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How To Raise A Family With One Bathroom

Posted on Monday 15th February 2021 by James Roberts


It seems like something you only see in pop culture like films and TV but it is reality across the world every single day for many people. No matter the size of the family, whether you have older children or younger children, bathroom quarrels are common.

Hogging the bathroom, using all the hot water, leaving empty toilet rolls, not putting the toilet seat down after use – these may all sound vaguely familiar – and the list doesn’t end there.

Yet it has led to the question of whether one bathroom is sufficient for a family household, particularly for a family of four or more. In this guide, with the help of some parents and bloggers, we’ll explore the issue of whether it’s possible to raise a family with one bathroom.

How many properties in the UK have one bathroom?

graph from english housing survey 2018 showing number of bathrooms in bedsits, non-bedsits and dwellings

Firstly, let’s look at the number of homes with only one bathroom. According to figures in the 2018 English Housing Survey on the size of homes, 73% of homes in the survey had only one bathroom, while the remaining 27% had two or more. Based on the sample size surveyed, it is estimated that 17.6m households live with only one bathroom.

The same study also estimated that over half (56%) were couples with no dependent children, or were solely single male/female occupied, meaning 44% of homes included dependent or independent children, two or more families, or lone people sharing with other lone people. Although there’s no data to show the split of bathrooms to the types of occupancy, it is reasonable to assume that a number of people with children or living with other people will be sharing a single bathroom.

Is it possible to have one bathroom for a family or household of 4?

If your household has recently grown with a new child or you’re expecting - congratulations! Whether your family is growing or already growing up fast, it is entirely reasonable to wonder if one bathroom is going to be big enough for you all in the future. This includes whether you may need your own private spaces, whether you should renovate your home, or simply whether you should be looking to sell up and find a bigger property.

The answer to this question is yes, it is possible to share a single bathroom amongst four people and is a common occurrence across the UK and in other countries, every single day. However, with anything like this, whether it is practical, or realistic, really depends on your own household and personal circumstances.

Firstly, it’s important to consider the make-up of your household. Whether it features parents and two children, you’re a single parent, or maybe you have elderly relatives living with you, every circumstance is going to be different. Things you will have to bear in mind when it comes to your own situation include everything from age and working habits, to any health requirements or personal preferences.

heritage claverton basin & close coupled wc set in a small bathroom

To evaluate this, it may be worth looking at your existing bathroom layout and also existing usage to see how a growing household may impact on you. This will allow you to establish what, if any, changes you need to make to better suit a bigger household or for elderly relatives. Read our guides on planning a family a bathroom and family bathroom ideas to get some inspiration of changes you can make.

As with anything, if you don’t want to rush a decision, it’s always worth seeing how it works out and put in place a system if that helps add some structure and fairness when it comes to bathroom usage and routines.

Jessica Morgan, a parent of two based near Bristol, and former parenting blogger, balances family life with her own business, Carnsight.com. She says of her own experience growing up: “We grew up with one bathroom as a house of five and managed fine.” However, with her own family, this has changed her opinions on the matter slightly: “But having had a family bathroom and an en-suite you definitely get used to have two different spaces, so I’d always choose to have more if that was possible. We also missed a downstairs bathroom when we didn’t have one.” She now states that she has four bathrooms after adding an extension with an en-suite and a downstairs bathroom too.

Emma Dunn, a parent of two boys aged 15 and 2, and blogger at Lipglossandcurves.com, also feels it is difficult to manage nowadays with a single bathroom for her family: “I used to struggle when it was myself and my 15-year old with one bathroom and no downstairs loo,” she says, before adding, “especially if I was in the bath and he needed the loo. I feel it is very hard no matter what size the family is to have just one toilet in the house.”

When should you start adding extra bathrooms or moving home?

If you have a newborn, toddlers or infants, it is likely a single bathroom is going to be sufficient for your requirements as a family of three or four. Bathroom usage from young children will only extend as far as bath-time and using the toilet. Things like bath-time can be accommodated, away from morning times when other members are getting ready for work and school.

image of bottles and shower products in storage basket

However, with teenage children and those entering adulthood, you may find it becomes more of a challenge to negotiate as morning time and evenings become busier. You might also find that as the household gets older, the bathroom becomes more popular with every member wanting to have their own personal items such as toothbrushes, toiletries, brushes and other beauty and grooming products handy, making space more of a necessity or requirement. Despite this, older households are also more aware of each other, so it doesn’t always mean big problems, though these issues can - and do - lead to understandable friction at times. More space, more bathrooms or even moving home can be a solution to avoid these.

It’s worth thinking about these issues as early as possible, in advance of starting a family or while children are still young. There is no definitive answer; each household is different, and whereas some can manage and cope quite easily, others can naturally find it more of a struggle.

What can I do to make sharing one bathroom easier as a family?

storage boxes for makeup items and brushes

Many of the issues stemming from sharing bathrooms can be easily resolved through setting ground-rules or agreeing a plan in advance, as well as being considerate of each other’s requirements. Examples include:

  • Setting out a schedule for baths/showering with times on a morning, ensuring everyone has their own time. This could be rotated regularly out of fairness
  • Give everyone their own space or storage area for their own personal items, such as wire baskets, shelves, vanity units and window ledges
  • When decorating or making changes, agree it as a household and make sure everyone has their own say. Jessica advises of her own experiences when decorating her bathroom: “Yes – we chatted to them all! The kids wanted a nicer room to play in – the old bathroom had started to get a bit tatty and not look very fresh. They also wanted to be able to splash around (we used a screen not a shower curtain) and they wanted storage for toys.”
  • As children get older, include them in a bathroom cleaning rota. This will help them keep it tidy and ensure everyone is doing their own bit
  • Look to include a double basin if you have the space so that small tasks like hand-washing and brushing teeth can be done at once

gsi norm double basin wall hung 125

Living with a single bathroom as a family of four is certainly possible. But it’s worth consulting everyone to make sure you make the right choice for both yourself and the rest of your family.

Do you have any tips or advice for families on how to cope with a single bathroom? Share yours with us by getting in touch by social media or by contacting us directly and we’ll add them to the blog.

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