It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a dilemma I’m familiar with. The photo above is one corner of my main floor bathroom, the one that guests will use when I’m entertaining. It’s not my favorite room in the house, but it stays the way it is because it is in excellent condition, and I can’t really justify the cost of renovation in practical terms, but mostly because my husband loves it–and I love my husband.
When other homeowners ask me if they should renovate their bathroom I have two different answers, based on the situation of that homeowner. First come the questions:
- Why do you think you should renovate? Is it because you want to list the house for sale next Spring? Is it because it’s old and tired and nothing works for you and your family? Is it because your sister-in-law told you that not keeping your bathroom up-to-date will hurt your resale value?
- What is your budget for renovation? Will you have to take out a second or third mortgage to pay for updates? Will you borrow money from your parents? Will you dip into savings?
- Does the existing bathroom fit in with the rest of the house? What about after renovating, will it fit in then? Will it at least fit in with the plan for other renovations?
Then comes the practical advice: do what works for you, what you will enjoy, and what you can afford for the use of your family while you still own the house. Don’t try to anticipate what some future owner will want, don’t try to please your sister-in-law or the neighbors. Even though kitchen and bath renovations have the highest payoff of any home remodeling project, they still rarely have a 100% payoff. That means that if you’re going to sell your home in the next year or two, you should not borrow a boatload of money to make a top-of-the-line bathroom redo.
However, if you plan to stay in your home another ten years, and you’ve dreamed your whole life of a luxurious master bath, then I say go for it! Save up the money, put in some sweat equity–even if it’s demolition- and make your dreams come true. Bring on the whirlpool jets and heated towel racks! Choose the most beautiful tile you can find. Find a good plumber to put in the best fixtures you can afford.
If you’re selling this year or next, then focus on making your existing bathroom the cleanest and most functional it can be without having to invest a large amount of money. Focus on work you can do yourself, like cleaning the grout and resealing tilework and on safety issues like GFCI outlets. Try not to stress too much about the color of the tile–you may hate the pink & black tile work but that doesn’t mean potential buyers will. I’ve known sellers to rip out a vintage bath only to have buyers complain that the new bath “lacked charm” and didn’t fit the style of the home.
Tell me about your bathroom–what drives you nuts? What is the best investment you ever made in a bath–the worst? What’s the difference between old and ugly?