It is no exaggeration to say that what period properties have in character and charm, they lack in plumbing and bathroom systems. Over the years, sanitation systems have evolved hugely, meaning that period properties often have outdated and complex systems hidden behind their walls.
Any refurbishment of an old property is, therefore, likely to require significant upgrades of plumbing and bathrooms.
And it is not usually a quick or cheap fix. In fact, it is often one of the costliest elements of renovating an old house, meaning it’s important to get it dead-on right from the start.
My first tip is to think about your lifestyle and recognise how many bathrooms you’re likely to require – and where you want them. In old houses, a lot of bathrooms are on the ground floor, or at the end of the house, for example. Most families will require an upstairs bathroom. This forward planning will help you to understand whether you need a new boiler to service additional bathrooms, as well as whether you will need to run pipes through walls – this will ensure that you’re not ripping out freshly plastered walls further down the line.
The second tip is to check the pipes. If they are lead, it may be worth getting a professional in to convert the pipework to copper – there are some things which DIY-ers shouldn’t try.
Another area of concern is planning permission. If you’re adding showers, it’s a good idea to pre-plan an extension. Old houses are notorious for stone walls and small joists in floors, so coming up with a design where pipework is hidden in new ‘built-in’ areas is a good way to prevent difficult situations.
The fourth tip is to make features out of otherwise ‘ugly’ boxing in. For example, you might need to build out a wall in the shower area to hide the pipework, but you can make it a feature with some built-in shelves. Or, if you have a freestanding bath where you need the waste to be above floor level, you can build the floor up around it and fit some lighting in the floor to hide the pipework – making it look like a design feature.
You can also hide cisterns in the walls for back-to-wall or wall-hung toilets which tends to be a space-saver and easier for cleaning.
Finally, check where the soil pipe is and aim to position your toilet so the waste can go straight out of the wall, meaning you can have a sleek, fully enclosed toilet. Fitting such items in similar locations where you have existing entry/exit points often minimises risks.