Your bathroom layout and design are key considerations when remodeling or building a new home. The layout should be functional, comfortable, and reflect your personal style. With planning and foresight, you can create a beautiful and efficient bathroom tailored to your needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the important factors to weigh when choosing a bathroom layout.
When beginning a bathroom design or remodel, one of the first steps is deciding on the layout. The layout refers to the physical arrangement of fixtures and the use of space in the room. It encompasses everything from the location of the toilet, sink, shower, and tub to the placement of cabinets, storage, lighting, and decor.
Choosing the right layout is essential for creating a bathroom that is beautiful, comfortable, and meets your unique needs. The layout options are virtually endless, so it is important to consider your lifestyle, aesthetics, plumbing, budget, and the bathroom’s size and shape. A well-planned layout will provide ample storage, easy access between fixtures, and a space that is both functional and visually appealing.
Below we discuss the most popular bathroom layout options along with the pros, cons, and best uses of each. We also provide tips to help you design the ideal layout for your space and lifestyle. With some careful thought and planning during this initial stage, you can create a bathroom layout you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Gather Bathroom Measurements
Before deciding on a bathroom layout, you must start by carefully measuring the space. This includes tallying the length and width as well as noting any irregular shapes or sloped ceilings. Be sure to measure from wall to wall, accounting for protrusions like pipes and radiators. It is also helpful to mark the locations of existing plumbing fixtures and drains.
Accurate measurements are crucial for creating a functional layout that fits comfortably within the space. They will reveal what layouts are possible given the room’s size and shape. Keep in mind that standard building codes require clearances between fixtures and walls. For example, toilets need at least 15 inches from the centerline to any sidewall or obstruction.
Measure twice for complete accuracy. It is also wise to give yourself an extra inch or two of wiggle room in case your measurements are a bit off. Making adjustments is much easier during the planning phase than after construction or renovation work has begun.
Consider Your Needs
Every homeowner’s needs and preferences are different when it comes to their bathroom space. Make a list of features you require in your new bathroom as well as your top desired elements. Important factors to consider include:
- Number of users: How many people will regularly use the bathroom? More users will require more sinks, greater storage space, and potentially more toilets.
- Accessibility: Do you need grab bars, a walk-in shower, or ADA compliant clearances that can accommodate wheelchairs or limited mobility?
- Fixtures needed: Do you require a tub, shower, bidet, or two sinks? What about specialty items like a steam shower?
- Aesthetic preferences: What is your desired style – modern, traditional, rustic? Are there any must-have decor elements like a window seat or fireplace?
- Budget: How much can you reasonably spend on the remodel? Some layouts and materials are more budget-friendly than others.
- Future plans: Do you anticipate selling your home soon? Features like double sinks can increase resale value.
Evaluate how you currently use your bathroom and what is inconvenient or lacking. Be realistic about which features and conveniences you truly need or will utilize. Prioritize must-haves over nice-to-haves to guide your layout selection.
Know Plumbing Logistics
The existing plumbing in your home will impact which layouts are possible or affordable. Moving plumbing lines is an expensive and invasive construction process. Opting for a layout that works with the existing water supply lines and drains will save you time, money, and hassle.
Make note on your plan where the bathroom’s plumbing stack and water supply lines are located. Try to choose a layout with the toilet, shower, and sinks located near these existing lines. Limiting plumbing modifications prevents unnecessary demolition and reduces build time.
If you are moving walls or fixtures, hire a qualified plumber to consult on your layout options. They can assess if drain relocation is needed and provide cost estimates for any plumbing work required. Doing your homework ahead of time on what’s feasible can prevent costly surprises down the road.
Popular Bathroom Layout Options
Now that you have the preliminary work completed, it is time to explore possible layout options. Below are several of the most popular and practical bathroom layouts along with an overview of their pros, cons, and best uses.
Single Wall Layout
This common, traditional layout positions the toilet, sink, and bathtub or shower lined up along one wall. The main plumbing stack runs vertically behind this wall.
- Works well for smaller bathrooms. Maximizes limited space since all fixtures are accessed from one central area.
- Requires only one plumbing wall, reducing construction costs. Existing plumbing can likely be used.
- Allows easy installation of grab bars and wheelchair accessibility.
- Little privacy; lacks separation between toilet and bathing areas.
- Limited ventilation; steam from the shower can migrate throughout the bathroom.
- Traffic flow can be disrupted if multiple people are using the bathroom.
Best For: Half baths, kid’s bathrooms, powder rooms, guest baths. The single wall layout works well for bathrooms with one main user at a time.
Double Wall Layout
The double wall, or L-Shaped, layout positions fixtures along two adjoining walls, typically perpendicular to each other. The toilet and sink are on one wall, while the tub and shower are on another.
- Allows for some privacy separation between the toilet/sink area and shower/bath area.
- Two users can utilitize the space together, such as brushing teeth while another showers.
- Works well for medium and larger bathrooms.
- Requires two plumbing walls, increasing construction and renovation costs.
- Traffic flow through the bathroom can be disrupted if multiple people are using it.
