January 3, 2010

Bathroom Renovation: Planning Ahead

In our 2010 goals, I mentioned upgrading the bathroom in the back addition. We've actually been thinking about it for awhile, discussing what to do and how to go about it. Now that the dining and living room floors are almost finished, it's time to think through the specifics of the bathroom project and what needs to be done.

There are a lot of problems with this room, which we use a lot because it currently has the only shower in the house. So far we've done nothing to this room except put up a shower curtain and throw down a small rug.

Our small, 2nd bathroomIt's small, 5 ft 9.5 in by 4 ft 7.5 in. The shower stall measures 33.5 by 37 inches (exterior, interior measurements are 28 by 30 inches). This means that there are only 22 inches between the shower and the 24 inch door. While this set-up probably made sense at the time the bathroom was added, it has issues.

One possible solution would be to simply make this a half-bath. We considered this. However, we are currently contemplating making a master suite out of the 2nd bedroom, hall bath, and part of the hallway. In that case, we will need a second bathroom for guests, so we need to keep this as a full bath. With that in mind, here are the challenges we face with the room and the possible solutions we're considering.

Problem: Cramped, awkward use of floor space (as shown in above photo).

Solution: round corner shower (click here for pic). Wall dimensions for it are 35.5 inches so it's about the same size as the current one. However, the round shape will eliminate the corner sticking out into the room, which will hopefully make the room seem not quite so cramped.

Can't even open the door all the way.Problem: the 24 inch door can't open all the way in that 22 inch space. This will still be a problem even if we replace the shower.

Solution: pocket door. This may mean moving the light switch, but considering all the other electrical work DH has done to the place, this shouldn't be a problem. And since we'd have to tear into the wall anyway, this would be the perfect way to remove the old shower and put in the new.

Problem: ugly old linoleum. In fact, I lived with the exact same thing in a rental house we had awhile back. Gosh how I hated that floor.

Solution: ceramic tile floor

Funny faucetsProblem: spring loaded faucets. Seriously, when you turn the water off, the faucet springs back on. It takes several tries before the stupid thing will stay off.

Solution: a new faucet, obviously

Problem: ugly backsplach

Solution: eliminate or replace!

What a sinkProblem: sink can't stand on its own and needs to be propped up with a stick (it was like this when we got here.) Also, exposed plumbing not very attractive.

Solution: pedestal sink with a round or oval bowl will hide the plumbing and support the bowl. The smallest I've found have bowls which measure 18 by 20 inches, which should work. Again, with a rounded shape we'll lose the corners on the sink which will give the feeling of having more room.

Problem: no shut off valves. Not here or anywhere in the house

Solution: Duh. Install shut off valves.

Inefficient towel rackProblem: no towel racks within reach of the shower door. There is one on the wall beside the toilet, but this is neither adequate for the two of us, nor is it any fun to fetch the towel when you're dripping wet. My quick fix for this was to add an over the door rack (above). While at least it gives us a place to hang our towels, it creates problems of it's own. For one thing, the door can't be closed without removing the rack (and then there's no place to put it). For another, the towels can't dry out very well when they're hanging like that because there's no ventilation.

Solution: More towel racks, though I haven't figured out exactly where to put them. That will depend on which way the shower door opens.

Problem: no ventilation or heat

Solution: one idea is to replace the overhead light with a combination light, fan, and heater unit.

Problem: zero storage

Solution: over toilet spacesaver shelf unit

In addition, Dan wants to update some of the plumbing and insulate the floor and ceiling. As you can see, this will be another pretty big project, which is why we're trying to think through all the details, and why it's the only house project we have scheduled for next year. We have a few things we need to finish before we actually get started on it, but hopefully it will get underway sometime before spring.


  1. Used one of those rounded showers in a B&B recently. Tight, and not great for bending down to pick stuff up or for shaving legs. But if it's only guests, then it would probably work. Do add a grab bar--there's nothing to grab on to inside should you need to. I had visions of falling right through the door!


  2. We're about to embark on our own bathroom renovation adventure in out MIL apt so I sympathize and wish you luck. We thought the bathroom was the only part of the MIL we weren't going to have to fix because the plumbing looked good but when we pulled down the sheetrock in the bedroom wall and saw the bathroom plumbing we saw the previous owners had poorly spliced new stuff into 50 year old pipes to make it superficially look better. So we get to redo the bathroom afterall. Since we have to redo it anyway I might borrow some of your ideas to make the space seem less cramped.

