Consider bathroom size and shape when choosing a layout.
The average bathroom in the U.S. is 40 square feet.
The most cost-effective layout features a single plumbing wall.
It’s no surprise that, next to the kitchen, the bathroom is the most-used room in the house. It’s also the place where functionality is priority number one. How you and your family members move from sink to tub to toilet can make or break a morning routine—and diminish the relaxation you get from a long soak or shower.
It’s why your bathroom layout is so important. And it’s more flexible than you think, no matter how much room you have to work with. Whether you’re starting fresh or tweaking the space you have, there’s a layout to meet your needs. So get out your measuring tape—and start here.
What to Consider When Choosing Your Bathroom Layout
There are essentially three types of bathrooms: primary (usually the owner’s bath, frequently adjoining the primary bedroom); the guest (often ensuite) bath; and powder room (a sink and toilet only).
From there, the layout options—including size, shape, and plumbing—are endless.
Size of the Room
While size surely matters when deciding on a bathroom layout, it doesn’t always follow that bigger is better. Consider that the size of an average U.S. bathroom is 40 square feet—relatively small, but roomy enough for the basics.
If your existing bath is larger (or if you’re starting from scratch and can allocate 100 square feet or more), the good news is you can design a spa-inspired bathroom. Picture twin sinks, a freestanding tub, separate shower, a toilet (usually behind closed doors), and a bidet—plus a bench or pouf, dressing table, and full-length mirror, if you like.
But before adding too many bells and whistles, be sure to consider how you really use your bath (and who you share it with). Don’t forget that large, luxury layouts almost always come with more upkeep and a higher price tag.
Shape of the Room
You’ll need to consider the shape of your room as well as the location of windows and doors to determine the best location for your fixtures. Most baths tend toward simple geometry; squares and rectangles are most popular, offering the most flexibility.
Unusual layouts allow for more creativity, but they can be confining as well. An odd-shaped space often has more than its share of nooks and crannies, which can be tricky to work around.
Plumbing is a major consideration. Large baths that feature multiple sinks on different walls and separate tubs and showers require more complex plumbing systems than small ones. Compact baths—where all of the fixtures are lined up against one wall—can be very efficient, not to mention cost-effective.
In the case of a remodel, you can save money if you keep all the hookups and drains intact. On the flip side, if you rely on existing plumbing, you limit the number of creative solutions available to you.
At the end of the day, consider size, cost, complexity, and your changing needs to determine if the time is right for an overhaul.
Common Bathroom Fixture Dimensions
Today’s bathroom fixtures come in a wide array of sizes, but there are some standard (aka minimum) dimensions to keep in mind as you develop your bathroom plan, no matter its scope.
Standard bathtub: 60 inches long and 30 inches wide. A soaking tub usually requires a footprint of 72 inches by 36 inches.
Basic shower: At least 36 inches square.
Single toilet: Between 27–30 inches deep, with a back height of 21–31 inches and a width of about 20 inches.
Double vanity: 5 feet minimum, but 6 feet is preferred.
5 Popular Bathroom Layout Designs
Fitting bathroom fixtures into a space of any size can feel a bit like working on a puzzle. On the other hand, there are dozens of ways to solve a bathroom layout dilemma.
We selected five popular designs that best represent different configurations, all with pros and cons. Remember, they can all be tweaked by you or the local bathroom design company you hire.
This 40-square-foot design is timeless because it works. The door opens easily, revealing a row of fixtures (sink, toilet, tub) all plumbed on the left-hand wall. This compact rectangular layout is simple and inexpensive to install. The downside is it doesn’t afford tons of counter space.
With a reasonably small footprint of under 100 square feet, this roughly 8-by-10-foot design is perfect for a no-frills guest bathroom. The door swings open directly opposite a window, with fixtures installed on both sides.
There’s room enough for twin sinks and open shelving (or a dressing table) on the left, with the tub, toilet, and small linen closet on the right.
3. Bathing Beauty
This approximately 130-square-foot design puts a freestanding tub—every designer’s darling—on display. Double doors open to reveal a tub in the center of the space. Twin sinks on the left and a toilet plus a two-person shower on the right complete the showstopping layout.
This design celebrates the bath-as-ritual, although some detractors might say the area surrounding the tub isn’t used to its best advantage.
4. Jack & Jill
A Jack and Jill bathroom is the best idea in a shared space since bunk beds. This mirror-image layout can be designed within a 120-square-foot space, and accessed from bedrooms on either side.
Siblings (or guests) can easily share the twin sinks on one wall; the tub and toilet on the other, with pocket doors all but eliminating traffic snarls. Two points of entry can sometimes lead to privacy issues, so good locks are essential.
This generously scaled self-care sanctuary is only one of dozens of bathroom layouts designed to mimic what you’d find at a luxury spa. Enter the butterfly-shaped space at an angle, across from the oversized shower flanked by wide vanities.
As you enter, a soaking tub sits to the right of the door; a toilet with a pocket door and a linen closet are to the left. This layout evokes elegance and luxury, with no downside we can see.
Standard NKBA Bathroom Layout Guidelines
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and International Code Council (ICC) both publish planning guidelines to help create bathrooms that are both functional and safe.
Individual building codes may trump these guidelines, but they can be very helpful as you begin to plan your bathroom layout.
Entry doors: 32 inches wide or more.
Ceiling height: 80 inches at minimum in front of fixtures.
Sink: at least 20 inches to the closest wall.
Twin sinks: At least 36 inches between centerlines.
Vanities: between 32 and 34 inches high.
Toilet: centerline between15 and 18 inches from any fixture or wall.
Water closet: (toilet behind closed doors) needs a 36-by-66-inch space.
Whether you plan to DIY your remodel or hire a local bathroom remodeling contractor, it’s always smart to have a layout idea ready to share. Use these layout designs and guidelines to create your dream space, whether it’s a classic bathroom with a clawfoot tub or spa-inspired room with a smart shower.