Here is our ultimate bathroom planning guide designed to help homeowners plan their next bathroom remodeling project.
Bathrooms have become increasingly important as refuges from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
Of course, the primary purpose of a bathroom as a private place to keep ourselves clean is still valid, its role as a place of sanctuary has become more important.
In the past bathrooms were rather basic, just designed for utility rather than comfort. Not places you would have lingered in.
All this has changed as bathrooms have become bigger and more luxurious. Also, it is likely you have more than one bathroom in your home.
Fixtures and fittings had a utilitarian look that were generally made of white glazed ceramic. With very little choice in either design or color.
Nowadays there is such an amazing range of bathroom fittings you are almost spoilt for choice.
For example, sinks come in many kinds of original designs and can be made from a range of unusual materials like wood, glass and stone.
Bathrooms now are places where we can pamper ourselves. Some modern bathrooms feature fittings like a whirlpool bath that were previously only seen in spas.
Bathrooms Have Become More Visible
Another change is way bathrooms have become open and integrated into parts of the home.
Large bedrooms often have open plan bedroom/bathroom designs, with no doors.
Spacious walk-in showers have become increasingly popular.
Design features like beautiful clawfoot bathtubs installed in the bedroom have become common.
Planning is Vital
There are two areas of your home that really need considerable thought at the planning stage: that is the bathroom and kitchen.
Both are very expensive to remodel, and decisions made are not easily changed during the installation period or when the project has been completed.
Time spent at the planning stage will never be wasted.
Assessing Your Needs
It doesn’t matter if you are creating a new bathroom space or upgrading an existing one, you will need to consider your own family’s requirements.
- think about the number of bathrooms or cloakrooms you may actually need.
- will bathrooms be shared if so, you might consider double sinks.
- are the people using the bathroom elderly or have mobility issues? Will you need grab bars for example?
- does the bathroom have to be accessible with a wheelchair?
- will children use the bathroom?
- how much storage in needed. (Tip: usually more than you think!)
- do you want other features apart from the basics of a bath, toilet and sink?
- will the bathroom need to be practical with a shower enclosure or wet room or will it be a relaxing sanctuary with a large soaker tub?
- what shower size will you need?
- are needs likely to change in the next 10 years for example more children?
- do you have a preference for the type of bathroom floor you like?
Where to site your Bathroom
Unless you are prepared to undergo a major remodel, the site of your bathroom will be difficult and expensive to change.
Here are some siting and structure considerations for your next bathroom upgrade.
- changes to the structure of the bathroom and or changes to the drainage will need the services of a professional surveyor or builder at the planning stage.
- could a small bathroom be enlarged by talking extra space from an adjoining room?
- will you need to strengthen the floor to take a heavy cast iron bathtub, for example?
- check your wall will take any fixtures you plan to hang onto the wall like medicine cabinets and mirrors.
- make sure your plans comply with local bathroom planning guidelines and regulations.
- ensure adequate ventilation, ideally by mechanical ventilation, especially if the bathroom does not have windows.
- plan where your power points will go
Tips for Designing the Bathroom Layout
Even if you will employ a professional, it is wise to draw up some plans on paper so you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
Time spent planning could prevent you making expensive mistakes like ordering a bathtub that is too big for the space.
- Measure your space and existing features like windows, doors and light fixtures. Note the ceiling height and if spaces are sloping.
- make a 1:20 scale floor plan of your bathroom on graph paper.
- using the same 1:20 scale make templates of the various bathroom fixtures you want or need in the bathroom. Then you can experiment with different layouts until you are happy.
- start with the toilet, if the plumbing for this is already there keep the toilet in the same place as it’s expensive to reroute the toilet plumbing.
- another starting point could be the siting of the tub. This is often the largest piece you need to get into a bathroom. Baths can be successfully sited under a sloping ceiling, provided it is not too low.
Large Master Bathroom Ideas
Large bathrooms offer you the chance to design a relaxing bathroom that is oozing luxury yet is still practical.
Sometimes having a large space to play with gives you too many options to choose from, making the planning stage overwhelming.
Tips for designing a large bathroom
- Start with the location of the tub, in large spaces it doesn’t have to be fitted up against a wall.
- Consider using different levels, for example: a large freestanding tub can look great when raised up on a platform.
- Sinks and vanity units should be located against a wall. This makes it easier to install the plumbing and to fix a mirror against the wall.
- In large open plan bathrooms consider a full or half height partition behind the bed. This provides space on either side of the bed to access the bathroom, and there is no need for doors.
- purchase high quality interesting fixtures and fittings, as your room will come under more scrutiny than usual.
- pay attention to lighting at the planning stage.
- Large bathrooms can take freestanding furniture like a comfortable chair. You can use armories and chests for storage instead of fitted cupboards.
- a large space could incorporate a powder room area for hair styling and applying make up.
