What to Know About Remodeling a Bathroom in an Older Home

Renovating an old house and bringing it into the 21st century can be a fun and exciting challenge for both homeowner and designer. However, it is not without its difficulties. As you might suspect, there are specific issues that come along with remodeling an old house, like decrepit wiring, faulty plumbing, and asbestos, to name a few. With the right preparation, and a skilled team on your side, however, you’ll know what to expect when tackling your project.

What Needs to Be Updated First?

When remodeling an old bathroom the first things that need to be addressed are the electrical and plumbing systems, as these support the major functionalities of your bathroom. Updating your vanity, flooring, and fixtures are important, but are considered cosmetic fixes.

What Issues Do You Look for During an In-Home Consultation?

Consultations are extremely important, especially in older homes. A contractor can evaluate the plumbing, wiring, foundation, sewer lines, and accessibility/ADA compliance against current codes. It’s important to remember that the bathroom is not a completely separate entity from the rest of the home: For example, if you discover electrical issues in your bathroom, it’s likely also an issue elsewhere in the home, and may need to be redone throughout.


Galvanized plumbing systems are a common sight in older bathrooms, and will need to be replaced. Additionally, plumbing tends to rust over time, which can affect the integrity of the pipes and the quality of the water. If your old bathroom does have problematic pipes, it may affect the rest of the house’s plumbing.

Signs of a Previous Remodel

We always look for problems from previous remodels, because it’s likely that an older home has been renovated several times over its lifetime (and possibly by less-than-savvy contractors or DIY homeowners). This increases the chances of us finding issues which will have to be addressed. For example, one of our team members once saw flexible braided pipes (normally only used in the short distance between where the water comes out of the wall and meets your fixture) extended thirty feet behind a wall! This was surprising and dangerous, and to prevent damage, the entire house had to be re-piped.


Older homes also tend to have structural issues, meaning that they are no longer level, and have begun to lean to one side. Today’s construction standards call for everything to be level, meaning that some damage control may have to be done.


What else could be lurking beyond the plywood? Contaminants. We test all potential spaces in pre-1970s homes for lead and asbestos. If we detect signs of these contaminants, there will need to be remediation.

How Will These Issues Affect My Remodel?

One of the things to consider when remodeling an older bathroom is that issues are likely to come up that affect your timeline. That means, you’ll want to build in some extra time, and budget, to account for the aforementioned common problems. While remodeling an older bathroom often presents unforeseen blips along the way, the end result is usually more than worth it.

Keeping the Charm & Updating Functionality

Homeowners planning a bathroom remodel in Seattle or Portland often wonder how they can retain the original charm of their house while updating the functionality and improving the safety of the space. There usually are elements of an older bathroom that can be salvaged, but fixtures, tile, flooring, and vanities usually need to be replaced and updated during the renovation. The good news? There’s a manufacturer out there that makes a similar product. Many companies specialize in vintage, and antique-look home materials, and you’re likely to be able to find a near exact match. For example, tile has been made the same way for hundreds of years so it’s usually not hard to find an almost exact replica of the original. Original doors, molding, and built-ins are elements that can often be saved and reused in the revamped space to maintain charm and save money.
There are many special considerations to take when remodeling an old bathroom, but the reward is worth the hard work. You can meld your bathroom renovation ideas with the existing bones of the home to create something truly original that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.

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