Build Yourself That Ensuite

bathroom with cabinets, shower and bath
  • 40-100 hours
  • Advanced
  • 2,000-20,000

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, an ensuite bathroom is attached or open to a home’s bedroom, generally the main bedroom.

Although it’s fairly common now, it wasn’t always that way. Remember, within many living people’s lifetimes, there wasn’t even a bathroom inside the house, let alone in the same room.

Deciding Whether to Add an Ensuite

It’s undeniably convenient to have a bathroom located adjacent to the space where you sleep and change clothes. However, it doesn’t make sense to add one in every situation.

For example, in a home with two or three bedrooms on one level and no bathroom, it makes more sense to place a bathroom in a central location for everyone to use.

Benefits of an Ensuite Bathroom

In addition to convenience, adding an ensuite bathroom can definitely increase the value of your home. Not only does it add another bathroom, it makes the primary bedroom more appealing to home buyers.

An ensuite bathroom helps you keep your belongings all in one space and assists with organization.

Plus it provides a private space you’re not sharing with the entire house.

ensuite bathroom with vanity and shower

Possible Cons of an Ensuite

Anyone who has one would struggle to come up with a list of cons of having one. But there is the fact that you’re giving up other space for it to be there, so if you’re limited on living space and can do without an additional bathroom, doing without might be a priority.

Then, of course, is the matter of cost. Any type of home renovation has the potential to add up, and bathrooms are far from an exception. In fact, they can be one of the most expensive rooms in the home.

Costs of an Ensuite Bathroom

So let’s talk about those costs. The first consideration is where exactly you’ll put the bathroom. If you have an existing space or can partition off a part of your bedroom, it will be much less expensive than if you plan to push out an exterior wall to make it happen.

Then you’ll need to consider the costs of hiring a plumber, electrician, and HVAC professionals. If you’re not doing the work yourself, you’ll also have a contractor and subcontractors to pay.

Then there are permits and inspections plus material costs for framing, flooring, and building walls. On top of that, you’ll have the shower, toilet, tub, and vanity, plus smaller additions like mirrors, light fixtures, an exhaust fan, smart features, the sink or sinks, and a medicine cabinet.

With all of these considerations, the cost of an ensuite bathroom can range anywhere from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

bathroom with wood cabinets

Step 1 - Define the Space

As mentioned, you’ll have to decide how you’re going to achieve this goal. One option is to bust through a wall into an adjacent bedroom. If you can spare the bedroom space, this is one of the easiest solutions for adding bathroom space.

Another option is to section off a part of your room, if it’s large enough to do so. This might mean replacing a walk-in closet or absorbing a hall closet on the other side of the wall.

Think about the layout of your home to decide if it’s a possibility. You can also push out that exterior wall, but it is the most expensive option since you’ll also have to deal with changing the roofline.

With the outline configured, think about what you want the finished product to look for. Are you hoping to create a spa-like space? Are you set on above the counter sinks or marble countertops or some other luxury feature? What color palette will you be working with, and what surface materials do you want?

Do you want closed storage or open storage? Will you go with a standard counter height, or do you plan to implement taller or ADA-type counters? Plan it all out now so you have the answers as you progress on the project.

Step 2 - Hit up the Permitting Department

It’s best to check in with your local building department before getting started on any form of construction. Making it your first stop during the planning stages can save you a ton of hassle down the road.

You don’t want to find out you’ve done work you’ll have to tear out or discover the project isn’t allowed at all for some reason. For example, some areas put a limit on the number of bathrooms because of waste management issues.

When you have a rough plan together, head in to talk to someone about what permits are required and if you’ll need inspections along the way. You’ll almost certainly need to have the electrical and plumbing work approved.

Remember, as annoying as it is, the purpose of the building department is to ensure the safety of the finished project. Make sure you understand the building codes so you won’t get hung up with step heights, door widths, or egress issues.

Step 3 - Call a Contractor

Even if you plan to primarily do the work yourself, get a contractor on site to give you a bid. Even better, get several bids. In discussing the project, you’re likely to learn a few things.

You might even decide the project is above your skill level or time allowance. Or maybe you’ll decide to hire out for certain tasks and manage the rest yourself.

bathroom contractor working with tile

Step 4 - Consider Plumbing Access

Often one of the biggest issues for a bathroom is incorporating the plumbing. If the pipes for the kitchen, laundry, and other bathrooms are on the other side of the house, you’re going to have a massive project on your hands working to connect them.

On the other hand, if the laundry or a bathroom is on the other side of the wall, it might be a straightforward job.

Step 5 - Consider Electrical Access

The same idea holds true for electrical access. You’ll need to tap into your home’s central electrical system. Because the ensuite is attached to the bedroom, a circuit will be nearby. However, you may need a separate circuit that runs all the way to the main electrical panel.

