A self build house project diary
by Oliver Cannell

Bathroom and en-suite sanitary items ordered

We've finally made the plunge and ordered bathroom sanitary items.

After many weeks of browsing bathroom showrooms, flipping through brochures and scouring the web for piccies, specs and prices, we've finally ordered all the sanitary items for the main bathroom and en-suite. Phew!

We've stuck with a classic white colour, as this will help make the rooms feel bigger - and we can easily add colour with the tiles and accessories.

Nice bathrooms on a budget

There are some beautiful bathroom suites out there but I knew we needed to keep this part of the build to a minimum, whilst keeping an element of style to keep some wow-factor and class in these rooms. Some showrooms were just skimmed, as the price tags were ridiculous - and I've got say, some were just skimmed because the products were just plain bad!

We found products for every scale of budget, but you definitely get what you pay for, from what we saw. That said, there is a definite plateau on price, where it's hard to tell why you'd pay more for essentially the same product.

One of the major deciding factors when we made our final decision, was the finance deals available. Although the overall price for the units wasn't astronomical, it makes financial sense for us to spread the cost over a couple of years. Some retailers offer no finance at all, while other others are able to offer 0% interest for 2 years.

Bathroom shopping - wince!

When shopping for bathroom sanitary items, there is no way I'd want to buy anything without seeing (and playing) with them first. Yes I know online stores will generally be cheaper, but you can't check the build quality. These are very tangible products and you need to at least see them in the flesh.

We have become experts in bathroom product design, over the last few weeks. Some products were way too fussy and flimsy - you can see they won't last 5 minutes. Some products were way too sharp and unpleasant to use - why all the sharp corners and edges?! This is more applicable to the taps and shower fittings though - which I'll cover in another blog entry.

Keeping a bathroom clean is a big consideration and thankfully the contemporary style units have clean lines (very few corners for dirt to gather), so it wasn't hard to find products that we liked. Most were good value.

The biggest consideration for us, was size. The main bathroom and en-suite are quite compact, so there isn't unlimited space to have huge sinks etc so we have played around with cardboard cutouts to find the optimimum sizes before making a final decision. This really helped us weed out the products that were simply too large.

The buying experience

Mostly I'm trying to refrain from using too many brand names or store names in this blog, but I think when it comes to shopping for kitchens and bathrooms it's going to be unavoidable - especially as I think there is valid feedback these stores need to hear.

Having got a feel for the prices out there, we invariably stuck to browsing the showrooms of the big three: Wickes, Homebase and B&Q.

We also tried looking at Victoria Plumb (but not much good without a showroom!), Sydenhams our local builders merchant (good supplier but nothing contemporary in terms of bathrooms), Bathstore (the staff couldn't seem to find a brochure and the head office wasn't any help, so we gave up). We even tried Wickes in another town, only to be told you couldn't buy from them, as you have to order from your nearest branch! Huh?!

So here are my thoughts on shopping for bathrooms with the Big 3:

Wickes - good solid looking products; well presented in the stores (although you'll need to travel around to find the actual models you're interested in); decent value; plenty of choice; great 0% finance for 2 years; a pain that you can't order from any branch (apart from your nearest one).

Homebase - decent selection of solid looking products but not enough contemporary design; finance available but not the best value; struggle to find staff in store that knew anything about the products!

B&Q - people in store who know the products; good range of products available; awful presentation of broken products in some stores though; low quality flimsy looking units generally speaking; decent prices but I'd rather pay a bit more for better quality.

The final choice

In the end we opted to go with Wickes. They have the best quality products at the moment, for a decent price (60%-off Sale helped), 0% interest finance over 2 years (no-brainer), nice design style and decent customer service.

The only problem we found was actually to trying to get a slot to see the only person in-store who was able to sell the products. We had to avoid weekends in the end and 'pop' over there mid-week to sit down with the kitchen/bathroom designer. Apparently these are Wickes products, but not really Wickes products... and you have to order from the 'special ordering guy' in the store.... I don't understand. Too confusing, long winded and antiquated, but you have to stick with it if you want to buy!

The finance application process was very easy though (Hitachi personal finance) and all completed at the time of ordering. Be careful though - it's very easy to spend more than you intended with 0% finance available, but we managed to stick to the plan and come away with a great deal.

Looking forward to delivery day.  :-)

Next entry: Storing information and goodies for the future in a hidden time capsule (Thursday 22nd January 2015)

Previous entry: Frosty roof reveals minor heat loss (Tuesday 20th January 2015)

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