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.

By Kathy Barnes
Updated November 03, 2020

Whether you're remodeling or building new, designing the perfect bathroom layout 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 and bathroom dimensions in place, it's easier to set a budget, hire contractors, and shop for beautiful finishes.

A functional bathroom floor plan is one of the keys 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 bathroom layout, think about how your dream space would function.

Credit: John Bessler

Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Bathroom Layout

These important considerations will help you determine the best way to lay out your new or newly remodeled bathroom.

Who will use the bathroom?

For example, will two adults share the master bathroom 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 bathroom layout, 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.

Popular Bathroom Layouts

With this 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 with your bathroom layout? Check out the three popular bathroom designs below and see which one fits your home and needs best.

Three-Quarter Bath Layout (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.

Full Bath Layout

A tub/shower combination is a good choice for many bathroom dimensions, especially a space that will 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 a double vanity.

Master Bathroom Layout Idea

When you need to share but space is limited, this master bathroom 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.

Credit: Jim Franco

Consider Bathroom Walls

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.

How to Plan Your Bathroom Design Style

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. Are you a fan of modern bathroom design or is a country-cottage bathroom more your style? Do you love the crisp, clean look of a white bathroom or is a bold, brilliant red bathroom more appealing? Heading to the store with a clear vision will make it much easier to whittle down the bathroom paint color choices for cabinets, hardware materials, and other finishes.

Credit: Michael Partenio

General Bathroom Planning Codes and Guidelines to Consider

Adhere to these bathroom codes and recommendations to ensure the space will function efficiently.

Bathroom Door Entry Planning Guideline

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. It's also important that no entry or fixture door interferes with another door or the safe use of the fixtures and cabinets.

Credit: Annie Schlecther

Recommended Clear Bathroom Space

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 Requirements:

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

Bathroom Planning Guidelines for Single Lavatory Placement

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 Codes for Double Lavatory Placement

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.
Credit: Gordon Beall

Recommended Shower Size

The interior shower size should be 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.

Guidelines for Toilet/Bidet Placement

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.

Credit: Edmund Barr Photography

Toilet Compartment Recommendations

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 Guidelines for Storage

Provide adequate, accessible storage for toiletries, bath linens, and grooming and general bathroom supplies at the point of use.

Bathroom Lighting Tips

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.

Comments (1)

December 2, 2018
Excellent article! I was looking for general code information without having to read our entire building code.