he half bath is a double agent. By definition, it is the official guest bathroom – “powder room,” if you will. Unofficially, the half bath poses as the family bathroom when no other amenities are needed. It is oftentimes found on the main floor which eliminates the issue of guests climbing all the way upstairs and going through bedrooms to use the restroom. There’s not much more than a sink, toilet, and door, nor does there need to be. It effortlessly serves its purpose – convenience.
Not only does the half bath save you some extra steps, it adds value to your home. If your home has an equal ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms then adding an extra half-bath increases your home’s value by 10%. If you have more bedrooms than bathrooms then this percentage is even larger.
Naturally, the half bath is an asset, but it can quickly become a hindrance if you find yourself with a non-functional, unsightly, and embarrassing room in your otherwise beloved home. Despite being such a small space in the home, having an outdated or cramped half bath can have a big impact on how the home is experienced by you and your guests. Rest assured, your problem can be remedied – that's what we’re here for!
In order to make a small bath have a big impact without knocking down walls and emptying your bank account, you need to think smarter not harder. Be tactful with your choices in colors, fixtures, and amenities, and you will be amazed with the results. If you're not yet sure what all of that means, we will get there. As of now, we are just skimming the surface but by the end of this article you will be an expert!
The Half Bath Renovation Secret Formula
Whether you're DIYing or hiring a licensed contractor, you're going to want to be familiar with the ins and outs of bathroom makeovers. Every renovation is different, but in general it will look something like this:
Demo: Get ready to blow off some steam. Skip the gym and instead take a sledgehammer to your bathroom. Out with the old and in with the new!
Plumbing and electric: If it’s necessary, your next step will be to replace or change any plumbing and electric to accommodate your new appliances.
Tile and paint: This one’s self explanatory – tile is laid and the walls are painted.
Installation: This is where the new light fixtures, vanity, sink, and toilet come in.
Final décor touches: Last but not least, add your final touches – a glass vanity tray, a piece of art, decorative flowers, whatever your heart desires.
How Much Does Renovating a Half Bath Cost?
Before we get in too deep, let’s talk about what’s really on your mind – money. At this point, you may be doubting whether a half bath remodel is even a feasible option for you.
Let’s begin with the bad news. Unfortunately, a half bath remodel is not half the price of a full bath remodel. Although the size difference can be drastic, in reality a half bath is only a shower or tub away from being labeled a full bath. And, if you have a penchant for high-end fixtures, you could be looking at a bill that is comparable to the average full bath renovation.
According to a 2021 study by Home Advisor, the average small bathroom remodel prices in at around $6,500. Now, before you go and click the “X” in the right hand corner, hear us out. $6,500 may be the average price, but the half bath remodel can go for as low as $1,500 and as high as $15,000 or more. Who or what is responsible for this steep deviation in costs? The culprit are these several variables:
Where you live.
The price for materials and contracting can vary based on where you live so in order to get a more precise estimate, try out a handy calculator tool.
Where you’re shopping.
Are you shopping for fixtures at Rejuvenation and Perigord or are you browsing Home Depot and Amazon? Your answer makes all the difference – in pricing, that is.
How you’re shopping.
Are you pursuing the aisle for a chrome faucet with manual handles or are you eyeing an Italian brass faucet inspired by a renowned Italian architect? Are you hunting for sales or just looking aimlessly? Again, the distinction is significant. If you go for low-end fixtures with DIY labor, you’re looking at $70 per square foot, but if you use a licensed contractor and high-end fixtures you’re looking at $250 per square foot – which leads us into our next economic variable.
To DIY or not to DIY.
This is going to come down to your capabilities and your timeline. Obviously, DIY is a great way to save money and feel an extra sense of pride when the bathroom is finished. But, plumbing and electric can be tricky if you’ve never done it before, not to mention that the repercussions of doing it wrong are high – as in a very high price for a do-over. If you feel comfortable with some parts of the renovation but less comfortable with other parts, you can find a local contractor who is willing to split the work with you.
There are many contractors who are happy and willing to split the job with skilled and eager DIYers at a discounted price so long as you are upfront from the start on what each of your roles is. Don’t hire a contractor to come in and then decide at the last minute to take on another part of the renovation – you don’t want to waste their time. Rather, if you are for instance, comfortable with demolition, laying tile, and painting, you can get the demolition started, have a professional do the installations, and complete the finishing touches yourself - the cherry on top so to speak.
(P.S. If you want our personal recommendation for the best licensed contractors in Pittsburgh, you can find them here).
Now, to get to the good stuff…
How to Give Your Small Half Bath a Big Personality
Step 1: Steer clear of vanity’s
Yes, they’re really pretty. But, you don’t need it and we’re about to tell you why you shouldn’t want it. Vanities take up a ton of space, something that you don’t have. To compensate for the storage you’ll lose when you install a pedestal sink instead of a vanity, hang a couple of floating shelves. They’re a great accent to an otherwise bare wall, are perfect for small spaces, and there are so many creative ways to top them. After all, the majority of your toiletries will be stored in your full - personal - bathroom. All you really need is some soap, lotion, towels, and maybe a couple of decorative accents. An added bonus of opting for the pedestal sink is that they tend to be cheaper, as cabinetry usually comes at a steeper price.
