I Want to Put in a New Bathroom

Until the late 19th century, most houses did not have inside bathrooms or toilets, and water for washing and bathing had to be carried upstairs from the kitchen. Thomas Crapper & Co. provided plumbed toilets for Prince Edward’s Sandringham House in Norfolk in the 1880s, which helped them to become popular.

As most historic houses were built without bathrooms, they were fitted into rooms originally used as bedrooms. Today, at least one upstairs bathroom is the norm, and we also want additional showers, en-suite bathrooms and wet rooms.

Listed building consent may be required to add a new bathroom or alter an existing one if your house is a listed building, and you should seek advice on this before carrying out any changes.

Making changes to an existing bathroom

If you want to simply replace the fittings and refurbish your existing bathroom, this should be fairly straightforward. You do not usually need permission to change modern bathroom fittings in a listed building, unless you are also planning to alter the size of the room or undertake some structural work at the same time.

Installing new pipes or extra equipment could affect the historic fabric of the house, and it’s important to avoid cutting into beams or removing historic timber floors and ceilings.

You may need to improve ventilation to deal with condensation, so make sure the bathroom window opens. Try to avoid cutting a new hole in an old wall for a vent, and make sure the vent does not spoil the outside of the house. If a new hole is necessary, make sure that it is drilled from the outside, to avoid unintended damage to the visible wall. Likewise, soil and waste pipes can be intrusive on the front of your property. Hidden rear or side elevations are the best place for vents and new pipework.

If your bathroom has original Victorian or interesting 20th century fittings, however, it’s possible these are part of why the house is listed, and you will be expected to keep them, as well as features such as tiling or fitted mirrors. If you think your bathroom could be historic find out more before you alter it as you may need consent. Refurbishment should still be possible, but will need extra care.

Creating a new bathroom

If you want to put a new bathroom into a room not previously used as one, think about all the factors that could affect the house. It is not a good idea to install a bathroom above a room with fine plaster ceilings or painted decoration, as any leaks could have a disastrous effect. It’s best to choose a room without important features - for example, a fireplace, panelling or plasterwork - unless these can be kept undamaged.

It may be possible to cover historic surfaces with new linings so they are protected and can be uncovered in the future. But if your room has interesting features, display and use them – avoid a standard approach.

The new bathroom will need new plumbing to connect to the water supply, boiler and waste pipes. Think about where these pipes will run and make sure they won’t damage any important features or structure, such as plasterwork, beams or features in adjoining rooms. If new pipes and cabling are run under floorboards, take care in lifting old boards and avoid cutting into beams.

Changing tastes

As fashions change over time and modern bathrooms are rarely built to last, it makes sense to fit your new bathroom to allow for easy replacement in the future. The plumbing and other services should also be reversible, and easy to reach in case they need attention.