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Julian and Lexie had one month, $5k and a straightforward plan to renovate their small bathroom. Let’s just say, if you like a good ‘down to the wire’ reno story, you’ll love this couple’s drama-filled journey from settlement to move in day.

We’re talking budget blow-outs, schedule delays, on-the-spot decisions and eight scope changes. Yeah — total ‘Block’ vibes, right?

Julian jokes that he had a couple of grey hairs come flying through at a rapid rate.

“It was a significant, unforeseen scenario,” Julian says, alluding to the cause of the delays.

This eventful Project Story will leave you with practical insights for your own bathroom renovation.

You’ll Discover:

  • What to look out for in your pre-purchase building inspection

  • How to manage scope and budget changes

  • The full list of bathroom upgrades

  • What they would do in hindsight (involves saving money!)

  • Plus, the awesome before and after photos.

Let’s get stuck into it!

Small bathroom renovation - BeforeSmall bathroom renovation - After

Here’s a sneak peek: before (left) and after (right).

Renovating An 80’s Townhouse Unit

From the moment Julian, Lexie and I get talking, it’s clear they have the one quality it takes to get through a stressful renovation: a great sense of humor.

We exchange banter on the trials and tribulations, and I ask if they are first home-buyers.

“It’s one of a few thousand we own,” Julian laughs, “Nah — this is the first house, it’s the beginning of our journey,” Julian says.

At this point I’m impressed by two things:

  • That they managed to snag a Wellington property in the first quarter of 2021, and;

  • The oh-so-retro arches of their 1980’s townhouse unit.

Original photos of their 1980’s townhouse unit in Hutt Valley, Wellington.

The Writing On The Wall Roof

Julian and Lexie describe how their bathroom was outdated, unfit for purpose and as Julian says, ‘just looked sh**ty’.

“You could see a lot of home DIY work — there was silicone everywhere and it’s like ‘Who has been in here, and what have they been doing?’”

“We wanted it to feel like our space, a place that felt welcoming for us,” Julian says.

As well as envisaging a modern, cleaner-looking version, the couple wanted it to be watertight and comply with Healthy Homes Standards.

“Because there were clear signs of water damage in the ceiling above the shower,” Julian says.

The kicker? The building report said it was old water damage that needed repairs — but, everything passed the moisture meter test — including the ceiling.

Small bathroom renovation
Small bathroom renovation - Before

Silicone can be seen around the vanity (left), and water damage above the shower (right).

This Was The $5k Plan

“I’d heard of Builderscrack, and Lexie’s mum rated her experience, so we thought… let’s give it a go,” Julian says.

“All we thought was we’ll change the vanity, seal the bath, and repair the water damage near the shower, and for those three things we’ll budget $5k,” Julian says.

“We were a bit naive, cause we’ve never done renos before, and we didn’t want it to blow out in scope or budget… hah, dreamers,” Julian reminisces, on the high-hopes of their pre-reno selves.

Small bathroom renovation - Before
Small bathroom renovation - Before

Julian and Lexie just wanted to update a few of the key fixtures in their small bathroom.

Teaming Up With A Pro

Julian and Lexie teamed up with Pete from RDO Ltd after looking through his previous jobs on BC.

“We saw he’d recently done a bathroom renovation, his ratings were very high and other homeowners said nice things about him,” Julian says.

“See, Pete’s an older fella, quite humorous,” Julian banters, nodding to the years of experience that Pete brought to the project.

“We laid out our initial idea to Pete, our lovely builder, and we honestly asked him ‘Are we ridiculous for thinking we can do this for $5,000?” Julian says.

“In a good natured way he quietly let us know that we were dreaming,” Julian laughs.

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Budging On The Budget

Pete’s professional eye picked up some unnoticed issues, and after a couple rounds of scope changes, Julian and Lexie decided they wanted to invest more money to do the renovation justice.

“He had confidence and put us at ease about the situation, and we trusted his instincts,” Julian says.

“At that point we had already committed to the $8k range,” Julian says, foreshadowing what was about to happen next.

Enter: Pete from RDO Ltd.

Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens
Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens

Demolition day showed the extent of the damage.

When It Rains, It Pours

It’s day one on site, Pete’s on demo, and fortunately it’s raining.

“I’d just pulled the vanity off the wall, and I felt this water drop on my head,” Pete recalls.

Pete discovered the leak was (still) dripping through the roof and down the walls.

“It definitely threw a spanner in the works,” Pete says.

“But I find with these kinds of jobs, the more challenging and complex, the more enjoyable it is to find a unique solution,” Pete says.

Challenge accepted.

Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens
Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens
Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens

Water damaged walls, floors and ceiling (top), watertight plastering (below).

