When house hunting in Baltimore, I knew that a finished basement would probably put me over my budget (and/or it would be one of those long-ago finished basements with drop ceilings and mysterious carpet stains).
Almost every house I looked at had a basement, but some of them were just barely deep enough to stand up comfortably in. One of the selling points of the home I purchased was that the depth of the basement. It was jjjuuusssttt deep enough to where it wouldn’t necessarily have to be dug out and underpinned (a process by which the foundation is dug out and lowered below the existing brick walls, thus costing a fortune, not to mention the process of permits, etc.)
And so when I began looking into adding a bathroom to my home (to bring the total to a whoppingTWO), the most feasible option seemed to be the basement. To add an addition on the back of the house, or convert one of the upstairs bedrooms into a master bath would cost more than the price to add a bath AND living space to the basement. The choice for me was easy. Plus, the only space I was ‘giving up’ was a dark, damp, dingy basement…
Here are some things to consider when adding a bathroom to an unfinished basement:
- Do you want to utilize any existing windows or exterior doors in your new bathroom?
- Is part of your basement deeper than others? You may want to have the bathroom in a deeper area if you are adding a shower.
- Will the location make the bathroom feel like part of the house, or just the removed water closet at the farthest corner of the basement?
- Where are your existing water lines (hot & cold) and sewage. Will they have to be rerouted to accommodate the bathroom? Will the new supply lines get in the way of anything else?
- How will you provide ventilation? If there is no opening window, you must (by code) have an exhaust fan that vents to the outside. Will you be able to vent it up through the roof, or will you have to go out through the side of the house?
- Do you plan to have central air and heat in the bathroom? Will it be feasible to tie in the existing duct work?
This brings us to the specific location of the bathroom. The choice isn’t always an obvious one. Initially I was certain that I would locate it at the very back of the basement, with the laundry (turn it into a finished laundry room/bathroom). But after getting some input from others (get input from anyone and everyone!), it made the most sense to put the bathroom near the base of the stairs. You know, so when giving directions all I had to say was “down the stairs on your left” (sarcasm). The basement was already awkwardly divided into two spaces because of the furnace. So adding the bathroom next to the furnace made the layout seem very intentional. Plus it left me with both a good size room for living space, and a good size laundry/work space.
In case you are new to the dream of adding a bathroom to your basement, it’s a bit more complex that just throwing a toilet and a sink down there. If your main waste line is above foundation level (you can see mine is right next to the the furnace), you are going to have to install a sewage ejector that will defy gravity (or buy some fancy fixtures with ugly built-in, bulky, ejectors). Okay…enough talk about sewage ejection. Gross. From now on it will be called “Bertha.” Bertha is a big ‘ole barrel that is installed into the ground, so everything from the bathroom can drain according to gravity. And then Bertha gracefully sends everything to the level of the main line. How lovely.
Above is a photo after the plumbing drains and sewage ejector had been secured with new concrete. Notice how the new bathroom area is lower than the surrounding floors? That is because the guys I worked with were great enough to get me an extra 2 inches of depth in that area before filling everything with concrete. An extra 2 inches of height in a basement is HUGE, even if it’s just the bathroom. On the downside, that area of new concrete was a pit of red clay dirt for two weeks while we waited for the city to come inspect the work. With the drains installed and layout taking shape, it was on to framing and lighting the space.