Remodeling A Bathroom: Capital Improvement Or Not?

Kenneth Wilson

You must determine if the repairs and maintenance costs that are to be incurred are to be categorized as normal expenses or a capital improvement that must be capitalized and depreciated once your property is in service.

In order to maximize current year deductions and reduce depreciation recapture, many property owners will seek to have as many of those costs as possible categorized as regular repair and maintenance expenses.

One of the most common mistakes on your yearly tax return by real estate investors is to confuse repairs, maintenance, and improvements. However, the big question is, is bathroom remodeling a capital improvement?

Before we go into that, we’ll have to understand the three classifications as stated above.

In order to accurately lodge your claim and maximize your tax refund or renovate your home on the right foot, it is important to understand and differentiate each classification.

Work carried out to mend or deteriorate the property, such as substituting part of the damaged fence, should be considered repair work. This happens when an item is already destroyed or damaged and requires repair.

On the other hand, maintenance work is carried out in order that an asset is not damaged or degraded. Oiling a deck is an example; it is considered maintenance since it helps maintain the pro condition and prevents further corrosion.

Any expenditures made on repairing or maintaining your investment property may be claimed in the year of expenditure as direct deductions from tax. However, initial repairs for damage caused by the purchase of the property will not be deductible immediately. These costs are rather employed when you sell the property to work out your capital gains or capital losses.

What is Capital Improvement?

A Capital improvement is an addition or alteration that enhances the value or life of a property or adapts it (or a component of the property) to new uses.

A capital improvement is the addition of a permanent structural change or the restoration of some parts of a property which will either improve the overall value of the property, increase its useful life or adapt it to new uses. Individuals, businesses, and cities can make capital improvements to the property they own.

Capital improvements occur when, at the time of purchase, the status or worth of an asset is increased beyond its initial state. This should be classified as either a deduction for capital works or as the depreciation of plants and equipment. The deductions available for the construction of the bathroom and things considered to be fitted permanently to it, such as bricks, stone, sinks, and basins, are referred to as capital work. While plants and equipment are objects, such as carpets, curtains, and light fixtures that may be readily removed.

Examples of Capital Improvements

For example, assume that a man buys a house for $650,000 and spends $50,000 on a bathroom renovation and the addition of a kitchen. In many situations, this project does not require a sales tax to be paid to contractors since it constitutes an upgrade of qualifying capital.

The house's asset value is likewise rising from $650,000 to $700,000. The landowner, who has a single tax and files tax as such, sells the property at a price of $975,000 after ten years of owning and living in their house. If no improvement in the capital had been made, it would typically be equal to $75,000 for a taxable capital gain ($975,000 excluding the sale price — $650,000 excluding capital gains). Since the capital upgrade raised the cost basis by $50,000, this would equate to just $250,000 ($155,000 – ($650 000 + $50, 000) – $250,000 ($25,000).

Renovation Process

In the renovation process, it is particularly crucial to know the difference between repairs, maintenance, and capital improvements.

For instance, the bathroom in your house may be renovated. The removal of the bathroom would be considered a capital improvement and may be claimed as a reduction in capital expenses. If a light fixture in the bathroom is replaced, it can be requested as a plant and equipment asset and deducted from the effective life of the asset.

If a crack is fixed in the plaster, it is seen as a repair when a damaged property is restored. You're entitled to claim an immediate deduction for any expenses involved. (Related: Bathroom Remodel Costs: 5 Things No One Will Tell You)

If a new plant and equipment assets, along with new or old qualifying asset deductions available to investment, are considered by the prior owner to have been significantly restored for sale.

Here comes the answer to one of the common questions as far as remodeling and capital improvements are concerned.

Is Replacing a Bathroom a Capital Improvement?

It would usually be a capital improvement if you were to "replace" something by fixing or completing it. It would probably be seen as maintenance if you changed a bathtub, but if a bathroom and a new toilet were rebuilt, the entire cost would be considered a capital improvement

Is Replacing a Door a Capital Improvement?

The repair would be to add a part that replaces a broken part in the HVAC unit. A capital improvement would be the introduction of a new unit on the second story or a new bathroom. The addition of a screen door might not be an improvement. However, adding a ramp and an ADA-compliant entrance door would be.

Any cost which increases your property's capacity, strength, and quality is an improvement under IRS Publication 527. This category includes new wall-to-wall carpeting. It is likely to be a deducible repair just to replace a single carpet beyond its usable life.


In view of the complexity of renovations, investors should consult a specialized quantity investigator for guidance before any work is completed.

Kenneth Wilson
September 3, 2021
Bathroom Remodeling, Contractor Tips

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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