Bathrooms from design to renovation

No other space in your house will reflect your personality more than your bathroom. It is important that your bathroom reflects the best quality, workmanship and style that your budget can afford.

Your bathroom is the one space in your home that can truly set your mood for the rest of the day. With this in mind, when it comes to home improvements there are a few more satisfying than renovating your bathroom.

Many people believe they can take on home renovations by themselves however, spending the time and choosing an experienced designer and then contractors will repay you by making a tough project a truly positive experience.



New Zealand has a strict building code and most renovations will need a building consent. Your designer will guide you and in most cases make the applications on your behalf, if they are required.

Even if you don’t need building consent, the building work will still need to comply with the Building Code.

Under the Building Act 2004, building work (relevant to alterations and renovations) which requires consent includes:

  • Alterations, additions and structural repairs to existing buildings, for example, removing or changing structural load-bearing walls. In some cases, you will need consent to replace all wall linings at once as they may serve a structural purpose.
  • Repairs to leaking buildings also require a consent as does the installation of insulation to existing external walls.
  • The demolition of existing buildings and structures.
  • The removal or relocation of existing buildings.
  • Sitework, for example, earthworks for a new extension.
  • The construction of decks where a person can fall more than 1.5 metres or more in height above ground level. (A barrier is required for decks where it is possible to fall one metre or more).
  • Retaining walls that retain more than 1.5 metres in height above ground level, or have surcharges (retain driveways or structures) – note that the 1.5 metre height limit does not apply in this case.
  • Changing building use, for example, converting your garage into a bedroom.
  • Plumbing or drainage work (other than routine maintenance).
  • Installing or replacing an inbuilt, free-standing log and solid fuel burner, heater or open fire place.
  • Putting in a swimming or spa pool.
  • Installing communications aerials for television repeaters, mobile phones or radio (but not standard home television antennae).
  • The construction of fences of two metres or higher.

The Department of Building and Housing has a guide to building work that does not require a building consent. Consent fees do vary from council to council and the cost and complexity of the project (a more complex project will require more inspections during construction and therefore will cost more).


  1. Expectations

Understanding what it is that you are wanting to achieve from your renovation will assist both you and your renovation specialist. If you are both on the same page from the start you will eliminate many misunderstandings. It will also help you both to stick to your budget and achieve your dreams.

  1. Style

Renovating opens up the opportunities wide for a range of ideas to be implemented. Do you just want to change the wall colours and handles or are you wanting a complete fitting, fixture, décor and vibe change? There are many elements to consider like paint colour, tile choices, vanities, showers, tubs, and fittings. A popular way that people start their renovation journey is by starting a scrapbook of elements you like and as you find items, colours or design schemes that appeal to you, you can add them to your scrapbook. This helps you to piece together what you like into what will become the final design of the bathroom. This method does not suit all people and so another way to approach finding your dream look for your bathroom is to find a single bespoke element and then fit the rest of the design around this. An important consideration is that of who will use the bathroom and how and whether the final design will complement the rest of the homes aesthetics.

  1. Budget

Going over budget can cripple your ability to enjoy your finished project. By setting a budget at the beginning, you can use this as a guide for both yourself and your designer and alleviate some of the stress that can arise when decisions need to be made.  If you adhere to the important parts of your budget then you may find that you are left over with “extra” money that you can then use towards special items of difference like audio or video elements, heated floors, lit mirrors, heated towel drawers, or an extra showerhead.

  1. Timing

Absence makes the heart fonder. There is never a truer saying to apply to the timeframe between removing your old bathroom, the renovation and the finalised project! The amount of time a renovation will take has very little to do with the size of your bathroom. A small bathroom may require more remedial work than a large one – or vice versa – depending on what is uncovered when the demolition happens. You will also need to allocate extra time towards finding and purchasing such things as tiles, fixtures, custom-built vanities or cabinets and delivery times.