Best For: Jack-and-Jill bathrooms connecting two bedrooms. Also works for larger master bathrooms designed for two users at once.
Open Concept Layout
As the name implies, the open concept layout has a free-flowing design without walls separating fixtures. The toilet, sinks, tub, and shower are all accessed from one open space.
- Creates an airy, spa-like atmosphere.
- Allows easy movement between areas and accessibility.
- Eliminates pesky shower curtains and doors. Walk-in showers can be designed for seamless entry and exit.
- No privacy separation between functions. Noise and smells can permeate the space.
- Requires careful planning so fixtures do not feel crammed together.
- Entire room must be waterproofed due to lack of containment between wet and dry areas.
Best for: Large, spacious bathrooms with room for a luxurious spa feel. Works for master bathrooms in open floor plan homes.
This creative layout positions the toilet and sink area in one space while the tub and shower are located through a doorway in an adjoining space.
- Provides privacy separation between wet and dry areas.
- Allows for a spacious feeling by splitting functions into two distinct zones.
- Requires two distinct spaces large enough to accommodate fixtures.
- Doorway must be waterproofed to prevent flooding between rooms.
Best for: Jack-and-Jill bathrooms, master baths with adjoining walk-in closets, or bathrooms adjacent to a bedroom.
Make It Functional
Beyond choosing the overall layout style, you will need to fine-tune the placement of fixtures and features within the space. Follow these tips to enhance functionality:
- Allow ample clearance around toilets for easy sitting and standing. At minimum, leave 15 inches from the toilet’s centerline to the wall or tub, and 21 inches from centerline to any sink or vanity.
- Avoid blocking doors or windows with fixtures or cabinets. Allow space for entry, exit, and window operation.
- Put cabinets and shelving within easy reach. Place frequently accessed items in convenient spots.
- Separate quiet and noisy zones so noise from the toilet or exhaust fan does not disrupt relaxation.
- Ensure the shower and tub are easy to enter and exit. Place grab bars for support and slip resistance if needed.
- Include multiple lighting sources from ambient to task lighting. Place lights to avoid glare and shadows on faces at mirrors.
- Select moisture-resistant cabinets, flooring, and countertops to withstand splashes and humidity.
- Zone areas by temperature with heated floors near showers, cool stone floors elsewhere, and center vents to heat the room evenly.
Test your layout by simulating using the space. Reach, sit, stand, and move between areas to detect any inefficient or uncomfortable spots before constructing.
Design With Style
A thoughtfully designed bathroom layout does more than just provide function. Arrange fixtures and decor in an aesthetically pleasing way that suits your personal taste. Some design tips include:
- Use symmetry and geometric shapes to craft a relaxing spa-like vibe.
- Curbless showers create an inviting doorless entry when positioned as the central feature.
- Frame focal points like freestanding tubs with alluring light fixtures or textured tile backsplashes.
- Include built-in bench seating in large walk-in showers to enjoy tropical rainfall showerheads.
- Orient the toilet diagonally in a corner rather than flat against the wall for interest.
- Add architectural elements like arched doorways between portions of the space.
- Carry a color scheme throughout the room with painted walls, tile, linens, and decor accents.
By thoughtfully arranging and styling fixtures, even a small bathroom can feel like a spa oasis. Evaluate what excites you visually during the layout phase.
Common Layout Mistakes to Avoid
When designing your bathroom layout, there are a few common traps inexperienced designers often fall into. Be aware of these mistakes and pitfalls to avoid:
- Placing doors or windows so they interfere with fixture usage or traffic flow.
- Not leaving enough clearance space between fixtures and walls. This causes uncomfortable cramping.
- Positioning the toilet where it will be visible outside the bathroom when the door opens.
- Having shower spray or splash directly hit toilet paper, towels, or electrical outlets.
- Putting cabinets or shelving out of easy reach. Items stored up too high or low become nuisances.
- Setting vanity lights so they cause glare or shadows on faces at the mirror.
- Locating noisy ventilation fans and exhausts right next to relaxation areas.
- Failing to consider how the layout will function when multiple users are in the bathroom together.
Keep these common missteps in mind, and double check your layout for any red flags before locking in your design.
Tips for Small Bathrooms
It can be challenging to create an efficient and beautiful layout when limited on space. Here are some top tips for maximizing small bathrooms:
- Scale down to smaller fixtures like a 24-inch vanity instead of 36 inches wide. This prevents a cramped feeling.
- Use pocket doors, bifold doors, or sliding curtains to save space versus swinging doors between rooms.
- Install wall-hung or pedestal sinks to save floor footprint versus under-sink cabinetry.
- Choose rounded or oval undermount sinks to increase the impression of countertop space.
- Use glass partitions or translucent shower curtains to keep areas light and airy.
- Include built-in shelving nooks in lieu of bulky storage cabinets.
- Opt for an open concept shower without doors swinging into room.
- Mount the toilet diagonally in a corner to gain needed clearance with minimal footprint.
- Employ space-saving towel racks, narrow floating shelves, and wall-mounted toilets.
