Bathroom Code & Designs

For Commercial
Design Fundamentals
Design Fundamentals

Space Planning

The first step to a beautiful, functional bathroom begins by carefully measuring the overall dimensions of your space and marking them on a scale drawing (Remember the pad of graph paper in your project file?). This will give your a clear idea of exactly what you have to work with.

It’s important to measure accurately because the size and placement of plumbing fixtures and cabinets depend on it. Be sure to include more than just the overall dimensions of the room.

  • Also indicate the position of windows, doorway placement and dimensions, radiators, water pipes (pipes and wires may not be exactly where you thought) and other permanent features like built-in cabinets and storage
  • Mark the direction swing of all doors and the location of all switches, electrical outlets, and light fixtures.
  • If you plan to place a fixture below a window sill, be sure to measure the height of the sill from the floor.
Measuring works best with two people. Keep in mind the old adage “Measure twice, cut once.” It may save you a lot of time and grief later.

  • It’s time to draw in counters, fixtures or other attached details, providing length and width measurements for each. While the minimum size for a bathroom with a bathtub, toilet and lavatory is 5′ x 7′ keep in mind the addition of one more foot (5’x8′) will allow a much wider selection of bathtubs and lavatories. A powder room usually has only two fixtures, toilet and lavatory and can be created with only 54″ x 48″ of space.
  • Standardized bathroom planning guidelines are based on the space required for an individual to safely and comfortably function in a bathroom.

Fixture Specification and Placement

Plumbing fixtures are what make bathroom planning and design different from other rooms in your home. Where do you start? With so many choices, selecting the right fixtures and faucets for your home can be a bit overwhelming.

The placement of plumbing fixtures is an art unto itself. Fixtures must be placed efficiently with respect to each other and with enough space around them to make them convenient to use. By plumbing code, each fixture requires a minimum distance from a wall or another fixture. When planning your bath, consider the rough-in specifications of your plumbing fixtures and the spaces in which they¹ll function. Measure to the centerline of all fixtures, keeping desirable fixture clearances in mind as you plan.

Bathroom Planning Guidelines

Space planning for compliance with plumbing codes is critical. Begin by checking out the local requirements. Consider the following planning guidelines and fixture clearances when designing or remodeling your bath. They will help to create a space that is safe and universally accessible for all users.

  • Clear floor space at the door to your bathroom should be at least 32″ wide.
  • Minimum clear floor space in front of a lavatory should measure 30″ x 48″.
  • A 48″ x 48″ floor space from the front edge of the toilet to any wall or fixture opposite it is a desirable minimum.
  • Allow a minimum of 16″ of clear floor space on either side of the centerline of the toilet to comfortably accommodate the user’s elbows and shoulders.
  • These minimums also apply to a bidet and its placement relative to a toilet.
  • Leave enough space around the edge of a bathtub or whirlpool for drying off or for bathing small children. A minimum of 30″ x 60″ is desirable.
  • When you want to replace a toilet utilizing the existing drain location, it is important to measure the distance from the wall to the center of the drain opening. The standard measurement is 12″. Yours may be 10″ or 14″, which means you’ll need to select a particular toilet to accommodate it.
  • Ideally, the toilet should not be visible from the door of the bathroom.
  • For added privacy you may want to install a toilet in a separate compartmentalized area. The desirable clearance for this type of installation requires a space measuring 36″ x 66″.
  • Providing a 6″ wide platform at the same level as the bathtub makes getting in and out easier for those with limited mobility.
  • Minimum clearance from the centerline of a lavatory to any side wall is 15″.
  • For side-by-side lavatories, you’ll need to allow a 30″ minimum clearance (centerline to centerline) between bowls.
  • For adults of average height, a primary vanity should be 34″ to 42″ high. If you are including more than one vanity, the second one may be 30″ to 34″ high to fit a second user.
  • If space permits, a separate shower is always a better choice. Removing the shower from the bath often offers more space for showering and opens more design options in bath placement and installation.
  • Showers should include a bench or seat that is 17″ to 19″ above the floor and a minimum of 15″ deep.
  • For safety reasons, a pivot shower door should open into the bathroom. This way, if someone falls, you can get in to provide assistance.
  • A shower should be large enough to let you raise your arms to wash your hair or bend to pick up the soap. A good size for a one-person shower is 36″ x 42″.
  • Storage for toiletries and grooming supplies should be within 15″ to 48″ of the floor.
  • Storage areas should be within reach of the user but should not interfere with the use of plumbing fixtures.
  • Every functional area in the bath should be well lit.
  • Lighting fixtures should not be placed within reach of a person seated or standing in the bathtub or shower area.
  • A vanity should have overhead and side lighting. Side lighting should be at eye level.
  • The height of the showerhead should be related to the height of the user.
  • Place towel bars and robe hooks within arm’s reach of the bathtub.
  • Allow two feet of towel rack space for each person who will be using the bathroom.

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