumber if she/he can try to have the W.C. out of operation for as short a time as possible. Wait until you have the suite before you remove the old one, but do pencil in time with a plumber in advance if you need one.

Bathroom Spring Makeover Q & A

I’m about to buy a new bath, should I buy metal or plastic?

There is not much difference really. Acrylic (plastic) baths are as strong and easy to keep clean as metal ones. The only difference I’ve noticed is that plastic baths tend to twist a little under the load of the water. However, if the bath is well supported as recommended in the fitting instructions this will not present a problem. I would choose the design I prefer rather than consider the material.

What is a mono tap and what advantages do they have over normal taps?

Mono is short for mono-block, that is, both the hot and cold are contained in one tap. Mono taps fit into a single hole in the basin (some baths have mono taps but not many). The fitting mechanism is straightforward, usually a nut tightens up onto a retaining plate. These taps have soft copper tails (8mm or 10mm) which can be bent to join up with the existing water pipes. Reducers from 15mm (or 22mm) to 8mm or 10mm are easily available so there is no problem plumbing them in. Some mono taps have a pop up waste that is operated from a knob situated on the taps.

I’ve noticed that many lavatory cisterns have the feed and overflow pipes entering into the bottom of the cistern. Why is this and are they hard to fit without leaks?

I’m not sure why so many cisterns are now bottom entry. I would guess it is because the pipes are not quite so much in view when they enter into the bottom of the cistern as when they come in the side.

I’ve found that the bottom entry fittings are very easy to work with. The trick is to get the washers in the correct order (as recommended in the instructions). A lot of thought has gone into making them water tight and so they are probably easier to fit then side entry.

I have read in a magazine that I should fit a service valve on the pipe to the W.C. What is it and why should I one?

A service valve is any type of valve that stops the flow of water so that a tap or fitting can be worked on (serviced). The most usual type of service valve is operated by a screwdriver so that it cannot be turned on and off too easily. These are sometimes referred to as ball valves because of the way they work. However, a stop cock or in-line tap could also be a service valve. The Water Authority bye- laws insist that there is a service valve fitted on the mains water feed to the W.C. cistern. I recommend that a service valve is fitted to each pipe in the kitchen and bathroom so that the supply to any tap can be turned off easily.

A neighbour suggested that I fix the lavatory pan to the floor by bedding it in mortar. Is this a good way to do it? If not, how should I fix it down – I’m worried that I will split the base of the lavatory.

No, this is an old practice that is frowned on by the manufacturers. You are quite right -there is a danger of cracking the base of the lavatory pan. I use brass screws into the wooden floor or a wall plug in a concrete floor. However, I put a small tap washer on each screw to protect the porcelain from the head of the screw. Tighten the screw just tight enough to hold the pan but not too tight – I avoid using a power screwdriver for this job. Alternatively, there is a special fixing plug provided by one supplier (Oracstar) that seems to work very well.

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