How to easily plan and project manage your bathroom renovation

A bathroom is one of the two rooms that can really add value to your home. So here, Australia’s Renovation Queen – Cherie Barber – takes you through the stages of a complete bathroom renovation.

  • The difference between a cosmetic bathroom renovation and a full bathroom renovation
  • How to calculate how much you should spend on your bathroom renovation
  • The stages of a bathroom renovation
  • What type of products to choose and the associated costs for your project plan and budget
  • The importance of and how to waterproof your bathroom
  • Specific sizes, specifications and details of what is required and where
  • What type of trades people  you WILL require


[00:00:08] You’ve decided to tackle the bathroom renovation. Fantastic, bathrooms are the second most important room to renovate behind kitchens, in terms of adding value. And, let’s face it there are a lot of older properties that have a bathroom in need of an update. Now we have so much choice these days from recess baths, free standing baths, his and her basins and mirrored storage options. The list goes on.

[00:00:33] The essential thing is good pre-planning. Now if your bathroom is too far gone, you’ve made the decision to rip it out and install a brand new bathroom, you’ve really got two options.

[00:00:43] You can go through a bathroom renovation company or you can project manage your own bathroom renovation.

[00:00:49] If you’re using a bathroom renovation company. it’s generally an easier process for you. If you don’t have the time or the skills or the knowledge of how a bathroom comes together.


Most companies will do your bathroom in a period of somewhere between two to four weeks and the typical cost is somewhere between $15,000 to $35,000 depending on the size and complexity of your job.

[00:01:11] If you on the other hand are happy to project manager own bathroom renovation where you oversee the trades coming in, it is a fantastic way to save money, but you do need to have good time and organizational skills.

[00:01:24] Let’s go through the stages of construction.

[00:01:30] What do you spend on your bathroom renovation?

[00:01:32] Here’s a formula that you will love.

Two percent (2%) of your current property value. So for example if you have a house it’s worth $300000, your fully finished bathroom renovation should cost no more than six thousand dollars. If you have a house say $700000, you’ve fully finished budget is $14,000 dollars. Try and stick to this formula so you don’t over-capitalise! 

[00:01:54] There’s an urban myth going around that you may have heard – that you don’t need to move the plumbing around. Guess what I say to that rubbish. Move the plumbing around if it means you can get a better, more functional bathroom. Because that in itself will add value. What you need to do is get a fixed price quotes you know exactly what you’re in for.

[00:02:19] There are no rigid rules when it comes to bathroom layouts, but there are definitely some good pointers to follow. Walls, windows and door openings will largely dictate the placement of your prime cost items like your toilet, shower, bath and vanity. Especially if you have a small space to work with. If you decide to go with the existing layout then your renovation could be as straightforward as updating the fixtures and fittings and picking out some smart new tiles. First impressions do count. So try to avoid having your toilet as the focal point of the view into your bathroom. If it’s unavoidable then be sure to buy the smartest looking one you can afford. Storage is important. Otherwise your streamlined bathroom will be full of clutter in no time mirrored cabinets and vanities can often provide sufficient storage. If not, you might want to consider towel storage racks. Good lighting is essential. You’ll need a mix of general lighting.

[00:03:13] Think a track light, central light or recessed ceiling down lights. Specific task lighting for areas like the mirrored cabinet where you’ll be shaving or applying makeup and maybe some more atmospheric accent lighting like a fancy feature light. One absolute no no for the mirror is to have a harsh light directly above your head, like a recessed ceiling like. This casts unflattering shadows that will age you 10 years. If you have enough space a light either side of the mirror at eye level that and even wash of light is ideal.

[00:03:50] There are so many individual components that make up your bathroom renovation; your taps, your tiles, your vanity, your showers, the list goes on. Let’s go through them all.

[00:04:01] You can either have floor standing or wall hung vanities. It may come down to what your existing plumbing is. 