- Paint the space in light, neutral colors to make it feel more open and expansive.
With careful planning and compact fixtures, even 3×5-foot powder rooms can hold all the necessities.
Hire a Professional
If the process of choosing a layout feels overwhelming, do not hesitate to hire a professional bathroom designer. Experienced designers have the expertise to survey your space, understand your wishlist, and translate that into a functional and gorgeous layout catered to you.
Professional designers stay up-to-date on the latest trends, custom fixture options, and innovative space-saving solutions. They can create 3D layout renderings allowing you to visualize the finished space before construction even begins. Their keen eyes also detect potential layout issues that untrained homeowners often miss.
Investing in a professional early in the planning process can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run. The designer’s fee is often recouped by avoiding costly build snafus related to layout.
If working with a contractor, ask to see layout samples from their previous bathroom projects. Ensure they have expertise specifically for bathrooms, not just general construction.
Maintain for the Long Term
The final step to a successful bathroom layout is keeping it looking lovely and performing properly over years of use. Follow these maintenance tips:
- Seal grout and caulk lines to prevent moisture penetration and mildew buildup. Re-apply fresh sealant every 1-2 years.
- Ventilate properly with fans, windows, and dehumidifiers to allow moisture to escape and prevent condensation buildup.
- Clean frequently to prevent soap scum, mineral deposits, and mold/mildew growth.
- Unclog drains to allow swift water drainage and prevent overflow accidents.
- Sanitize surfaces and fixtures to inhibit bacteria like E. coli growing in damp areas.
- Fix leaks, drips, and clogs right away to avoid damage or deteriorating water quality.
- Replace worn parts and surfaces like leaky faucets, chipped sinks, and loose tile. Address problems before they worsen.
With periodic maintenance and care, your thoughtfully designed bathroom layout will function beautifully and withstand decades of daily use.
Choosing a layout is one of the most important early steps when designing a bathroom. Careful evaluation of your needs, lifestyle, aesthetics, and the physical space will lead to an informed decision. Weigh the pros and cons of each layout option. Avoid common novice mistakes during the planning process. Invest in professional help if needed.
With measurements in hand and an understanding of your goals, you can craft a meticulously planned bathroom layout. Keep future maintenance in mind during the design process. An optimal layout seamlessly blends style and function into a serene space you’ll enjoy using for years to come. The time invested in planning will pay dividends every time you delight in using your beautifully designed new bathroom.
FAQs About Choosing a Bathroom Layout
Q: What size should my bathroom be?
The recommended minimum size for a functional bathroom is at least 5×7 feet or 35 square feet total. This allows ample room for fixtures and circulation. However, bathroom layouts can be adapted to smaller or larger spaces with creative planning. Focus on choosing space-saving compact fixtures and allowing proper clearances.
Q: How much space do I need around bathroom fixtures?
Here are the minimum clearance recommendations:
- 15 inches side clearance from toilet’s centerline to wall or obstruction
- 21 inches clearance from toilet’s centerline to edge of sink or vanity
- 15-30 inches clearance in front of sinks, allowing for sink size and faucet handles
- 24 inches clearance in front of and inside showers for entry and exit
- 12 inches minimum walkway space between free-standing fixtures
Q: Should I have two sinks in my master bathroom?
Dual sinks can be beneficial for couples sharing a master bath. They allow you both to get ready at once. Look for layouts like the double wall that provide space for two sink vanities with reasonable privacy. If your bathroom is more compact, you may need to choose a single sink to save space.
Q: What are some kid and family friendly bathroom layouts?
For a kids or family bathroom, allow ample floor space for playing and bathing. A bench or corner seat in the shower is helpful. Choose child-height sinks and counter space they can reach. Opt for gentle slope walk-in showers versus doors for safety. Built-in storage keeps toys organized.
Q: How do I create an accessible ADA bathroom layout?
For ADA accessibility: include grab bars beside toilets and in showers, allow a 5-foot diameter turn space, use lever faucet handles, install a wall-hung toilet with ample clearance, make counters 34 inches high max, and use curbless/zero-entry showers with seats and anti-slip tile.
Q: Should I hire an architect for my bathroom layout?
A specialized bathroom designer has the ideal expertise for layouts versus a general architect. Designers are skilled at maximizing every inch, meeting building codes, incorporating storage, anticipating issues, and creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing space catered to you.
Q: What mistakes should I avoid when arranging my bathroom?
Common layout mistakes include not allowing enough clearance around fixtures, poor ventilation trapping moisture, inefficient traffic flow, failing to separate noisy and quiet zones, overlooking ADA/aging accessibility needs, installing elements like shelves out of comfortable reach ranges, and forgetting conveniences like built-in storage.
Q: How can I make a small bathroom feel bigger?
For small baths, use pocket doors, floating shelves instead of bulky cabinets, oval undermount sinks, multi-functional furniture, neutral paint colors, ample lighting, and compact toilets and vanities scaled down 4-6 inches smaller than standard. Pedestal sinks, no-door showers, and mirrored walls visually expand the space.