Bathrooms for Landlords Buying Guide

Where to Start

It’s important to have a good-looking, functional bathroom that will appeal to tenants but it’s just as important to install fittings that are good quality, long-lasting and affordable.

‘The majority of people make decisions about their bathroom based on the aesthetics and price,’ says Nick Watchorn, MD of Landlord’s National Property Group (www.lnpg.co.uk). ‘But landlords need to take a step back and look at the quality first and foremost because they don’t want to buy products they have to keep replacing. I usually pick mid-range bathroom suites that I know are fit-for-purpose and invest in nice tiles to make my bathrooms look good – you can’t go wrong.’

How much do you have to spend?

Doing the sums and working out how much to spend is going to be a personal decision. Think about the expectations of the tenants you want to attract and how much rent you’ll recoup over the lifetime of the bathroom. Allow for mortgage repayments, insurances and general maintenance, plus unexpected repairs and replacements that might crop up here and elsewhere in the property.

Broadly, products tend to be categorised as entry level, mid-range and top of the range and ultimately you’re looking for products that are fit-for-purpose. Don’t always be swayed by a cheap price as some entry level products don’t include the extras like a toilet seat or bath panels and costs can soon mount-up. You may also decide on investing more from the start and choose a top end shower enclosure because it comes with a lifetime guarantee – and peace of mind.

Long-lasting and easy to maintain bathrooms

Long-lasting products are key to hanging onto your profit margin and that means finding bathroom and toilet products that are easy to maintain.

The simplest of designs work best because there’s nothing complicated to go wrong. A basic, single level mono tap with a straight spout has no nooks and crannies to collect dirt. A fixed shower wet room glass panel – unlike a hinged, folding or sliding door – has no moving parts to potentially go wrong. But if you like a framed enclosure then make sure you buy at the top end of the specification and choose one with quick release metal core rollers so the enclosure is easy to clean.

There are also a few handy tricks to avoid problems before they occur. Nova-Flo (www.nova-flo.com) prevents flooding – and costly redecoration – by shutting off the water when it reaches the overflow so a running tap can’t cause damage.

Another good tip is to fix an isolation valve to the flexible hose when installing taps. This means if you need to change or fix the tap you can stop the flow of water at the tap without turning off the water in the entire house.

Reputable businesses and guarantees

Products with long guarantees offer you protection and peace of mind. Also look for reputable companies with a reliable customer support – and even a specialist trade arm – that can come quickly to your aid. Our bathroom fittings come with a minimum ten-year guarantee, and some products, like the 8 Series shower enclosures, offer a twenty-year guarantee.

Hiring the right tradespeople

Fitting a new bathroom will save you money but may be a false economy if you’re not confident at DIY. If you’re starting a bathroom completely from scratch you’ll need a plasterer, tiler, plumber and electrician. Focus on the jobs that don’t need specialist intervention like removing the old tiles and bathroom fittings. Don’t forget a qualified electrician must connect the electrics and provide a certificate of installation.   

Top tips:

  • If in doubt, consult your tradespeople before buying products in case they are aware of any installation issues that could impact your choice.  
  • If your products arrive a long way in advance of installation, do check the delivery within the specified returns period.

Follow simple safety rules like having help to manhandle large tiles and glass panels, and check for the location of pipes and electric cables before you drill into the wall. It’s a good idea to wear safety goggles too.

The cost for a professional installation will depend if the walls need re-plastering, how much of the room is tiled and how long it takes to install the fittings. Look out for fittings designed to be quick and easy to install to keep labour costs to a minimum.

Maintenance

Easy access afterwards will make life a lot easier if a pipe springs a leak or a cistern needs fixing. For example, fitting shower pipework over the top of the floor surface will be more accessible than if the pipes are fitted under the floorboards. In which case, access might mean removing the shower tray or going through the ceiling in the floor below.

The Options

Baths

A shower bath is the most practical and cost effective option if you don’t have room for a separate shower. Often 1700mm straight baths are best as it’s simplest to replace panels and screens in standard shapes and sizes, should that be necessary.

If you are less worried about practicality and want your tenants to have that little bit of extra room in their shower bath, some are designed wider at one end for showering with extra steep sides so the water is less likely to splash over onto the ­floor. Our P-shaped and L-shaped shower baths come in standard 1700mm lengths as well as 1600mm and 1500mm, while the L-shaped, Curved Ended and Square Ended baths come in 1800mm too.

All shower baths come with a bath shower screen that opens inwards and outwards by 180° to avoid knocking into anything. The tempered safety glass has been designed with dimensions to keep the water inside the bath and protect the floor. A 20mm adjustment tolerance on the screen means it can be aligned to be watertight even if the walls or floor aren’t level. A transparent cover cap on the corner join of the bath screen seals protects them from damage. A shower bath is good value as the price includes a side panel and glass bath screen.

