Why the smallest room is always trickiest to renovate

In a bathroom, that almost always involves the floor and, specifically, the membrane that sits between the tiles and the concrete slab. The same applies to walls between your flat and next-door or common property.

Leaking membranes are still among the most common defects in new buildings, so you can understand why owners corporations (bodies corporate) want some guarantees that the buck stops with you when the apartment downstairs acquires a water feature in its ceiling.

And this is where we hit the first distinction between well-run and badly run blocks. The former will set up a one-size-fits-all bylaw to which owners must sign up before they start work.

This is paid for by the owners corp, which may be slightly unfair on owners who have no immediate wish to renovate, but they will, sooner or later.

In a poorly run building, every renovator needs an individual by-law written by their lawyer, then checked by the strata scheme’s lawyer, all of which is good news for lawyers but a ridiculous amount of unnecessary accumulated expense for owners.

Actually, in a really badly run building no one will care what you are doing – but that applies to all your neighbours too when they decide to play fast and loose with common property (and common sense).

A tip: if you think you might want to renovate sometime in the near future, start agitating now to get a universal covering bylaw for your strata scheme in time for your next AGM.

Now, questions of tiles and fittings are entirely personal, but prepare yourself for endless hours trawling the bathroom sections of furniture stores, and the glazed aisles of tile shops, before you reach the inevitable conclusion that you need an interior designer’s advice.

As for who does the work, most well-run schemes will insist that you use a fully licensed and insured builder. But who?

We took quotes from a large commercial company that’s done tens of thousands of bathroom renos and from a small independent builder recommended by friends.

The big company rep seemed to be nudging us towards a standard fitout, the independent builder listened to what we wanted and made suggestions about how that could be achieved.

The big company’s quote was 50 per cent higher, and we’d endured a nightmare kitchen reno from a big-name company in a previous flat, so we chose the little guy.

Soon we will be living in a world of dust and noise, when we’ll discover whether or not that was a good choice. If we survive, I’ll keep you posted.

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