Indoor plumbing has been a thing for a long time now. If you read about housing in the early 20th century, you will read about apartment buildings with one bathroom shared with several households. That is mostly unheard of now. Before 1980, many single family houses had a single bathroom. Since then, standards have changed. Now houses with one bathroom and four bedrooms are not popular with buyers, so they sell for less – all other factors accounted for.

Since the late 1980s, the trend in American houses is to build them with more bathrooms. The average number of bathrooms per house has increased between 1987 and 2020, from an average of 2.29 in 1987 to 2.8 in 2020. Only three percent of all newly constructed houses were built with one or one-and-a-half bathrooms by 2020. In 1987, seventeen percent were built with one or one-and-a-half bathrooms (Source).

Why are newer houses far more likely to have two or more bathrooms? Because buyers will pay more for houses with more bathrooms.

People who live in (and eventually sell) older homes also upgrade and add bathrooms. There was an upsurge in the number of bathroom renovations in 2021, which went along with a general increase in home renovation (source). The renovation boom was attributed to the pandemic in 2020, but the trend toward preferring more bathrooms was going on before that, and since. Perhaps all the Baby Boomers who grew up in those four bedroom houses with one bathroom took action.

How do you determine how many bathrooms you really need?

There is no standard for how many bathrooms per person makes for a good life. Like any other buying decision, buy with a plan to live in the house for ten years or more. Then consider these factors:

Privacy: This is a personal thing. There are many people who live alone, but want a guest bathroom. Likewise, there are people who want their own bathroom within family homes. Some parents do not want to share with their children. Some children don’t want to share with children of another gender. As I said, very personal.

Access: Having a multi-level house with one bathroom puts stairs between the toilet and the part of the house.

  1. Children who are toilet training need to get to the toilet quickly. Stairs slow that down.
  2. If the bathroom is near the upstairs bedrooms, guests must go upstairs into the more private space to get to the toilet.
  3. If bedrooms are not on the toilet’s level, it makes it necessary to use stairs at night or if someone is sick.
  4. People with mobility problems may not be able to get to the toilet.

Morning and evening rush hour: Are there enough sinks and showers for everyone in the family?

When looking at these factors, make your best guess about your needs. Remember, the more bathrooms, the more expensive a house, generally.

  • How much do members of your family require the privacy of their own bathroom?
  • Do you have friends and family who might have problems with stairs? This may be short-term, like during toilet training or if someone sprains an ankle.
  • Is there enough access to sinks and toilets so that everyone in the household can go to bed and get up and out in the morning?

Saving money by buying a house with fewer bathrooms? Maybe not.

Expense: Adding a bathroom is not simple, so it is also not cheap. A plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, and maybe a tile installer all need to work within a fairly small space. They ask to be paid accordingly. Bathrooms are the second most expensive room to renovate or add, after the kitchen.

Prohibition: Zoning is strict about bathrooms. Towns and cities have plumbing codes, size restrictions, and other rules that might make it difficult to find a place in the house to add a bathroom. Depending on the layout, you may not be able to find a good place to add a half bath on the living level that currently has no bathroom.

Ultimately, the decision on the number of bathrooms comes down to a balance between your current and future needs, your budget, and the layout of the home, so take the time to evaluate your priorities carefully to ensure a comfortable and functional living space.


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