Most of us don’t renovate our bathrooms often, so when it comes to choosing products, don’t you wish there was someone who knew what worked and what didn’t and was happy to share that knowledge? Shane Beetson from Choice Bathrooms is just that person.
Shane has been a builder for thirty years plus, specialised in bathroom renovations for fifteen of them, and six years ago decided to open a retail selection centre for his clients. But he’s a renovator first and a retailer second, and this is what drives his advice. He’s seen all the horror stories and is happy to share his tips and tricks for choosing products that will last, keep looking good and working well.
We caught up with Shane and asked him for some tips on renovating your bathroom, and how to work out which products to choose and who’s opinion to trust?
Here’s the three questions that Shane always uses as a guide when choosing products:
Does the product offer a true parts and labour warranty?
Has the product been designed to be easy for Australian building conditions and easy for a tradie to install?
Will the product wear well so that your newly renovated bathroom will look just as good in five years time as it does when its finished, and always be a pleasure to use?
Choosing Bathroom Taps
So lets talk about choosing new bathroom taps – every bathroom has them, so what’s the difference between good quality fittings and not?
Firstly – warranty. If your product offers a lifetime warranty, it would be worthwhile checking what this means. In some instances what this means is that if the product fails, you’ll need to pay a plumber to take the old one out, go to the store to exchange it for a new one and then get the plumber back to re-install. And often, it’s the home owner who wears the cost for both of those visits. On the other hand, some products will offer a true parts and labour warranty. This means that if the tap leaks or some other fault occurs the company will organise the plumber to come out and swap the product for a new one. Then there is the WELS rating. All your taps need to be WELS rated, and the packaging needs to show the watermark. It's actually illegal for your plumber to install product that doesn’t comply. Then there is the quality of the chrome. Poor quality chrome will delaminate. This means that if you’ve spent money to achieve a beautiful bathroom, your taps won’t stay looking good for long. Frustrating.
Furthermore, depending on the bathroom tap cartridge quality, the tap may actually be noisier. Super frustrating. Shane points out that in the case of a wall mixer, you may choose to save $50 on the initial purchase price, but if the product fails then the cost of changeover will way exceed that initial investment as you have to take off the tiles, plaster, re-waterproof, re-plaster and re-tile. Eek!
Need some tapware inspiration? Take a look at our Contemporary Tapware Trends for 2017.
Choosing Bathroom Vanities
So what about choosing a bathroom vanity unit? Like everything, there’s a price point for everyone. What’s important though is that you understand the trade offs and risks. There are some really fantastic Australian made vanity brands, as well as a wide range of imported product. Before you buy, it's important to check if the MDF used in the vanity is Formaldehyde free. With floating bathroom vanities being very popular (the bathroom vanity wall hung style) it's really important to ensure that the unit is structurally strong enough to hold their own weight, plus the weight of a full basin of water and the stone top. Shane has seen bathroom vanities that have no solid back for mounting, or aren't built to be strong enough, and collapse under the weight. With some of the lower end bathroom vanity products, the hinges may start corroding, and the board material will be thinner which means it scratches, marks, and hold stains. Your bathroom vanity won’t stay looking as good as you’d like it.
Choosing A Bath
When you are choosing a new bath, there are two key things that will make the difference to how easily it can be installed and how well it will last. The first is – is it designed for Australian building conditions? Is it easy for your plumber to install? Remember every time your tradie has to stop and figure out a way for it to work, it will end up costing you. Then secondly, its all about the glazing and how its applied. The glaze is what protects the bath from marking, staining and yellowing over time. Any product that has a hygienic glaze applied will last the test of time. A lesser level of glazing may result in your bath absorbing products like bath oils and being almost impossible to clean, and staining. Or, in the worst case scenario, de-lamination off the glaze. Your bath is often the centerpiece of your new bathroom, so spending a little bit more to make sure it stays looking as good as when it was first installed makes sense. Shane also recommends testing your free standing bath to check its strength, as you don’t want one that flexes when you stand in it. With baths your choice should be all about the long term durability of the product.
Choosing a Toilet
True to his building background, the first thing Shane recommends you sort out when you are looking at new toilets is to answer the (potentially expensive question) – are you planning on moving your plumbing? If the answer is no – fine, but make sure the new toilet you choose matches the setbacks of your current toilet and is either a P or S trap depending on what you've currently got. Not every salesperson will be able to help you with this.
If you are looking at an in-wall cistern, a great solution for smaller spaces and achieving clean lines, Shane suggests choosing carefully. There are a lot of products on the market that don’t actually suit standard Australian framing sizes. You guessed it – choose carefully or your builder will have some challenges trying to install it. The other thing big consideration with toilets is how easy they are to clean. Is the toilet treated with a high quality glaze? Hygenic or Hospital grade glazes won’t stain. That’s important for ease of cleaning. So is a fully removable toilet seat. And check if it has a soft close seat fitted? And how softly the seat actually closes!
After spending some time talking to Shane, I’m beginning to get the picture that not everything is as it seems, and it’s a case of buyer beware. So when I ask about Shane's tips for choosing tiles, I’m not really surprised when he says that not all tiles labeled first quality, are actually first quality! So what do you need to look out for? First thing is, to check for irregular sizing as these will be hard for your tiler to lay and get a straight and true grout line. And with larger tiles becoming more popular in bathroom designs, this is even more important.
So here’s Shane’s trick:
Take six tiles out of the box, stack them on top of each other and check that they are all the same size, the same shape, and that they are flat. This is an easy check. The other thing Shane recommends is that you understand a little bit about different types of tiles, and the different types of maintenance and care required. If you get a full bodied porcelain tile this won’t need sealing or re-sealing. There are also non full bodied porcelain tiles on the market. These will need re-sealing over time to protect them from staining and wear.
If you choose natural stone tiles, they will always need sealing. And remember, with natural stone you will always get what you pay for.
Bathroom Shower Screens
When it comes to choosing a shower screen, Shane recommends installing a custom made product over an off the shelf product. Pre made shower screens are made to be perfectly square, but unfortunately few bathrooms are perfectly square! So what often happens is that to make the shower screen fit and seal the installer has to use a whole lot of silicone.
Over the years Shane has seen all sorts of off the shelf shower screens, often with questionable fittings, and chrome that delaminates. But his big tip is to look at the real cost – sometimes its cheaper to get a custom built screen, which includes the product, installation, and a full warranty rather than trying to find someone to install a bargain. Plus, ever practical Shane is a fan of the coating applied to custom shower screens that make cleaning them easier!
Find your perfect Shower Screen from one of our many retailers across Australia on House of Home.
Which retailer? Which products?
Your choice of fixtures and fittings goes much further than just influencing the look and feel of your bathroom. It's all about the ease of managing the project and getting things installed, the lasting finish and durability of your new bathroom and the peace of mind of knowing the you’ve got back up, just in case something goes wrong. Shane recommends finding a knowledgeable salesperson, buying reputable brands, and liaising closely with your builder.
The Team at House of Home would like to thank Shane Beetson from Choice Bathrooms in Gaythorne QLD for his time and valuable advice for our readers who are planning their bathroom renovation.
This article was originally published in 2015.