How do you fit a half bath in a narrow row house?

26 Replies

Hello BP,

I have been looking at investing in North Philadelphia (Fishtown, Port Richmond, etc) and one thing I quickly learned is that most of these older row houses do not have a half bath on the first floor. I also see that a majority of these houses fit in two categories:  

a)the stairs to the second floor are against one of the long walls near the front door

or b) the stairs stick out from the wall perpendicular separating the living room space from the rest of the house (kitchen, dining room). These homes and lot are usually within 14 to 15 ft wide and 50 to 60 ft long. 

Did not find much on BP about the subject, so figured I'd start a discussion on it. Where and how would you add the half bath in the first floor in these style homes

- What if this was a complete gut and you could have a clean slate, where would you add it? 

- What if this is a small remodel and you are trying to keep costs down, while still getting that half bath in?

- What other variables or specifics would you need to be able to give a good answer?

Here are one of the examples I've found that I like the most if the layout of the house allows for it:

Is there room under the stairs?  In the past I have seen some older homes where the toilet is set to the low side of the stairs and the sink to the back near the high side of the stairs with a door to the half bath coming out perpendicular to the stairs.

Under stairs and reduce storage room under stairs.

@Mauricio Botero

Are you gutting it?  

Where’s the property located?   I live in the areas you’re investing in

@Bart H.  Let's say yes, there is room under the stairs. I've seen very few examples of that, but do like the idea. Although, I do not think I like the idea of the airplane-sized bathroom for 2017. I'm all about future proofing my rental properties.

@Chris Purcell This was a theoretical question. But in my case, I am looking for properties that would be gutted for an almost-new construction result. Looking in Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Kensington, Port Richmond/Richmond.

@Manolo D. Thanks! 

You put it where the side window is.. build out into the yard,,, that is most people have placed it in Philly row homes. 

I would definitely talk with a contractor. He'll likely make a recommendation once he sees where the pipes/plumbing are to keep costs down as well. 

Originally posted by @Bart H. :
Originally posted by @Chris Purcell:

@Manolo D. @Bart Hedgcock

Not seeing how that would work

 Something like this:

I’m actually doing a rehab right now where I need this layout.  Thank you sir!!

Is there a minimum height above that toilet for code purposes?

@Mauricio Botero

New and “almost new” are night and day down here.  New construction down here is absurdly priced, and there’s a huge difference in the comps

Originally posted by @Chris Purcell :
Originally posted by @Bart Hedgcock:
Originally posted by @Chris Purcell:

@Manolo D. @Bart Hedgcock

Not seeing how that would work

 Something like this:

I’m actually doing a rehab right now where I need this layout.  Thank you sir!!

Is there a minimum height above that toilet for code purposes?

I hope I was able to help.

I have no idea what is required height for code.  I suspect that it will vary from city to city.  I just thought of a possible half bath solution for the OP.  Let me know how it goes.

I grew up in port Richmond row homes. Usually the stairs to the 2nd floor are directly above the stairs to the basement. Therefore, if you wanted to put a 1/2 bath under the stairs you would also have to relocate the stairs to the basement.

I have seen 1/2 baths put in at the back of the house, off the kitchen and in the dinning room by the window as a previous poster commented.

Good luck.

@Mauricio Botero

Since you indicated this may be a rental I would put it under the stairs.  The picture idea you posted adds awkward space in the living room.

most town houses and apartment I see with this configuration in TN have a hb under the stairs.  They're a little tight but function well imo.

There are many ways to do this. The key is figuring out what the design concept is that you are going for for the house. Is it an open space plan? Or are you trying to maximize storage and create highly functional spaces. (@Chris Purcell the minimum head heights are 80" (6'-8"), but mind you that is from the standing point at the toilet) Currently the trend is for open space, but we are quickly finding that no storage results in a lot of clutter. Here is a concept that I have put together that works for the storage Idea while providing visual interest to the kitchen (mind you that this is a 3 level house with the garage below, but I think you can get the idea).

Is that the only radiator in the room? We did one with a full bath/shower-only in the corner as in the remodeled pic. If you can work around the heater all the better. 

Originally posted by @Greg Wilkins :

I grew up in port Richmond row homes. Usually the stairs to the 2nd floor are directly above the stairs to the basement. Therefore, if you wanted to put a 1/2 bath under the stairs you would also have to relocate the stairs to the basement.

I have seen 1/2 baths put in at the back of the house, off the kitchen and in the dinning room by the window as a previous poster commented.

Good luck.

 This is exactly right.  

There are stairs under the stairs (to the basement), this is not a great option

@Mauricio Botero , I've seen a lot of 1/2 under the stairs houses. As far as small goes, a small bathroom is much preferable to no bathroom. 

@Tom McDevitt Thanks Tom. You wouldn't by any chance have any examples of a property you've come across that matches what you said? I've seen where the bathroom is added using that side window inside of the space, but have not seen what you are describing yet.

@Mindy Jensen I completely agree. I'll get whatever size half bath I can get on that first floor. Still haven't run into one yet though in these rowhomes in North Philly. And like @Greg Wilkins mentioned, most of these homes have stairs to the basement directly above the stairs to the 2nd floor. 

Hi Maurico - For these row houses, you've got the living, dining, and cooking space on one floor, and it's a tight fit. If you put the half-bath right there in, what's normally used for dining space, everyone is going to see you and hear you use the bathroom. Maybe this is OK for family use but awkward for guests. Have you considered putting the half-bath in the privacy of the basement? You don't even have to finish the entire basement to implement this and chances are the laundry (water line) is already down there. You can even do a swanky stackable W/D unit in the bathroom with a drain in-case the entire thing floods at one point. And, even put in a shower, a la wet room. Then you can fit a reasonably-sized place to eat and normal living room furniture in the open space and save your guests embarrassment.

We have used the area under the stairs. eliminates some storage but ads a ton of value.

@maurico   I do not have any pictures. But I have been many homes that have added a powder room not a full bath. They take out the window and build the powder room into the breeze way.   I will tr find a photo.

For all Philadelphia investors who understand putting a bath under the stair is not feasible, this may be a silly question.  @Mauricio Botero , are you planning to finish the basement?  If yes, why not put it there?  Philadelphians are accustomed to one bath homes.  It is really nice to have a half bath and will had some value but it is not necessary to have it on the first floor.  May I ask why you are considering adding a half bath on the first floor?  Does your research show that 1st floor half baths are in demand, they add considerable value to homes in the area?

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