Fixing Houses: Create Space in Bathrooms Without Tearing Down Walls

Some rehabbers don’t mind tearing up a house to make it fit into a desirable area. For instance, many older homes in Los Angeles get torn down to the foundation with just a few walls left. However, most rehabbers like to update a home with new fixtures and features without tearing into the house. Plus, many houses just won’t turn a profit with too much reconstruction. One way to update an older home is to make bathrooms feel larger.

Bathrooms have been steadily increasing in size over the past thirty years, and today’s average bathroom is twice as large as bathrooms of the 1970s. However, bathrooms can be difficult to expand in existing houses without knocking down walls. There are some ways you can create a more spacious look and feel, without bringing in the sledge hammers.

For instance, you can save some space by installing a smaller bathtub, since tubs are traditionally the largest fixture in the bathroom. Modern shorter five-foot tubs take up less floor space than older longer tubs. New tubs often are not as tall and make the ceiling appear higher. A new bathtub makes a good impression on home buyers, especially if your bathroom has a cast iron tub filled with chips and stains.

Although it won’t technically save space, you can also help create an illusion of spaciousness by topping your tub’s side wall with a simple, unadorned shower curtain. Large patterns on shower curtains tend to overwhelm a smaller bathroom and make it feel less spacious. Stay with a clear curtain or match the wall color to further enhance the open feel.

You can also gain some floor space by replacing the sink cabinet with a pedestal style. You’ll lose some cabinet space, but you can usually more than make up for that loss by hanging a cabinet above the toilet. You can also save space by adding a sink that mounts directly to the wall. If you like having your sink in a cabinet, consider putting it into a smaller cabinet. There are dozens to choose from, in any color and style you might want, at your local home improvement center.

If you’re handy, you can opt for an antique cabinet or chest instead of the usual bathroom cabinet. Look for small chests at second hand stores and paint in your target buyer’s preferred colors. You may need to reconfigure the upper drawers for the plumbing. Top with a solid surface countertop; the small piece won’t cost much compared to the dramatic impact it provides. You can finish with a vessel sink which sits on the counter for a great updated look.

The toilet can also be replaced with a smaller, more efficient style. New toilets generally have a smaller footprint and aren’t as tall as older toilets, which will allow you to get an even larger cabinet for hanging over the toilet.

The easiest way to add the illusion of space is with a new mirror, especially if you have an old small medicine chest above the sink — the type with a stainless steal frame. These old-fashioned medicine cabinets really date a home. Replace with a mirror spanning the wall all the way up to the ceiling. Or, look for an extra large framed mirror and paint the frame to match your décor.

When you stage your bathroom, use towels to add softness to the hard space. Don’t use a lot of little pictures on the walls; they create a cluttered look and make the space feel smaller.

You don’t have to bring in a wrecking crew to create the look and feel of a larger bathroom. It just takes some imagination and some relatively simple upgrades, at a price that’s significantly less than tearing down walls!


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