The Designers' Guide For Your New Bathroom

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 22 July 2014 10:48

The bathroom is likely the smallest room in your house, yet it requires the most plumbing, fixtures, and lights per square foot. Bathroom remodels can be expensive, so you don't want to make any mistakes.

One of the most exciting resources for kitchen remodeling ideas is the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The NKBA's Kitchen and Bath Planning Guidelines with Access Standards (ANSI) is a terrific checklist to make sure you get the safest, most attractive, and most accessible new bath possible.

Naturally, you'll have limitations in what you can do -- space, budget, and other priorities, but with the NKBA's guidelines, you can easily prioritize what's most important to you and your family.


If you don't have a disability or injury, you may not be familiar with the concept of universal design. It simply ensures easy access for all, but that doesn't mean your new bathroom should look like it belongs in a hospital. You can include wider doorways, roll-in showers, or door handles instead of knobs on the cabinets.

The doorway into a bath is recommended to be at least 32", depending on local codes. But if you have older household members, or if you entertain relatives or friends who use a wheelchair or walker, you may consider the Access Standard of 34", which is large enough to accommodate a 3'-0 door.

Because a bathroom space is typically tight, pay careful attention to all clearances. Could the door bang into an open cabinet door or drawer? Is there plenty of room to exit the tub without getting bruised by a cabinet edge or another fixture? Also, make sure lavatory, shower and tub handles can be easily turned without twisting the wrist or getting pinched.


One of the reasons tile is so popular for baths is that it's easy to clean. Flooring with textured or uneven surfaces such as slate also work well. Shower floors should slope toward the drain so water doesn't accumulate underfoot.

Many older baths only come with one outlet, while newer building codes may require one GFCI receptacle outlet for every six or eight feet. Consider rewiring the bath and putting outlets on every corner where you use an electric appliance, but away from showers and tubs for grooming appliances such as hairdryers, curling irons, shavers, and nail dryers.

Grab bars can be placed in water closets and above tubs for greater ease in getting up and down. Try to design the bath with no steps if possible, particularly none around the tub.


Covering the shower walls with a waterproof material such as tile or glass is recommended, but you can also take the covering all the way to the ceiling for a luxurious look.

A bath is the most important area of the house to keep clean and tidy, so include as much space as possible for storage. You'll need space for towels, linens, grooming tools and cleaning supplies. If storage is at a premium, think creatively. For example the space above the tank of the commode is a perfect place to build or install shelves. Just be sure to allow enough clearance for maintenance.

Vessel sinks and pedestal sinks have been around a few years, but they add more drama and individuality than utility. Continuous granite or undermount porcelain sinks can be beautiful, as well as practical. The farmhouse sink is also attractive in a high-traffic bathroom.

Sometimes new lighting fixtures can update a bath with very little investment. Think in terms of task lighting -- lights by the vanity mirror, for example. Overhead light fixtures and ventilation fans are also useful.

No matter what you choose for your new bath, if you combine utility with comfort, you can't go wrong. Don't try to make the bath do more than the space allows. If all you have room for is a shower, and not a tub, create a shower with a small built-in seat. Where there's a will, there's a solution.

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