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Case Study - Adding a window to a bathroom

Case Study - Adding a window to a bathroom

Given the choice, would you prefer to have a bathroom with a window or without a window?  Common sense of course tells us that we would all prefer to have a window.  Old houses very seldom have a bathroom or toilet without a window but from the 1960s onwards windows seem to have been steadily disappearing.  This has of course been due to the development of the electric fan.

Probably half of all new houses have a bathroom or a toilet with no window.  This has become the accepted norm.  No one even comments on it, but when you stop and think about it, it is stupid.

In my house I had one bathroom with no external window.  It was an ensuite (shower and a toilet) to the guest bedroom, so it was not a great problem, as it was not used much.  However, on the odd occasions that I did use it, I would hear the electric fan whirring away and this would continue afterwards for a further 5 minutes or so.  I often used to think this was a bit crazy and the lack of a window also made the room a bit claustrophobic.  In my case a roof window could have easily been built into the sloping wall when the house was originally built.  This had obviously not been done because the builder had decided to save a bit of money by installing a £10 fan instead of a £300 window.  To be a bit more accurate, including labour, the fan would have probably cost the builder a total of £100 to install, while an alternative window would have cost a total of about £1,000.

Bathroom with added windowBathroom with window added

So every time I used this bathroom I would have both the electric light and the fan on and I would be using electricity.  Probably only about £10 worth of electricity per year but never the less, it still bothered me.  Also if I had a shower, the fan did not seem to remove all the steam from the bathroom anyway.  Sorry but in addition I have to also admit that the bathroom would always be a bit smelly after anyone used the toilet.  The fan wasn’t very powerful and it did not seem to shift much air.  There was certainly no new fresh air coming in.

Eventually the fan died.  I did not replace it in a hurry, as mentioned earlier, this bathroom was not used very much anyway.  However, I noticed that in the winter there was a continuous cold draft coming from the fan.  It did have a flap inside designed to stop this but on a windy cold day you could feel a significant draft.  So eventually I replaced the fan with a new one.  That worked for a few years but eventually the fan died once again.  Maybe the cold draft had done it in!

I had bought my house in 1990 and after living in it for 24 years I decided to carry out a major project to extend and also at the same time to get any other small improvements done.  On my list was of course the bathroom with a dead electric fan and no window.

Installing a window was not entirely straight forward but it was doable.  The builders knocked a small hole through the sloping wall and roof.  The existing rafters were strengthened by the addition of some more timber and a small Velux window was installed.  The tiles were then tidied up around the new window flashing on the outside and at the same time the plasterwork was tidied up on the inside.  I am not sure how much this really cost, as it was all part of the extension project, but the window and flashing kit cost about £300, extra timber about £40, and the labour probably cost a further £1,500.  I also bought the Velux curtain kit for about £100, so the total cost came to be in the region of approx £2,000.

The bathroom is now so much nicer.  It does not feel claustrophobic and there is no fan noise.  I know some people like to have electric fans, so I have kept the fan duct in place but it is now well and truly blocked off and it does not generate any cold drafts.  I am very pleased that I am saving probably about £10 a year on my electricity bill and I am doing my bit to reduce global warming etc.  Most of all, I just like the fact that I have a much nicer room.  I no longer have to listen to the electric fan whirring away but most of all I have a window which provides natural light and makes the whole room look much better.

Finished bathroomThe finished bathroom

My advice to all my friends is that if you are ever talking to an architect, about a design for a new house or an extension, don’t let them talk you into accepting a layout which incorporates a bathroom with no window.

If you are intending to put a Velux window in your roof you will need to ensure that the rafters are strong enough.  In most instances they will need strengthening before the window is installed.  If you have any doubts make sure you consult a structural engineer.

Article written by JJ Heath-Caldwell