- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

xpanding the powder room into a full bath is becoming a common household project: Maybe a family needs a guest bathroom or a teenager wants extra privacy.

Because of today’s fast-paced lifestyle, many homeowners are adding additional bathrooms, says Sonny Nazemian, chief executive officer and president of Michael Nash Custom Kitchens and Homes in Fairfax.

“I call it ‘Bathroom to Go,’ ” Mr. Nazemian says. “Every part of the house has a bathroom. Each bedroom has a bathroom. All the old powder rooms are being converted.”

Although any remodeling project can be overwhelming, changing a powder room to a full bathroom can be accomplished without too much trouble. Having a good plan helps eliminate roadblocks that might arise.

Any money put into a bathroom will increase the overall value of the home, says Jill Hardy, project designer at Case Design/Remodeling Inc. in Bethesda.

“I’m seeing more people want to change the half bath into a full bath,” Ms. Hardy says. “You get a good return on the investment.”

Even when there isn’t a powder room to convert, some people are converting closets and hallways or portions of bedrooms on the second floor, Mr. Nazemian says.

“The bathroom came out of isolation,” he says. “They are glamorizing it and decorating it with larger showers, a lot of jets and steam showers.”

Some homeowners even may want a full bath on the main floor, especially if elderly parents live in the home, Mr. Nazemian says. A laundry room may be converted into a bathroom with a shower. Later, the washer and dryer may be moved to a second-floor closet.

“If the structure and the plumbing of the house is sturdy and up to par, there is no reason not to convert a bathroom,” Mr. Nazemian says. “In the old days, converting the powder room to a bathroom was very difficult.”

With all the advances in materials and design over the past 50 years, 99 percent of today’s powder rooms can be converted into full baths, he says. If the powder room is in the basement, adding a new drain and water supply line may involve digging into the home’s concrete foundation.

Sometimes, when renovating a powder room into a full bath, it’s easier to gut the entire bathroom and start from scratch, says Dave Merrill, owner of Merrill Contracting and Remodeling Inc. in Arlington.

“The biggest stumbling block is: Where do you get the extra space?” Mr. Merrill says. “You will have to steal it from a bedroom or closet. We can always make it bigger, but what space will you give up that is adjacent to it?”

Usually, the hot and cold water lines are easy to modify and expand, he says. The drainage pipes, however, present a bigger obstacle.

“You have to have gravity working on your side,” Mr. Merrill says. “If you have a powder room, you’re adding a tub or a shower, and it requires a 2-inch-wide drain line.”

Relocating the toilet can increase the complexity of the project, he says, because its drainage pipe also must be moved. Further, it’s difficult to add a drainage line for the shower or tub without significantly modifying the existing bath.

“You have to tear up the floor,” Mr. Merrill says. “You can’t get to the plumbing without tearing up the floor in most cases. It’s one of the reasons that it’s a whole lot easier to do if you’re completely renovating the existing space as well as expanding it.”

Expanding the electricity in a room is easy compared to the plumbing, he says. Adding another light or outlet is simple compared to adding a water line or drain.

Though electricity shouldn’t cause complications, adding more weight to a specific area of the house with the installation of a shower or bathtub should be considered, he says. In older homes, sometimes the floor sags and needs to be leveled.

“The floor structure has to be more rigid,” Mr. Merrill says. “For the tile to last over the long haul, you have to have very little flex in the structure. If you have much in the way of flex, the tile will crack.”

Whatever the plan when remodeling, make sure the design isn’t functionally obsolete, says Rosi Kallivokas, designer and owner of Clive Christian at the Washington Design Center in Southwest.

“Think of resale value,” Ms. Kallivokas says. “You don’t put a full bath in between the living room and dining room.”

If a household is on a tight budget, moving a load-bearing wall should be avoided, she says. If budget isn’t an object, make sure an architect and structural engineer agree on the plans.

When space needs to be saved, homeowners might consider smaller appliances and fixtures, such as hatbox toilets without tanks, says Barbara Hawthorn, president of Barbara Hawthorn Interiors Limited in McLean.

Tankless water heaters also are an option, along with walk-in showers without swinging doors, she says. The design of the shower floor can allow the water from the shower head to drain without splashing onto the bathroom floor. There also is technology available that enables the shower’s plumbing to fit into a panel on the shower wall.

“It allows you to put a shower almost anywhere,” Ms. Hawthorn says. “It’s especially useful when you have to use a lot less space than you would have to use with normal plumbing.”

Buying a new vanity is a way to recapture space that was sacrificed in a renovation, says Tricia Huntley, owner and designer at Huntley and Co. Interior Design in Northwest. In tighter situations, a pedestal sink can be used.

“Bathrooms have the opportunity to be special,” Ms. Huntley says. “Why not treat them like a special room?”

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