The Novice’s Guide to Replacing a Bathroom–Part 1

IMG_0573Yes, bank holiday weekend. Time for Easter reflections, visiting family, putting your feet up.

Also a great opportunity to get some DIY done. And with the wife and son away for the weekend, I decided to start one of several pending projects: replacing the main bathroom.


A bit of background

Our house was built in 1988, and both the main bathroom and the en-suite had not been touched since. From the beautiful stripy toothpaste style tiles to the faded pink sanitary ware, they were relics of a by-gone era of interior design, albeit functional relics.  When we moved in we had the en-suite re-fitted (I only did the flooring and painting), so the other bathroom has continued to age over the last 12 months.

My background in DIY is fairly limited – I can paint, lay laminate flooring, and generally solve most basic household problems. However I’ve never done any plumbing, tiling or bathroom work.

The (Rough) Plan

So the rough plan was to:

  • Replace the bath, hand basin and toilet
  • Replace the light fittings
  • Keep the existing electric shower
  • Re-paint and re-tile

We only decided to get on with this early in the week, so we got a move on with choosing colours, flooring and tiling.  We’ve had the toilet and hand basin in the garage since we moved in.

Sequence of Events

So I started off by removing the light fittings (after turning off the circuits of course) and the radiator.  Removing a radiator is easy – but don’t make my mistake which was answering the door, chatting for 10 minutes, and then hearing the pitter-patter of water dripping through the kitchen because I hadn’t fully tightened up the water pipe valves.

Next I removed the electric shower – again this was easy, but I had to take note of how it all went together.  And of course turn off the water before hand (and drain the system).

Removing my Shower

Then I attacked the tiles with a bolster chisel and club hammer – most of them came off fairly easily (although it’s still hard work).

So far so good.

Then came the plumbing.

I cut the pipes to the sink taps with a pipe slice, unscrewed the supporting bolts and disconnected the waste pipe. Out came the basin and pedestal. Easy.

I popped two pipe caps over the supply pipes and moved on.

Off came the side of the bath and more pipes to disconnect.  In the following two hours I used up my quota of expletives as I wrestled with getting a spanner (which had to be the largest one I had) into an impossibly small hole behind the bath with an overflow pipe in the way.

One blistered hand later, I got the bath out (gingerly moving it and hopping it over the waste pipe).

At 10pm last night I was feeling very pleased with myself – all pipes capped, two units removed, most of the tiles off. I had even turned the water back on to check the pipe work was OK and no leaks.

Then pop, and splash, and more dripping.

One of the pipe caps had come off.

A cycle that I’ve been through many times: switch off the water, drain, mop up, catch the drips in the kitchen and fixing isolation valves.  Switch the water back on, wait and check for leaks.

Today the toilet came out (surprisingly easily) leaving more pipes to sort out. 

New building regulations state that isolation valves should be fitted to all water pipes in new bathrooms.  These valves mean that you can switch off the water supply to an appliance without having to turn off the mains water supply.

I’ve spent hours today testing, tightening and re-testing these valves (and some deal of mopping up).

My conclusion: wires are nice as they bend and you can disconnect them. Pipes do not bend and cannot be turned off.  Electricity can only spark – water drips everywhere.

Electrics = good

Plumbing = bad

Top Tips

My top tips from two days’ of bathroom work:

  • Check your pipe sizes before buying anything – don’t rely on B&Q advice (like I did).  This probably means removing the side of your bath to have a look (my hot water was 22mm rather than 15mm).
  • Cut pipes as carefully as possibly to avoid deforming them and cutting them square
  • Remove the door – space becomes limited very quickly
  • Give yourself plenty of time!


A couple of sites that have been very useful:

How to find a bathroom suite – DIY Doctor

Remove and Replace a Toilet – DIY How To


Now that I’ve removed the old bathroom, I’ve got to fit the new one, decorate and finish off…

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