Step 2: Learn to love light colors
The amazing thing about light is that it can be manipulated to work for you, not against you. Dark colors tend to exacerbate the tightness of small spaces. In contrast, light colors - white, ivory, cream, gray, or blue - open up a room. Light reflects off of lighter colored walls unlike dark walls which absorb light. This reflective property of light works like an optical illusion, making a space feel open and airy. Cool colors in particular radiate a sense of open space in contrast to warmer colors which are cozy and embracing.
One trick you could use is making your crown molding or trim lighter than the walls. This gives the false appearance that the walls are farther back than they really are. If you don’t have crown molding or trim, you can customize the walls and floors to match closely in order to blur the sharp edges and corners of the room, further enlarging the space. What you don’t want is a lot of contrast – dark red walls, black thick-framed art, and white trimming - which will break up the space and be jarring compared to using tones that blend together well.
It’s not an exact science nor is it magic, but it is a fairly soundproof technique. If you find yourself having a hard time pulling together the elements you need to make color work for you, think of a room you have been in that felt spacious – What did it look like? Let that guide you.
Step 3: Choose your lighting carefully.
Similar in concept to the color effect, rooms tend to look and feel larger if they are well-lit. If your half bath has a window then fantastic, but many don’t. To compensate for this, pick light bulbs with a soft natural hue. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in the car and you pull the sun visor down to use the mirror, your reflection is extremely vivid as if you're seeing your reflection with the highest resolution humanly possible? Or, maybe you only take your selfies in the car because you get the best lighting, the most clear lighting. That is living proof that sunlight is the superior light with its rays that warm you, energize you, shoot happiness into you, and paint the world beautiful. It then goes without saying that this is the kind of light you want to incorporate into your half bath where you want to look good, feel good, and see good. For that reason, we strongly recommend using a halogen bulb in your new bathroom.
They are the closest mankind has come to artificially manufacturing the sun, they can be dimmed, they’re energy efficient, and they make colors appear sharper and clearer. They do tend to burn at a higher temperature and be more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but you get what you pay for.
Now that you’ve chosen your bulb - or at least considered it - you can begin to think about the best part, light fixtures! This is the part where you get to be creative, incorporate your sense of style, and browse a plethora of options. As you try to narrow down your search, eliminate fixtures that are too large or hang too low as it may take away from your efforts to maximize the half bath.
If you don’t want anything hanging at all, what you could do is add extra recessed lighting. If you liked the previous tip on using color to blur lines, another trick we have up our sleeve is this: install a wall sconce that specifically directs light upward. This will blend the line between wall and ceiling, creating the illusion that the ceiling is higher than it is.
Step 4: Operation Get More Mirrors
Given everything you’ve just learned, you might have already put this one together. Mirrors, much like colors, reflect light. What you want to do is get a large mirror that is either frameless or has a thin frame. Remember, you’re buying the mirror for the mirror itself not the frame. A chunky frame will distract from the bright open room. Also, keep in mind that flow and reflection are your friend. If you get a set of small, broken up mirrors - while very cute - will also break up your attempt at a seamless, open room. Lastly, anytime you have the chance to hang a mirror, especially in a tight space, hang the largest one that will fit.
Step 5: Ditch Your Door
No, we’re not encouraging you to open up your half-bath to the rest of the house and abandon all sense of privacy. You could, however, trade in your standard door for a pocket door, or sliding door. The advantage of doing so is increased space and small-space compatibility. A standard door has a swing around range that renders a decent amount of space, useless. That space could be used for a small bathroom caddy, toilet paper holders, shelves, or even to stand.
The other problem that the standard door poses deals with functionality. In most - but not all - half bathrooms the sink is immediately inside the door. This means you have to make sure to find a thin rug to place in front of the sink or else your door will be blocked from opening and closing properly. We don’t want you to have to choose between your door and your rug.
Decor That Will Make Your Half Bathroom Look Like It Came Out Of A Catalog
Now that you’ve got the backbone of your half-bath, it is time to bring it all to life with the last finishing touches. You may be thinking: how can I elevate the style of my half bath without overdoing it or causing clutter? We’ve got your back. With these tips, you can strike the perfect balance of livable and beautiful:
One option is to install a shiny gold or copper colored hand towel bar and sink faucet. Your bathroom will instantly look expensive even though you can purchase these accents for a relatively affordable price.
Keeping your bathroom neutral is ideal, but add a pop of your favorite color somewhere. This color could be added through hand towels, bath rugs, wall art, decorative flowers, you name it. The best part is, if you’re tired of it in a few months it can easily be replaced.
Try out an accent wall with whatever color or patterned wallpaper suits your taste. For example, a funky wallpaper behind the sink - maybe a stacked stone accent wall - could have guests paying you endless compliments.
As you can see, the amount of space you have to work with on a remodel does not limit the wonders you can do to reinvent a room. Neither does a budget if you set your mind to it, get creative, and cut costs any way you can – and we know you can. Regardless of why you're on the market for a new half bathroom, we believe you deserve the bathroom you want especially if this has been on your mind for months or even years. So get to planning, talk to the experts, take from our tips what you may, and good luck!