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First-Time Flipper? Here’s How to Update Your Bathroom for Big Returns

First-Time Flipper? Here’s How to Update Your Bathroom for Big Returns

Brian McCourt is a contractor, design expert and co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds.


We all know bathrooms rank second to the kitchen in terms of adding resale value to a home. And while it’s easy to spend ten grand on a room that’s the same size as a walk-in closet, a bathroom reno doesn’t have to break your budget in order to sell the home – and the room doesn’t need to be big to pack a design punch.

During the flipping process, it can be difficult to decide where to spend and where to save. Every flip is different, and it’s impossible know what the future buyer prefers. That’s why you should target the largest audience possible and avoid making decisions based on personal preference.

Here are some handy bathroom flipping tips I’ve learned over the years, covering six key features: layout, toilet, bathtub, vanity, tile and lighting.


Optimize Functionality
A standard washroom is about five feet by eight feet, with the tub placed at one end and the toilet and vanity off to one side. A common planning mistake is placing the vanity beside the bathtub. This makes the room look much smaller and is less functional. The vanity is also often water damaged thanks to its proximity to the shower/tub. A great trick for compact bathrooms is to extend the mirror above the toilet and vanity, making the space appear larger than it really is.


Go Back to the Basics
Toilets don’t sell homes – freshly baked cookies do! A number of years ago everyone wanted a top button dual-flush toilet, but now, I think we’ve learned our lesson. First, you lose valuable tissue-box real estate on the tank cover, and then there’s the sticky button problem… pressing and holding it to flush (gross). I just double flushed, double washed my hands and doubled my water consumption. There’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned side lever to get the job done, and there are plenty of toilets under $250 with great flush ratings.



To Tub or Not to Tub?
I often hear about people removing the bathtub and replacing it with a walk-in shower. When flipping, this is a big mistake. You may never use a bathtub, but that doesn’t mean others won’t either. If there is no tub in the main washroom, then you have just ruled out potential buyers with young children and many adults who love to finish their day with a soapy soak. You want to appeal to as many buyers as possible – so always opt for a tub!

Repair with Care
If the bathtub itself is in decent shape and isn’t a pale shade of pink, blue or green, consider only replacing the tile around it. Even if there are nicks and scratches, it can be repaired by a professional. A tub restoration company can make a beat-up tub look brand new in an hour or two. While the visit will cost $150 to $250, it’s a fraction of the cost of replacing it.


Don’t Be Afraid to Splurge

When everything else in the washroom is basic and neutral, a vanity is a smart place to splurge. You can make a big impact with a bit of creativity and labour. Pair a vessel sink with an antique dresser to create an eye-catching, one-of-a-kind vanity – the perfect focal point to drive the style of the space. Then balance the cost by saving on the vanity fixtures.

More Reno Budget Tips: Where to Splurge and Save in Every Room of Your Home


Save Strategically
Don’t be afraid to use the same neutral tile on the floor as on the shower walls. This keeps the room consistent and clean. It also lets the vanity do all the talking. I try not to use more than two different types of tile in a washroom, especially if it’s conservative in size. Porcelain tiles are cost effective, durable and look great.



Get Close-Up Ready
This is one room in a home where the lighting isn’t just about making the room look nice, it’s also about making YOU look nice. In a vain age where selfies have become socially acceptable, the idea of tapping into potential buyers’ personal vanity isn’t such a stretch. Overhead lighting casts shadows on the face, which isn’t very flattering (especially pot lights). Think about adding sconces to both sides of the mirror so potential buyers see a reflection they want to come back to again.

Looking for more house flipping tips? Here’s how to remodel the kitchen like a pro.

Main feature image courtesy of Tracey Ayton

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