Q: I recently bought an old home that has a “split” bathroom – the toilet is in one small closet-size room, the lavatory and tub in a slightly larger adjacent room.

Because both rooms are very cramped, I’m interested in taking the wall between the two rooms down and having a nice, good-size bathroom.

I spoke to a real estate agent about this, and she told me that if I took the wall down, I’d be lucky to get half of my costs back in a future sale. Do you agree with her opinion?

I have an estimate from a contractor of $4,000 for taking down the wall, Sheetrocking over one door, retiling the floor and other finishing work.

A: We wholeheartedly disagree with your agent’s assessment. Space in old homes is at a premium. Anything you can do to increase the sense of spaciousness in your bathroom can only add value.

We believe you will easily recoup the $4,000 you spend and then some, especially if you’re not looking to sell the home in the near future.

As we’ve mentioned in past columns, Kevin was a real estate broker as well as a construction man when he lived in California. Over the course of his real estate career he discovered some surefire ways to add value to a home.

The first truism, of course, is the familiar “location, location, location.” But a close second, we think, is “clean and nice commands the best price.”

Kitchens and bathrooms, in that order, are the two most important rooms to improve to add value for resale.

We’ve seen the type of bathroom/water closet setup you describe. Three words usually describe them – small, cramped and dark.

By all means tear down that wall. A $4,000 contractor’s bill seems reasonable, too. It sounds as if you’ll get more space, a new tile floor and some miscellaneous trim work for the money.

Once the dust clears, do not overlook the decorating. We’d suggest upgrading to new faucets and light fixtures.

Pay attention to the painting and decorating and other incidentals, like towel bars. Tastefully chosen decorating will ensure that your “new” bath fetches the maximum increase in value.

We have been faced with similar bathroom upgrades in every home we’ve owned. Although neither of us ever had to deal with the toilet in a separate room, we have had to rearrange small, outdated bathrooms to make them more attractive and user-friendly.

Our solutions ranged from Bill sealing off a doorway and eliminating a tub in favor of a roomy shower in a small Craftsman-style home to Kevin sacrificing a tiny bedroom to create a luxurious bath in an 1879 Victorian.

We’ve even gone the other way. In a 1950s rancher Bill owned in Hayward, Calif., the master bath had three sinks. We eliminated one and added a wall and door to separate the shower and commode from the vanities.

In every instance, the money spent on the upgrade was returned many times over. So our advice is to get the sledgehammer out, knock down that wall and let the renovation begin.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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