- choose surfaces and finishes that will be easy to keep clean and that look great in large spaces.
- if you want a heated floor then this needs to be installed before the flooring.
Family Bathroom Planning and Design Tips
Family bathrooms need to be practical spaces for all the family to share. If you have a large space you are lucky and can have double sinks plus separate showers and tubs. In smaller spaces, a walk-in shower is a practical solution.
- in homes with growing families you will find the family bathroom is going to have a lot of wear and tear. Your fittings and fixtures can become damaged and worn quickly so don’t spend too much money on premium products that won’t last.
- young children love to play in the water so you need to make sure all finishes in a family bathroom are waterproof and non slip.
- provide plenty of storage. You need concealed drawers and shelving to house considerable numbers of different shampoos toiletries. Nothing makes a bathroom look messy than rows of toiletry bottles all over the bathroom surfaces.
- medicine cabinets and the cupboards that store bathroom cleaning supplies should be lockable.
- at the planning stage consider installing a large cupboard to store towels and toilet paper. These take up a surprising amount of space.
- in a large family bathroom, consider installing laundry machines.
Small Bathroom Design Tips
It can be a challenge to design a small bathroom. You may have to make hard decisions about what you can and can’t have in your bathroom.
- can you easily make the space larger, by for example stealing room from an adjoining room.
- investigate ranges of fixtures that are more compact than standard.
- make sure the door opens outwards and sliding doors and panels will save space as well.
- wall hung toilets, and sinks will provide a sense of space as it keeps the floor area clear.
- is there space for a towel bar, toilet roll holders and medicine cabinets?
- small walk-in showers are a great space saving option.
How to deal with Awkward Shapes
Often bathrooms are crammed into spaces with unusual shapes. Making it difficult to install the bathroom of your dreams.
Here are some tips to consider
- a shower stall can fit into awkward shaped spaces.
- you could instal a bathroom vanity unit into a corner or under a slopping ceiling.
- you don’t need a door in a shower stall if the layout does not allow. Instead, hang an attractive shower curtain.
- small tubs are available for even the tiniest bathroom.
This is a situation often encountered when the bathroom is being built into an attic. Sloping ceiling reduces the choice you have for siting the larger pieces of bathroom furniture.
- a bath can go under a sloping ceiling provided you leave enough space to get into and out of the bath.
- also the toilet could be placed under the slope in a bathroom, assuming there is still enough headroom.
- walk-in showers can have part of the shower with the sloping roof incorporated. You need to make sure the area where you stand under the shower is full height.
Angles and Corners
Provided there will still be enough space, build out the walls so you can create a square or rectangular space. Consider adding cupboards or doors to these areas: making handy storage spaces.
You can buy toilets and sinks that fit into corners.
To give the impression of width, arrange all the bathroom fixtures along one side of the room.
- choose bathtubs that are narrower than average.
- install the bath at the end of the room at right angles
- vanity units should be kept as narrow as possible
Installing a Wet Room
In a wet room, all the surfaces and floors are fully waterproofed. The shower is fixed to the wall and used without a shower screen or cubicle.
These are great for families with teenage children that love sports, so need to use the shower often.
They are also great for people that are less mobile or elderly as there are no steps or shower doors to negotiate.
You need to plan in advance for a wet room as they are difficult to install into an already functioning bathroom.
What to consider before installing a wet room
- the floor must drain effectively, so no standing water remains
- you need to employ a contractor that is experienced in building wet rooms. As the walls need to be waterproofed with an impermeable membrane.
- the flooring must be non-slip
- light fittings need to be enclosed in waterproof housings
- consider underfloor heating
- buy beautiful shower fixtures and fittings as they will be on show
Here you can either go all in and have the full at home experience with jacuzzis or saunas.
Or you can add small touches that add to the soothing experience of a spa like a cheaper hydrotherapy bathtub.
What to consider before installing a home spa
- large whirlpool baths hold a great deal of water so you might need to shore up the floor to ensure it can take the weight.
- saunas and steam rooms require specialist installation and ongoing servicing
- whirlpool tubs and hydrotherapy showers need to have high water pressure. You might need to boost your water supply with a pump.
- spa style bathtubs and showers use considerably more energy and water than standard appliances.
- be honest: will you and your family use the facilities enough to make installing a spa worthwhile?
It is quite common to see hot tubs and jacuzzis in a garden terraces and patios these days. In warmer parts of the country you could extend the bathroom idea to include outdoor showers.
- consider locations carefully, an outdoor shower on a roof is a pleasant idea but you need to make sure you have adequate drainage and waterproofing in place. Hot tubs are heavy so make the roof structure can support the weight.
- outdoor showers are useful if you have a swimming pool
- the shower head plumbing fixture could be of a rustic style
Top tips for reducing the hazards associated with bathing and bathrooms. Time spent considering safety at the planning stage is never wasted.
