How to Turn Any Space in Your House Into a Bathroom (Without Plumbing)

How to Turn Any Space in Your House Into a Bathroom (Without Plumbing)

Where once it was standard to have just one bathroom in our homes, the number of bathrooms considered normal has steadily grown over the years, and the majority of new-build homes have at least two bathrooms these days. It makes sense: Why not have a private bathroom just for you and a second bathroom (or two) for the kids or guests?

This often leads us to wish for more bathrooms, for a lot of reasons: If you only have one, adding an en-suite bath feels luxurious, and having a dedicated guest bath makes your home feel more inviting. If you’re going to have a long-term guest (like a parent or close friend living with you for a while) or have frequent long-term visitors, a bathroom just for them almost feels essential. And if you plan to renovate your one existing bathroom, you might hesitate because you don’t want to run across the street to use a public restroom in your local coffee shop every day.

But adding bathrooms is expensive—it costs $US90,000 on average to add a bathroom. Not to mention the non-monetary costs of time, inconvenience, and disruption. If all you need is a functioning bathroom, however, you can actually add one to just about any spot in your home for much less, without the need for plumbing, permits, or months of your life. All you need is a room. Here’s how to add a bathroom without plumbing.

How to choose the best space

First, think about where your bathroom should be. You’re not limited by the location of water or sewer lines, because you won’t need either one. A few ideas include:

  • Closets. If your goal is to have an ersatz en suite bathroom, a moderately-sized closet can work. You’ll need to measure out all the stuff you’ll be cramming in there, of course, but a general rule of thumb is 15 square feet for a half-bath concept, and 30 for a three-part bath. Those numbers assume you need to pull permits and pass inspection, and thus incorporate typical minimum spacing for drains and such, so you can likely go a little smaller.
  • Spare rooms. If you have a bedroom you’re not really using, or a flex space that was never defined, it can become a more spacious bathroom. Ideally, of course, you’d want a door—though you could always add an adjustable wall with a door to turn a bonus space or even a large landing into an additional bathroom.

A big consideration is water access. You don’t need to have water, drain, and sewer lines run—but if you want a shower in the room, it’s a lot easier if you can position it near a functioning water line like an existing bathroom or a washer hookup. If that’s not possible, you still have options, however.

The gear you’ll need for a bathroom without plumbing

Here’s what you need:

  • A dry-flush toilet. The most important thing to have in a bathroom is a place for you or your guests to relieve themselves. Composting toilets don’t require plumbing or a drain, but they do require a vent pipe, which would require cutting through a wall or roof. A better option is a battery-powered dry-flush toilet like this one. It uses a vacuum-sealed mylar bagging system, and can be operated literally anywhere.
  • A portable sink. Portable sinks can look just like regular vanities, but have two tanks inside the cabinet—one holding fresh, clean water, one holding the drained-off gray water after use. They usually require a plug to run a pump for the faucet, as well. All you need to do is dump the gray water and fill up the fresh water tank as needed.
  • A portable shower. To really go for it, adding a shower to your unplumbed bathroom is the real power move. The Shower AnyPlace portable indoor shower hooks up to any faucet and pumps the gray water to any drain using a hose, which makes it a great choice if your bathroom location is near another bathroom or a laundry area, or even a kitchen or outdoor space. The EMS Portable Shower from Freedom Showers operates on a similar design.

    If you want to be a little more luxurious, you could also consider adding a portable tub like this one, as long as you can run the drain hose to an appropriate spot and can easily get hot water to it.

Whether you need it for a few weeks to accommodate visitors or a renovation, or want the convenience of an extra bathroom without the cost, it’s a viable option—and since nothing is permanently installed, you can always remove it later. For just a few thousand bucks, you can have a usable bathroom in just about any room in your house, without any construction or plumbing needed.

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