Bathroom Design

Very few rooms affect a home's value like a bathroom. Whether you are building a new home or are ready to remodel an existing bathroom, use this guide to design the best bathroom.

Designing a new bathroom or remodeling an existing one can be a challenging and expensive project. Although it's small, a bathroom demands more decisions per square foot than any other room in a home. Creating a functional and attractive bathroom is about more than selecting pretty finishes; it also means making the space accessible and safe.

Here is an overview of the basic guidelines for four of the most important elements of bathroom design.

Space Planning

Perhaps the most difficult part of designing a bathroom is deciding where everything should go. In a new bathroom, it's easy to be overwhelmed by a blank slate. In a remodel, you may be limited by space constraints and existing plumbing placement (relocating plumbing is very expensive and not a cost-effective plan for most bathroom upgrades). To start the design process, take exact measurements of the floor plan and first place the essential elements, using these basic guidelines:

• Door: Measured jamb to jamb, the entry door should be 34-inches wide, but no smaller than 24-inches wide. In a small bathroom, hang the door so it swings out, rather than in, to avoid interference with other doors, cabinets, and fixtures.

• Shower: For comfort and safety, the shower should be at least 30x30x80 inches at the showerhead, but most modern bathroom designs allow for 90-inch-high ceilings with showers of at least 36-inches square. The shower surround should extend at least 3 inches above the showerhead. Hinged shower doors must open outward to prevent someone from becoming trapped after losing consciousness.

• Sink: The centerline of the sink must be 15 inches from the sidewall or tall obstacle (at least 20 inches is preferable). For double sinks, the distance between their centerlines should be 30-36 inches. Allow at least 4 inches between the edge of the sink and the wall.

• Toilet: The centerline of the toilet or bidet must be 15 inches, and preferably at least 18 inches, away from the wall or other obstacles. If you plan to place the toilet in its own closet, the compartment must be 30x60 inches (36x66 inches is more comfortable) and should include a swing-out or pocket door.

• Floor space: Allow a mandatory 21 inches of open space in front of the toilet, sink, and tub, and 24 inches in front of the shower entry. If possible, keep at least 30 inches free in all areas so people with limited mobility can use the facilities comfortably.

More bathroom layout guidelines and tips.

Electrical and Ventilation

Make sure your bathroom is bright enough for grooming and showering by installing plenty of general and task lighting. Have fun choosing fixtures for the space but remember you must include at least one wall-switch controlled light with the switch placed by the entrance. Also, any hanging fixtures cannot be closer than 3 feet horizontally and 8 feet vertically from the top of the bathtub rim. If you add lights within the tub or shower, they must be labeled as "suitable for damp/wet locations." Use only ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles in the bathroom and never install an outlet or switch within the shower or tub space. For ventilation, a small window may meet code requirements, but it's not an efficient solution. Better is to use a mechanical exhaust system that vents to the outside in each enclosed area.


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