Adding a Shower to a Half Bath: Conversion Mistakes, How to, Plumbing, ¾ Bathroom

A bathroom is not just a bathroom. If you’re going to build or remodel one, you must take into account two things: function and design. Better yet, build or remodel your bathroom in a way where the function serves the design and vice versa. 

With that said, the specific needs and preferences of the homeowner must be considered when deciding on a bathroom’s layout. 

It’s for this reason why you’d come across a half-bath,a ¾ bath, a full bath, heck, even a ¼ bath. You begin to wonder: What do these terms even mean? What are their differences? 

Since you’re reading this article, chances are you’re thinking of adding a shower to your half bath. 

This comprehensive guide’s got all that covered, but before we begin, let’s talk about the differences between a half-bath and a ¾ bathroom. After all, this guide will only be of help to you if we’re on the same page.

What is a half-bath?

A half-bath, to put it simply, is a bathroom that comprises of a toilet and a sink—nothing more, nothing less. In other words, it’s a two-piece bathroom. If a bathroom has a shower or a bathtub, then you can’t call it a half-bath. 

What is a ¾ bath?

This is where it gets tricky. In most cases, people think they’re seeing a full bath when they’re actually looking at a ¾ bath. 

So, let’s demystify the difference between the two. To begin with, what sets them apart are their contents. 

In a nutshell, a full bath comes with a sink, a bathtub, and a toilet while a ¾ bath is a bath with a toilet, sink, and a shower. If a bathroom doesn’t have a tub, then you can’t call it a full bath. That said, if a bathroom contains all four fixtures, then you have every right to call it a full bath. 

So, do the math. When you’re adding a shower to a half-bath, what do you get? A ¾ bath, of course!

(Since the full bath and the ¾ bath are often used interchangeably, and erringly so, make sure to clarify the difference when talking to a realtor or a homebuyer if you’re selling your home.)

How much does it cost to install a shower in a half-bath?

According to a survey by Victorian Plumbing, 57% of adults prefer showers over baths. This only suggests that most Americans don’t want to take too long getting ready for the day or washing the day away.

But the major reason why homeowners prefer showers over baths is that it’s way cheaper.

How cheap?

Well, that depends on the type of shower you’re buying. There’s a wide variety to choose from, but if we’re to categorize them into two, then your choice is between a custom shower or a prefab shower unit.

Custom showers

When installing a custom shower, expect to spend anywhere between $1,500 and $7,000. Of course, the overall price depends on numerous factors, including size, shape, type, and materials. 

To give you an idea where your money is going when buying a custom shower, it bears noting that a shower is comprised of several components, including the surround, the pan, the plumbing, accessories. 

Surround

The type of material used for the surround can significantly impact the shower’s overall cost. Ideally, you want to buy one that can prevent water from making contact with the drywall and studs. Some materials also look better than others, so you may want to factor in appearances when deciding on a budget.

To give you a well-rounded idea of what you’ll have to pay for the surround, here are the different materials and their corresponding costs:

Material Cost

Porcelain $10/sq. ft.

Fiberglass $20/sq. Ft.

Stone $120/sq.ft.

Ceramic $7/sq.ft.

Solid surface slab $100/sq.ft.

There are good reasons why some materials are more expensive than others. Ever wonder why a solid surface slab costs a fortune? Or why porcelain is so cheap? Let’s delve into the pros and cons

Fiberglass

If you want a cost-effective option for your shower surround, picking fiberglass makes sense. It’s easy to install if your bathroom is the right size, even more so if your shower stall has a separate pan and backing. Just make sure that the seams are interlocked securely to avoid leaks. 

Fiberglass also has a smooth surface and is easy to clean. Make no mistake, fiberglass is the convenient, no-nonsense option for the practical homeowner.

Natural stone

Natural stone is a great option for homeowners who put a high premium on luxury. Natural stone, which could be marble, granite or travertine, has a nice luster that gives it a sophisticated appearance. As a luxury item, a shower stall made of natural stone can significantly increase the resale value of your home.

The downside? Stone shower surrounds are very expensive and hard to maintain. But if you have the budget for it and don’t mind doing regular maintenance, a stone shower surround can be a good investment.

Ceramic

Ceramic shower surrounds are another cheaper option, but it bears noting that ceramic materials are wide-ranging. It’s also available in a variety of styles, finishes, and colors, not to mention that it’s easy to customize. One major drawback of ceramic is that it can easily crack if you’re not careful.

Porcelain

If you think of porcelain as a high-end version of ceramic, then you’d be correct. Porcelain hits the sweet spot in terms of a compromise between price and appearance. Porcelain has a sleek, beautiful appearance that will look great on any bathroom. To top it off, it’s durable and has high resistance to water, especially if you seal the gaps with melted glass.

Prefabricated shower

But if you prefer a shower that’s cheaper and easier to install, go for the prefabricated shower. As the term implies, a prefab shower is already ready-made. In other words, what you’re getting is a complete shower stall. As can be expected, installing it is a breeze because you don’t have to build it from scratch.