  3. Pocket door yay!! We love ours!!! (There's a way to make a lip on the doorway, and to put a lock on a pocket door which I highly recommend on a bathroom pocket door. Otherwise it can feel a little unprivate for guests.)

    There's a type of light switch that uses radio frequency to turn on an overhead (or other) light. We have one so that outside our pocket door we can put a light switch in the place that we want it. It just sticks on the wall, so the pocket door can slide behind it.

    In one of our small bathrooms, instead of towel bars we have 2 towel hooks. They're great for guests to hang their towels or robes....and in a pinch I've hung yarn that I've dyed on them to dry. The towels seem to dry and the hooks don't take up much wall space.

    I think those are all of my small bathroom suggestions...Are you sure you don't want cabinetry under the sink so you'd have storage space? We have a pedestal sink in one bathroom, and I do think it makes the room seem bigger. So I'm not anti-pedestal!!

    Who knew I'd have so many ideas???

    Sue - veteran of home construction, renovation, and owner of 2 tiny but functional bathrooms!

  4. Would a corner sink help any? That is a tight bathroom. We have redone our bathroom plan a billion times trying to make it seem more spacious. It's definitely easier than moving the bathroom fixtures after your done. I suppose we should have a grab bar in our shower. We hadn't thought about that.

  5. I thought you had planned out the solutions to your problems very well, and then I see some great additional suggestions in the comments! I second towel hooks; we have a couple and I think for a guest bath, they would work great by themselves.

    P.S. I LOVE pocket doors, but couldn't convince the DH or contractor to put any in ours when we built it. :-(

  6. Sue, it's true they aren't real big. The inner dimensions are 34 by 34. Still, the inner dimensions of the current shower are 28 by 30! DH says you have to step outside just to change your mind. :) Good idea about the grab handle though, we'll have to see how to incorporate that.

    Lyneya, thanks so much for visiting and taking time to leave a comment. I empathize about what you found under the sheetrock. It seems that all our projects so far have had unforeseen surprises so I can relate. We may well find more problems when we really get into it. I'm always happy to share ideas too!

    Sue, good points about the pocket door. I didn't know about the radio wave light switch. Something to look into for sure. Actually we will have two light switches to deal with, the one in the bathroom and one in the hall for the back room.

    The pedestal sink is necessary for knee room when sitting on the toilet! Otherwise a little vanity cabinet would be wonderful.

    Robin, DH thought about a corner sink but I think we'd have to move the plumbing . Of course, we may end up having to move it anyway, so that might be a good idea to revisit. We also discussed moving a wall back, but that would cut into the back room and be a lot of extra work for a guest bathroom.

    Michelle, I think the hooks may be the most feasible, especially once we get a heat source in there. I love hooks, but if I can manage a towel rack or two,I wouldn't mind that either!

  7. I haven't seen a bathroom that small in a long time except for a few of the cabins that we've rented for vacation.

    I think you've got some great ideas for making the most of your space though!

  8. Leigh,

    Is anything gained by a reconfigure at all? Putting the shower in the toilet corner or sink corner? Probably not. One question I do have is, when you do a redo, do you have to meet any codes? I know a 24" doorway isn't code here, not when you are remodeling, not when you are building. One of our closet doors is a pocket door. It was a pain to install.
    Gene wrestled with a broken one at one of the apartments. I've never seen him so grumpy. They are lovely and work well, but can be a real problem if the track or door has a problem.
    We have a corner shower downstairs, it's seems fine to us, although we don't use it often. It's not as rounded ( or pretty) as the one you show. The floor certainly will look so much better with tile. Since it's such a small space I would imagine you could splurge a little and make it something special.

  9. Hi love reading your posts but this one made me want to comment. Have you thought about making it into a wet room with no shower stall just a shower head. This might free up space for a heated towel rail. The toilet and sink could be free standing with piping behind boxing to make it easy for the floor to drain. Just an idea - good luck and here's hoping not too much will be discovered when you start the work

  10. The pocket door sounds like it will solve alot of the problems and I like the idea of the corner shower. We put one in our house two house back and it worked out very well.

    I showed my daughter your blog and she loves how you collect your own seed from your garden so I'm sure they will be using your blog next fall.

  11. Sounds like you've got it planned out. We've two tiny bathrooms, one with a shower stall which is 32 x 32. That still is not much room to manoeuvre in. However since the other bathroom doesn't seem to have any hot water, it's better than nothing!
    I love pocket doors! My cousin has a French pocket door on his bathroom.. little windows and all, and a friend only had a curtain, so any kind of door seems good to me :)

  12. Renee, it's the smallest one I've ever seen as well. Of course when they planned it out, the reality of how small it really is might not have been apparent.

