Plugging bathroom rules and regs

A Generic Photo of a new bathroom. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

A Generic Photo of a new bathroom. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

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Electrical work in the bathroom should rarely be attempted by DIYers - you may be breaking building regulations if you do it yourself.

Play safe and employ a qualified and reputable electrician, who will be able to make sure that the work’s safe and legal.

The easiest option is to use an electrician who belongs to a ‘competent person scheme’ as they can self-certify that their work complies with building regulations.

If they don’t belong to such a scheme, you’ll have to pay your local council’s building control department to check that the work complies.

If you’re buying electrical fittings (in most cases, lights) for the bathroom, make sure that they’re suitable for the ‘zone’ they’ll be in.

The zones are worked out according to their proximity to the taps, shower and bath, etc, and all good retailers should say which zone or zones bathroom lights are suitable for. Some even have a diagram of the zones on the box, although you can easily find this online.

The only electrical sockets allowed in bathrooms are razor ones and the only switches should be ones operated by a cord pull, or special ones for, for example, an extractor fan.

Alternatively, you can have a normal light switch on the wall just outside the door, although this isn’t ideal if you want to put the light on when you’re naked and already in the bathroom!

If you don’t have an extractor fan, get an electrician to fit one. Extractors reduce the damage caused by steam and condensation and help to prevent mould and mildew from forming.

In bathrooms without a window, which is common in flats, an extractor is even more vital and should be switched on every time you take a shower or bath. Many extractors are wired to come on when the light does, although they can be switched off independently.

If you’re making changes to the water supply, it’s a good idea to check with your water supplier that you’re not breaking the bylaws - your plumber should be able to advise you.

And if you want to find out if building regulations apply to the work, try www.planningportal.gov.uk or your local building control department.

Renovation rules are much stricter for listed buildings, and some work to a bathroom, such as moving it or fitting an en suite, will require listed building consent from your local council’s conservation office.

Apart from this, you shouldn’t usually need planning permission to replace or maintain your bathroom. If in doubt, speak to the council.

Don’t forget that if your home’s leasehold, you may need the freeholder’s permission for building work, so check the terms of the lease.

If you want to move the bathroom or install a loo with a macerator, for example, the freeholder may object on the grounds that it will cause a noise nuisance to other people in the building.