In addition, you’ll need to map out electrical outlets, including a GFCI for safety. Make sure you have an outlet conveniently located in the space where you’ll use hair dryers, curling irons, and other devices.

Also consider your lighting needs. If you can’t run wires through the ceiling, you’ll need to use wall lighting, for example.

Consider the different areas of your bathroom and whether you’ll want a light over the shower space or inside the shower itself.

Note that lighting has ratings of water protection so choose your fixtures to match the conditions.

Step 6 - Decide on Size and Layout

Although this might take place further up the list, having a plan for electrical, plumbing, and lighting might influence the final design.

In addition to knowing the outer perimeter of the room, you’ll need to firmly decide where everything else will go. What’s the location of the toilet, shower, and sink?

Will there be a bathtub separate from the shower? Is there a window or will you be adding one? What about the light switch, exhaust fan, heating vents, and storage cabinets?

Every item needs to be intricately mapped out to reduce surprises during construction.

Step 7 - Frame in the Walls

With a detailed plan in hand and the permits approved, it’s time to get this remodel started. If you have some deconstruction to do, enjoy the demolition phase before this step.

Fun note: If you’re tearing out a wall, let the kids decorate it with paint or markers first. It’s the one time they’ll get approval to write on the wall. Create a mural, write messages, or doodle a design. Then take pictures with the artwork as a souvenir.

With the space ready, frame in the door, window, and any walls.

Once the room is framed, add your windows and doors.

bathroom walls under cpnstruction

Step 8 - Run Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing

Before covering the walls with drywall or other materials, install pipes, electrical wiring, and HVAC ducts that will run through the wall.

This is also where inspections usually take place. If you continue without required inspections you may find yourself ripping work out so the inspector can see what’s behind the walls.

With this in mind, schedule inspections in advance as much as possible.

Step 9 - Install Subfloor, Walls, and Ceiling

With all the system parts in place, install subflooring, wallboard, and ceiling materials.

Step 10 - Paint

Although you can paint at any point from here on out, it’s easiest to do before the fixtures and flooring are installed. The blank slate is easy to access, and you don’t have to worry about splatter and drips ruining your new sink, shower, or flooring. Choose your bathroom colors and get to work.

Step 11 - Install Shower or Bathtub

This is where things really start to come together for your ensuite bathroom.

Note that in some situations you’ll put the flooring in first, such as when setting a bear claw tub on top of finished flooring.

The process will vary depending on the type of tub, shower, or combo unit you are installing. You may have someone doing custom tile work in a shower, or you may be fitting a stand alone tub that only requires attaching it to the drain and input plumbing.

Step 12 - Install Lighting and Exhaust Fan

Your lighting, outlets, exhaust fan, and light switches may already be installed at this point. If they’re not, you’ll be able to connect fixtures to the wires and ensure everything works.

Step 13 - Install Flooring

Now your bathroom is basically done except for filling the space with a topcoat of materials. Install your flooring, whether that’s ceramic tile, luxury vinyl planks, wood, cork, or linoleum. You can even go with a stone design.

Remember to factor in the thickness of the floor when figuring out heights and measurements. For example, elevating the vanity ¼” can change the contact point for the sink’s plumbing.

Step 14 - Install Toilet

You’ll want to place the toilet after installing the flooring. Set the toilet on a toilet ring and press it into place. Attach each of the required hoses to the plumbing. Create a tight seal with the floor and caulk around the base of the toilet. Turn the water on to ensure the toilet functions properly and doesn’t leak.

Step 15 - Install Vanity

Next, place the vanity into position. You may have a custom built unit that covers the space from wall to wall and all the way down to the ground. Alternately, you may have purchased a prefabricated unit that has legs and sits on top of the flooring like a piece of furniture.

Your vanity may have cabinets or open shelving. It may have two sinks or one and can come in an endless selection of colors and counter surfaces. You’ll need to install the sink into the vanity and hook it up to the water source. Now is also the time to install the faucet. Then turn the water on and test things out.

Step 16 - Add Mirrors and Towel Racks

For the final touches, hang your mirror or mirrors. You can have one large mirror that spans the length of the countertop, or perhaps you have individual mirrors over each sink. Either way, make sure they are securely attached with the proper hardware.

Also install towel racks or hooks. Make sure to find a stud for a sturdy hold. If you don’t have a stud in that location, use drywall anchors or other appropriate hardware to do the job.

Step 17 - Decorate

Finally, it’s time to put your personal touch on the space. Roll towels and put them in a basket, place them on an open shelf, or put them in a cupboard. Add some artwork to the walls and organize all of your daily supplies.

Adding an ensuite bathroom is a large home improvement project. If all goes well, it will be worth every bruised knuckle and extra dollar when you have a bathroom you don’t have to share with the kids or the in-laws.

Continue your reading about bathroom remodels in our related article Tips on Bathroom Remodeling, and read 4 Tips for an Efficient Bathroom Layout before you start sketching the blueprints.