[00:04:07] Your basin choices are equally varied from recessed, semi recessed, countertop and under counter basins. You may not want a vanity at all and instead go for a freestanding basin. Freestanding baths are all the rage these days and they come in all sorts of shapes materials and sizes. Then there is the traditional inset bath are generally acrylic these days, which is built into a frame, which will need to get your carpenter to make up on site. Walk-in showers. Again there are just so many options. Maybe you don’t even have space for a separate shower and you have to settle for a shower over your bath, which is perfectly fine. Open walk-in showers have become really popular, a blade of frameless glass is commonly used to define the area. If you want the more conventional shower enclosure you can have it all in one unit complete with base. They can slot against a wall or into the corner of the bathroom.

[00:05:03] The humble dunny has certainly come a long way in the last decade or so and can be now a designer item in itself. You can still get a very basic model for a couple of hundred dollars or spend anything up to $2,000 on a sleek in wall cistern toilet. This is part of what I call your bathroom jewellery and where you can make serious savings or blow needless money. My suggestion is contemporary smart tap wear that looks like you’ve paid big bucks, but you picked up for a bargain.

[00:05:35] When it comes to showerheads. The bigger the better modern water saving technology means you can easily find a nice oversized one that is also eco friendly. Big tile warehouses, factory stores and online sites like Grey’s online or Ebay, you can buy tiles very cheaply these days. The big 600 by 300 size tiles are very popular and the trend is to run them floor to ceiling around the entire bathroom not just in the wet areas. My advice is to go for neutral colours that won’t date and you won’t get sick of.

[00:06:10] When you’re planning a bathroom renovation, be aware that your bathroom is one of the most labour intensive rooms to renovate. You can have a lot of tradies coming and going. So from the outset make sure you have a scope of works, an order of works, a budget and a timeline. I’m now going to take you through the stages of construction.

[00:06:33] Before any renovation work begins you need to either disconnect or isolate the services now in a bathroom renovation you typically got electricity, water and sometimes you can have gas; some old bathrooms have an old gas water heater in them.

[00:06:47] Now if you’re living in your property while you’re doing the renovation you can get your electrician to isolate the electricity to the rest of the house so that you’ve got no power in your bathroom. But if you’re doing a whole house renovation like this, then the safest way is to isolate all the electricity to the meter box. What that means is that you’ll have no power to the house and that’s great because when you’re cutting things like wall if you haven’t isolated the power somebody can come through this or go straight through a cord and they’re not going to be feeling so great, Now a little tip for you. Sometimes your electrical switchboard won’t have a power point in it. Part of the trade is will actually run all of their tools from the switchboard, so you will need to get your sparkie to install a power point. Power Boards will be run off. Just be careful what a lot of people don’t know is that your old switchboard can also contain asbestos.

[00:07:40] Next up is your water. Now if you’re living in the property your plumber can isolate your water in your bathroom so that gives you water everywhere else in your property, that’s great. But if you’re doing a whole house renovation like this, ask your plumber to isolate the water to the water mains. Normally that’s located somewhere around the front of your property. It’s as simple as a plumber coming onsite and just turning off the tap. But if you’re going to do that ask them to install a temporary tap because your tradies will need water during the renovation.

[00:08:11] Don’t forget the gas, your plumber will isolate that too. This may be something we can save money on by being an enthusiastic DIY or otherwise find a construction labourer for the job. PC items like baths, showers, toilets and vanity’s need to be removed, all the features like cabinets and towel rails taken out and all existing tiles chipped off. When you’re doing a demolition, always make sure you flat stack you skip bin. That means crush your boxes down, squash your old vanities. If you can do it it’ll save you thousands of dollars and not having to hire multiple skip bins. [00:08:49][37.7]

[00:08:53] Now that the demolition is done the fixtures and fittings, the walls, and the ceiling sheeting has been taken out. We need to start with our floors set out now floors can be constructed a number of different ways. You’ve got your concrete floor which is typically from the ground upwards like this bathroom is. You also have a suspended concrete floor and a lot of old houses have what’s called bearers and joist with a layer of compressed fibro on top. Now be careful with those type of floors compressed fibre on the olden days, can be a asbestos, so take care either way with floor set out. You need to make sure that your base is structurally fine. Obviously everything is going to be sitting on your floor so if it’s in good condition, then you move on to the next stage which is called wall set out.

