Conventional advice for keeping bathroom remodel costs in check is usually to avoid moving bathroom fixtures, especially the toilet. Moving bathroom plumbing fixtures like the toilet, shower, bathtub, and or sink exponentially increases costs (and amount of work). There are some things you can do to minimize the expense.
Why Moving a Toilet Is Costly
Moving your toilet will add significant costs to your bathroom remodel. However, if you have access below the bathroom (crawlspace, basement, etc.) to the plumbing, costs and effort can be minimized. Within this pool of difficult plumbing activities, some are cheaper than others. Toilet moving does not qualify as easy or better.
For example, moving the sink two feet may not be expensive or difficult. It might even be within the range of amateur plumbing skills, given the ease afforded by plastic PEX piping and push-in/pull-out fittings like the Sharkbite brand.
The reason why toilet moving is such a dreaded task is not so much the water supply line but the waste line — rerouting water supply to a new toilet location, while messy and requiring removal of drywall, is fairly straightforward. Rerouting the waste line is difficult because it is tied to the vertical sewer pipe that connects to the horizontal sewer line and could require digging a new trench to connect to the city's mainline.
When Making the Move Is Necessary
Yet moving services around in a bathroom is a common wish for homeowners. Sometimes, the original builders or previous owners just did not design the bathroom right. Toilets often get stuck in unusual places, facing doors or six inches away from showers, a violation of good bathroom space planning practices.
Other times, this ungainly placement was the only practical solution to the challenge of trying to fit a lot of things—toilet, sink, shower, tub, shelves—into a very small space. Whatever the reason for this, you think you can do a better job.
How hard can it be to move the toilet? After all, toilet installation, by itself, is a very easy do-it-yourself job.
The problem, though, lies not in the surface elements but in the underlying plumbing. Moving plumbing drives up bathroom remodeling costs in a big hurry.
- Supply: All toilets need a constant supply of fresh water in order to fill the tank for each flush. A relocated supply line can tap into the existing toilet supply line. Or it may be more beneficial to cap off the previous supply and tap into a sink or shower water supply.
- Drainage: When moving the toilet, you will not be moving the home's main drain/vent system, as this is shared by other drainage systems: bathing, other bathrooms, kitchen, etc. Instead, the individual line that goes from the toilet to that main stack with either be re-routed, shortened, or lengthened.
Concrete Slab Foundation Adds Difficulties
If your house is on a concrete slab foundation, you will have to break up the concrete to install the new drains. If it is a raised foundation, you can run the new pipes under the floor joists. Plumbers can access this through the crawl space or basement if careful of flooding. That is the easiest option.
If the bathroom is on the second floor, the same floor-joist rules apply. The only difference is that you have the added expense of demolishing sections of the first-floor ceiling and then rebuilding it. While not impossible, this can be messy and costly.
- Having access below the bathroom in the form of an unfinished basement or crawlspace substantially helps. While major re-piping still needs to be done, at least you have access to it.
- Keeping the toilet on the same side of the bathroom as the waste stack will also help.
Consider the building materials that surround the toilet. Materials you should think about: flooring, walls, partitions, ceilings. Ceramic and vinyl tile, engineered wood floor, and laminate floor might be able to be patched (though there will be a color difference between old and new materials).
Sheet vinyl is difficult to remove or patch, so the entire floor might need to be replaced. The saving grace is that sheet vinyl is easy to replace.
Moving your toilet is an expensive proposition, made even costlier and messier if you do not have clear access to the plumbing.
However, if it is part of a larger bathroom renovation that involves new, unique flooring and walls, and you truly feel motivated to switch, there is no more opportune moment than this to do it.
It is better to do it now, when the finish floor is ripped up, than later, when that flooring is in place.