No Bubble with a Mid-Range Bath Renovation

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Bathrooms are a key selling point — right behind kitchens. On average, bathrooms occupy 12 percent of total floor area, almost 300 square feet, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

That’s cavernous compared to postage-stamp bathrooms in many older homes with just enough room to stand between the fixtures. Stretching one of those to 150 square feet may not be realistic. But when the bathroom is too small or too old, and it’s finally time to expand and update, consider these key points.

An NAHB study says, “When the number of bathrooms is approximately equal to the number of bedrooms, an additional half-bath adds about 10 percent to the home’s value, and one additional bath adds about 19 percent.” But the study notes that bath additions are expensive, almost $50,000 for an upscale master-bath project.

Their conclusion: A mid-range bathroom remodeling job is a better investment. For a national average cost of $10,500, you can expect to get back at least 100 percent of the outlay at sale time. Plus there’s the part no survey figures into the equation: Until you sell, you get to use the spiffy new bathroom.

Nothing should go wrong with the plumbing in a new bath. But once you’re opening walls, it’s wise to include an access panel behind the shower. Valves and other fittings sometimes need repair or replacement, and it’s better to work on them from the back.

Arrange access by placing the head of the tub or shower against a partition wall in the bath or the adjacent hall. To give the plumber, now and in the future, more working room, consider framing the partition with 2-by-6s instead of 2-by-4s. Then add a removable (screwed not nailed) panel of drywall, and either trim it or just hang something on top of it.

It’s nice to dream about space for saunas and sunken tubs. But when grand plans are tempered by a budget, you can often gain enough room to make a dramatic difference without gutting the space and moving all the walls. For instance, if the bath is next to a closet, expansion is simple. Or you can always push out the exterior wall, and leave the others alone.

Mechanical lines are concentrated in baths and kitchens, and largely responsible for driving up remodeling costs in those rooms. But with the old surfaces removed, it’s relatively easy for an electrician to relocate wiring, install better lighting, and a modern (quiet) exhaust fan. If need be, you can update old outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters.

Heating and cooling are also relatively easy to accommodate in a modest bath expansion. The room likely won’t be so much bigger that it needs an additional duct or radiator.

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