- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Older two- and three-bedroom homes often come with one bath, which for homeowners in the 19th or early 20th century probably was a luxury.
In the 21st century, however, that's often not enough, and many homeowners add and remodel bathrooms to increase both the comfort and the resale value of their older homes.
"It's very popular because kitchens and bathrooms are what sell homes," says Patrick Camus, an architect in Old Town Alexandria.
So, if you want to sell your house in today's demanding market or if you simply want to enjoy it more, consider adding a bathroomor maybe a half-bath.
Installing a bathroom, even just a half-bath (with a toilet
and sink but no shower or bathtub) within the confines of the existing space usually means losing storage space or parts of a room, Mr. Camus says. Other considerations include access to waste drains and water-supply pipes.
Most installations of half-baths that Mr. Camus has planned over the years have been in conjunction with a kitchen remodeling project, which is a good time to re-evaluate the existing space.
"We piggyback these things," Mr. Camus says. "Most people won't just do a [half] bathroom; it's too small a project."
A half-bath, also referred to as a powder room or guest bath, may seem too small a project to justify the mess remodeling creates, but it's usually not that complicated an addition, says Frank Saunders, an Edgewood, Md., contractor who does a lot of remodeling of older houses on Capitol Hill.
"You should definitely be able to stay in your house," Mr. Saunders says. "It's not that major."
The cost of adding a new bathroom can be as low as $5,000 and as high as, well, one can imagine, Mr. Camus says. "You can spend as much as $3,000 on the toilet alone if you'd like," he says. Or $29,000 on a bathtub, according to one bath-fixture retailer.
Before the remodeling work begins, it's important to decide on the look and feel of the new bathroom. "Go to as many showrooms as you can," Mr. Saunders says. "You have to get an idea of what you want and how much you want to spend."

Three permits are needed for a new bathroom: a general building permit, a plumbing permit and an electric permit, Mr. Saunders says. They cost about $100 each.
The work itself should take just a few weeks, but gathering the permits may take longer, Mr. Saunders says.
Permits are necessary to make sure that the planned bathroom is done in accordance with building codes, Mr. Saunders says. For example, a full bath has to be at least 7 feet by 5 feet, while a half-bath has to be 2 feet by 4 feet.
Building codes regarding bathrooms are the same for Virginia, Maryland and the District, Mr. Camus says.
Because a half-bath is relatively small, some homeowners can get away with installing it under stairs that lead up to the second floor as in figure 1 . The challenge is the height of the ceiling. It has to be at least 7 feet high where the sink is installed, Mr. Camus says.
"There's always less space under stairs than you think," Mr. Camus says. "There's often not enough headroom."
The advantage of putting a half-bath under stairs is that it will open into a hall instead of a living area. Discretion is important when it comes to bathrooms.
"It's funny," Mr. Camus says. "We need them, but we don't want to see them."
A door that swings in is better but you want to hide the toilet. "A sink is a bit more artistic to look at when the bathroom door is open than the toilet," he says.
That's why, even if the half-bath takes up old kitchen space, it's still preferable to have it open up to the hall, as opposed to the kitchen, as in figure 3 .
"It's better to have the bathroom off the kitchen than off a living room since the kitchen is more of a service and family area," Mr. Camus says.
Another option might be to install the new half-bath across from a new closet with space that has been freed up by the kitchen remodeling project, he says. See figure 2.
Maybe the under-the-stairs space, if it isn't tall enough to accommodate a bathroom, could be a storage area in conjunction with the bathroom, as in figure 4 .
Among other minimum requirements is enough legroom in front of the toilet. The requirement is 21 inches of clearance. The same clearance is required in front of the sink.
If the space is very tight, a homeowner might want to get an 8-inch wall-mounted sink, Mr. Camus says. The next smallest is a pedestal sink, and the largest is a sink with vanity.
"But of course, the vanity gives you a lot of storage, so it's a trade-off," Mr. Camus says.

Once the homeowner has decided, possibly with the help of an architect, on the looks and maybe even the location of the half-bath, it's important to make sure the area is structurally sound for remodeling, Mr. Saunders says.
Sometimes the floor joists in old homes need sistering, or reinforcement, to make sure the floor is stable enough to hold ceramic tiles.
"Otherwise, cracks may appear in the new and shiny tile and you don't want that, obviously," he says.
Involving a plumber when deciding on the location of the half-bath can be helpful, too, says John Legge, an Alexandria plumber.
"The location of the powder room can change the cost quite a bit," Mr. Legge says.
The closer the new bathroom is to the main waste drain, also called a stack, the cheaper the plumbing work will be because fewer feet of piping will be used and less "engineering" will be needed.
Other plumbing needs for a half-bath include water-supply lines and venting of the drains, which prevents sewage gas from entering the home, Mr. Legge says.
A plumber also may determine whether a half-bath is even advisable in a downstairs location. If there is no basement, and therefore no access to existing supply and waste lines, the cost of the installation could skyrocket, Mr. Legge says.
In cases in which there is no basement, part of the concrete foundation of the house may have to be removed which is not cheap so the plumber can reach the existing pipes and drains.
"I would say talking to a plumber first might be a good idea if you want to add a bathroom," Mr. Legge says.
The architect, however, may have a better idea of whether there is enough room for an added bathroom.
"We've decided against it," Mr. Camus says about his own 800-square-foot Old Town Alexandria home. "If my wife and I were to install another bathroom, we would lose our only good storage space … and sometimes closets are more important than an extra bathroom."
Instead of trying to cram another bathroom into their home, Mr. Camus and his wife Lynnette decided to make their existing bathroom something special with quality tiles and two sinks.
"Sometimes people's decision to add an extra bathroom is driven more by the resell value than practicality," he says. "But sometimes it might be better to have one bathroom of quality than use up all the existing storage space."


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