Expanding a Small Bathroom

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Aug 13, 2013 | Katie Marks

Photo: Salvadonica Borgo del Chianti/Flickr.com.

Tired of your small bathroom yet? Fortunately, there are a lot of options for expanding a small bathroom without breaking the bank so you can enjoy some actual space to move around, change your bathroom into a full master bath, or install a tub if you want a change up from the usual showers. Before you begin, you have a lot to think about, from the type of tile you want on the floor to how you're going to accommodate the expansion.

The big question with bathroom expansions is where the extra space is going to come from, and your remodeling contractor will likely provide you with two options: steal it from somewhere else in the house, or build an addition to make your bathroom bigger. The layout of the house around the bathroom can determine the best choice. Sometimes an addition is an excellent option that will allow for more flexibility and options like a sunken tub surrounded by glass for a beautiful view of the garden while you bathe. In other cases, you might be able to convert an unused pantry or closet, or make a room near the bathroom smaller by moving a wall.

As you start thinking about expanding a small bathroom, you may also be imagining a new arrangement for your toilet, sink, and shower. Be careful. Moving plumbing around can add substantially to the cost of a bathroom remodel, and it can require more time, too. You might want to consider retaining the existing so-called "wet wall" with all the shared plumbing or keeping things more or less where they are in order to save costs on your expansion. If you absolutely must move plumbing, talk to a plumber about the best way to proceed.

An electrician will also be involved in your remodel, to help you set up bathroom plugs (which should be GFCI circuits for safety) as well as lighting and any other fixtures you might need. It's important to install a fan that offers sufficient ventilation to control moisure levels, and if your bathroom needs heating, think about a wall heater or linkage to an existing whole-house HVAC system while the bathroom is gutted. It's expensive to add things after the fact, and easy to lay pipe, electrical wire, HVAC ducting, and anything else you need (speaker wire for full-bathroom surround sound, anybody?) while everything is exposed.

As you start getting a rough concept going, you may want to consider efficiency, too. Make sure your septic tank, if you have one, is up to the task of handling your remodeled bathroom, and consider ways you could cut down on waste, because bathrooms can be a major source of water waste. Low-flush toilets and showerheads designed to offer low-flow functionality can be a big help, as can showerheads with a cutoff feature allowing you to set the temperature and other characteristics and stop the flow of water at any time (as for example when you're shampooing your hair and don't need the water running).

A plumber can talk to you about water conservation options for the bathroom, and the green options don't stop there. You can use recycled materials from rehabilitated sinks to post-consumer tile in the finish of your remodeled bathroom to cut down on purchases of new building materials; and to give your bathroom a cool retro look, potentially.

Get inspired by checking out home design magazines, and when you're ready to take the plunge, consider using a source like Consumer Reports to help you figure out costing so you'll be ready to negotiate with a contractor.

Katie Marks writes at Networx.com.

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