What is a Half Bath?

Building a powder room provides convenience and privacy, and fits in most small spaces

half bath with graphic wallpaper

(Above) Designer Shana Sandberg designed a powder room for this Sweeten project

A half bath is a small version of a bathroom often located near a guest room or foyer. It provides guests with bathroom facilities, but is not intended for bathing. Its size measures about half the size of a full bathroom and will not include a bathtub or shower. 

Space saving is a popular feature of half baths, so builders do what they can to preserve the floor area. For example, many builders hang a door backwards so that it swings out, instead of into, the bathroom. Pocket doors are also space-savers.

Sweeten answers questions on dimensions, cost, and the design of this functional and convenient room.

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Popular questions

A half bath is a bathroom with a sink and toilet, but no bathing facility like a bathtub or shower. They can appear anywhere in a home, but most are located in or near the foyer and are generally intended for guest use. For comparison, a full bath will include a toilet, sink, and shower, but no bathtub. Sometimes this is also considered a three-quarter bath.

The size of a half bath is not set in stone. Although building codes do not require a half bath to have specific square footage, most do require specific clearances. For example, the room must be at least 30” wide and maintain 21” from the sink to the toilet. Moreover, the door must allow for the same height clearance as other doors, which is 80”. If it needs to be wheelchair accessible, the door width should be increased to 36”.

A typical project would cost $6,000+ for a budget grade, $7,000+ for mid-grade, and $11,500+ for a high-end remodel. Keep in mind that the cost in metropolitan areas tends to be 15%–25% higher. 

Any bathroom regardless of size will require access to fresh air, but not always from an exhaust fan. Building codes require any room with a toilet or bathtub to have some form of air exchange. In most homes, this is done with an exhaust fan. However, if the space already includes an openable window, an exhaust fan is not required. Obviously, this will not apply to half baths without an exterior wall. To be effective, exhaust fans must be capable of exchanging 50 cubic feet of air per minute, or more. 

Installing a half bath is a smart move

A half bath can be retrofitted almost anywhere a 2”–3” drain pipe is accessible within 10 feet. Normally, a toilet would require a soil drain pipe (3” or larger) to be located in a very specific location. New technology, like macerating toilets, eliminates this need by pumping the waste out. Discuss with your contractor if your site can accommodate this.

Other costs to consider

A few factors will affect the cost of adding a half bath, like the location of the plumbing. Likewise, ductwork or electrical wires may need to be relocated to make room for drain pipes or electrical wiring. Second-floor half-bath projects will often cost more than first-floor installations because access to the floor is limited. 

Other factors, like which space is being converted will also affect the total cost. For example, converting a room like a laundry or utility room will often cost less because the plumbing is nearby. Adding a half bath to a basement renovation, however, can significantly inflate the cost. Being below grade will require additional appliances like a macerating toilet or sump pump to operate.  

The half bath project that requires the least amount of modification will be the most cost-effective. For instance, installing one where there is an existing window will save the cost and labor of an exhaust fan. Installing a macerating toilet will eliminate the need for expensive plumbing modifications. Other measures, like reusing the existing floor covering will also add to the return on investment.

Some return on investment

With home values going up, now is a great time to add one which doesn’t require a lot of square footage. Technology has made the project easier than ever to build and afford. It requires few materials, but provides both convenience and comfort. In the end, adding a half bath can not only make life easier, but put a few dollars in your pocket as well.

A note on fixture and appliance deliveries: If you’re on a tight timeline, Appliances Connection has over 50,000 items in stock and ready to ship nationally. If you’re in the NY/NJ metro area, in-stock items typically deliver within 2-3 days.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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