Prefab showers are also mass-produced at factories and can be installed in a few hours, which is a big advantage considering custom-built showers are installed in 2-3 days. These ready-made shower stalls can be made from acrylic, fiberglass, or cultured marble.

If you want to install a prefab shower, expect the overall cost to fall between $500 and $2,500. A 48-inch, dual-seat prefab shower kit, for instance, costs for less than $700. If you want a luxurious prefab shower (a steam shower, for instance), expect to spend a little over $2,000. 

Shower door installations

Shower doors make up a significant portion of a custom shower’s overall costs. Of course, the price of the door will depend on the material it’s made of.

Glass shower doors, for instance, cost anywhere between $700 and $2,000. Factors that can affect the price include door size, side panels, operational specifics, door type, and more. 

Different types of shower doors and their costs

Standard Shower Door: $700-$1000

Sliding Shower Door: $1500-$1700

Corner Shower Door: $1500-$1800

Curved Shower Door: $1600-$2000

Do I need a permit to add a shower?

Most locales require their homeowners to obtain a permit when installing a shower stall in the  bathroom, especially when some changes need to be made in the drain. The likelihood that you’ll need one increases even more if you’re installing a shower stall where a bathroom doesn’t exist. You may want to hire the services of a plumbing or bathroom contractor if your plumbing and drains need to be upgraded for them to accommodate the new shower. Before you proceed with installing a shower, make sure to contact your county officials to ask about regulations in your locality. Y

We strongly recommend, nay implore, that you don’t skip the above step. If you push through with a shower installation without obtaining the proper permits, you’re likely to face heavy penalties, project stoppages. It’s even possible that you may forfeit the right to resell your home.

To give you a feel for what to expect, here’s a list of renovation or remodeling tasks that will most definitely require a permit:

  • Water heater replacement
  • Any work that involves the sewer line
  • Installation of new electrical wiring
  • Room additions
  • Installation of new plumbing
  • Demolition of load-bearing walls
  • Installation of any HVAC system

How to add a shower to a bathroom

There are many ways to add a shower to a half-bath, and they vary according to the current layout and design of your bathroom. But as a point of reference, we’re listing down below the general procedures in adding a shower to a bathroom.

Installing a prefabricated shower unit

1. Prepare your space

The right installation method will depend on the type of shower you want. As already explained, prefabricated shower units are so much easier to install, requiring only the most basic plumbing and carpentry skills to pull it off. 

There are two types of prefabricated shower stalls: single unit and multi-panel. Installing a single-unit shower stall requires only a few steps: Secure and connect them to the walls and pipes, seal the seams, and you’re off to the races. Multi-panel units, on the other hand, take longer to install because you need to connect the individual panels together as well as seal up each seam and joint. 

2. Mark the location of the pipes

Next, you need to determine the location of the pipes. Marking their location will give you an idea of how the shower stall will be attached to the wall and its essential elements. While getting the measurements, start from the floor and then move up to the corner of the walls. To mark the layout, draw a sketch showing the connections  between the shower and the wall, along with the plumbing. After recording the measurements, mark those same dimensions to the back of the shower unit, right on the spot that will be connected to your bathroom’s plumbing fixtures.

3. Start assembling

Now it’s time to start assembling the tools and materials that go along with your shower kit. That said, make sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Typically, you will need the following to assemble a shower stall:

  • Shower kit
  • 1.2 m level
  • Tile caulking
  • 2-inch hole saw
  • Electric drill
  • 1/8th-inch drill bit
  • Flathead screwdriver

4. Clean the floor and the walls 

You need to clear the work area of dust and debris before proceeding with the installation. Use a broom or a vacuum to get rid of  all the dirt and remove any excess caulking by peeling or prying them off with a putty knife. Lastly, make sure the floors and walls are dry. This is because installing a shower stall on a wet subfloor may cause water damage down the line.

5. Waterproof the surrounding walls

The surrounding walls of a shower stall are often exposed to moisture. And you’d do well to install waterproof wallboard or apply water-resistant glues on the walls to prevent water damage. Apply silicone caulking in the seams to make the installation more watertight.

Installing a single-unit shower stall

As already mentioned, installing a single-unit shower stall is easy, at least if you’re strong enough to lift it yourself. To ensure easy and safe installation, seek some assistance from an able-bodied friend or family member.

1. Perform measurements

Take stock of the space where the shower unit is to be installed and then perform some measurements. If the shower stall has a swinging door, don’t forget to include that in the measurements. If the area hasn’t been set up for plumbing before,you should contact a professional plumber who will do it for you. You will need to create templates for the drain and faucet areas as well to prevent potential plumbing issues down the road. If the bathroom in question is in the basement, you will need to install an up-flush system.

2. Install a waterproof interior wallboard

The walls surrounding the shower stall are always vulnerable to water moisture. To prevent water from damaging them, install a waterproof all-board behind the shower unit and then coat it with latex primer for good measure.

3. Drill holes in the unit

Once you’ve marked the locations of your bathroom’s pipes and fixtures on the back of your shower unit, carefully drill pilot holes at the back. Make sure to do it slowly to avoid cracking the interior. 

4.  Level the shower stall

With the help of an assistant, place the shower stall into the designated area. Put a level on the shower stall and make sure it’s lined up correctly relative to the holes.

