Finding Space for an Extra Bath

by: HM Bath Remodeling

Most houses are one bathroom shy of the number they need for convenience. There are lots of reasons, ranging from teenage children who spend half their waking hours in the shower, to home gardeners or mechanics who need a bathroom that doesn't require tracking on the carpeting in the front hall. But bath insufficiency doesn't have to be a permanent condition. Most homes offer opportunities for adding or upgrading bath space without adding on.

Obvious places to consider are undeveloped areas such as a porch that can be enclosed, the basement or attic. Harder- to-recognize opportunities include hallways, closets and empty corners of existing rooms.

What matters most is functionality. When looking for extra space, be open to unorthodox but sensible solutions. First search for any space that might be big enough to accommodate a bath. You can examine the fine points later. The obvious thing to do is to take a walk through your house. Surprisingly, this doesn't always yield results; it's hard to visualize a familiar scene in a new way. For a bare-bones perspective of your house, trace the walls from existing blueprints. Use this simple floor- plan to study relationships between rooms. If you don't have blueprints, measure and draw your own scale floorplan. It's a lot of work, but it will help you develop an overview of possibly inefficient uses of space and convenient adjacencies.

Make several copies of your drawing and use them to sketch a few alternative plans. Experiment with a variety of possibilities. Don't be put off by irregularly shaped spaces that result from this doodling. Professional designers say this is often how they end up with unusual and interesting rooms.

Once you've found potential space, check more closely to see how practical it would be to convert it for use as a bath. If the new space backs up to an existing bath or kitchen and both can share a plumbing wall, you'll save hundreds of dollars by not having to extend water and electrical supply lines, and drains and vents from another area. Of course, you'll probably need to run a new 20-amp circuit with GFCI protection. A whirlpool tub will also require its own electrical circuit. Wiring and plumbing will be easier and cheaper if the area beneath the space
being considered for the new bath is a crawlspace or a basement with an unfinished ceiling,

You'll also want to look for venting possibilities (a code requirement in most locales): a window, exterior wall or easy access to the roof. But if the space you've found doesn't have some of these budget-saving advantages, it isn't necessarily disqualified. Another factor to consider is what you're giving up to this room. Most found space involves a compromise: Gain a bath, lose a closet, for example. Since most houses don't have enough closets, you'll have to think long and hard about the tradeoff. Perhaps you can give up some bedroom space to replace the lost closet, or use an armoire for storage in a guest room. Consider all the options and consequences before you commit to the project.

Once you've qualified your found space, lay out the bath fixtures on paper to make sure it will all work. Strictly speaking, the recommended minimum space for a full bath is 5*7 ft. (35 sq. ft.) to accommodate a standard 5-ft. bathtub. But if you're not designing for accessibility, you can get away with 30 sq. ft. This requires some space-saving fixtures like a 4-ft. tub (expect to sit, not lie), a neo-angle shower with a small footprint, and a corner sink and toilet.

To examine your options, draw layouts using various combinations of standard and space-saving fixtures. To get a sense for how it may feel, lay out the plan on a floor using masking tape. Out of a Dining Room. This small full bath started out life as a 21-sq.-ft. powder room. Suffering from water damage, it was in need of a simple upgrade. As the owner began demolition, he realized he could add a needed shower to the room by stealing a 9-sq.-ft. chunk of the adjacent dining room.
An architect friend argued against doing this because it would destroy the four-wall symmetry of the dining room. Because there was only one other bath in the house, and it would cost so little to incorporate the 3*3-ft. space, the architect was overruled.

To make the most of the new space, Rudy Santos, a New Jersey CKD, was called in. He designed a 32*42-in. built-in shower stall where the toilet had been. A 19*30-in. toilet fits into the niche taken from the dining room. A storage cabinet hangs above it. A pedestal sink replaces the vanity. Also, a see-through glass shower door and a mirror make the the 30-sq.-ft. bath seem more spacious.

The bathroom interior plan observes recommended minimum clearances between fixtures. The Colonial-style door swings outward because of the small space. And because of its proximity to the dining room, care was taken to sound-proof the bath.

Out of Closets

When Oregon designer Martha Kerr, CKD, was asked to plan a bathroom to serve two second-floor bedrooms, she decided that closets between the rooms offered the most promising space. Partition walls would not have to be moved and the bedrooms could remain intact.

The long, narrow space allows each bedroom to have a private entry into the bath. Both of the doors open near the center of the bathroom, leaving room for the toilet at one end and the shower at the other. Since the nearest plumbing lines were on the opposite side of the house, water and waste lines for the new bath were routed through a living room wall down to the basement.

Kerr installed a corner toilet so there would be plenty of clearance. "The vanity is 24 in. deep around the sink, but drops back to 12 in. on either side for more clearance near the shower," she says. To make up for lost storage space, she built in closets with lots of drawers.

Under Eaves

Tess Giuliani, a New Jersey-based CKD, slipped a tiny bath under the eaves of a nooks-and-crannies Victorian house. Her clients converted the attic to
a combination guest-and-family room that would be used mostly as a play room for their small children. A bath on the same floor was necessary. "The 51*63-in. area under the eaves was the the only spot for a bath that wouldn't intrude on the den," says Giuliani.

She placed the toilet and a base storage cabinet on the kneewall. The custom-built cabinet was angled back to the wall and hung off the floor so it takes up less space physically and visually. A five-sided, neo-angle shower hugs the interior wall where there's greater headroom. All this left only 18 in. for a lavatory, so Giuliani specified a narrow pedestal sink. She says she used a pocket door because it was the only option left. "An operable skylight," she adds, "kills two birds with one stone: It ventilates the bathroom and lets in natural light."

Basic Bath

Specs following are helpful industry-recognized minimum room and fixture sizes. These and clearances are subject to local building codes. Check the codes before substituting space-saving corner and undersize fixtures for standard ones.

Minimum Room Sizes

* Powder room: 18 sq. ft.

* Bath (shower/no tub): 30 sq. ft.

* Bath (shower/tub): 35 sq. ft.

Fixture Sizes and Clearances

* Toilets range from 19 to 24 in. wide by 27 to 30 in. deep. Allow 15 in. from toilet centerline to wall and 21 in. of clear walkway in front.

* Bathtubs range from 30 to 32 in. wide by 5 ft. long.

* Prefabricated shower units and separate shower bases start at 30*30 in. However, most building codes require at least a 32*32-in. interior. Leave a 21-in. walkway in front of a shower and tub.

* Typical ready-made vanities range from 20 to 50 in. wide. Leave 15 in. from lavatory centerline to a sidewall; 21 in. of clear walkway in front; 30 in., centerline to center- line, between bowls.

* Pedestal sinks range from 20 to 28 in. wide. by 16 to 21 in. deep. Leave 21-in. walkway in front.

« back to articles