[00:09:37] Now once you are confident your floors are in structurally good condition it’s time to move on to your walls set out. Now if you stripped out an old bathroom quite often you get to have your hardwood timber studs here and there’s no need to rip those out, if they are in great condition, they’re not rotted out, leave them as is. If you find that you start the new noggins are rotten and they’re too far gone. You will need to replace them with H2 termite treated structural pine. Now if you’re keeping the old hardwood. Make sure you pull off all the old nails, get old the old jaw drop off, just get a nice clean surface. It makes a super easy new plasterboard to come on. Now spacing wise. Building code says you can space your timber studs 450 or 600. I always think 450 is a good size because it gives you more room to brace things like your towel rails, soap dish, toilet roll holders for example. Always make sure your walls are plumb square. If you don’t check this before the sheeting goes on you can have some real issues with your tiles. Now if you keep your plumbing lines in the same location that’s definitely going to save you a lot of money, but if you intend to move things around, maybe swap your vanity, your toilet or your bathroom, shower, you probably will need to jackhammer your floor.

[00:10:54] Okay you’ve got to go. new_Bathroom-Renos-2018_free_ebook_cherie_barber_renovating_for_profit

[00:11:05] Electrical work is where you bring your licenced Sparkie in and they start to install all your new electrical lines. It’s a good idea to get them to remove all the old electrical wires. Always nice to have a clean base to start working from. Now your electrical items will typically be your light switch. Always put your light switch on the entry side of your door not behind the door. You’ve got your power points, now when you’re installing your power point of vanity, make sure that the power plant is not located too close to the water. [00:11:32]

[00:11:33] There are Australian building regulations as to where you position those your sparkie will know all of this and you’ve also got your light in your leader installed two or three or four down lights depending on the size of your bathroom. Most often people like the heat lamps as well. If you’re doing a structural renovation quite often you’ll have plans that will have your electricals set out details of about your light switches and your power points go. But if you’re a cosmetic renovator probably won’t have any plans so then you need to work it out with your sparkie and really rely on your experts. They do this day in day out. You don’t need all the answers as the renovator. Now once your electrical and all your plumbing lines are in, it’s time to sheet up your bathroom. Now normally you would start your ceiling sheeting and that could just be a standard plaster board and then once your ceiling is done you’ll then start to install your walls. When you’re drawing your walls sheeting, you don’t use standard plasterboard you need to use 6mm billaboard, that’s a water resistant material. Here’s a little tip your carpenters are a multiskilled tradesperson. So instead of getting plasterers in which will cost you more money, get your carpenters to do the wall and ceiling sheeting. One of the biggest failures in any bathroom renovation is not installing your waterproofing correctly. Now what is waterproofing?

[00:12:54] It’s a membrane that you put over your walls and floors to stop water penetrating into those areas and if you don’t install waterproofing correctly it can be disastrous especially if you’re doing an apartment renovation where you’re on the upper levels of a block. Water penetrates through the floor, starts dripping down into neighbouring properties. Nobody wants that. It could also mean that you’d have to rip out your bathroom and start from scratch again. Now waterproofing is definitely not a DIY product. You should always use a licensed Waterproofer because what you will need to obtain is what’s called a waterproofing certificate. If you’re ever selling your property that waterproofing certificate needs to be attached to the contract of sale. Now i’m here with my waterproofer Daniel. Daniel let’s talk about all the ins and outs of waterproofing. First of all where should people install waterproofing.

[00:13:45] Generally the shower of course, yeah, most wet areas, the whole shower area. In this case it’s the shower and bath. Yes, shower and bath so up walls, generally it’s 100mm above the spout. Okay if it’s an open shower in this case probably a fixed panel, so it is 1500 from the actual spout and the radius. Okay. The whole floor of the toilet, yep around the edge you get behind the toilet and that is where anywhere where there’s water point. 

