Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Efficient Bathroom and Toilet Layout

Suddenly you're awake, you glance at the clock. Bum, you slept through the alarm and it's late. You stumble into the bathroom remembering all too clearly that extra couple of glasses of wine you had last night, you knew it was a bad idea and that you'd regret it later. You sit down on the tut cursing as you stub your toe while trying to close the bathroom door. You shower quickly, water is everywhere from that badly placed shower and you hop around trying to keep your pants dry as you pull them on. Then, while trying to clean your teeth you bang your head on that stupid glass shelf under the washbasin mirror. The morning doesn't start well.

Some weeks ago we started looking at bathroom design, let us continue this week by looking at layout. A bathroom is essentially a functional space and needs some thought, mistakes might drive you mad for years to come.

The basic four features of a bathroom

Most bathrooms incorporate 4 basic components in their design, a place to wash your body (a bath or shower); a place to evacuate your bowel and/or bladder; a place to scrape your face, brush your teeth, put on your warpaint and squeeze the odd blackhead or two (washbasin or vanity) and, of course, a way of getting in or out of the room (usually a door though anything is possible when architects are searching for new design ideas to make them stand out from the crowd).

There are other components of course such as towel rails, naughty bit washers, mirrors, soap holders, toilet roll holders, bathroom cabinets, wastebins, a magazine rack next to the toilet and, for those who are designing a restroom, the odd bed or two. These are secondary issues that follow the placement of the basic four components.

It all sounds quite simple really but if you start looking at bathroom layouts you will start to realise just how many permutations there are to the humble kamar mandi. I suppose the Karma Sutra proves just how creative a fertile mind can be.

Size is usually important (we are still talking about bathrooms), an architect designed house will probably already have plenty of bathrooms, one for every man and his dog and anyone that might possibly visit, so most people reading this will be considering adding an extra bathroom in an existing house in whatever dog box of space is available.

“I say Cedric I want one of them there onsweet thinggies. I want a full size bath, double basin vanity, one of them there french sit down “internal hygiene” thingys next to the bog and perhaps a fold down massage table.
“But where can we put it Mable?”
“What’s up with you Cedric? You can convert the broom cupboard under the stairs.”

Fitting a bathroom into a small space

Working in a small space you will very quickly realise that the swing of the door is an important consideration. The problem can be made easier by reducing the width of the door itself. A full sized door is normally about 90cms wide but for a bathroom this can be reduced to 80 cms without being noticed and even down to 70 cms and still be functional without looking too spartan (I suspect that most Spartans can’t afford bathrooms these days). Any less and your house starts to take on the cosy “circus caravan” look.

It doesn’t sound like much but a 20cm difference in the radius of the sweep of the door makes a huge difference in terms of the space lost just trying to get the flipping door open. To save even more space you could use a sliding door or you could make the bathroom door swing outwards rather than into the bathroom leaving you with a look that might be appealing to Roger the Cabin Boy.

While mentioning the door another important consideration is the line of sight as you open it. I recently found myself in a hotel room in which, if the room curtains were open and the bathroom door half open, someone bringing breakfast to the door could get a clear view of the occupant sitting on the tut. It is a good idea to try and keep the toilet out of sight when the door is opened.

Standard sizes of bathroom and toilet fixtures and fittings

The shower is the next large item to put into your bathroom. A good size for a shower is 1 metre by 1 metre. 90cms by 90 cms is starting to look “space efficient” while an ultra compact shower can be down to 75 cms by 75 cms. A bit of experimenting and you will soon find that for a fairly square bathroom the shower will end up diagonally opposite the door.

A standard toilet is about 40 cms wide and 60 cms deep and for comfort you need a minimum space of say 80 cms wide too allow a bit of elbow space.

A standard washbasin is about 60 cms wide and 50cms deep which will need a minimum of say 10cms elbow room on each side. For even smaller spaces you can use a small hand basin. Be careful, those small corner washbasins take up a lot less space but are rather cramped for everyday use while the small wall mounted ones are really useful for washing hamsters.

While we are talking about washbasins don’t be tempted to put a shelf on the wall immediately above the washbasin and under the mirror. You may see this a lot in local bathrooms. For some reason the person placing the shelf has not realised that shaving or cleaning your teeth becomes an obstacle course with that shelf in the way. The hazard becomes a little scary when the shelf is glass (which they usually are).

So we place the washbasin and toilet in the other two corners and we end up with a standard bathroom, compact but fully functional.

A standard compact bathroom for a small space

Bathroom design 1
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You might wish to use a vanity rather than a washbasin.

Compact Bathroom design 2
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A very compact bathroom

If you want a very compact bathroom. Use a curtain rather than a screen for the shower to allow the shower to encroach into the washbasin and toilet elbow space. You will also need to use a narrow door. In such a bathroom Cat swinging is not really an option unless of course you have a Scottish Pygmy Cat. It is widely believed that the the Scottish Pygmy Cat is so small as a result of the nutritional frugality of their thrifty Scots owners.

Bathroom design 2
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Typical hotel bathroom

Room layouts used in hotels have developed over many years and bathroom design has been refined down to a fine art. Hotel bathrooms tend to be very functional and, while they are designed to be space efficient, they can still have enough space to feel luxurious. The only common problem is the use of the bath for the shower. Most follow the same standard layout as follows:

Bathroom design 4
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In recent years hotels are starting to dispense with space hogging baths leading to more efficient bathroom layouts. Here is one I came across recently that is compact but works well.

Bathroom design 5
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Luxurious bathrooms needs more space

Small bathrooms can still look luxurious by using well chosen high quality tiling and fittings but to really look more luxurious you need to add more space.

The shower, for instance, can be increased to a minimum size of 1 metre by 1metre. The washbasin will be replaced with a vanity which should be around 55 to 60 cms deep and a minimum of say 1.2 or 1.3 metres wide to give you space for all those knick knacks that seem to collect over time (including the inevitable empty jars and squeezed tubes of toothpaste). Don’t go mad, you might want to play football on your vanity bench top but can your comfortably reach your electric belly button cleaner at the back?

The height of a vanity is good at about 85 cms (a little lower than the 90cms for a kitchen benchtop) this is good for that early morning, hangover induced, lean as you look into bloodshot eyes and contemplate the day ahead and wouldn’t a lie in be a much better idea). For small Indonesian people lower the height by say 5 cms.

Do you need a bath?

Many will wish to add the luxury of a bath to their bathroom and a normal sized bath is about 170 cms long by 70 cms wide. Try and avoid large terrazzo baths unless you have a water heater the size of Petrol tanker. You might want to think twice about the bath. It's a nice idea but how often will you actually use it?

Bathrooms tend to be functional spaces and most people follow very set routines. Designing your own bathroom is not difficult. Draw a plan and start shuffling around the major elements until you find something that works for you and your household.

Think ergonomically, design the space to suit the way we huperson beings live our lives, we need space to rub our selves with a towel. The toilet roll should be within easy reach of a seated client, a mirror needs to be well placed and lit to enable those blackheads to be located and dealt with. If in doubt go and have a look at other people's bathrooms and take your tape measure to the toilet with you.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2013
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17 July 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
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