Redesigning a Bathroom for Safety and Happy Experiences

Updated on August 23, 2021 | by Evan Chase

Bathroom renovations happen to be a leading home improvement project in the US. After all, bathrooms are an integral and busy part of the home. But rebuilding a bathroom is not as simple as you may think. No matter how small it is, you cannot take its size for granted. That’s why it is essential to follow the best designing practices when it comes to bathroom remodels. 

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In this context, you need to know that the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) offers planning instructions for interior designers to help them build a functional bathroom for your needs. Please don’t confuse them with building codes that are legal requirements. On the other hand, the International Residential Code (IRC) refers to residential construction parameters that apply everywhere.  Since every city can have unique needs, it is better to keep local codes also in mind. Nevertheless, here are some valuable insights on bathroom designs as per NKBA and IRC.

Bathroom Doors

You may not find anything about the width of the bathroom doors with the IRC. But NKBA suggests that entry doors should be a minimum of 32 inches wide. For this, door jambs have to be at least 34 inches away from each other. However, you can also opt for a 24-inch door if you cannot install a 34″ door. Most cities don’t object to the existing door format even if the local code requires it to be wider. But you cannot overlook the local regulations if you change the position of the door.

Ceiling Heights

IRC says that the ceiling height of 80″ at the center of the front clearance area for fixtures can be sufficient. While NKBA doesn’t recommend anything additionally in this area, it does mention that the height of the ceiling over sinks and other fittings have to be 60″. So, make sure your designer takes care of the ceiling height while installing the plumbing fixtures.

Floor Space Clearance 

According to IRC, the distance between the sink, bidet, and toilet has to be a minimum of 21 inches. It applies to the length with opposite walls and other fittings too. The shower entry can also have a 24-inch clear front space. However, some believe that 21 inches of floor space can be too little. In addition, it can give a crowded look to your bathroom. That’s why NKBA recommends going with 30″. 

Sink Placement

Suppose the advantages of an under-mount vanity sink impress you so much that you decide to invest in this.  But if you want to take full benefit of your choice, you will need to listen to IRC and NKBA recommendations. IRC says that the distance of the sink’s centerline to the sidewall has to be 15″. However, NKBA proposes the idea of maintaining a gap of 20″ from the middle of the sink to the nearby sidewall or any other hindrance. A few extra inches can have a remarkable impact on your handwashing experience. 

Vanity Height

You would need a vanity, mainly if you invest in an undermount sink. While IRC doesn’t suggest anything about the height of the vanity, NKBA feels that it can be 32″ – 34″ high. Earlier, most bathrooms featured 32″ vanities for the convenience of kids and adults. Today, people like to customize them for adults. Kids can use other mechanisms to access the countertop. You can be curious to know what these bodies have to say about the countertop edges in this context. Again, IRC doesn’t mention anything about this. But NKBA emphasizes that the corners cannot be sharp. Rounded edges are preferable for safety reasons. 

Shower Area

NKBA also says that your interior shower has to be at least 30″ x 30″. However, they believe it would be even better if you can make it 36″ square. You will feel more comfortable. 

Floor-Type

While there is no specific requirement from the IRC side, NKBA says that non-slip floors are critical for safety in the bathroom, including the shower floor. If you use ceramic tiles, it should have a minimum of 0.5 coefficient of friction (COF) rating in wet conditions.

Ventilation

The international building codes say that a bathroom window has to be at least three sq. ft. NKBA believes that an exhaust fan with exterior vents can also be suitable for every bathroom. 

Bathroom Accessories

NKBA again recommends taking care of the ergonomics when it comes to accessorizing your bathroom. For example, you may wonder about the ideal height for your mirror. If you go by the national kitchen and bathroom association, you need to place it at the level of your eyes. Similarly, your toilet paper holder can be at a distance of about 8″ – 12″ from the edge of the toilet bowl. Towel holders and soap dishes also need to be within comfortable reach.

Heating Systems

According to IRC, bathroom temperature has to be 68° Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. However, NKBA also points out that the bathroom needs to have a 10 degrees higher temperature than other parts of the house, especially if you are taking a bath.  To maintain this, you may have to add a suitable heat source to your bathroom.

All these are pretty technical stuff, which can be too much for an average homeowner to handle. Although you don’t need to get deep into the nuances, your knowledge about these things can always be a bonus. You may check it with your designer to ensure there is no design mistake. It is critical for the safety of your family. At the same time, these suggestions can come in handy in doing away with a cluttered look. 

You can be careful about the placement of each feature to make the most out of it. For example, you can refer to the position of the sink against the sidewall. In a poorly constructed bathroom, you can face many inconveniences. However, if these things get proper attention from the beginning of the rebuilding phase, you will not find too many reasons to complain about the new setup.

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