By Ana Durrani

Aug 29, 2022

(Getty Images)

A well-designed bathroom in a newly renovated home can woo just about any buyer. It’s hard not to fall for a bathroom outfitted with a new toilet, tub, and tile because—in most instances—that means the loo will be fully functional and free of problems for years to come.

But behind those flawless new fixtures and finishes may be hiding ugly truths about the quality of the bathroom renovation. Worst case scenario? You’re looking at a cheap flip.

A cheaply flipped bathroom is usually the result of hasty workmanship or a money-saving strategy from cash-strapped owners. In the business of home flipping, the quicker you can get the property remodeled and sold, the more successful you’ll be. But renovations take time, and some bathroom updates such as plumbing, painting, and tile laying can’t be rushed.

So if you’re in the market for a move-in-ready home, take heed of the following telltale signs of a cheaply flipped bathroom so you can avoid having to make costly repairs in the future.

1. Bathtub blunders

The idea of soaking in the huge bathtub is a big sell for you, but don’t let that sway you just yet.

“Some flippers choose to refinish a tub instead of paying for a more costly replacement,” says Laurie March, a remodeler and designer whose work has been seen on HGTV and DIY Network.

If you see a tub that’s been refinished, March recommends finding out if all plumbing fixtures match.

Take a look at the surface of the tub, too.

“If you can see visible cracks or chipping, that’s a problem that won’t go away,” says March.

2. Tiling issues

Amy McCampbell, a real estate agent in Montclair, NJ, says a messy caulking job in a bathroom is a huge warning sign of a renovation that’s poorly done. Make sure to also check grout lines.

“How are the corners where your tile meets in the shower? Do the grout lines line up? Are the tile cuts well done and symmetrical?” asks March.

Make sure your renovated shower has a door installed, too—seriously. It’s easy to miss!

“Sure, the tile work and rain spout may be dazzling, but if the shower door isn’t included, you may be looking at spending an additional couple grand to put one in,” says McCampbell.

3. Exhaust fans just for show

Exhaust fans are a must to reduce moisture in your bathroom, but some exhaust fans are just for show and can’t be turned on.

Scott Thomas, senior director of franchise support for Dryer Vent Wizard, says it’s hard to judge how effective an exhaust fan is without digging deeper.

“Ensure that the fan is vented to the home’s exterior and that the fan is properly sized for the room it is in,” says Thomas. “Some states require a bathroom exhaust fan if you have a separate toilet room, so you’d want to ensure the bathroom meets the minimum requirements.”

4. Shoddy painting

Look closely for thin color coverage, advises Chuck Reger with Five Star Painting. Sometimes painters “cut in” (aka paint the corners and trim with a paintbrush) once and then apply two coats of paint with a roller, so you may notice a line if it’s done incorrectly.

“You might also notice stain bleeding through the paint; this indicates the wrong primer was used,” says Reger.

A fresh coat of paint on a bathroom window may indicate quick repairs to a rotting window, March cautions.

“Make sure you open, close, and inspect all windows in the bathroom for water damage,” says March.

5. Plumbing problems

If the faucets look new, make sure to check if the water lines under the sink are shiny and new, too.

“A good remodeler would replace most of the piping you see inside the cabinet,” says Doyle James with Mr. Rooter Plumbing. “Older water lines may have worn seals and should be replaced when adding a new faucet to the bathroom.”

6. The bathroom doesn’t pass the sniff test

A brand-new bathroom shouldn’t smell damp, and a dank, moist smell in the air might be something to make a stink over.

Furthermore, the smell of paint can be cause for concern.

“A freshly painted wall under the sink can signify the need to cover mold or water damage,” says March.