Why does a bathroom renovation take so long?

When you start thinking about a bathroom renovation, it all seems relatively simple – choose some new tiles, get rid of the mouldy shower curtain, replace the taps and vanity that were last updated in the 1950s and you’re good to go, right? Well, turns out that although it’s often the smallest room in the house, the bathroom can be the room that requires the most trades. Everyone gets a piece of the bathroom action (especially if you’re moving walls and the location of plumbing), from plumbers to waterproofers, to renderers to tilers, electricians and builders. In fact, up to 10 different trades could be involved in even a mid-range bathroom reno (let alone the spa-style retreat you’ve been dreaming about). A lot of trades mean a lot of coordination, scheduling and waiting and it’s important to work with a builder who has access to professional, licensed tradesmen he uses regularly (if you need more convincing, read this post about my sister’s bathroom. Nightmare!).


Here’s how a bathroom reno plays out:

  1. Work with your builder or designer on the layout. If you’re trying to stick to a strict budget, be aware that even if you move a wall “just a little bit” that’s a lot of work (time = money, remember) for carpenters, renderers and potentially electricians and plumbers. Consider working within the existing space to save money.
  2. Order your fixtures and fittings. There’s nothing worse than demolishing your bathroom, then ordering your tiles, vanity and showerhead, bath and toilet (anything that needs to be connected to the sewer), only to discover that they will take 10 weeks to arrive. Hello to showering at the gym for months!
  3. Be aware that a full bathroom reno generally takes 4-6 weeks, so make plans for how you’re going to deal with that. There are companies that can set up a temporary bathroom in your backyard (google “temporary bathroom hire”) and if not that, then you’ll need to work out where you’re going to shower.
  4. Demolition gets underway – this is exciting because it means something’s happening. If you’ve moved walls, the carpenter will be the first one on the job installing new framing and sheetrock or drywall.
  5. Plumbing gets roughed in – if you haven’t moved the location of the toilet and shower, this is a relatively simple step. If you have moved these things, it will take a bit longer and cost more money. The plumber will be back later to connect pipes and taps.
  6. Meet your electrician – he needs to make sure that switches, wiring and outlets are in the right place. Don’t worry, he’ll be back later too.
  7. It’s round one for the tiler at this point as he will come in to lay a cement screed that dictates the fall of the floor (ie he makes sure everything slopes towards the drain.
  8. Waterproofing goes in – this step is absolutely crucial as it’s creating the barrier that will keep moisture in the bathroom and out of the rest of the house. Builders can install waterproofing but JD always uses a licensed waterproofer to make sure it’s done absolutely right. This is a skilled trade and the last thing you want is to be demolishing your bathroom 6 months down the track to fix some dodgy waterproofing. Not fun.
  9. Now’s the time to install the bath, shower, vanity and toilet – so you’ll be seeing the carpenter and the plumber again.
  10. Tiling generally happens next. Make sure your tiler is up to the job. If you’re spending big money on gorgeous tiles, you don’t want to save money on an average tiler. Those corners that didn’t get quite right will annoy you Every. Single. Time. you look at them. If you’re using a reliable builder, he will have a tiler who’s right for your bathroom.
  11. You’re almost there! Shower screens (meet a new tradie – he’s from the shower screen company) and tapware can be installed now, along with light fittings, shelving and cabinetry. These are items that you can save money on, but have a think about the real cost of that cheap tap from China when it breaks after 12 months and there’s not an Australian distributor or manufacturer you can talk to. Oh, say “hello” again to the carpenter, electrician and plumber.
  12. Done! Six weeks and multiple visits to the gym (#gettingyourmoneysworth) and your new bathroom is ready to go. Fill the tub, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!


Have you done a bathroom renovation? Would you have done anything differently? Do you take the toiletries from hotels to use at the gym?

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *