If you’ve ever plonked yourself on the couch to watch one of the many home renovations shows on television and thought to yourself “I could do that!”, you’re not alone. The home renovation market is massive in Australia. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in early 2022 showed that homeowners across the country spent 12.3 billion dollars on home renovations – a 33% increase on 2020 figures.
Make no bones about it; Australians love to renovate, whether it’s to the family home or an investment property. It’s a process, or a project, that breathes new life into a house and can also increase its resale value.
Renovations can take the form of extensions to the home, updates or upgrades to particular rooms, or a complete redesign of the house layout. With the kitchen and bathroom being among the two most popular areas of the house to renovate, you will likely need to consider how the plumbing to your home needs to be approached.
Here are five issues to consider regarding your plumbing before you begin the renovation process.
- Proper preparation and planning is paramount
Many facets of home renovation are likely to require some degree of work on the plumbing, particularly when the kitchen, bathroom or laundry is involved. You might want to:
- install a new major appliance
- move an existing appliance to a new location, or
- upgrade your existing hot water system
Whatever changes or upgrades to your plumbing that your renovations entail, it’s crucial to plan meticulously. Last minute or mid-renovation alterations that affect your plumbing can blow out your costs and the time spent working on your home. Going into your renovation with a clear vision of what you want and an understanding of how your plumbing might be affected is vital.
As part of the planning process, you may want to consider the functionality of your home plumbing as it currently stands, how you see it potentially working more effectively, and how your renovations may impact its performance. A SWOT analysis, as outlined by the Australian Government’s Sustainable Homes website, can be an effective approach. SWOT stands for:
- Strengths – the existing factors that work well and you wish to keep
- Weaknesses – the elements or aspects of your plumbing that may currently be lacking
- Opportunities – areas that offer potential for improvement, for example switching to solar powered water heating
- Threats – elements of your plumbing that need significant maintenance, repair or replacement
Consulting a licensed plumber goes a long way to helping you go into your renovation fully prepared and with that necessary clear vision. They will be able to help you strike the perfect balance between what you want and what you need, specifically in terms of perfect plumbing functionality. A plumber can navigate you through the renovation process so you can pre-empt any potential problems or swiftly address any issues should they arise.
In short, planning your renovations to the letter before the physical work begins will benefit your budget, your expected time frame, and certainly your plumbing. Probably your sanity as well.
- Do you need permits?
If you’re going into your first ever renovation you may not be aware whether or not you require formal approval for the changes or additions you’re looking to make. For instance, if you’re adding a second bathroom to your home, you will likely need a building permit, but you might need both a planning permit and a building permit if you’re redesigning the layout of your home.
If you’re using a licensed building contractor in your renovation, they will likely be able to steer you in the right direction when it comes to necessary permits and approval processes.
- Which walls are plumbing accessible?
Planning to move your bathtub, kitchen sink or washing machine as part of your renovations? It’s not always as simple as just relocating it from point A to point B. Knowing which walls of your home have plumbing access, especially in the laundry, kitchen or bathroom, is crucial.
It may mean the difference between a relatively straightforward repositioning of these fixtures or appliances, or a more complicated (and costly) installation of new plumbing to accommodate the move. A licensed plumber will be able to advise whether you can move these fixtures with minimal complications or whether they’re best left where they are.
- Is your home’s drainage up to scratch?
Older homes often have older drainage systems, so knowing how it is laid out and whether it is in optimal working condition can be beneficial prior to starting renovations. After all, you don’t want to accidentally damage a water line while you’re working on the kitchen, or even worse, a sewer pipe while you’re renovating the bathroom!
Your local council should be able to provide you with a detailed diagram of your property’s drainage system, or at least how it was designed when first installed. If there have been any changes since, which you would either be aware of yourself or a licensed plumber will be able to determine, it may benefit you and future owners of your property to update that diagram.
You might also want to consider having a plumber inspect your drainage system to ensure it is in prime working order. If there are aspects that may be below standard, such as damaged or outdated pipes, you can include that work in your renovation plans.
- Spending on what you need vs. what you want
Your budget is a significant point of consideration when it comes to planning your renovation, so it’s important to distinguish between the fixtures, fittings and appliances that you need, and the ones that might be more of a luxury. Before you consider splurging on the things you’d merely like, be sure to spend the majority of your budget on all the elements you actually need.
For example, if you’re someone who prefers showers over baths and can’t envisage yourself having a bath in the future, you might consider directing much of your bathroom budget on installing a new shower and forgoing the bathtub installation all together. Of course if you’re renovating with plans to sell your property in the future, you may need to consider what potential buyers might need as well.
And though there may be a temptation to be conservative with those necessity purchases – especially in terms of their value – remember that you want these to last for many years, so spending that little bit extra may be beneficial.
Once you’ve purchased the essentials that make your house function, then by all means splurge on those extras with the remaining funds.
Bathrooms and kitchens are typically the two rooms most homeowners spend the most time renovating. They can also be the most expensive – a 2019 study by the Housing Industry Association referred to by Choice Magazine talks of the average cost of a bathroom renovation coming in at $17522, while kitchen renovations can range anywhere from $15000 to over $45000+. As these two rooms (along with the laundry) are the ones to get the most use of your plumbing, you should give due consideration to these important plumbing issues before beginning your renovation:
- Ensure you’ve planned your renovation completely before you begin; last minute or mid-renovation changes to your plumbing can be costly and add time to your renovation project.
- Some additions or alterations to your home may require official approval. Consult your local council or a licensed builder about what permits you may need.
- Not all walls of your kitchen, bathroom or laundry might have access to plumbing. Knowing which ones are accessible may determine whether you can move fixtures and fittings easily or whether you may need new plumbing installed.
- When it comes to budgeting, spend your money wisely. Buy the items that you need first, before buying those that might be more of a luxury.
- Knowing how your drainage system is configured and whether it is up to scratch before you begin your renovations is also important.
If you need to make any alterations, upgrades or repairs to your plumbing before beginning your renovations, be sure to consult a licensed plumber. It may be tempting to try DIY, but ultimately costly and unnecessarily time consuming if not done right. An experienced professional can help you oversee all essential plumbing matters, including pre-renovation planning and repairs, so your attention, time and money is spent on the things that matter to you. As it should be.