  1. Fixtures and features

The fixtures in your new bathroom renovation really set the mood for the project. You can find myriads of options allowing you to experience vintage, classic, modern or alternative moods. As mentioned previously, there are many modern conveniences that are specifically designed for new bathrooms like audio or video elements, heated floors, lit mirrors, heated towel drawers, or an extra shower head which all ooze luxuriousness. If your renovation project has a small time frame, and a modest budget you can still achieve a whole new feel with an easy coat of paint and a change of door handles.

  1. Work sequence

Talk to your contractor/s about what the work sequence will be. By completing the renovation in a specific sequence you can save yourself a lot of clean up time and mistakes. The number one rule with the sequence of work for a renovation is to start at the top of the room. First should be any work that needs to be completed on your ceiling – this could be mould removal, spot filling plaster holes, or painting, then the walls should be dealt with and the floors should be last so you can prevent damage to your new components.

  1. Hidden problems

These are what renovations nightmares are made of! If you are doing more than painting the walls and replacing some taps, you really should consider fully gutting your bathroom and starting from scratch. When done by a professional with expertise you will end up with a zero problems bathroom that will function flawlessly and add tremendous value to your home for many years to come. The biggest hidden problem you may encounter is water damage, so make sure your contractors look for structural deficiencies in the floor framing, not properly vented plumbing, old corroded plumbing, and non-waterproof tile shower/tub surrounds. 

  1. Storage

Bathrooms can typically be small, irregular shaped rooms. This can make planning and finding functional, practical and stylish cabinets, shelving and storing rather tricky. Your designer should have the experience to suggest suppliers of unique solutions or alternative options so that you are still able to put all of your toiletries’ away.

  1. Walls and Flooring

Depending on your budget and style, ceramic, marble, and granite tiles make handsome and highly durable flooring and wall surfaces for baths. As long as you choose a waterproof material, almost any material can be used to surface walls and floors in the bathroom. Waterproofing is VITAL. Whatever your choice of flooring, durability and slip-resistance must form part of your criterion.

  1. Lighting

Plenty of lighting is exactly what you need when you’re getting ready to look your best to face the world. The right lighting in a bathroom is crucial for everything from that close shave to makeup that isn’t a disaster. Plan for maximizing natural light first, whereas for artificial light it is advisable you should have least one downlight for every 4 square meters. Be sure to consider what you need for your day-to-day activities, and include a mixture of ceiling lights, wall lights and recessed units to reduce any chance of shadows.  A bathroom can be rendered impractical or downright dangerous without adequate lighting so plan for design lighting that is functional and creates atmosphere. 

  1. Accessories

Don’t sweat the small stuff – however it is the small stuff – the accessories, that complete a new renovation. New accessories like new towels, wash clothes, soap dispensers, mirrors, towel racks for example can all add up and affect the final bill. However, they do help set the mood in your new bathroom and make it a place you can truly enjoy.

  1. Ventilation

Moisture is an enemy in any part of your home but is especially in a bathroom. Ventilation is crucial in a bathroom. Poor ventilation can leave your bathroom damp, mouldy and can even harm your health. Continual airflow can prevent the decay of any wooden trim or fixtures and the saturation of your plasterboard and the insulation. Proper ventilation requires proper planning and your designer will be able to advise you on this.

  1. Going green

There are many budget friendly options available now which you may like to consider. A low flow toilet that uses less water and saves you money in water bills; low-VOC or no-VOC paints; vanities made from sustainably harvested wood; recycled glass tile surface countertops, will all help add a green touch to your bathroom.

  1. Final clean

The final clean is often overlooked in the planning phase. The final clean should include a thorough cleaning of all cabinetry, inside and out, ductwork, walls, floor, windows, and light fixtures. If this service is offered by your contractors then sit back, relax and when the renovation is complete you will be able to walk into your new bathroom to see it glistening and gleaming. If this service is not on offer you can do it yourself – but it may take a day (or two) before your renovation is ready to be ogled at, of you can invest in a professional cleaning company to come in and do a full, professional clean.

Renovating your bathroom can add value and prestige to your home. It can help start your day off well and be a place of calm and relaxation after a long day out of the house. When your renovation is complete – don’t forget to celebrate! Break open the champagne, run a bath and soak up all the changes your renovation has brought to your home.

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