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Tricky Bathroom: Work with current layout or swap shower and toilet?

Amanda R.
3 years ago

I would like to know your thoughts on whether we should work with the existing footprint of the bathroom or switch the layout.



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Goal: Transform the space into something that is tranquil and easy to clean — with hidden storage options to minimize visual clutter.


When we bought the house, we removed a huge vanity (60 inch, single sink) and replaced it with the cheap single vanity and linen cabinet as a temporary fix. We would like to ditch the linen cabinet and install a 48" double vanity.



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Complications:

  • Our toilet is EXTREMELY close to the wall. I know this is a common issue in older houses, but honestly, have you ever seen a toilet this close to the wall? It’s impossible to clean properly. It is also too close to the tub -- only 18 inches between them.


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  • I HATE cleaning tile and grout. Even with an electric brush/scrubber, the grout never looks good. I want something that is very easy to clean and maintain. For this reason, I was hoping hoping to replace our bathtub with this bath tub and shower surround by Sterling. Unfortunately, the window overlaps with the shower area, and you can only cut the middle panel to accommodate a window with the tub/shower surround.


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  • There is no ventilation system, so you can imagine mold is a big issue right now. We have a clay tile roof and stone house, so I don’t understand how we would correct this without major structural work. Please weigh in if you have experience with this.


The two scenarios I am imagining are:


A. Work with existing footprint. Address toilet spacing issue by installing a floating and/or tankless model about 10 inches to the right of the toilet’s current location. Replace floor. Install new tiling and bathtub (or have a custom liner installed over tub?)


B. Swap the toilet and shower. I have no idea how much expense this would add to the project. Right now, we can access the shower plumbing via a panel in the closet in our second bedroom. I'm not sure how we would maintain access to the plumbing if we move the shower. If we do move the shower/tub, we could then use the Sterling tub and surround since the window would be on the middle panel. I assume we would have to make the window more “shower-friendly” by removing metal components, but I don’t know the ideal solution. The toilet would have more privacy against the wall where the shower is currently located. We could still do a floating and/or tankless model if we wanted — but it seems less necessary with this option. And while I do love the simplicity of cleaning around a floating toilet, the tankless situation does make me a little nervous for some reason. I know it can have an access panel — so maybe my fears are unfounded. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these systems (Geberit/Toto).


Do you have an option C that I should add to my list? If so, I would love to hear it.


Thanks in advance for your brilliant ideas. I’m new around here, but I’ve already learned so much from your discussion threads!


Amanda

Comments (27)

  • kudzu9
    3 years ago

    I'm going to try to provide some info on a little bit of this:

    1. You can't just swap toilet and tub locations because the tub drain is not big enough to meet the minimum size needed for a toilet. If you want to do a swap, you'll need to be able to redo the bathroom's drain system. Do you have access underneath to do this?

    2. To meet code, the minimum space requirements for toilets are: 15" free space on either side of the toilet's center line to an adjacent wall or other obstruction (such as the side of a tub); and at least 24" free space in front of the toilet. The non-compliant toilet you now have would probably be grandfathered in if left in place, but if you are moving it in any way and getting a building permit to do the work, it will not pass code if it doesn't meet clearance requirements. You may want to talk with your local building department to see what there views are on the kind of situation you have before you get to far down the road on a remodel.

    3. You should ventilate the bathroom, even if this complicates things. While building codes often do not require an exhaust fan if there is an operable window (such as you have) in a bathroom, putting in a ventilation fan would be wise because you obviously are aware of the mold problem you currently have. Would it be any easier to put a fan in the wall?

    Amanda R. thanked kudzu9
  • einportlandor
    3 years ago

    I had a similar layout, except the toilet was only 13 inches from the bathtub (a tall person had to sit sideways =\ ). I opted to remove the tub entirely in favor of a shower. I added a floor-to-ceiling corner cabinet between the shower and the window (not the most practical storage but better than nothing.) I also gained a bit of floor space by removing a hall closet.


