The existing plumbing & the space available will be the main factors in determining whether you can have an en-suite.
- running hot & cold supply pipework to the shower, toilet, basin etc – floors will have to be lifted in the bedroom normally, but may be run in the loft space, depending on your existing plumbing.
- running pipework for any new radiators – this will almost always involve lifting floorboards in the adjoining bedroom to extend the pipework that currently feeds the nearest radiator.
- running waste water away from the toilet, shower, basin etc to the soil pipe outside the house. This is often a stumbling block as waste water needs to run downhill (in a fairly straight line) to the nearest soil stack which is normally on the outside of your house.
The position of the new en-suite relative to the existing soil pipe is critical. i.e. if the en-suite is on the other side of the house to the soil pipe, you may have difficulties in installing everything you want.
You can only add an en-suite if you have space, but this example is only 1m x 2m, and almost half of this is taken up by the shower tray, so with a little careful design, a lot can be done with a small space though this room does not contain a toilet (see below.)
PS Don’t forget the space taken when the door swings open as well!
As en suites often do not have an existing window, lighting needs to be considered at the outset to ensure the room does not feel small & dingy.
In this example, natural & artificial light was boosted by a few key elements to produce a spacious feeling in a shower room that was lacking a window and was actually very small (2m x 1m):
- 2 x ceiling spotlights were combined with a mirror unit with an integrated light to provide artificial light.
- A frosted glass door was used to let in natural light from the window in the adjoining bedroom, whilst maintaining privacy. This was mounted to open outwards into the bedroom to give more space inside the shower room.
- A mirrored cabinet over the basin bounced this natural light deeper into the room.
- A wall hung (as opposed to floor mounted) basin was used to give a feeling of space by maximising the floor space visible underneath.
- A framelessshower door added to the sense of space by not having a thick metal frame down the centre of it (as cheaper bifold doors often have.)
- Glossy, light coloured wall tiles were used to reflect the natural & artificial light around the room.
- Solar tubes can also be considered.
Ventilation is key as en-suites are obviously attached to bedrooms.
In this example, an inline fan was fitted in the loft space above (with a grill in the ceiling), to keep noise to a minimum (useful if someone needs to use the facilities during the night and doesn’t want to wake a partner up.) Please see here for more information.
5% is the amount the addition of a well-designed en suite could add to a property according to Nationwide Building Society. This equates to £7,500 on a £150,000 house – much more than the cost of installation.
The existing built in cupboards are removed and put into a skip, before new timber studwork is erected.
A glass door is to be fitted in this en-suite so the door frame is made to fit the wooden door frame exactly as no adjustments can be made to the door later as it cannot be trimmed to size (as a normal, wooden door can.)
The rear wall is studded out to allow for the running of supply pipework (behind the finished wall) to the shower valve and also to the wall hung basin as can be seen above. This studwork will also conceal the shower & basin waste above floor level, which is why the studs do not extend fully to the floor.
The central heating system is also drained at this point and new supply pipework is run to the position of the new towel radiator within the stud wall and under the floor. Radiator valves are then fitted and the system is refilled, allowing us to check for leaks before the walls are boarded and the floorboards are replaced.
Horizontal noggins are added to the studwork at this stage in strategic locations to ensure that the basin, radiator and mirror cabinet will be fixed solidly into the timbers behind the finished wall surface.
The pipework that feeds the shower, basin and radiator that is concealed within the wall is run in soldered copper to ensure no leaks, and is thoroughly tested and flushed through prior to plaster-boarding.
The en-suite studwork is then boarded out with moisture resistant plasterboard prior to tiling & plastering. At this stage all cables and studs are marked for future reference.
The shower tray is fitted into position in order to run the waste pipe (that will carry the waste water from the shower & basin away to the drain.) PS The studwork was spaced to fit the tray perfectly, ensuring a perfect, watertight seal is achieved.
The waste pipe is run inside the studwork for a neat installation in large 50mm solvent weld waste pipe to allow water to flow away from the shower tray quickly enough without having the raise the tray too high off the ground. In the picture above you can also see that the pipe has been supported with metal banding to ensure it does not sag over time, and that a baton has been screwed to the floor to ensure the bottom edge of the plasterboard is supported. Solvent weld pipe is used instead of push fit waste pipe to ensure a trouble free, long-lasting installation.
You can also see the basin fixing brackets securely fitted into the studwork at this time, and also where the semi pedestal basin fixings will be. All of this needs to be carefully considered at the outset and this is one of the instances where strong project management ensures that joiners, plasterers and plumbers all work together for a perfect end product: In this case a solidly fixed wall hung basin with all pipework carefully concealed within the semi-pedestal & wall, whilst allowing for future maintenance to the mixer tap if required by the use of isolating valves.
