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Bathroom Renovations and Your Plumbing

When it comes to bathroom renovations, homeowners usually keep their sights on how the room could look better or even function better.

What most people don’t realize is that fixing up a bathroom is more than just an image makeover. There are lots of practical things to consider when doing a bathroom renovation, particularly if it’s your first time.

Professional plumber Dave Smythe has been handling the plumbing side of bathroom renovations since 2003. When asked about the important considerations, he said, “Think about the design long term. If you’re going to be going through the mess and expense of a bathroom renovation, you might as well give that 10% extra to make it work well for the future.”

Here are a few tips about how plumbing can affect how you renovate.

Plan Well in Advance for Your Bathroom Renovations

You really need to do your research before you make final decisions on the look of your bathroom. Doing this can help you save time and money, if not headaches and heartbreak.

  1. First, find out what your plumbing needs are. You don’t want to find out well into your bathroom renovation that your ideas can’t be met by your current plumbing. Plus, you can keep your costs lower if you don’t need to move water lines or your soil stack. If possible, check your home’s blueprints and find out where they are. If you don’t have blueprints, you may need to get your plumber to figure this out, but keep in mind that even the most experienced plumber can’t see through walls. They will only know for sure once the work has started.
  2. Consider what you might need for your new bathroom features. You might have to put in a bigger water heater if you’re planning a soaking tub or a multi-head shower. Consider the cost and factor it into your overall budget.
    Think about accessibility for seniors or people in a wheelchair. If you’re going to be in your house long term, make things easier when your mobility is reduced. The tub you don’t use can be converted into a barrier-free shower. You can get some extra bathroom space that way, and won’t have to move the water pipes.
  3. Be sure to keep to your plan when you have it set. Don’t change your mind on features, such as sinks and tubs, once you’ve started. For one, you may have to move water lines to accommodate them. Two, contractors could add fees for changes to:
    • Materials
    • Schedule
    • Labour
  4. Reserve 10% of your budget for unknowns. Once the walls have been opened you may get surprises like mould issues or something that’s structurally unsound.

Another key consideration is plumbing infrastructure. “What people need to realize,” says Dave, “is that plumbing is designed to last 30 – 50 years on average. A step that can save headaches in the long run is to have your plumber assess the condition of your pipes. It will save money to have them replaced while your walls are open anyway, instead of doing an extra operation 5 years down the road.”

“If your home is from the 1960s or older, you should be looking at changing the plumbing anyways, as pipes degrade over time. The worst thing of all is to wait for leaks and water damage to start happening.”

Hire a Licensed Plumber

Some people may feel that they can do their bathroom renovation all by themselves. However, the plumbing should still be done by a licensed plumber. This will save you:

  • Costly mistakes, especially if you haven’t done this type of work before.
  • Time, as licensed plumbers can get the job done faster than most people.

In some places, it’s the law to hire a licensed plumber for any plumbing done on a bathroom renovation. So save the hassle and hire pros like DS Plumbing.


Hire Expert General Contractors

General contractors are great because they can handle your overall project, including things like tiling, drywall and painting.

A careless general contractor can damage pipes simply by moving bathtubs or sinks around, however. The pipes can become strained when they work large fixtures into place. Connector seals on your pipes can get cracked or broken. This can happen far away from the bathroom and you might not even know your renovation led to the break.

So get someone who takes care regarding your plumbing. And make sure they put any moved pipes back to the closest connection.

Don’t Just Take the Cheapest Quote

This is particularly true if you live in an old house. If you go with the lowest bid, you might sometimes pay more for unexpected plumbing problems later in the renovation.

For example, you might find out after starting work that your home’s plumbing generally doesn’t meet current building codes. If so, you:

  • May not be able to do the planned work on your bathroom without fixing this problem first.
  • May have to remove walls elsewhere in your home to bring plumbing up to standard.

So, what seemed to be an inexpensive, short renovation at first could actually:

  • Be more expensive in the long run.
  • Take much, much longer than you first thought.

Ask contractors to check your plumbing, among other things, for any foreseeable problems before they bid. This will help you get a more accurate quote, and help you plan for any water pipe issues.

Have All of Your Supplies Before Doing Any Work

Sometimes, items such as vanity tops can take their time getting to you from the supplier. If you start ripping up your bathroom before you have everything you need two things could happen. You:

  • Might find out you need to do more plumbing work, such as moving pipes.
  • This might have to be done to make all of your new features fit. (Even with the best planning, things can go awry.)
  • Will probably will have to pay your contractors to wait on you if items are late coming in.

“We’ve had some customers who waited until we started to order their fixtures. They were disappointed when they had to wait for delivery,” says Dave. Make sure you have everything you need before you start work on your bathroom and make sure you know the delivery window. Some items can take weeks.


These ideas should help you on your way to designing a bathroom you can enjoy for many years to come.


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