Sunday, August 10, 2014

Renovating bathroom? Tenant proof it!

When you are planning a bathroom renovation in your rental property, there is a lot to consider.  The most important is that the money you spend and work invested looks great for a long time.  Partly this will depend on the flair you apply to the style of the items you choose, and partly it will depend on the durability of the items you choose.  You can have beautiful design and durability at the same time, so think carefully about your choices.  Here is some items from things we have learned.

Walls and ceiling are usually going to be painted gib board (and aqualine gib is the correct product here).  However plaster board and paint are not the most durable.  We recommend lining walls with with hardiglaze , and seratone on the ceiling, to create wipe-able, mould- and water- resistant, durable surfaces.  It may be more expensive in the short term, but it will look great for years, not months, and won’t need painting again until you next rip out the bathroom, which we can't say for paint finishes.  Don't believe me?  Think 60’s Formica bathrooms, still going strong… so choose your pattern and colour wisely!  May I suggest white?  Use attractive joiner details so it doesn't look 'clinical' or  worse, like a morgue.   

Speaking of colours, resist the urge to go with the latest 'now' shade.  Lime green was so cool a few years ago, red has had it's day, I notice yellow is popping up more and more.  Do you really want someone thinking 'this bathroom is so retro' when you intended to modernise?  As much as it may pain you to do so, choose neutral tones, woods, and whites to have a room which is slow to date.  Trust the occupants to liven it up with their choice of towels and other personal items, and resist forcing your style onto them.

Trim and windows will need to be painted, use mould-shield paint in a high gloss finish – as this lasts longer, and really does deter mould longer.  

Floor mounted vanities are the norm.  However, we recommend wall mounted vanity units, using extra framing in the wall to support this (someone will always sit on it, or climb on it to change a light-bulb).  Wall mounted vanities will allow tenants to clean the floor easily, creates more visual room, and stops splashes rotting out the cabinetry.  Make sure wall lining is continuous behind it to increase water-tightness, and if you are painting, paint the wall before you put up the new vanity, so you can change it later without a 'tide mark' to paint over.

Bathroom fans are essential.  The fan needs to be placed close to or above the shower to reduce moisture in the bathroom.  Tenants won’t always leave it running long enough, so get it at the source.  It needs a delay timer, so it keeps working for at least 15 minutes after the light is switched off. This way most of the steam will be removed from the bathroom.

Put the fan and the lights both on one switch, so the fan is used more often.  Trust me, no one uses the fan otherwise, they are ‘saving power’.

Are you shifting the plumbing fixtures?  This cost may be avoidable with careful selection of fittings to suit existing plumbing.  Don’t rearrange the layout if it is fine as it is, it would only be unnecessary cost for little if any gain.

Floor tiling – this is pricey compared with replacing the flooring with commercial grade marmoleum – it’s the same stuff you had at the school canteen, that has lasted 50 years and counting…  If it gets scratched, it can be polished out as the colour goes all the way through.  Make sure they lay flooring before any fixtures (e.g. the loo, wall trim) are put in, to maximise waterproofing.  If you want to go with vinyl flooring, be aware it is relatively soft, so anything hard placed on it will mark it, and it will tear.  Marmoleum is significantly more durable.

If you use tiles anywhere in the bathroom, use large format tiles (to minimise grout) and grout a similar colour to the tile, preferably grey, so it ages gracefully.  Tenants won’t be scrubbing grout with a toothbrush, that is a higher standard than the 'reasonably clean and tidy' required.  Whatever you do, don't go for mosaic tiles, they will look horrible very quickly as the grouting stains.

We recommend insulating the external walls while the linings are off it it hasn't been already, this future proofs your investment, and reduces surfaces for mould to form on (as water doesn’t condense as readily on warm surfaces).  It is also a good idea to put insulation under and around the bath – tenants who like a long soak will thank you for it.  There will probably be enough in one bail to do both easily.  So about $100 in material.

Install a mirror.  Put in the biggest one you can fit to make the most of the space and light. A small bathroom really does look bigger with a big mirror in it.  Again, about $100 investment to make a big impact.  Be sure the mirror is sealed to stop the silvering coming off in a wet environment.

Towel rail – use a ladder rail – the more rungs and wider the better, and high off the floor (deters climbing - lets face it, your inner child has thought about it).  You want it to attracts towel hanging, not have them dumped on the floor or hung over doors, thereby saving the rest of the house from dampness and distortion.  Put the towel rail within easy reach of the bath/shower to prevent drips and splashes.  Heated towel rail might be a point of difference for your property, and increase heating in bathroom (therefore decreasing mould growth).

Shower screens are great to stop water splashing around the bathroom, especially for shower over bath arrangements.  Make it more effective by allowing for a curtain rail behind (bath/shower side of) the glass shower screen.  Your tenants will be warmer in the shower (and therefore hopefully cleaner as they linger there).

Do you need a new bath?  In many bathrooms with a separate bath, this is often underused, so may be in great condition.  Should you invest in a new one, or re-use the old one?  If the latter, it needs to be inspected carefully for wear, as a new bathroom around an old bath will soon look shoddy.  If new, choose the material carefully to maximise longevity of the surface condition.  We don’t recommend resurfacing old baths, it never lasts as long as they say it does, nor look nearly as good as it should.

Lighting can make a huge difference.  LED’s are a good idea.  Ensure the brand is reputable and they will last as long as they say they will.  Men, women want great light for putting on makeup, it doesn't matter what your opinion on that is, they will go where the light is right.  If you don't provide it in the bathroom, expect to clean hair dye, mascara and nail polish out of your carpet at some point in time.

Back to wall toilets are a good idea.  Make sure it has smooth surfaces with few nooks and crannies to make cleaning easier.  Will save you many expenses and frustration going forward, as everyone forgets to clean up drips around the toilet, and you as the landlord will need to do it between tenants.  A back-to-wall will make it much easier to clean this tricky spot.

Research the brands or models you intend to use to ensure they are durable, easy to clean, and look great (not ‘cheap’).  There is very little in price between great design and poor design, but the value of the finished product, your bathroom, is drastically different.  If you are going to spend this much on the bathroom (and it really does cost a lot to renovate a bathroom), make it LOOK like you’ve overcapitalised!  The money you spend should buy a lot of “wow”.  For example, be sure your slide shower is a durable one, heaps of these leak or slump in rental properties, I guess they get yanked around a fair bit.

Allow budget for hidden nasty surprises.  Often it is not until the wall linings are taken off that a leak is noticed, and it has been going a long time, and all the floor and joists are rotten.  On the upside, you found out before you put in the new bathroom...

Get building consent for anything that needs it.  While it is tempting to not get consent, it will lower the price you get when you sell the property.  If you think you will never sell, think again.  It is always an option if the worst comes to pass, so be prepared to give yourself the best price when you do by making sure all work is consented work.

Rental properties will get a lot of wear in its lifetime, rightly or wrongly, so specify surfaces that can withstand that and make your investment in a new bathroom last as long as possible.  With careful choosing of surfaces and finishes, your new bathroom may be the last bathroom renovation you do in that property because it keeps its good looks for a long time.

Happy renovating!

Rental Results has renovated many properties for clients, from very simple to practicably rebuilding.  We recommend you take great care in renovating, as a lot can go wrong.  Get great advice and stick with it.  You can contact Rental Results via our website,


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