[00:14:12] Thickness, how thick should your waterproofing be? According to building standards finish thickness on a floor is 1mm thickness; when that’s fully cured. Okay so waterproofing shrinks when you apply it, so be careful of that. So you want 3 X 1 mm coats and it will shrink down to one little bit of dry. Well lets get stucked into it. You’ll get stuck into it because waterproofing should be done by a licensed waterproofing contractor.

[00:14:41] Once your waterproofing is complete. The next stage is tiling.

[00:14:49] Always start with your floor tiles first, once that is completed you move up and do your walls.

[00:14:57] The trend these days is tile floor to ceiling. If you want a contemporary look and always try and make sure your grout matches the colour of your tiles.

[00:15:08] Next step is to install your prime cost items, like the toilet bath, vanity and sink. Your plumber will do this for you before fitting off. After your tiling is completed.

[00:15:23] The next stage is your plumbing fit off and this is why your plumber will come to install your shower, taps, your toilets, your bath taps and your vanity and it’s normally at this stage that your bathroom really starts to take shape. Pretty exciting.

[00:15:39] Now that your plumbing fitoff is complete.

[00:15:40] It’s time to bring in your sparkies and what they’ll do is they’ll install your fitted light fittings. Things like go down lights all your XL heat lamps. They’ll also connect your power points and your light switches for you. Here’s a little tip make sure that all your electrical outlets are earthed. If they are earthed, you don’t have any risk of electrocution which can be a problem in older houses.

[00:16:05] You’re almost the last stage of the bathroom renovation process is what I call the carpentry fit off stage and this is where a carpenter will come back through, they’ll put door architraves or window architraves and your soap dish, towel rails, toilet roll holder and a mirror, it’s all those little finishing touches in bathrooms that matter.

[00:16:36] Any surface you’re not tiling will need to be painted including the ceiling.

[00:16:40] Be sure to choose paint specifically made for steamy bathrooms which is ultra durable, easy to wipe down and has mould inhibitors. The major brands have specific kitchen and bathroom paint for this very purpose.

[00:16:52] So you go all components of how a bathroom comes together from start to finish. I think you’ll agree it’s not a hard process, definitely takes time, good communication skills and organisation of tradies. But you can really do this in project manage it well and save yourself so much money. Typically half the cost of the bathroom renovation company, so it’s definitely worth having a crack at it.

Want to learn how to do bathroom renovations and cosmetic renovations to your home? Come along to my FREE Renovation Riches – 2.5 hour Masterclass. Register for FREE your tickets here
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  1. I’m one of your Perth students.. As our houses are majority double brick & cement floors I would love to get more information on Reno’s of this type which very few people cover, especially bathroom Reno’s. I did my ensuite bathroom a couple of years ago practicing for my main bathroom and there’s not much information available for us and pricing is a little different.
    As a graduate it would be much appreciated as there is plenty of information everywhere for the stud walls, fibre Reno’s types for the eastern states students.. I think it would be very helpful for someone like Cherie to extend out west, the other half of oz. I throughly enjoyed the course but still find it limited somewhat to eastern states housing..

  2. Thank you for taking the mystery out of what can be a very daunting and possibly massively expensive process of renovating bathrooms.

  3. Hi Julie;
    I totally agree with you.

    Bathroom reno (or generally reno) in brick houses is easy and hard.
    It is easy, because you don’t get your carpenter involved as much. until the very end when you gonna hanging doors or install your bathroom accessories.
    It is difficult, because you deal with bricks and mortar. it is actually a bit difficult to move brick wall locations ; however instead of having a carpenter for wall frames (like people in eastern state, you need to get a bricky or even a handyman to do brickwork for you. (but you need to make sure walls are straight with 90 degree corners to avoid any issues with tiling) you dont need to be worry about the quality of the render in the bathroom, because you are gonna tile over it anyway.

    I hope this helps a bit 🙂

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