Sweet suite, baby: How to retrofit an en-suite bathroom in a small space

Kya deLongchamps offers practical advice on retro-fitting an en suite bathroom in a small space.

Would you squeeze a retrofitted ensuite into your master bedroom? If the room is generously proportioned and you’re fighting off the kids for the family spout, it’s a sweet notion.

Here are some of the serious considerations before you lose your mind and start banging in those partition walls.


Having dedicated a chunk of the budget to installation, setting out available space is the single most important thing. Every centimetre counts and 0.8m x 1.8m is considered the smallest space possible into which to eke a working ensuite or shower room.

Master bathrooms, for the most part, average out around 2 sqm. Taking too great a bite out of a bedroom might not add the projected 5% value estate agents rave about, think carefully before you make a move.

Use the CAD technology of your bathroom supplier, your designer, graph paper, tape on the floor, your builder’s experience— anything — before you decide.The room required from the front edge of each element — toilet, shower, basin, door — is around 760mm.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to retain the existing plumbed positions, particular the soil pipe, where possible. In the case of a new set up, try putting the fittings against a wall facing back to another bathroom.

Keeping the ‘wet side’ along one wall also simplifies the plumber’s work. Suspended wood flooring upstairs is a lot easier to deal with than concrete floors at ground level, but walls can be chased out to conceal pipe-work (vital for a chic finish).

Expensive? Yes, but worth it — however, ensure you read through your contract and PC costings.

Generally, adding an ensuite to an existing room takes a wood framed stud wall. Adding stout 100m studwork (some builders vouch for lighter 75mm), together with 12.5mm water resistant plasterboard, such as Gyprock Moisture Board (from €18 a slab), taped and skimmed, all add up to an area of 130-132mm.

That wall depth is a vital inclusion in your floor plans, if you intend to hang floating elements of sanitary work. Metal framework additions must be included at this stage for floating pans. Storage-wise, bare plasterboard can carry 32Kg/m2, so don’t bother to plaster, if it’s being tiled over.

Acoustic insulation in rockwool rolls or batting (65mm is popular) will prevent resonant noise annoying the neighbouring room. Consider where the shower is mounted, especially a potentially noisy pumped shower with the pump inside the housing.

A solid timber door will save blushes, where a cheaper hollow core might amplify — an alternative— full frosted glass walls and door between bed and bath.

Not every new ensuite can enjoy a standard 100mm waste pipe from the loo and some situations will make moving waste water difficult. Explore the possibilities of narrow gauge pipe in a pumped toilet and soil macerator, (please don’t ask). There are pumped solutions to address the slow arrival of hot water to any tap, ask your plumber before you get started on sliding in the suite.


You can of course extend the radiator system as far as your boiler will allow, or opt for an electric heated towel rail as a useful plug and play option with prices from €100 to €500.

The word designer means whip forth your credit card. I’m a fan of electrical UFH under tile, but only in small spaces with a timer — they are not cheap to run and work best with concrete floors.

A kit with intelligent digital controls starts at €81 for a Klima at Screwfix Direct.


Lighting in any bathroom is regulated by the IP safety rating products with at least IP67 in the shower or above the bath, and IP44 for everywhere else.

Purge ventilation, that is flipping open the window is a nice, cheap notion, until mould takes hold. A mechanical, timed IP45, 15l/s, 12v, 100mm extractor fan ducted up and out through the attic and roof or through the wall is an inescapable, vital expense.

Choose from basic, timed and humidistat models from €70 up and have a RECI qualified electrician to do the wiring. If you have a window, a 0.33m2 opening makes it a comforting means of fire escape, ideal for pokey rooms within rooms. Change out the glass units for opaque, or consider adding obscuring decorative film.

Shower styles

Showers hidden by short stud walls/doors and glazing to fully tanked wet-rooms and off-set quadrant enclosures — there’s a shower for almost every position, once you have at least 610mm to step out of it comfortably.

Integrated door action save a lot of room, but with bi-folds, tales of leakage and hinge failure abound. Try a pivot or slider instead.

For a sleek look, use a single glazed upright with enough room to walk around, combined with low level tray . Low level trays are trending everywhere, but talk to your plumber first about tanking and drainage.

A short (1500mm) P shaped shower/bath offers up to 900mm of elbow swing and integrated shower and bath in one.

Another option is the purchase a shower pod — OB Cork offer a clean, modern unit that is just placed in the new layout, connected up and is ready to go.

At €2,500 it cuts out tiling, (it’s leak-proof too), door and panel costs and the cost of plumbed attachments , which, when added up could cost considerably more. The Kinedo Horizon is literally, plug and play.


If you have room to play with, go for 800-1200mm wide basins integrated into bold furnishings. Caught for turning room? Look for shallow profile vanities, hotel-inspired combinations and corner mounted elements.

Never surrender that storage space under the basin unless you have room for shelves and drawers elsewhere. Wall hung, all-in- one-units are the most common choice in showrooms now, but you can take units to the floor for an extra drawer.

Slender, tall 30cm deep storage towers with safely rounded corners can stand back to the wall and revolve in a squeak of space.

LED mirrors, with shelves and/ or a useful cabinet) advancing only 15cm, from the wall are a good choice.


Villeroy & Boch Subway 2.0 range with DirectFlush, €400 to €700 depending on style. Villeroy-boch.com for suppliers.

Represented as a mid-to-top range option, rimless toilets will soon flow into the mainstream.

So, why lose the rim? First of all rimless means no lime-scale ridden edge in the pan to poke and prod in possibly the most miserable of domestic jobs.

Secondly, the direct flush action of a rimless toilet is said to distribute water more evenly and powerfully around the pan, sweeping away waste and bacteria more effectively.

The water travels right up to the bowl top, but in a quality toilet, will not splash out. Otherwise rimless models come just as any other toilet — close- coupled, back to the wall, partially or fully shrouded, the only difference is under the lid. Rimless models start at €300.


Swiss maker Laufen push the boundaries with this organically inspired Alessi design. Match your tap and pressure to such shallow forms. From €1,500, suppliers nationwide, laufen.com.

Wood or blank modern plains? Coast from Hudson Reed removes the dilemma. Matching pieces available with wood effect panelling. Combinations from €740, taps4less.ie.

This Bali wall hung curved cabinet in chestnut is down to €399 from €575 at Right Price Tiles. Includes taps and waste.

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