The Power of Powder Rooms: Should You Create a Half-Bathroom if Your Home Doesn’t Have One?

Half-bathrooms—or powder rooms, as they’re often called—have been around since Colonial times. In fact, powder rooms got their name because, in the 18th century, it was a discreet place where one could go to powder one’s wig.

Today, they’re a standard amenity in many homes—but instead of powdering our wigs in there, we powder our noses or otherwise freshen up. Plus, it’s more convenient to let guests use a half-bathroom than to let them invade a bedroom on the way to its attached bath.

Powder rooms are high in demand for prospective buyers. The National Association of Home Builders reports that adding a half-bath to your home increases the value of an average home by 10%. So if you don’t have a half-bathroom, you might be wondering: Should I create one?

For homeowners who are ready and willing to take on a remodel, squeezing a half-bath into your living space can be tricky. But most designers and real estate agents believe it’s worth it—especially if you’re thinking of listing your property down the line.

But should you give up that one hall closet or carve out part of your dining room? We asked experts what to consider before swapping spaces to create a powder room.

Evaluate your home’s existing value

It can cost thousands of dollars to add a bathroom, so figure out your property’s value and compare its features with those in nearby homes, says Libby Levinson, a Realtor® and a broker associate with Kentwood Real Estate Cherry Creek in Denver.

“Generally speaking, it adds a lot of value,” says Levinson. “One of the first homes I ever sold had a bathroom in a former coat closet. Depending on how it’s done, it adds a lot of charm, so I think it makes a lot of sense so long as you’ve got the room to do it.”

Take advantage of nooks and crannies.

Powder rooms don’t have to be huge—some can be as tiny as 32 inches wide by 5 feet deep.

So before you dismiss the idea of putting in a powder room, consider where there’s unused space in your home.

“A lot of homes have weird, funky little nooks,” says Levinson.

In addition to a coat closet, one great space to consider is underneath a staircase (although that might require moving the stairs). Sometimes, a powder room can be hidden behind a pocket door, saving precious space by not swinging the door into the hallway.

Consider where your pipes run.

You may want to turn your coat closet or other alcoves into a bathroom, but that may not be possible, says John Mazurek, a Realtor and leader of the Mazurek Team at Douglas Elliman in Brooklyn, NY.

“It’s something you have to really plan out with an architect or someone like me who’s done it before,” explains Mazurek, also a former contractor and home builder.

“The big concern is always the waste line for the toilet because it’s a big 4-inch pipe, and if your closet is on the opposite side from where your main sewer line is, you have to open the ceiling downstairs and figure out which way the joists run or how you’re going to run the sewer line from one side of your house,” he continues.

Just to run plumbing and waste lines, you’re looking at $4,000 to $5,000, Mazurek says—” and that hasn’t bought you a fixture or a piece of tile.”

Be smart about your potential powder room location

After verifying what’s possible in plumbing, think about whether a powder room actually fits in the space you’re considering.

“One of the biggest feedback items I get … is when there’s a powder room or full bathroom right off the kitchen,” Levinson says. “Most people think that’s gross. They don’t want to hear the toilet flushing while they’re making dinner.”

If the kitchen is the only possible spot, put the half-bath on a wall with the pantry and not near cooking or eating areas.

Without a closet, you’ll need creative storage solutions

Sacrificing a closet to create your half-bath means finding another spot to stash coats, boots, and other outdoor gear. Luckily, there are lots of versatile design options for vertical mudrooms, says Levinson.

“I see umbrella stands and free-standing coat racks come into favor again, and people are also getting more creative by using their wall space for storage to hide jackets and boots,” she says.

“In Colorado, because we have all four seasons, people will store their coats (in other) closets or fold them up and put them under the bed until the seasons you need them,” Levinson adds. “So it’s not necessarily a negative to remove that closet and use it for a bathroom because there are other spaces and solutions.”

Putting in a half-bathroom isn’t always the answer

Sometimes you need to think twice before swapping out a closet and investing big bucks in a half-bath, says Levinson.

“The only time I wouldn’t suggest doing it is if somebody is already purchasing at the top of the price range within that neighborhood because that could be the loss of an investment or potential equity that just may not be there,” she explains.

Mazurek also stresses the need for discretion.

“If privacy can’t be created in a way that’s convincing architecturally, that might be the only reason not to have a bathroom on the parlor floor,” he says.


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