7 Problems to Consider When Adding an Attic Bathroom

adding an attic bathroom

Photo by Flickr user MissChatter.

The attic provides excellent potential for home expansion that creates useful living. A bathroom is one of the popular solutions. However, unlike remodeling the place for an attic bedroom, work station, or storage space, adding an attic bathroom requires some important considerations to think through. A well-planned attic bathroom can increase the resale value of your home, but one that is inadequately planned and improperly built can become a nightmare. As such, it would be advisable to consider the following before adding an attic bathroom.

space in the attic

Photo by Flickr user Roger Mommaerts.

Do You Have the Required Space for an Attic Bathroom?

Building codes and their enforcement vary from place to place, but in general most require that at least half of the finished part of an attic must be seven feet high at a minimum and have a minimum width of seven feet, with a total minimum of 70 square feet. Dormers, skylights, and other modifications may be useful in resolving height problems.

Where Will the Plumbing Go and How Much Will it Cost?

The cost will largely depend on how close you can run the necessary plumbing for the new bathroom to the home's existing plumbing. For that reason, you want to place an attic bathroom above an existing bathroom or your kitchen to minimize the distance between the existing plumbing and the new lines. This both reduces costs and limits the amount of wall damage that must occur when installation occurs. It is preferable to run the new drain and supply lines all the way to the crawl space or basement to properly vent sewer gases and obtain optimal water pressure.

Where Will the Plumbing Go and How Much Will it Cost?

Photo by Flickr user njvack.

Are Your Attic Floor Joists Strong Enough to Support Bathroom Fixtures?

Bathroom fixtures are heavy objects. Their individual weights are hefty and together are a significant strain on floor joists. If the current joists will not be strong enough to support a bathtub, vanity, shower stall, or a toilet, then they will need to be replaced. Attic activity also causes noise that is audible in the rooms below. While checking and boosting the strength of the floor joists, consider filling the bays with dense blown-in insulation for soundproofing benefits.

attic floor joists

Photo by Flickr user Marshall Astor.

How to Get Materials to the Attic Construction Site

Once your project begins, you must measure your chosen fixtures carefully, then measure your halls, stairs, and all doorways, particularly the attic doorway, to be sure you and you contractors can get these heavy materials into the attic for the job. Entrances to attics tend to be fairly small and may need some enlarging in order to begin the project. Consider using a fiberglass claw-foot tub, as it has a smaller footprint when fitting into a bathroom space and is easier to carry than other bathtubs.

Gaining Some Extra Headroom in Your Attic Bathroom

Adding a dormer space in the bathroom can create an area with more headroom in which to place the sink or a vanity and create a more comfortable standing space for users. You may also gain headspace by installing a skylight. Because its installation cuts into the rafters, the skylight space adds several inches above the sink or a toilet tucked into the eaves and decreases the chance of users bumping their heads.

head room in attic

Photo by Flickr user mollystevens.

How to Control the Climate of Your Attic Space

Home attics tend to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Before installing the bathroom's ceiling, spend the extra money to use spray-foam roof insulation as it forms a much tighter air barrier than fiberglass battens against the roof, which is the home's major outlet of heat gain and loss. It also takes less space, allowing for a few more inches of precious headspace. In addition, install a ceiling fan in the bathroom to keep cool air moving in warm months. Flip the fan's switch and it pushes warm air down in winter to keep you warm.

more spacious attic

Photo by Flickr user Morten Skogly.

Feeling Claustrophobic in the Attic Bathroom

Even the smallest attic spaces can feel large and airy if carefully decorated with comfort and light in mind. First, consider using bead board tongue-and-groove panels on the ceiling and paint them a light, breezy color. This protects the low ceiling from getting dents from head bumps. The light color makes the ceiling appear higher. Next, recessed LED lighting fixtures inset into the ceiling with insulation installed safely around them leave a flat ceiling surface yet provide excellent light. Last, even the tiniest space feels bigger when everything in it is white or a lighter color.

The goal for any addition to your home is to add a space that is comfortable, enjoyable, and a benefit to the value of house. Your attic bathroom, when carefully designed and constructed with quality materials by skilled contractors, will meet that goal.


Author Bio: Kal Elfarro is the Senior Project estimator for Ottawa General Contractors. He comes from a family of three generations of construction experience, from building custom homes, to designing homes and, of course, home renovations.

Kal Elfarro

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