    Theresa, I don't think the folks who designed and built this bathroom gave one thought as to code. Of course, I can understand why they used a 24" door, a larger one would leave less of an opening to get in! The pocket door will certainly be wider than that, but I can't remember if DH said 27 or 29" was standard.

    We hadn't talked much about moving components. We couldn't move the shower because of the window. The only other possibility would be switching the sink and toilet. I plan to do a graph paper drawing to see exactly how much room we'll have between fixtures.

    Anon, I mentioned the possibility of making it into a wet room to DH, but it wasn't well received. Part of the problem is that since this room is off the kitchen, someone taking a shower need a place to hang a dry robe or clothes. I appreciate the input however.

    Julie, I appreciate your feedback. I'm glad your daughter liked my blog! Saving seeds is a wonderful idea for everyone I think.

    Nina, your situation sounds something like ours. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just a 2nd bathroom and that something is better than nothing. The original house only had one!

  13. You've had so many wonderful suggestions and comments on your bathroom renevoation. We have a very small one attached to our bedroom that needs to be renovated so I can't wait to see what you do with yours.

  14. been through this with 2 homes. a guest bath is great. just remember house guests are like fish, they both stink after 3 days. no need to make it too comfy, trust me in this. i live in vegas, i always have house guests. also, pocket door- genius!

  15. Leigh,
    The other thought which you touched on was removing the shower all together. We lived for YEARS with a 1.5 baths and for the amount of actual overnight company it was just fine. It's always nice to have that extra shower, but doing it as a really nice half bath( with storage) instead of a very cramped 3/4 one might be a solution if you don't really have tons of company or company that camps out for weeks on end.

  16. Another solution would be to reverse where the toilet and shower are in the room. Since the door would be shut when someone was using the "pot", you wouldn't have to worry about whacking their knees! That would take care of the pocket door (good solution, but hard to lock) and moving the switch. It might involve some creative drain relocation, though.

    Tiling the floor should be done with the toilet out (you probably knew that), so if you decide to take the suggestion above, it will change the amounts needed. I did a bathroom in a small house I used to have, and the tile and pedestal sink (which replaced a butt-ugly vanity) made it the nicest room in the house!!

  17. Theresa, good point. And actually I doubt we'd have a lot of company for a week or more unless it was relatives from out of state. DH was less convinced about that than I am though. If we make a master suite which incorporates the hall bath (and going through our bedroom to get to it), he refuses. Actually, he's the one interested in a private master bath, even though we have very little overnight company! But... I'm not going to argue this one with him because it means too much to him. :)

    Laura, the only problem with that is that the only window in the room is behind the toilet and I'm not keen on having a window in the shower! Right now knees fit under the sink, so a pedestal sink should work. DH has also discussed switching the sink and toilet, so that the sink in under the window and the toilet could face the room's length. That would give more leg room too. What I really need to do is draw the possibilities out on graph paper!

  18. Whoa, that's one dinky bathroom. I like the idea of the pocket door as well as the rounded shower and sink. Just not having to deal with a door jutting into the room ought to make it feel larger.

  19. Love the pocket door, we have one one will be adding one to our small full bath when we renovate. For heat, consider a heated towel rack

    This is what we are planning on using when we finally can re-do our bath.

  20. Hi Leigh,
    I've been reading and enjoying for awhile now as we work on our own homestead project. Have you considered having your door open out? We did have that in one house with a tiny powder room.

  21. Benita, it's funny how small details like that can make a big difference. Of course now, since this post, I've realized that more thinking is in order.

    Ali, thanks for the links! Heated towel racks sound lovely.

    Lynn, that's something my husband suggested. I've been the one who has pooh-poohed the idea. Mostly because an outward opening door would somewhat block either entry to the kitchen, or the door to the pantry. I think that would bug me worse than it's being in the way in the bathroom. Keeping the door closed wouldn't be a good idea because there are no air ducts in the room for heating and cooling. The door has to stay open for that.

    One good thing, when I tile the floor, I will remove the 1/4-round that keeps it from opening all the way. That will help.


My sincerest apologies for my apparent neglect in answering comments and returning blog visits. I am in the thick of preparing Critter Tales for publication! This is both exciting, but also intense, as I push to get it out before Christmas. Please don't give up on me. I appreciate and am encouraged by every comment.