Down To The Wire To Get Everything Done

“In a nutshell, once Pete ripped the walls off, we found water damage everywhere,” Julian says.

“We got five different roofers in who were all too busy, and we couldn’t move forward until that got sorted,” Julian says.

Luckily Julian and Lexie were able to find a roofer at short notice, but the repairs pushed the whole renovation out by a month.

“It was a significant, unforeseen scenario,” Julian says.

At this point, they were up to $11,500, and if they failed to get their bathroom completed before move in day, it would mean showers by the laundry sink.

Small bathroom renovation turns major when the unexpected happens

Julian and Lexie put in the hard yards, weeknights and weekends.

Paint, Flooring, Action

As if it wasn’t enough organising the bathroom reno and roof repairs, Julian and Lexie were simultaneously replastering and repainting the entire interior themselves.

“We were there weeknights and weekends — I think the neighbours recognised more and more paint on our clothes,” Julian laughs.

As for the bathroom floors, Lexie had organised an external retailer to lay sheet vinyl, but the company cancelled just days beforehand due to backlog. So, Lexie was back to square one for flooring options.

“I quickly had to run down to another retailer, it was 5 minutes til’ closing and I just had to shut my eyes and point,” Lexie jokes.

“Nah, there were four options, and we are so shockingly happy with the one we chose,” Lexie says, “It worked out so good.”


Don’t let those planks fool you – Lexie went for the sheet vinyl and got a fantastic result.

“I Guess That Was The Odyssey Part Of It”

“The week before we moved in we were still painting, and then the day after we moved in, Pete finished up by siliconing some seals around the bath,” Julian says.

It wasn’t just Pete on team-bathroom; he had the help of his plumber, Tony, and electrician, Scott.

“It was a huge effort to get it done — trades were working into the evening — I guess that was the odyssey part of it,” Julian says.

Small bathroom renovation - BeforeSmall bathroom renovation - After

The small bathroom has been completely transformed.

The Result: A Sleek Bathroom With All The Mod Cons

The original bathroom was tired, leaky and silicone-rich. Now?

It’s modern in look, feel and functionality. The bright and beautiful bathroom features:

  • Extractor fan over the shower/bath

  • Shower slide

  • Sink mixer

  • Folding glass shower screen (no more shower curtain)

  • Powerpoint for the hair dryer

  • Mirrored wall cabinet

  • Floating vanity

  • New light

  • New bath

  • New toilet

  • New ceiling

  • New vinyl flooring

  • Total time: Approx. 3 weeks

  • Total cost: $11,500 (excluding roof repairs, flooring & second hand pieces)

How’s The Vibe?

“It looks amazing, everything works and we feel we were able to make it our own,” Julian says.

“We were surprisingly stoked — Builderscrack facilitated it through a really good platform,” Julian says.

Both Julian and Lexie take turns chiming in about their experience with Pete.

“Pete was miraculous — he was capable, helpful and super communicative,” Julian says.

“Yeah, he’d also send progress reports at the end of the day to both of us which I thought was really nice, cause sometimes as a female you get left out of the conversation,” Lexie says.

When speaking with Pete, it’s clear the feeling’s mutual.

“They were motivated and enthusiastic, and I’m always willing to help people who are willing to help themselves,” Pete says.

Lexie sourced this vanity sink from Facebook marketplace.

This Is What Julian And Lexie Would Do In Hindsight

Lexie is first off the bat to share a tidbit from her renovation experience.

“We got the vanity from Facebook marketplace for $150, and it normally retails for $1,200 brand new — and that’s just vanity, no taps or plumbing,” Lexie says.

Lexie also managed to snag a secondhand cabinet, which you can see above the vanity.

“If we had more time, I’d definitely spend more time trying to get more second hand bits,” Lexie says.

It can pay-off to figure out how you compliment each other’s abilities.

Before You Renovate As A Couple…

There’s no denying that a renovation puts stress on whoever’s involved. And at this point of the interview, I find out they are engaged. So how did Julian and Lexie fare?

“We were pretty good overall, Lex definitely got frustrated with me at times, but we know what kind of renovators we are,” Julian laughs.

“I’m super fricken detail-orientated and can’t keep to the schedule,” Julian says.

“Lex is much more, ‘don’t worry about it, let’s stick to the plan, keep the ball moving,” Julian laughs.

All through the interview I’ve been laughing along with Julian and Lexie as they reminisce, and I finish up by asking one last question: when did you figure this all out?

“Yeah, hah, probably not until the end,” Julian laughs.

How To Manage Scope Changes

Thank You

A huge thank you to Julian and Lexie for sharing their renovation story with us, being vulnerable with the details, and legends for the laughs. Wishing you well on your next renovation odyssey!

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