    I didn't move the toilet so can't tell you what it would cost, but I know it's a major plumbing change. I can tell you that the whole project cost WAY more than I ever guessed.

    Amanda R. thanked einportlandor
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  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Kudzu9, Thank you for your comments. We are going to take everything down to the studs, so if we can't access the plumbing from the bathroom, we could remove some of the ceiling in the basement. Honestly, the drain in the shower is terrible and probably needs to be replaced anyhow. Any idea what that kind of plumbing work costs?


    Regarding the wall fan, would that have to be on the exterior wall? As I said, we have a stone house, so I can't envision how that would be possible without major structural work.

  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    einportlandor, Thanks for sharing your experience with me. I have considered replacing the tub with a shower, but I I have read that would lower our home value. (It's the only bathtub in the house.)

  • artemis78
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    We have this exact layout, except that our door swings to the other side. We moved our toilet over a few inches and that was not too involved. (We had to repair the waste line anyway, so took that opportunity to push it further from the wall. We also got a new more efficient toilet, which had a smaller footprint.) We just live with the distance to the tub, because it is a small bathroom so there aren't many alternatives (but with the new toilet, the plumber was able to install it closer to the back wall, which picked up a couple of inches of knee room.) The tub is quite expensive to move--in addition to the plumbing, there is framing that supports it that you'd have to rework, so that would be a costly project. We did put in a vent fan, but didn't have the roof constraints you have. We've also found it helpful to use the space in the walls wherever possible (set medicine cabinet into wall, for instance) and to have a pedestal sink vs. a vanity if you can find other places to put storage. We also have an arched shower rod that gives a little more space will accommodating the window.

    I love your tile and tub, so would personally keep those and just invest in a nice shower head, but that's obviously pretty subjective!

  • Rawketgrl
    3 years ago

    Have 15-25K saved for this project. Pad with a bit more to mitigate the mold. I wish Sophie were here she would love this...

    Amanda R. thanked Rawketgrl
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    3 years ago

    Amen to all the above. And to repeat no help comes without a floor plan

    Amanda R. thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • Bruce in Northern Virginia
    3 years ago

    What is the age of your house? Based on the design, with high tiled walls, its probably from the 40's or 50's. In that time period they often used a cement base under the tile in a bathroom, which can be challenging if you are moving fixtures and drains. They basically built a wooden tray in between the floor joists, and then poured in a layer of cement (4"?) to support the tile. It makes demolition more complicated than just cutting new holes in wood underlayment.

    Bruce

    Amanda R. thanked Bruce in Northern Virginia
  • PRO
    HALLETT & Co.
    3 years ago
    As Bruce alludes to, plan on needing to re frame the entire floor system as the cut the joists shorter to allow for the concrete. 30k seems about right.

    Regarding the fan, it can usually go out the soffit if you have one or you can get a through wall fan. In my area codes require fans in all baths (I think that is national code now but can only speak for Georgia)
  • Nancy R z5 Chicagoland
    3 years ago
    I suggest this with great hesitation, because the current setup is charming. Have you considered replacing that window with a narrower one in a similar style, for example only one casement. that would solve your problem with the window being too close to the shower tub area, and it might open up a spot where you could put an exhaust fan. I'm assuming the bathroom is not on the front of the house.
    Amanda R. thanked Nancy R z5 Chicagoland
  • einportlandor
    3 years ago

    Amanda -- re: removing the tub. I wrestled with that issue too since there is only one bathroom in my house. In the end I decided to remodel the bathroom for my needs rather than a future owner who may or may not care.


    Another small, inexpensive change I made was to change the door swing to open on the other side. It required moving the light switch down a bit but it made a big difference. I also went with a shallow vanity. The sink cantilevers over the sink, and the countertop extends over the toilet. That set-up provides a desperately needed flat surface to set things down. Good luck with your project.

  • weedmeister
    3 years ago

    There was a time when one could find 48" double sinks. The sinks were small, like 12"-15", and the space between was narrow. Now I don't think they are around any more.

  • Helen
    3 years ago

    Depending on finishes and cost of living which varies tremendously, I would expect $15,000 to $30,000 for the project.


