Selecting the right building products and materials for the job can be a challenge on major social housing refurbishment projects, with many factors to consider. Here, Scott Beattie, Managing Director at Fibo explores why waterproof wall panels present the ideal choice for local authority specifiers when renovating bathrooms.
Local authorities have an important responsibility to ensure their social housing tenants are provided with a happy, pleasant and comfortable home in which to live. Being one of the most used and high-traffic spaces within a home, it’s no wonder that bathroom renovations are a significant part of maintenance and refurbishment programmes. That said, with the potential for there to be hundreds, if not thousands, of properties on a local authority’s housing stock portfolio, a special type of building product is required to help deliver the works quickly, efficiently and to a high-quality finish.
While tiles may be the go-to product for bathrooms, having been the traditional choice within the market for many years, other solutions are available which offer significant benefits. With standard tiles taking around five days to install, from the initial wall preparation through to grouting, it can cause a significant amount of mess and disruption. Specialist tools and labour can be required for their installation, resulting in higher costs, and they can be easily cracked or chipped during transportation and handling.
Tiles also require regular upkeep and maintenance to keep them looking fresh and new, with the grout, in particular, a common area to age, discolour and even become a breeding ground for bacteria. However, waterproof wall panel systems offer an ideal alternative to tiles for the social housing sector.
Need for speed
As we know, a local authority may have hundreds upon hundreds of social housing properties on its system, with any planned maintenance programme becoming an incredibly large and long undertaking. As such, it’s important that building products and materials are selected which offer a quick and easy installation process, with minimal fuss. As well as enabling providers to work through the programme quicker, saving time and money, this can also help to minimise disruption to existing tenants.
Unlike tiles, wall panel systems can be installed in a matter of hours, especially those with a ‘tongue and groove’ system, meaning the panels can simply ‘click’ together. Suitable for fixing to any secure wall surface, or even over existing tiles, wall panels offer minimal mess and disruption and are the ideal choice for refurbishments projects. What’s more, panels can be handled and installed by anyone with basic carpentry skills, without the need for specific tiling experience or expertise.
Built to last
Another consideration for social housing providers is performance. Selecting products and materials that are durable and easy to maintain is key, helping to mitigate the need for costly repairs or additional maintenance further down the line.
Commonly manufactured from a timber core and bonded with high-pressure laminates, waterproof wall panels can be incredibly strong and long lasting, as well as being easy to clean and maintain. The absence of grout is another bonus — a common-known area for deterioration — although that’s not to say that you have to forfeit the classic look of tiles by opting for wall panels, as we will soon explore.
Style and substance
While wall panels may have once been seen as a cheap, unattractive and plastic option, this is certainly no longer the case. There are now many contemporary and stylish designs, colours and effects available, enabling local authorities to create a modern bathroom space without going over budget. For example, local authorities can choose from simple block colours and traditional effects like marble, through to those that offer a more contemporary look and feel. Including natural and industrial effects, such as cement, sand, stone and timber, which reflect the latest interior design trends.
There are also tile-effect panels available, should specifiers remain a little wary of moving wholly away from the tiled aesthetic, creating such a realistic look and feel that tenants will be amazed to discover they are not in fact tiles.
Fibo, the global waterproof wall panel manufacturer, offers a series of wall panels across its six collections all available with a 25-year guarantee, providing local authorities and social housing providers with additional assurances of its performance. Part of this promised durability and reliability comes from Fibo’s Aqualock tongue and groove system, developed to form a tight, waterproof and seamless join between the panels. And for those who are nervous about moving away wholly from the tiled aesthetic, Fibo can router out the grout line, creating an even more realistic and 3D tile effect.