Why You Should Never Remove a Bathroom from a Home — And 1 Reason You Should

published Jul 9, 2023
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White bathroom door that overlooks the sink and toilet lit by the window.
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As a real estate writer, I usually maintain a strict “to each their own” philosophy regarding home improvement. It’s your house, your money, your rules.

However, when I got wind of relatives who were planning to remove a bathroom in the home they had just purchased, I nearly passed out.

Why would you remove a bathroom?

Now, I understand that bathroom remodeling can be pricey. According to Angi, the national average cost of a bathroom redo is $11,427 — but it can soar to upwards of $28,000 depending on the extent of the work and finishes chosen. 

Still, a small or outdated bathroom might still have good plumbing. And when it comes to standing out above the neighborhood comps, having that extra bathroom can come in clutch at resale.  

Granted, my relatives’ house was quite large, and there were other bathrooms. The one in question was off the kitchen — they wanted the space to add a pantry. Fair enough. Storage is important. But I knew far too many other homeowners lamenting their limited bathroom situations, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my relatives were doing their future selves a disservice when it came time for resale. 

I asked a few experts to weigh in on the situation. Here’s what they had to say.

The Argument for Keeping a Bathroom

“Unless you have a disproportionate amount of bathrooms to bedrooms, it’s never a good reason to remove a functioning bathroom from a home,” says Odest T. Riley Jr., president of WLM Financial, a real estate and lending firm. “In the modern world of personal time and space, no one wants to share a bathroom with their friends, family, or guests if it’s not absolutely necessary.”

It’s especially a bad idea to remove a bathroom when it means you’d be down to only one. 

“A functional bathroom, even one not functioning at its best, is definitely better to have in a home with only one or two others than not having it at all,” says Adie Kriegstein, a licensed real estate salesperson and founder of the NYC Experience Team at Compass. “It adds value to the home just having it already in place — especially in New York City, where extra bathrooms are hard to come by in smaller bedroom count residences.”

Jennifer Turano, a licensed real estate salesperson at Compass in Connecticut, says the location of the bathrooms can be as important as the number. In two-story homes, for example, many buyers will prefer a bathroom on the main floor for guests. If on the top floor, how many people will be sharing the same bathroom? She notes that ensuite baths are popular with buyers, as evidenced by new builds in her area featuring this floorplan.  

“If a bathroom already exists, you have the footprint and the plumbing ready to go,” says Turano. “Adding a new bathroom means you must figure out how to rework the plumbing to access that addition.”

Credit: Turnervisual/Getty Images

The Argument for Removing a Bathroom

While the number of bathrooms is often an important filter for homebuyers, it’s not always a bad idea to remove one depending on the situation, Turano explains.

“If a home is equipped with a sufficient number of bathrooms and a layout that is functional but is missing another critical feature, it could be advantageous to swap the bathroom and make room for another desirable space,” says Turano. 

Case in point: Recently, she took buyers to see a home in Connecticut that was missing a coat closet — a necessity given the frigid New England winters. “Because the home had more than enough bathrooms that worked for both residents and guests, their thought was to transform an extra entry powder room into a coat closet,” Turano says. Because the renovation would create needed space, she says “it wouldn’t be perceived as a negative.”

Turano offered another good swap for a bathroom on the main floor: a kitchen pantry. Turns out my relatives were savvy homeowners after all. 

Gagan Saini, director of acquisitions at JiT Home Buyers, agrees with the strategy. “Removing a bathroom may seem counterintuitive, but it can work wonders in homes with an awkward layout or ample existing bathrooms,” he says. He adds that creating a walk-in closet or — wait for it — expanding a kitchen “could add more value than an extra bathroom.”

Still, Saini says to carefully consider the implications of removing a bathroom in the grand scheme of your home. “Every home should have at least one full bathroom,” he says. “Consider renovation over removal if the bathroom is poorly functioning, as it’s usually less costly and less intrusive.”

And if a full bathroom renovation isn’t in the budget, Riley Jr. recommends homeowners consider a more modified upgrade. “It’s generally cheaper and smarter to use the same money you would spend to demolish a bathroom on creating a quick makeover and fix,” he says.