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This article was written and distributed by the Federation of Master Builders, the building industry's largest trade organisation, representing over 13,000 small and medium-sized companies throughout the UK. If you'd like to know more about the FMB, or would like to find a reputable builder, try the Find a Builder web site at:

Bathe in Glory - The stress free way to a new bathroom

The bathroom is traditionally the smallest room in the house, but that doesn’t mean it’s low down in the home improvement stakes. A survey of homeowners by the Federation of Master Builders found that nearly one in five had upgraded or added a bathroom in the last three years. It’s also a good investment. According to the Nationwide Building Society adding a second bathroom can add around 10% to the value of your home.

It’s all in the planning
When it comes to bathroom design, small can still be beautiful – particularly if you plan the project in advance. Think about your desired layout so that you can see how it will work in practice and when you talk to your builder you will have a good idea of what you want. To help you begin planning, the FMB has published The Essential Guide to Home Improvement, a free brochure packed with sound advice on planning home improvement projects, and choosing and working with your builder.

Use the skills
Adding a bathroom by converting an existing room or building an extension is a job for a professional builder or plumber. You won’t save money by doing it yourself if you end up with water gushing through the ceiling below!

Unless you are building an extension, you won’t need planning permission for a new bathroom, but if you are converting a room from scratch you may need to satisfy Building Regulations so get in touch with the building control department at your local council for advice.

Can you take the pressure?
If you are adding another bath or shower, you may need an extra storage tank or pressure pump to stop water pressure fluctuating. To provide sufficient pressure to run a shower you will either need to install a pump or raise the height of the cold water storage tank.

The benefit of instant hot water from a combination boiler should be weighed against the disadvantage of possible lower hot water pressure than that achieved with a hot water tank system.

Don’t get lost in space
If you are upgrading an existing bathroom on a budget, you should consider putting new sanitary ware in the same place as before, as re-plumbing will add to the cost. A new layout may be a better use of space, so start by measuring the room and planning on paper the best position of the bath, basin and loo.

If you have a separate loo and bathroom you may want combine the two rooms. You may be surprised at the amount of dead space which is wasted in a separate toilet This could also provide you with much needed light.

Waste not want not - Get green!
The main practical consideration in a bathroom is getting rid of waste water, so it’s normally cheaper to put the bathroom at the back of the house where it is easier to run a soil pipe.

Did you know that over 30% of all water delivered to the home is used for flushing the loo? The latest cisterns use 2 litres less water per flush than ones fitted before 1993.

Most showers are more water and fuel-efficient compared with baths – the exception being powershowers. These use so much water that you should check with your plumber that the drainage can cope with it as you don’t want an overflowing shower tray.

Electric showers can be energy efficient as they have an integral pump and instantaneous heating system, but remember to ensure that they are fitted by a qualified electrician.

Heat it up
Check out the heating arrangements in your new bathroom – many modern radiators are also designed for drying towels and have the advantage of working off the existing hot water system.

Efficient heating can help disperse condensation but bear in mind that to meet building regulations you will need an extraction system.

Remember to only use a Corgi registered installer if your heating is gas operated.

Only use a vetted builder
Finding a professional company to transform your bathroom needn’t be a problem. With some 13,000 vetted builders throughout the UK, the FMB’s website, is a good place to start, or ask friends and relatives who have had similar work done to recommend someone – they are only likely to do so if they had a good experience!

Follow the FMB’s top tips for managing a successful building project:

  • Get estimates from two or three different builders. Be clear about what you want done and ask for a written specification and quotation.
  • Ask for references and talk to previous customers. A good builder will provide you with credentials and references, so try to visit previous jobs similar to your own.
  • If the builder is a member of a trade association, check the membership criteria – and make sure they really are. Rogue builders have been known to falsely claim membership.
  • Avoid adding to the job or changing your mind halfway through – it will usually cost more and cause delays. Confirm any changes you do make in writing – the FMB has a variation form for this purpose.
  • Use a contract – the FMB has Plain English contracts for small building work.
  • Agree any staged and final payments before work starts.
  • Avoid dealing in cash.
  • If any problems arise whilst work is in progress, or you are unhappy about anything, talk to your builder right away.

For further information check out the FMB’s website at or telephone 08000 152522 for a free copy of The Essential Guide to Home Improvement, which is packed with sound advice on planning home improvement projects, and choosing and working with your builder.


ODPM – 0870 1226236
Local Authority Building Control – 020 7641 8737
RIBA – (Royal Institute of British Architects) – 020 7580 5533
RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) – 0870 333 1600
Corgi, 01256 372200

Scottish Association of Chief Building Control Officers –
RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) –
0131 229 7545
RICS Scotland - 0131 225 7078

Northern Ireland
Building Control Northern Ireland –
RSUA (Royal Society of Ulster Architects) 028 9032 3760
RICS Northern Ireland – 028 9032 2877


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