Large or small, every bath needs a good floor plan to shine. Here are some tips to a zen, space-saving layout.
Privacy, Please If you have a generously sized space, a separate toilet compartment is the ultimate in privacy, but it does have drawbacks: Solid walls make the overall room feel smaller, and many people find a toilet closet claustrophobic. There are other ways to enhance privacy and comfort. Just placing the toilet out of the direct line of sight--off to one side of the doorway or protected by the vanity--can make a "big difference mentally," says Lori Jo Krengel, a certified master kitchen and bath designer in St. Paul. One of her favorite options is a privacy panel made of tempered glass, with a sandblasted design that obscures views without blocking light. "It's beautiful, and it takes up very little floor space," she says.
A Vanity Affair Every bath needs a sink, but choosing one sink or two deserves some pondering. "Think about how you use the bath," Krengel says. "If two people are actually getting ready at the same time, and both need the sink, then two sinks make sense." Otherwise, consider having two roomier grooming stations -- with a completely separate makeup vanity -- and just one sink to share for tooth brushing and hand washing. "You can tailor the storage to each person's needs and maximize the space if you don't need a second sink," she says. Plus, you'll have only one sink to clean. Don't forget good vanity lighting. Sconces on both sides of the mirror produce less shadow on your face than a single light from above.
Bathing Beauty If you like soaking, a separate tub is a welcome luxury. A bump-out tub bay is a popular choice, but you can also bump in, creating a central tub niche flanked by built-in storage or by compartments for a shower and toilet. Not everyone prefers a tub, however. These days, many homeowners are trading their underused whirlpool or tub-shower combo for a more luxurious walk-in shower. Most real estate experts agree: As long as you have at least one tub in the house, it's OK for resale purposes to eliminate a second tub.
Plumbing Practicalities Ultimately, your layout will depend on the constraints of your space--and your budget. Remodeling costs tend to soar when you start moving plumbing lines. Just switching an adjacent sink and toilet could set you back $1,500, Krengel says. "Moving the whole vent stack is the real big-ticket item," she says. "If you have to do that, it could be $5,000 to $10,000." You need a licensed plumber to assess your home's particulars, but in general, these final tips will help keep plumbing costs down: -- Keep new bathrooms close to existing plumbing--either directly adjacent when on the same level of the house or stacked in a multilevel plan. -- Consolidate plumbing within the bath. Go with a single "wet wall" or an L-shape "wet zone" made up of two adjacent walls (more on wet walls below). -- In cold climates, be wary of pipes in an exterior wall--they can freeze, burst, and cause horrific water damage.
Based on your budget, you first should decide how many "wet walls" (walls that contain plumbing pipes) you need and can afford. Fewer wet walls mean lower plumbing costs, even if you can connect to plumbing lines in adjacent rooms. A one-wall bath layout is efficient but limits your design choices. A layout with plumbing in two walls involves more work but provides more floor area and storage space around the sink. Three-wall layouts offer the most design flexibility, but that comes at a cost. Let these six sample bath layouts inspire you and help you plan your project. You might also want to keep a notebook or file of space-smart baths that you see in magazines. That way, you can show your plumber or contractor exactly what you're thinking about doing.
Three-Quarters Style All plumbing on the same wall saves labor and supply expenses. With only one sink and a shower, this is a popular and hardworking plan.
Full Bath with Perks A tub-shower combination is a good choice for many baths. The tub end wall and the way the door opens help obscure the toilet. There is room in this plan for a long vanity or two sinks.
Bonus Storage Two sinks bump out from adjacent slim storage cabinets to make an appealing entry. The interior wall of the large walk-in shower has glass panels flanking the plumbing column. The wall of the master closet helps screen the toilet.
Space-Smart Bath Elements include a shower (no tub) with a half-wall with glass above. Two sinks and a linen closet fill one wall. The pocket door saves space near the entrance. A variation could have a window between the double vanity and the generous-size shower.