Bathroom Layout Guidelines and Requirements

Designing a bathroom is a rewarding yet challenging project. Our guide to planning a functional and beautiful bathroom layout will help you configure a comfortable space that meets your family's needs.


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Whether you're remodeling or building, designing the perfect bathroom is an exciting and thoughtful process. To help bring your dream bath into focus, take time to assess your needs and devise an efficient layout. With a smart strategy in place, it's easier to set a budget, hire contractors, and shop for beautiful finishes.

A functional floor plan is the key to building and remodeling success. To determine space-planning requirements, answer the questions below to shed light on how you'll use the space. For an existing bath, assess the pros and cons of the current layout. For a new bath, think about how your dream space would function.

• Who will use the bathroom? For example, will two adults share the space during the morning rush hour? Is the bathroom limited to occasional guest usage? Are children who need assistance the primary users? Will you bathe a pet in the tub?

• How will it be used? What activities will be done in the various parts of the room? For example, will you require a place to sit and apply makeup? Will the room also house laundry facilities? What activities can be done in a shared space, and which require a private area? Do you prefer separate shower and bath areas? Would you like a tub that accommodates more than one person? Do you want the water closet in its own compartment?

• Where will things go? What items need to be stored in the bathroom, and where should they be located for easy access?

The answers to these questions can shed light on how much open floor space is needed for navigation around the room, what size tub or shower makes sense, whether two sinks are necessary, and more. When crafting the perfect floor plan, don't underestimate the importance of storage.

Even in a petite bath you can find more storage solutions than just the vanity cabinet by adding a toilet surround, over-door shelving, or a recessed medicine cabinet. 

With that information in mind, you can begin to place the key elements in the room -- the tub, shower, toilet, and sink(s). Not sure where to begin? 

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We've listed the four most popular bathroom designs below. See which one fits your home and needs best.

Three-quarter bath (no tub)
With only one sink and a shower, this is a hardworking plan for a guest bathroom. All plumbing on the same wall saves labor and supply expenses. If visitors will use or see your bathroom, consider what they will first notice from the doorway.

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Full bath
A tub/shower combination is a good choice for many baths, especially a space that may be used by children as well as adults. The tub's end wall and the way the door opens  is a way to help keep the toilet separate from the rest of the space. Often a full bath has space for a roomy vanity, or double vanity.

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Posh Bath
When you need to share but space is limited, this layout makes perfect sense. The large tub is framed by an alcove with end shelves for added storage, and the double vanity saves space with shallow ends. The walk-in shower saves money because it doesn't require a door.

Posh+ Bath
For the master bathroom of your dreams, this plan doubles the comfort to easily accommodate two users. Plenty of space is dedicated to each important element -- a separate shower, a corner tub under windows, a double vanity, and a private toilet compartment.

Whatever the size of your bath, keep in mind that the more walls that contain plumbing pipes, the higher the price tag. If you're building new and budget is a concern, limit plumbing fixtures to one wall. If you're remodeling, try to keep load-bearing walls where they are and avoid rerouting plumbing and electrical lines. In all cases, remember that varied rooflines, curved walls, arches, bump-outs, and other character-enhancing features will drive up your total price tag.

With the layout in place, you can begin to think about design. Collect images of bathrooms you like, and then find the common themes to determine your style. Heading to the store with a clear vision will make it much easier to whittle down the choices for cabinets, hardware, and other finishes.


Get help making all of the big decisions with the Bathroom Planning Guide. Download it for FREE here.



General Guidelines to Consider

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Door Entry
Recommended: The clear opening of a doorway should be at least 34 inches wide. This requires a minimum 2-foot-10-inch door.

If the existing structure precludes changing the opening, then a minimum 2-foot door is allowable.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Door Interference
Recommended: No entry or fixture door should interfere with another door or the safe use of the fixtures and cabinets.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Clear Space
Recommended: Plan a clear floor space of at least 30 inches from the front edge of all fixtures (lavatory, toilet, bidet, tub, and shower) to any opposite bath fixture, wall, or obstacle.

Code Requirement:

  • A minimum space of 21 inches must be planned in front of lavatory, toilet, bidet, and tub.
  • A minimum space of 24 inches must be planned in front of a shower entry.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Single Lavatory Placement
Recommended: The distance from the centerline of the lavatory to a sidewall/tall obstacle should be at least 20 inches.

Code Requirement:

  • The minimum distance from the centerline of the lavatory to a wall is 15 inches.
  • The minimum distance between a wall and the edge of a freestanding or wall-hung lavatory is 4 inches.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Double Lavatory Placement
Recommended: The distance between the centerlines of two lavatories should be at least 36 inches.

Code Requirement:

  • The minimum distance between the centerlines of two lavatories is 30 inches.
  • The minimum distance between the edges of two freestanding or wall-hung lavatories is 4 inches.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Shower Size
Recommended: The interior shower size is at least 36x36 inches.

Code Requirement: The minimum interior shower size is 30x30 inches or 900 square inches, in which a disc 30 inches in diameter must fit.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Toilet/Bidet Placement
Recommended: The distance from the centerline of a toilet and/or bidet to any bath fixture, wall, or other obstacle should be at least 18 inches.

Code Requirement: A minimum distance of 15 inches is required from the centerline of a toilet and/or bidet to any bath fixture, wall, or other obstacle.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Toilet Compartment
Recommended: The size for a separate toilet compartment should be at least 36x66 inches with a swing-out or pocket door.

Code Requirement: The minimum size for a separate toilet compartment is 30x60 inches.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Storage
Recommended: Provide adequate, accessible storage for toiletries, bath linens, and grooming and general bathroom supplies at point of use.

Bathroom Planning Guideline: Lighting
Recommended: In addition to general lighting, task lighting should be provided for each functional area in the bathroom (i.e. grooming, showering).

Code Requirement:

  • At least one wall-switch-controlled light must be provided. The switch must be placed at the room's entrance.
  • All light fixtures installed within tub and shower spaces should be marked "suitable for damp/wet locations."
  • Hanging fixtures cannot be located within a zone of 3 feet horizontally and 8 feet vertically from the top of the bathtub rim.


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