5 Challenges of Renovating a Tiny Bathroom and How I Solved Them

Challenge #1 Relocating the Bathroom Door

As mentioned in my previous post about this whole house renovation, the bathroom door was originally located within the bedroom. It was not realistic to move the toilet or tub and there was a window in the room which eliminated that wall for the sink unless a mirror was placed elsewhere. It was kind of interesting to think about having the sink under the window but ultimately I chose to place the sink on the wall that would be created when old bedroom access was closed off. I think in a bathroom that was not the sole bathroom for a home, a sink under a window could be a fun design to try. Below are some photos of the bathroom before it was renovated showing the original door location.

Challenge #2 Finding a Toilet that Fit

When replacing fixtures or redesigning a bathroom layout, it is a good idea to check the specs of your new fixtures before purchasing. It can be surprising how there can be several inches of clearance difference between toilet models. The installation specs should be available online. Originally I was going to install a basic in stock type toilet such as Home Depot’s Glacier Bay Elongated Toilet. The product depth of this model is 29.9 in. There is also round seat model with a depth of 27.5. Although the in stock Glacier Bay round option was a little shorter, I opted to order this model, the TOTO Drake Two-Piece Round 1.6 GPF Toilet. The depth of the Toto toilet only 26.3125 inches. The Toto was a little more money but I believe it is of higher quality than the Glacier Bay models.  In this case, the extra 3.5 inches really did make a difference.

If you are looking for more information about finding the right toilet for a small space and a comprehensive list of the smallest toilets, this is a great article.  

Challenge #3 Adding Vanity Lights with Limited Space

I chose to install a medicine cabinet instead of just a mirror to add more storage. There is barely any wall space on either side of the vanity. To the right of the vanity are electrical switches that cannot be moved. A light above the medicine cabinet would have to overhang enough to be functional and I had no luck finding any that would overhang that far (over 8 inches). I broke my own rule of having a solid plan when this medicine cabinet was installed. I thought that the ceiling lighting would be enough but after seeing the medicine cabinet installed, I knew that additional lights were needed.  This change resulted in tearing the medicine cabinet down and redoing work but I do not regret it. Don’t settle! When you know a change is going to make a huge difference, it is better spend the extra time and effort to get what you want.

The wall lighting that I installed is from Zip Code Design. There is barely 8 inches of space on the left side of the medicine cabinet, but it still works! The added light is perfect for the mirror and sink area.



Challenge #4 Creative Ways to Hang Towels with Limited Space

With limited wall space I went with a towel hook instead of a towel bar. The hook provides a place for easy access to a towel when getting out of the shower and doesn’t take up much room at all! There are lots of interesting hooks that can add to your design or you may even want to make your own DIY wall hook.


Challenge #5 Barn Door on a Budget and Hardware

The opening for new doorway was very narrow. Installing a sliding door did add more space because it eliminated the room needed to accommodate a swinging door.  Squeezing a barn door into such a tiny area did require a few modifications.  I was looking for a minimalist style door that would match the other doors in the home, preferably an unfinished wood door that could be stained the same color as the rest of the wood. It would be possible to use a hollow core style slab style luan plywood style door but I was looking for something thinner.  The door for this bathroom was cut from a ¾ inch sheet of cabinet grade maple plywood that can be purchased at home centers like Home Depot or Lowes. Cabinet grade plywood has both sides finished.  The door also has to be functional so there needed to be a way to open and close it. Because it would be closed from the inside and it was sliding over a wall, the hardware could not stick out and interfere with the door operation. Placing a bigger gap between the door and the wall was not desirable due to wanting as much privacy as possible for the bathroom. An edge band was placed along one side of the door, the band sticks out just enough to provide a place to grab the door but it doesn’t prevent the door from sliding properly. On the inside, a recessed pocket style pull was installed to open the door with when leaving the bathroom. When installing a barn door, always consider the wall area that will be covered when the door is open. Are you covering up any outlets? Will the door clear any trim or other obstacles along the wall? If your house is not level, be prepared for the door hardware to look a little off as the hardware should be installed level even when your house isn’t. If you end up angling the hardware, the door will always want to slide to one side and would need a lock or a way to hold it to the other side.

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