5. Install the shower unit

Make sure to read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer before proceeding. But here’s some advice: go easy on the adhesive or it will lead to swelling and buckling. Position the shower unit to its designated area and double-check if it’s on the level. If the shower kit didn’t come with nails, attach the flanges to the studs yourself by driving galvanized nails into them. 

6. Caulk it up

Calk around the drain’s lip, between the wall coverings, and around the fixtures with silicone caulk. Once the catch screen is in the proper position, tighten the faucets for good measure.

Mistakes to avoid when installing a shower

Mistakes happen, but then again mistakes cost money, time, and yes, even our sanity. If you’re going to install a shower unit in your bathroom, you’ll be better off avoiding costly mistakes if you can help it.

Here are common shower installation mistakes you’d do well to avoid.

1. Not planning the space properly

Make no mistake—the shower stall is going to take up a lot of space in your bathroom, and if you space it poorly, the whole room is going to be compromised in more ways than one. As such, you want to make sure that the unit is positioned properly relative to the position of the plumbing fixtures and the wall studs. To boost the room’s functionality, position the shower unit accordingly relative to the positions of other bathroom fixtures, including benches and added storage.

2. Forgetting about the shower drain

It does seem more intuitive to put the drain in the middle of the shower floor, but in truth, it is better to place it along one wall of the shower. By installing a floor that slopes gently toward the drain, the water won’t be filling around your feet while you’re taking a shower. 

3. Not adding grab bars

No doubt about it —the bathroom is one of the most treacherous places in the home, especially for the elderly. When you combine water with slick surfaces, the more likely that slips and falls will occur. You can avoid this from happening by installing grab bars on one side of the shower wall. 

4. Using the wrong tools

Shower installations require precision, and if you want to be precise, you better use the right tools throughout the entire process. For instance, when you’re cutting wall panels for the shower, it’s better to use a fine-toothed saw or a tenon saw to make the cut precise and smooth. Using a circular saw or chop saw is not recommended because you’re likely to end up with coarse, rough edges.

5. Choosing not to place wall studs

A shower unit’s components can be heavy, and if you want to secure them firmly to the surrounding walls, they must be attached via heavy-duty screws. As such, consider the location of the wall studs when you’re putting the shower stall in position, making sure that the glass enclosure is firmly attached to the wall studs via screws.

6. Not making your bathroom’s pipes central to the shower plan

It goes without saying, but the shower is probably the water fixture that spikes your water bill the most. As such, it’ll be wise to ensure that there’s a sufficient amount of piping in the bathroom before carrying out a shower installation project. Better yet, you need to make the pipes central to the entire plan. Things can get tricky if you want to add a shower to a mobile home, so you’d do well to hire a mobile home contractor for that. 

7. Not setting aside reserve funds

Micromanaging your budget might make you feel that you’re in control financially, but unexpected expenditures are bound to come up almost every time. If you want to survive the financial onslaught, you better be prepared. And nothing prepares you better than by setting aside reserve funds. As a general rule of thumb, you need to set aside an extra 10% of the overall budget. Besides, it’s always nice to have some extra money if it turns out that you don’t need a reserve fund after all.

8. Hiring cheap labor

It’s tempting to hire shower contractors with the lowest costs if you want to save money. Don’t do it. For one, contractors who charge such cheap prices do so because they don’t have much to offer by way of expertise. They might also be hiring illegal workers or using dirt-cheap materials to cut costs, which could compromise the entire project.

Increasing the home value when you’re remodeling your bathroom

A smart homeowner wants to make sure that his home has a lot to offer in terms of value. Buying a home, after all, is an investment, and you want to maintain or increase its market value in case you’d need to resale it down the line.

There are plenty of ways to add value to a home, foremost of which is to give it a remodel or makeover.

In terms of house remodeling projects, one place you shouldn’t ignore is the bathroom. In fact, in a 2019 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors, consumers gave bathroom remodels a Joy Score of 9.6.

With that said, remodeling or renovating your bathroom costs money, and you need to be smart about how you spend it so you can receive more value for your renovation projects. Is a full bathroom renovation necessary? Or do you only need to update a few fixtures? Are there aspects of the remodeling project you can DIY instead?

More to the point, will adding a shower stall to your half-bath increase the value of your home?

Most definitely! Whether the return on your investment will be worth it is another matter.

To give you some perspective, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders,  a half bathroom adds approximately 10.5% to a home’s value whereas a full bathroom adds around 20%.

Will that 10% increase be worth it on account of the amount you’re going to spend on the bathroom remodeling project? 

It can be difficult to arrive at a correct estimate on account of several factors, the foremost of which is the bedroom-to-bathroom ratio. 

If your home has more bedrooms than bathrooms, then yes, the increase in value will be much more significant.

If there’s already a separate bathroom that already has a shower in it, then that value might decrease as well.

Overall, the bathroom conversion must make sense to the overall layout of your house.

Whatever your circumstances, following the tips and suggestions in this guide should ensure that your bathroom renovation is worth it, from a practical standpoint and also in terms of your home’s overall value.

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