    If you don't take baths, get rid of the tub as a great walk in shower is far preferable for most people than a lousy tub/shower combo. Don't remodel for the mythical purchaser somewhere down the road because you are just as likely to find someone who has no need of a tub and prefers a great shower.


    I don't understand why would want double sinks in that small bathroom except that people seem to feel the need for double sinks. Are you really planning to use the sinks simultaneously in such a small space. My reality is that I need to stand in front of a sink for a relatively short period of time - when washing face; hands and brushing teeth. More counter space is far more functional.


    I just remodeled and removed the combo bath/tub. My experience is that you need a new drain for a shower because a shower drain is different than a bath/tub shower drain - or at least that is what I was told by the plumber who did the work. At any rate, my plumbing was old - the drains were sluggish and I was just as happy to get all new stuff rather than to have to deal with maintenance on elderly stuff that I had left in place. It's always cheaper to do things right when all the walls are open anyway.

  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Jan, thank you. My husband started drawing a floor plan up last night. I will share after I check his measurements. I agree, no DIY. I appreciate your comments about the longevity of tub surrounds -- I have never had one. I guess large tiles (less grout) is a way I could minimize the grout issue. Other suggestions are welcome.


    Bruce, The house was built in the late 30s/early 40s. That info you shared about the cement is very appreciated and also extremely frightening. Haha.


    einportlandor, that vanity sounds like a great solution. Was it custom made? Can you share pics?


    Weedmeister and Jan, please look at these and tell me if you still think 48" is too small. As I said in my post, I avoid visual clutter, so the only thing that lives on my vanity is hand soap (tooth brushes live in medicine cabinet). In the mornings, I just need to fit a hair straightener and cosmetic bag on the vanity while I'm getting ready.


    Fresca Oxford Gray 48" Double Sink Vanity


    Fresca Formosa 48 in. Modern Double Wall Hung Vanity in Warm Gray


  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Nancy, really interesting idea! I will definitely look into the smaller window/exhaust solution. Thanks!

  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Helen, thanks for your comments. The reality of our situation is that we are not sure if we are remodeling for ourselves or to sell. We live outside of the Pittsburgh city limits, and my husband is in the urban redevelopment and affordable housing field. He would like to live in the city in order to have a city job. (You have to live in the city to be a city employee here, so if he wanted to work for the Urban Redevelopment Association, we would need to be in the city.) The issue is that we are not interested in another fixer-upper -- and it is very expensive to buy in the city.


    Another wildcard here is that we are in the process to become certified to adopt. A year from now, I could have a toddler who needs a tub for baths. We have no idea what age child we will end up adopting. Another issue that we live in a very bad school district. That doesn't seem to affect resale in my particular neighborhood, though, because people who live here seem to prefer to send their kids to private school. (We do not intend on going that route, but there are some charter schools in the area with very good reputations... and long waiting lists.)


    We are getting financing to update the kitchen ($10-12K), the bathroom in the post above, and the second floor (cape cod) that hasn't been lived in for 35 years. (cheetah print wall paper in the bathroom!) I believe we will end up doing a cash out refinance of our first mortgage and have about $50K to do everything. If the economy is stable by the time we finish these renovations, we will try to sell the house if we can find something in the city we love and can afford. We got this house for a very good deal 10 years ago (under $140 K) -- so if we do the renovations the right way, we could probably make quite a bit of money to put towards an expensive place in the city. Then again, we may be on the precipice of another recession, and if that's the case, we won't be eager to sell until the economy recovers. Comps in my area are selling in the 200-300K range.

  • North Texan
    3 years ago

    Couple of things:

    1) Are you set on retaining the tub? I know the argument, but it's up to you. If you can replace the tub, a shower taking 2/3 of the current tub space, with a storage cabinet of lesser depth to add to toilet legroom and clear the window would work.

    2) Replacing the built-in tub with a standalone might slightly improve toilet legroom, but opens up more grout to clean in most configurations.