All our baths have six small feet that can be adjusted so the bath is level and supported. The L-shaped bath edge has been reinforced on three sides so holes for the taps can be drilled and installed at the end, in the middle or the side.

Another option is a straight 1700mm x 700mm available with side and end panels so it’s easy to get to the plumbing. White acrylic panels are 5mm thick, and premium engineered wood panels are 18mm with a durable vinyl finish in a range of wood effects like Walnut, Light Oak and even Zebra! The standard size of the bath makes sourcing and replacing bath panels or a bath screen much easier.

If you can, place the waste hole at the opposite end to showering as this is the potential weak point in a bath.

Showers

An exposed shower rail kit is fixed onto the tiled wall and concealed showers are hidden behind the shower wall with a wall or ceiling mounted shower head. An exposed rail for shower and baths is easier to access if there’s a leak and quicker to install than a concealed shower – potentially saving you on fitting costs. All our shower sets are exposed; good mid-range options are the Leoni and Neuman.

Always choose a thermostatic valve/mixer tap. There’s no risk of scalding because the water temperature doesn’t fluctuate even if someone turns a tap on elsewhere in the house. It’s also recommended you install a thermostatic limiter valve, which sets the maximum temperature for hot water.

Although shower heads are handy for cleaning a bath, the hose can leak and the head can be heavy, and if it drops into the bath, it could cause damage.

Walk in showers can offer the most longevity because they don’t have moving parts which should mean less maintenance.   When you’re considering moving parts, the less the better (for long term maintenance), so a framed shower enclosure with and a hinged door is the perfect choice. If you do prefer a sliding door then ensure the rollers are of a high specification. Make sure the glass is toughened, which it generally is these days – our 8 Series, is 8mm thick toughened glass and comes with a lifetime guarantee. If you’re looking for something more affordable, the 6 Series shower enclosures with 6mm toughened glass are a good mid-range choice and come with a 20-year guarantee. Both offer designs with sliding and hinged doors, as well as the curved quadrant shape. Hinged doors have a magnetic closing mechanism and sliding doors operate on rollers; the 6 Series and 8 Series Framed Sliding showers have quick release rollers for easy installation and cleaning.

Look out for products with Easy Clean glass. The protective coating reduces the build-up of soap and limescale so the glass stays clear for longer.  

A shower tray made with stone resin is a solid choice. Our Stone Resin and Concealed Waste Trays are coated with scratch-resistant ABS acrylic. Features like the top access waste outlet in the Concealed Waste Trays makes it easy to clean the drain. Square shower trays and enclosures in standard sizes (760mm, 800mm, 900mm, 1000mm, 1200mm) are easiest to source and replace compared to the quadrant, for example, as the radius of the enclosure can differ between trays.

The Shower Tray Waste needs to be the right height for the shower tray with a diameter that matches the waste hole. Look for those with a removable hair-catcher and a quick and efficient drainage flow rate so the tray is less likely to overflow. The 50mm Hi-Flow waste drains up to 32L of water per minute.

Find out if the bathroom subfloor is made of timber floorboards or concrete. This will determine how you run the shower pipework. Pipes can usually be fed underneath floorboards allowing for a low level shower tray like the 35mm Eco tray or 40mm Stone Resin tray.

If the subfloor is concrete, the waste can’t go under the floorboards, or you just want easy access, then install the pipes on top of the floor surface. This means you’ll need a riser kit and a compatible shower tray. The Easy Plumb riser kit does the job for both the Concealed Waste and Stone Resin Trays with plinths for the front and side to conceal the pipes and legs. The kit advises where to fix the legs, which can be adjusted to level the tray on an uneven surface. 

Toilets

If you’re planning on changing the layout of the bathroom, then check the new waste pipe exit route can still connect to the outside sewage drain.

Keeping the toilet in the same place should be a quicker and cheaper installation. Is the waste pipe exit on the floor or wall? Our toilets use horizontal P-traps so the pipe needs to be connected to the wall.

A Close Coupled toilet is easier to access than a Back-to-Wall or Wall-Hung toilet where the pipework and cistern are concealed behind the wall. Installation is more straightforward too. Look out for models like the Contour and Metro Close Coupled range, which all have quick release seats, concealed hinges for easy cleaning and soft close that prevents the seat slamming shut and possibly breaking.

Basins

A Pedestal Basin is the easiest style of basin to install but if you want a more contemporary feel then a Wall-Hung basin looks great and gives the illusion of space by being raised off the floor. A basin support frame will be needed if you’re mounting to a plasterboard wall.

The Metro Curve, Square, Compact Pedestal and Wall-Hung Basin are all good mid-range choices, as are the Cubitt, Linear and Contour designs. All come with an integrated overflow system to prevent flooding.