This is true if young children, elderly or people with mobility issues will use the bathroom.
- choose non slip materials for bathroom flooring and shower enclosures.
- reduce the number of sharp items by looking for fixtures and fittings with rounded corners.
- you must regulate the temperature of the water to avoid it becoming a scalding risk.
- water and electricity do not mix. Follow local electrical regulations and always use a qualified electrician to install electric wiring.
- don’t forget to consider the safety of visitors using your guest bathroom as well
What to Consider When Buying Bathroom Fixtures and Fittings
Today there is a superb choice of bathroom fixtures and fittings. So much that it is easy to become overwhelmed.
Before committing to buy do plenty of research, consider what do you do and don’t like that is in your price range.
You can’t beat going to a retailers showroom to see and touch any product you buy. Browsing online is great for ideas and inspiration, but seeing the real thing is important.
Before committing to a permeant fixture like a tubs or sink consider the following
- will your bathroom take the weight of any fixtures you choose? For example, cast iron tub are beautiful to look at but eye wateringly heavy.
- white is the most popular choice for sinks and bathrooms. These come in a wide range of other colors but careful you might tire of a particular color and it is expensive to change these.
- some bathroom items need special care, for example anything glass will show up limescale or copper tubs that need special cleaning.
What Type of Bathtub To Buy?
For more detailed information on different tubs available, see my guide here.
Most people arrange the bathroom around the bathtub as it is the largest fixture in the room so will dictate the layout.
All other fixtures are arranged around the tub. Making the purchase of the tub one of those cornerstone purchases your bathroom.
What Type of Sink to Buy
The range of different sink styles, shapes and materials is truly astonishing.
Toilets and Bidets
The toilet is an essential part of any bathroom, if the room is tight house holders will often omit a bidet. However, if you go for both purchase these from the same range and site them close together.
If there is room most people opt for a separate shower enclosure to the tub. Whether you prefer a shower or a bath is a matter of preference.
Although faucets are an absolute necessity in any bathroom, you have plenty of choice of adding personal design and function elements.
Faucets are a sink and bath fixture where you can let your creative ideas out.
Modern designs suit minimalist style bathrooms while there are modern examples of traditional designs for period homes.
Special Luxury Features
If you are lucky enough to have the room and the budget, you can incorporate all kinds of luxury spa type fixtures and fittings into your bathroom.
From whirlpool baths to all singing, all dancing shower enclosures with lights. You are really spoilt for choice.
At the planning stage it is important to consider carefully your lighting needs. All bathrooms require a combination of different lighting even if you have natural light in the bathroom.
This is another bathroom essential that needs to be well considered at the planning stage. As you plan your bathroom, bring a plumber or electrician in to help.
There is nothing worse than showering or bathing in lovely warm water, then standing straight on a cold floor or shivering as you dry off in a cold bathroom.
Broadly bathroom heating can be categorized into these groups
- underfloor heating
- conventional radiators that run off your central heating system
- forced air systems
- heated towel rails
- heated toilet seats
Wall Treatments to Consider
At the planning stage of a bathroom renovation you need to consider wall treatments.
Consider the following materials: paint tile wooden cladding wallpaper
Tile is generally used in areas that will become wet. Limit the amount of tiling if you are on a budget.
A combination of tile, paint and wallpaper is usually planned for in a bath remodel or renovation.
Bathrooms are generally decorated in cooler colors like yellow, blues and greens.
Your storage needs should be planned for at the beginning of the remodel. You will need space for stocks of clean towels, toiletries, toilet paper, cleaning products, makeup, shaving products and cleaning materials. Ideally, this should all be kept out of view in a cupboard.
Types of Bathroom Storage Include
- build in units
- vanity units with under the sink storage
- wall units
- if space permits armories and chests
- shelving: glass is an excellent water resistant material in a bathroom
- attractive boxes and baskets
Every bathroom needs to have a mirror, if space is limited consider a medicine cabinet with a mirrored door.
Large spaces above vanity units can have mirrors that extend up to the ceiling.
This is where you can bring in color and personality. Bad choices here are usually not expensive, so you can afford to be bold.
Consider adding the following accessories
- Window treatments like curtains and/or blinds
- frosted or etched glass allows light in yet maintain privacy.
- vanity units
- matching sets of towels
- coordinating bath mat sets
- matching toothbrush holders, toilet paper holders and toilet brush holders.
- pretty jars and glass containers for holding bath salts and cotton wool
- pictures and prints on the walls
- scented candles, potpourri and defusers
Here are links to expert information that will be of interest during your bathroom remodel.
Whatever budget you are on good planning is vital when remodelling the bathroom.
Once you have installed new bathroom fittings and fixtures you are stuck with them as it would take time and money to replace these.
Because the bathroom plays such an important part in our daily lives, it is so important you spend time and effort at the planning stage to achieve the bathroom of your dreams.