Planning a bathroom
By Liz Ransome-Croker
Article 2 of 4
This guide takes you through how to plan and buy the right bathroom suite for you – including baths, toilets and sinks – all at the right price.
Once you've chosen the style of bathroom you'd like, be it an en suite, wet room or family bathroom, you'll need to start working out exactly what you need to buy to make it a reality.
If you're refreshing your bathroom with a whole new suite and look, you can find out which brands people most recommend in best bathroom brands – there was a difference of 23 percentage points between the top and bottom-rated brands.
Read on for our top tips on buying bathroom suites, showers, baths, toilets and basins, as well as the costs of getting a new bathroom.
Start by measuring your bathroom
- Measure your bathroom, and make a note of where the existing waste pipes, boiler and electrical wiring are. Relocating any of these will add a significant chunk to your costs.
- On graph paper, make a to-scale drawing of your bathroom, noting down the location of the windows, door and fittings. Take it with you when you go to the shops.
- You’ll also need to think about ventilation: if there isn’t a window, it’s advisable to install an extractor fan, or condensation will quickly cause mould and damp problems.
If you can, talk to a bathroom specialist who can help you design a practical space. Tell them your budget and, ideally, try to find a company that can show you 3D images of what the bathroom will look like.
Some companies also offer an online bathroom planner that you can access from home, which is really useful if you want to play around with designs before speaking to anyone. Our bathroom company reviews tell you which services and tools each of the major brands offer.
Regardless of how much you’ve got to spend, set a budget before starting the project and do your best to stick to it. It's also worth adding in a 10% contingency – no matter how exhaustively you plan, there can be unforeseen costs.
But there are also things you can do to cut costs. When we spoke to bathroom owners, 60% said they were able reduce the price of their bathroom.
Which? members can log in now to see the most common ways in which they minimised the cost, as well as read bathroom owners' tips.
If you're not a Which? member, you can gain access to this and our bathroom brand ratings with a trial subscription to Which?.
Logging in or signing up will also give you access to the best and worst bathroom brands page where, as well as the ratings, you can see prices for a typical cheap, mid-range and premium bathroom from each brand.
As well as rating the big bathroom brands, we've put together picture galleries of a selection of their ranges, including top, mid and lower-priced bathrooms, and modern and traditional designs in our brand guide.
Click on the links in the gallery below to go through to each brand's review to see how they were rated and whether their bathrooms will suit your budget.
This year, for the first time, we asked bathroom customers about the durability of their bathroom suite overall, as well as the individual components - bath, sink, toilet and shower cubicle.
Only three big-name brands got four stars, a 'good' rating. A number of brands got the highest rating, five stars ('excellent'), for a few different components. No brand got five stars across the board.
Independent tradesperson or bathroom/DIY company is defined as independent builders and plumbers, DIY companies or bathroom companies not widely known outside your local area. Online suppliers are defined as ones selling bathroom ceramics, furniture and fittings predominantly online (they may have one showroom or factory outlet).
You can see how the brands were rated overall for quality of products and finish, value for money and customer service by visiting our best and worst bathroom brands page.
Buying baths, showers, sinks and toilets
In our survey, 48% of people said the most important reason behind their choice of bathroom suite brand was being able to go in store and see the bathroom before buying it, and 44% said it was because the store was close to where they lived.
Furthermore, 39% of people said that being able to get all the fixtures and fittings from one brand was one of the reasons they chose it. Buying from one company can make the process simpler, but it's not essential; you can pick and choose from different brands. Just make sure you coordinate on the measurements and double-check it will all fit together.
Choosing a bath
Nothing makes more of a bathroom design statement than a freestanding bath. These come in a variety of designs, from grand, old-fashioned and claw-footed tubs complete with roll-tops to minimalist, modern styles. And while they look unabashedly luxurious, you can actually pick up a freestanding bath for as little as £200.
Fitted baths tend to be more practical if you have less space, and it's possible to buy a very cheap one – we’ve spotted acrylic tubs for just £60.
Whichever type of bath you’re buying, always get in and try it out before making your decision. You may feel silly, but you’d feel sillier if you spent hundreds of pounds on a bath you’re uncomfortable in. And do shop around so you end up with the highest-quality bath you can afford.
Choosing a shower
You can either have a shower over the bath or in a standalone cubicle. To learn more about electric, power, mixer and digital showers, explore our guide to and, if relevant, see our recommendations of the and .
If having a bath is unimportant to you, you can sometimes make better use of the space by having a large shower unit and no bath. However, before making the decision not to have a bath, think about whether it could affect the resale value of your home.
Choosing a bathroom sink
Bathroom sinks come in a vast array of shapes, sizes and designs. Most sinks either sit within a cupboard or storage unit, or are freestanding. However, there’s a growing trend for vessel sinks, where the sink looks like a bowl sitting on top of the counter.
Other practicalities to consider are the sink height and the material it’s made from – you should ideally choose something hard-wearing that will be easy to clean and, particularly if you live in a hard water area, won’t show water marks.
As always, make sure you think practically about what will fit into your bathroom and remember that the taps you choose will have as big an effect on the look as the sink itself.
Choosing a toilet
It may not be the most glamorous aspect of designing your bathroom but, over the years, your toilet will get a lot of use, so it’s important to buy the right one.
A variety of shapes and styles of toilet exist: wall-hung, back-to-wall, close-coupled and corner toilets are all commonplace nowadays, and you can also buy soft-close loo seats that won’t slam down when you close the lid. Check whether your toilet comes with a seat when buying it, as not all do.
Consider the flushing mechanism – toilets can come with a dual flush, power flush or gravity flush to name but a few, and this will affect your water usage, as well as how powerful and effective the flush is.
Shop around for a bathroom and installer
It can be a good idea to look in local builders’ merchants, independent bathroom companies and at online-only retailers as well as the big brands when buying sanitaryware – customers rated these in our brand guide alongside the big well-known brands.
It's also worth keeping in mind that some bathroom companies, such as Plumb Center, only sell to trade, so you might want to find a good tradesperson first and then explore what bathroom would suit you.
To find a reliable local tradesperson, visit Which? Trusted Trader, where you can find recommendations of tradespeople that have been through our rigorous checks.
From Homebase to Bathstore, find out which are the best and worst bathroom brands, as rated by bathroom owners – the top scorer got 80% and the bottom just 57%.
How Which? rates bathroom brands
In February 2018 we asked 3,982 Which? members about the bathroom suite (bath, toilet and sink) and bathroom furniture they bought in the last ten years and their experiences with the brand. We also asked about their experiences with bathroom installation services.
This included rating the quality of the bathroom itself, its durability, the brand's customer service and its value for money. Overall customer scores are based on how satisfied customers were with the company and how likely they were to recommend it to a friend.