    3) Ignoring the tub issue, an offset flange would gain a couple of inches of space on the toilet, if moving the plumbing from below is a no go.

    4) A rectified ceramic plank floor would allow traction and reduce grout lines,especially with the larger format...however, the floor must be pretty level. Rectified, large format tiles would also work for the walls around the tub/shower.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Every last BIT OF THIS.......is idle conjecture, until the OP posts a drawing with every dimension,,,,,,,and THAT is idle conjecture, along with a better layout, until a contractor looks at the plumbing/ventilation situation, and the OP defines her budget.

    And in no way is the current set up "charming" or convenient, or to any current code. : )

  • Nancy R z5 Chicagoland
    3 years ago
    Hi, my comment about Charming was in reference to the window and the tile--not the bathroom as a whole. I can relate to this one as my main bathroom is also small with the same general layout. I also reversed the door swing. Recently, I came across a short compact toilet on another part of this website, that you might look into. This one is called the Woodbridge T-0031. I have no experience with it, but it caught my eye because I am thinking about a future renovation of a very small Powder Room.
  • Lyndee Lee
    3 years ago
    First, that bathroom looks to be well built with high quality materials and in good condition. Don't sacrifice a space which has aged so gracefully for a quick fix with lower end materials which will not age well. Do nothing and it will look virtually the same in another 10 to 15 years. Spend $10K or so now and then you will have to completely redo it again in another 10 years. Either spend $30K and do it to a comparable quality or just don't bother.

    It is relatively easy to move a toilet a short distance within the same joist cavity. So, find out which direction the joists run before proceeding
  • Amanda R.
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Thanks to everyone who weighed in. Here's the floor plan.


  • kudzu9
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Amanda-

    I've been thinking about this a bit more and my conclusion is that you should do very little to it. I say this because:

    1. It's going to be expensive and perhaps complicated to significantly redo it (and I'm not sure how much you would gain).

    2. You may be moving, and many potential buyers would love that retro bathroom as it is, particularly the tile.

    3. You may need a bathtub for the adoption if you stay.

    Having said that, I offer these possibilities which would be inexpensive, but make the bathroom more usable:

    1. Leave the toilet where it is, but replace it with a "corner" toilet, such as one of these: Corner toilet. This would give you much better side clearance when using the toilet.

    2. Get rid of the bulky, generic vanity and sink and replace it with a pedestal or wall hung sink, which would be much more in keeping with the original design and take up much less room. You could possibly even move the sink location a bit more toward the door, freeing up even more space for the toilet.

    These two changes would be inexpensive, relatively easy to do, and I doubt that you would need to even get a permit. The only other thing I can suggest is that you follow up on the idea of putting a through-the-wall exhaust fan in.

  • North Texan
    3 years ago

    Love the corner toilet idea.


    Second the not spending money on this bathroom.


    Where the one section of tile seems to have been removed, a nice, inexpensive vanity is still be best idea, although the backsplash is a concern.


    In summary, if it works, run with it, cause you will get nothing like your money spent out of a resale.

  • mainenell
    3 years ago
    I would do a regular tub with tile and put in a shower rod that is curved at the end to cover up the window. Maybe an L-shaped rod or a custom shape. The newer grouts are more stain resistant and you can use larger tiles that reduce the amount of grout. I think wall mount toilets have less depth than floor mount with a tank.
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    The "wildcard" is your finances and your life. Save, and do NOTHING right now. Never ever, ever bet on getting paid for reno you had to finance with loans...........and 50 k won't be enough. Truth. Not unless you plan free labor for all you just mentioned. ...........and......


    Unless you want to lose the five foot closet in the bedroom next door.

  • Lyndee Lee
    3 years ago
    If the likely buyer of your house is attracted to vintage houses, the original bathroom will just be considered part of the package. Updating the bathroom to a more modern streamlined look with minimal grout lines could be quite out of place in modest older house. You might be able to pull it off with marble look tiles and careful design, but it won't be cheap. Updating a vintage home for resale is a losing proposition...do it cheap, you turn off potential buyers, do it well and you may not get even half the price returned in resale value.