Last week I discussed grouting tiles in kitchens and bathrooms, this week I’ll look at wetrooms, as I consider them (in the right place) to be a low-cost and low-maintenance bathroom that is also a great selling (and renting) point for any property. Everyone loves a wetroom, tenants included. They are stylish, you can splosh around as much as you like, they are dead easy to clean with the shower nozzle, and if any appliance leaks the water has no-where to go but down the plughole! Also there is no up-front expenditure on a shower tray or cubicle, so they can be cheaper to install than a conventional bathroom. They are the norm in Asian countries where people live in concrete apartment blocks – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shower tray in Thailand. They are also great on the ground floor anywhere – provided it is concrete.
This is where their limitations apply. I do NOT recommend fitting them with wooden floors. Wood is liable to humidity and thermal movement relative to masonry walls and this is very difficult to seal in a way which truly inspires confidence. Concrete is rigid and even if your tiling leaks, good concrete will not saturate the poor folks living in the flat below. I was once asked to fit a wetroom in a very up-market property in a Georgian terrace in Clifton, Bristol. Against my better judgement I agreed (always up for new knowledge!) What a disaster! We used a system based on flexible matting and multiple layers of adhesive and flooring. It worked in the end, but cost-effective? – No!
If you have space you can also put the washing machine in an ante-room off the wetroom (needs to be separate to keep water off the electrics). I am doing this with my most recent flat conversion – the bathroom is in what was once a large porch, and the washing machine is in an attached ante-room under the stairs. If the machine leaks the water will run along the floor which slopes imperceptibly towards the wetroom and drains out of the trap.
Whilst on washing machines, they are probably the biggest cause of domestic water damage and it is important to consider where they are sited, particularly in blocks of multiple flats. If (when??) they leak, where will the water go? The washing machine in my first floor flat is sited above the entrance-hall for the ground floor flat. OK, not great if it leaks. But the hallway isn’t a ‘lived-in’ part of the flat, so much better there than over a bedroom or the kitchen! Also fire regs dictate that there is a separate entrance round the back, so the flat would still be usable while we replaced carpets etc.
I think I’ve about covered bathrooms now (if anyone reading has any questions please feel free to ask). Next week I’ll tackle kitchens, probably the second-most troublesome room when it comes to maintenance in rented flats.