House-hunting: what signs can I look for to know if a second bath is possible?

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Toronto-Teri, Apr 27, 2006.

  1. Toronto-Teri

    Toronto-Teri New Member

    Apr 27, 2006
    Hi there- I'm a newbie so please be gentle! My husband and I are looking for a home (first-time home buyers). The area we like is full of older homes (early 1900s) and often have only a single bath. We would like to know when we look at the houses whether it is possible to add a second bathroom to them. Are there things we can look for that would help determine the feasibility of this? Or are there "right questions" that we could ask. It's a competitive market and so there is usually little time or opportunity to ask for professional advice before committing to a purchase.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    That's a tough one. If you want to spend enough money, you can usually put one in anywhere; it's just sometimes it is much easier (therefore cheaper) than others ($$$).

    How far away is the nearest hot/cold water supply lines? Where are the vents located? How deep are the joists, and which way to they run relative to where the current drain lines go. How thick are the walls, and are you willing to tear them up to install a new vent? Is the new bath on the second floor where venting might be easier, or do you have to go through 1-2-3? floors worth of walls to do it.

    Sometimes, you can't tell until you tear things apart. It is sometimes easier on the first floor, if you have a full basement. If it is on a slab, almost always will require breaking concrete (not necessarily hard, but depends on how much and how deep you then need to go).

    If in the basement, or on-grade slab, is there any indication how deep the sewer line goes out to the street? If it is not burried a foot or two, then you probably won't have enough slope to run new drain lines without a sewage pump (to be avoided if possible). But, again, all possible if you want to spend the money and tear things up enough.

    So, there is often no easy answer...
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  4. oldhouse

    oldhouse New Member

    Feb 28, 2006
    having done this several times...

    I will tell you everything I look at. jadnashua hit most of the stuff already.
    First thing is what kind of houses you are looking at. ranch homes on slabs can be tough and will require breaking concrete most times (something I don't do).
    Most of the houses I have done are two story victorians with basements that allow good access underneath.
    First floor powder rooms in a house such as this can be put almost anywhere, as the new plumbing can be run from underneath. You must watch out for where you are going to put you venting though.
    As for second floor baths keep the following in mind:
    1) you need supply lines- This is usually fairly simple to do given there small diameter and the flexibilty of PEX. Bath layout doesn't matter much because 1/2" lines can be put through floor joists without much effort.
    2) you need drain lines- This will need to be 3"PVC. If you find a room in the second floor you'd like to make a bath, figure out how you will get 3"PVC down to the basement. Thick interior walls for this can sometimes be tough to find. You can be creative though and 'steal' an unused corner of the 1st floor room under the bath to 'box-in' the drain/waste line and the supplies. You also need to consider the layout of the Bath as getting the drain line from one area to another can be difficult with the floor joists. Keep in mind if the Flooring you see in a room is tongue and groove planks, the floor joists most likely run oposite of them.
    3) You need vent lines- perhaps most often forgotten. If you are building new walls with the bath it is usually easy to run the vents up the new walls and into the attic then up through the roof. again pay attention to planned layout as it can help or hinder where you put all of this.

    Finally- no matter what you see and plan for early on, add about 1/4 or so to the budget for the unforseen problems that WILL, not may, occur. If you end up with money left over, throw a big party and invite everyone that helped on the project and the forum members here too :) if you don't plan on running into problems.... well just make sure to plan for them :)

    Hopefully that helps some. If you have more questions let us know.
  5. Toronto-Teri

    Toronto-Teri New Member

    Apr 27, 2006
    This is great - thanks

    Very useful - thanks so much. The house we had our eye on this week is an 1892 Victorian Row House: 2 stories plus loft. Aesthetic and design-wise, I thought I had found a great spot for an ensuite bath on the second floor, but based on your comments that seems tricky. There is a serious lack of walls on the first floor (very open concept!) to plumb through to the basement and similarily the loft upstairs is tricky too. Perhaps a bit too big of an undertaking for a first-time home buyer! :eek:

  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    As my dad used to say, "Anything is possible if you have enough money and time." So you have to ask yourself a few questions.
    1. Is this the ideal house, with or without the new bathroom?
    2. Would it be a better house with the added bathroom?
    3. Is there an ideal spot that is a "natural" place to put the bathroom?
    4. Will you have extra funds after purchasing the house to pay for the bathroom?
    If your answer to ALL of these is yes, then buy the house and contact a general contractor to draw the plans, and install, the bath.

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