The shower tray is raised up onto a platform as required to give an adequate fall to the waste pipe, and batons are added to the walls underneith the tray to support the underside of the tray edges, ensuring that the tray does not flex. This is important in ensuring a permanently watertight seal. The shower tray pipework is then tested for leaks before the walls are reboarded.
A primary silicon seal is applied and this seals the tray to the plasterboard walls, and fixes it permanently in place.
1st fix electrics are carried out at the stage, which involve running new cables within the studwork for the new lighting & the underfloor heating that will be installed later. Cables are also run in the loft to feed the new spotlights and extractor fan which will carry moist air out of the en-suite. You can see the outlets for the underfloor heating thermostat and the light switch in the picture below.
The remaining ‘external’ stud walls are filled with insulation (for sound deadening) and then boarded with regular plasterboard and prepared for skimming.
In the picture above you can also see the area to the right of the en-suite, where we have studded out an area (behind where the radiator goes) to conceal the new shower waste. This is finished off with a pre primed window cill.
The external walls of the en-suite are then skimmed. Note how the radiator has been removed to skim behind for a neat finish.
Tile trims are then glued to the wall to separate the tiled areas from the plastered areas – These can then be plastered up to, leaving the areas that are to be tiled un-plastered.
This is an alternative approach to plastering the whole wall and then tiling over part of it, and it has a couple of benefits:
Tiling & plastering can be done simultaneously, rather than waiting a minimum of 4 weeks for fresh plaster to dry out prior to tiling.
Better tile adhesion
Bare plasterboard can carry tiles of up to 32Kg/m2 rather than 20kg/m2 for tiles onto plaster, meaning that you can fit a greater range of tiles, including larger, thicker, heavier tiles.
These boards are naturally water resistant, & completely waterproof when tanked so are better suited for tiling onto in a wet area such as a shower or bath.
An all in one tanking kit is used to make the walls behind the tiles in the shower enclosure completely waterproof prior to tiling.
This is done to prevent any future problems.
The floorboards are over-boarded with a cement-based tile backer board, and glued and screwed to the floor to provide a level & smooth, strong, water-resistant base on which to tile. Please see here for more information on tile backer boards.
The floor tiles are cut and ‘dry fitted’ prior to installation so that they can be laid quickly with one mix of flexible rapid set tile adhesive. This will happen in a couple of days when all the 2nd fix work has been done (to save damaging the tiles or splattering them in paint when painting the walls etc.)
The shower enclosure is later grouted and all internal corners are sealed with a suitable sanitary silicon.
Finishing the tiles down onto the shower tray, combined with a primary & secondary silicon seal (with fully tanked walls behind) provides a truly watertight finish for years of trouble free use.
All internal corners (i.e. where the walls meet) are also sealed with silicon rather than just grout, as the timber in the studwork can shrink with changes in humidity over time, causing small cracks in the grout to appear as the walls pull apart from each other. As silicon is flexible, this does not happen, and a waterproof seal is maintained within the shower enclosure, avoiding potential future problems.
The joinery work is then done, including fitting the skirting boards, door and door architrave. This is done over the top of the existing laminate floor to produce a neat finish without the need for additional beading. A matching door threshold is also added at this time.
Where pipework penetrates the outside of the building, all holes are sealed with expanding foam and then cemented up, before being repainted with masonry paint.
The walls are painted at this stage with a paint suitable for fresh plaster (Leyland super leytex matt emulsion does a good job with this and can cover fresh plaster in 1-2 coats). Painting can only be done when the plaster is dry, though this paint allows it to breathe and fully dry out after it has been painted due to its special composition.
Painting before 2nd fix plumbing saves tricky cutting in around the basin and towel radiator in particular.
2nd fix plumbing is carried out, which involves fitting the shower door, shower valve & riser, basin & semi-pedestal and towel radiator.
All of these items are securely held into the studwork within the wall due to careful planning at the initial joinery stage, and the central heating system does not have to be drained down again due to how we did this part of the work, saving time & money for the customer.
2nd fix electrics are carried out, which consists of installing the extractor fan & ceiling lights and hanging / connecting the mirrored wall unit. The electric underfloor heating is also installed and tested before the floor tiles are laid over the top of it.
PS Underfloor heating needs to be turned off for at least a week following tiling & grouting – check manufacturers instructions to this affect.
A frame is made underneith the rim of the shower tray (after the shower waste has been tested for leaks) and this is then boarded prior to tiling. The floor & upstand is then tiled, as is the basin splashback.
Finishing touches are done on the last day.
The tiled floor is grouted and the internal corners are sealed with silicon to ensure no cracks develop over time.
The glass door is hung and all woodwork, including skirting boards, architrive & the cill above the radiator is painted with eggshell paint.
Any laminate floor is replaced to finish neatly up to the new en-suite.
All carpet protectors and temporary floor coverings are removed and the site is tidied up.
The customer is informed where stop taps are located and an invoice is issued for work done.
If you have any questions about this article or any others, please feel free to contact me.
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