Taps

Taps with ceramic disc cartridges, where water flows between two aligned discs, tend to last longer than those with a rubber washer. A good mid-range choice of bath taps and basin taps are the Provost and Neuman, and Leoni for a shower mixer.

Thermostatic limiters are not legally required (unless in hotels), but installing them ensures that hot taps are limited on temperature.  

Furniture

Standalone furniture will be easier to replace then wall-hung furniture with an integrated wash basin fixed to the wall or a wall frame. Good aesthetic choices will make the bathroom look more appealing and water-resistant finishes encourage furniture to last longer. Look for deals like a vanity unit with a basin included in the price, and those that come pre-assembled, as all our ranges do.

Combination furniture usually comes in at a good price point as they include a basin, storage and a back-to-wall toilet. Our widest units are 1500mm and the smallest are 400mm. The beauty of this option is the pipework and cistern are easy to access.

Heated Towel Rails

If you install a heated towel rail, you’ll be giving your tenants somewhere to dry towels and at the same time removing moisture from the air. This reduces the chances of a bathroom developing mould. An electric heated towel rail is easier to fit retrospectively than a radiator as you’ll only need a spur point to connect to rather than central heating pipes. Connecting to the central heating means isolating and draining down the existing heating system but on the plus side, the towel rail is less likely to go wrong.

            You’ll need a set of valves which adjust the amount of hot water flowing through your radiator or heated towel rail. Like a thermostat, they help you adjust the temperature of your radiator or heated towel rail, helping you save on your energy bills.  If you are considering an electric or duel fuel option, then you’re going to need to fit some elements. This allows you to use your heated towel rail, even when your central heating isn’t on.

Choose a heated towel rail with a BTU (British Thermal Unit) heat output suitable for the bathroom size. Work out the calculation here: http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/calculators/btu-calculator.htm

What Else?

Keep interiors neutral. A plain colour scheme on the walls and floor won’t impose and tenants can add their own personal touch with colourful towels and accessories. Avoid white walls that can become grubby quickly and choose pale greys instead.

Vinyl flooring bought off a roll is cheap to buy and lay but won’t last forever as it can dent and rip. Weigh up the cost of potentially replacing this regularly versus alternatives like luxury vinyl flooring planks such as Karndean. The outlay is more expensive but the products are extremely hard-wearing and come with a lifetime guarantee. This is also a good solution if you like the idea of floorboards but don’t want the maintenance hassle. The wood-effect appearance is very realistic. Tiled floors cost more than standard vinyl because of the labour involved. If you’re opting for floor tiles then choose a material with a non-slip finish.

Damp causes mould and is a maintenance headache in bathrooms so urge tenants to speak up if there’s a problem so you can tackle it straight away. The most obvious solution is to open a window, however this isn’t always practical in winter. Nor can you assume your tenants will do this every time they have a hot shower or bath. Encourage tenants to remove excess moisture by providing a shower blade to draw water off the tiles after they’ve showered – after all, it’s in their interests too! John Lewis sell the Oxo Good Grips All Purpose Squeegee that comes slotted into a suction pad to stick on the shower wall.

A bathroom extractor fan is a must for keeping mould at bay. The best kind is a fan that automatically starts when the light is switched on and then continues to run for about 20 minutes or so when the light is turned off. Although not a requirement under Building Regulations if you’re replacing a bathroom, a fan is a necessity if it is part of a new extension.

Use an anti-mould sealant and decorate with an anti-mould bathroom paint like Dulux Bathroom + which is moisture and steam resistant, protecting against mould for five years.

Grout suffers the brunt of a damp bathroom by becoming mouldy and unsightly. Residue from soap also causes staining. Go for large format tiles with less grout lines and rather than re-grouting to keep the bathroom looking pristine, choose a darker coloured grout, like grey, to mask discolouration. You can also protect the grout with a grout sealer. Click here for a variety of grout cleaning products that can help: www.tiledoctor.co.uk/GroutCare.html.

Summary

Spend a little more and buy robust, durable bathroom fittings that will last

Easy access to pipework is essential for repairs

Use professionals where they’re needed and only install yourself if you’re confident in your abilities

Save on installation and maintenance costs by choosing a shower bath instead of two separate fittings

Access to an exposed shower rail kit is easier than one concealed

Longer guarantees are available with framed shower enclosures

Protect glass for longer with the Easy Clean coating

Easy access shower pipes are best installed over the top of the subfloor

Straightforward access with a Close Coupled toilet

Easy installation with a pedestal basin

Choose taps with ceramic disc cartridges

Look smart with a co-ordinating bathroom suite

Remove moisture from towels and the room with a heated towel radiator

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