Bathroom Design: The Complete Guide

Whether you are renovating, extending or building from scratch, planning your bathroom design early on in the project will ensure the end result is spot on

Before you part with any money in a bathroom showroom, spend some time on planning the room, carefully considering what it is you need and want as part of your bathroom design.


Who Will Be Using the Bathroom?

One of the most important considerations in planning a new bathroom is who will be using the room most. A master en suite will have totally different requirements than a family bathroom, for example.
In a family bathroom, practicality should be your lead, whereas in a room to be used solely by one or two adults, you can afford to focus a little more on luxury and design.


Getting the Bathroom Layout Right

Your first task when designing a new bathroom should be to decide on the best layout for the room.
Start with the position of the toilet. Work out where the soil pipe currently enters the room — or where it will enter the room. This should guide you as to the best place for the toilet — you can then work around this.

Using a few sheets of graph paper, play around, drawing out your bathroom layouts to scale, marking on any windows, doors, alcoves, sloping ceilings or bulkheads. Be sure to keep the sanitaryware to the same scale.


Choosing the Right Sanitaryware

Shower Enclosures: Good planning is essential if your shower enclosure is to be a pleasure to use. Enclosures with doors that swing open should have enough space around them for the door to open and to allow you in and out. Enclosures with fixed glazed panels work well in small bathrooms — as do sliding shower doors.

Baths: Although the standard bath size is 1700mm x 700mm, there are bigger and smaller sized baths available. For those who want a shower and a bath but are working with a small bathroom, a shower over the bath is a brilliant solution. A showerbath is a good option, with a wider section at one end for showering.

Basins: Even if you have a small bathroom, don’t skimp on the size of your basin — particularly in a family bathroom. Wall-mounted basins, or semi-pedestal designs, can give the illusion of more floor space and also allow the basin to be set at a height that works well for you and your family. Full-pedestal basins tend to be cheaper and give a more traditional look.


Sanitaryware Sizes and Clearance Spaces

  • Bath: Aim for a bath height of between 500mm and 600mm. Allow for a minimum of 530mm side clearance.
  • Basin: A height of between 760mm and 1,190mm tends to be comfortable for most adults. A clearance of at least 510mm is required to the front — more if possible. According to Victoria Plum, the distance left to right (the span) should be at least 760mm.
  • Shower: The minimum comfortable size for a shower enclosure is 760mm x 760mm. A clearance of at least 610mm is also required.
  • Toilet: For close-coupled models, an overall toilet height of 595mm – 800mm suits most adults. The seat height should be 390mm – 460mm. The space around the toilet should be at least 760mm, with at least 510mm in front.


Bathroom Fitting: Should You DIY?

Most simple bathroom fitting tasks are possible on a DIY basis, but for more complicated fittings it might be best to hire a professional.
Many people choose to fit their bathrooms on a DIY basis. Jobs that are easy to undertake without the help of the professionals include removal of the old sanitaryware and tiles. Decorating jobs such as painting and tiling are also popular DIY jobs and doing these tasks yourself will save on your bathroom costs.
Certain aspects of plumbing and electrical work will need to be carried out by a professional, whilst other jobs can be done by a proficient DIYer. Some bathroom fitters are skilled in every aspect of bathroom installation including plumbing, electrics and tiling.


Choosing Bathroom Flooring

There are several things that your bathroom flooring needs to be:

  • Water resistant
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Warm underfoot
  • Non-slip

Ceramic wall and floor tiles are a practical and cost effective choice for your bathroom floor.

Good choices for bathroom flooring include natural stone tiles, porcelain and ceramic, rubber flooring, vinyl and linoleum and even engineered timber providing it has been properly acclimatised.
Perhaps even more important that the final finish of the floor is the bathroom sub floor.

In the case of renovation projects, you may find that the existing floor requires some preparation. Timber floor joists should be sound and capable of withstanding the weight of new sanitaryware, or heavy stone tiles.

This might mean the joists need to be reinforced with extra timber and noggins. Adding in extra noggins overcomes the potential for large format stone tiles to crack.
Using a anti-fracture or uncoupling matting underneath new floor tiles is a good idea if you are concerned about tiles cracking due to movement within the floor.
Uneven concrete floors can be remedied with a self-levelling compound.

Planning the layout of your bathroom early on means you know exactly what sized fittings you will require — don’t forget to include storage units.


Bathroom Heating Ideas

The bathroom should always be at a comfortable temperature.
Radiators are an easy and cost-effective solution — consider whether your radiator will double up as a towel rail, or whether you will have a separate heated towel warmer.

A heated towel rail is a must if you want warm, dry towels — even in rooms with underfloor heating. It is wise to fit an electric, or dual fuel, towel rail that can be turned on even when your heating is off.
Underfloor heating is the perfect partner for hard, tiled floors — and is perfect in wet rooms and walk-in showers where it speeds up the drying out process of the floor.


Tiles or Shower Panels?

Although tiles are the traditional – and still most popular – way of protecting the walls from water in a bathroom, there are not the only option.
If you do choose to tile the walls and are on a budget, consider tiling only the areas most exposed to water — such as the area around the shower and bath and above the basin.

Shower panels are an increasingly sought-after method of protecting walls, being easy-to-clean and skipping the need for grout.
Shower panels can be made of PVC (at the cheaper end of the market), acrylic or pressure-laminated vinyl on an MDF core. They can be fitted over a number of different substrates.

Another popular alternative to tiles is to fix glass or perspex panels over a painted or wallpapered wall.


Bathroom Lighting

Once you know the layout of the bathroom, you can plan your bathroom lighting, taking into account any features you want to highlight, as well as how much natural light enters the room.

A combination of downlighters (for general background lighting), task lighting (above mirrors, for example) and accent lighting (such as spots directed at features of note) works well. You might also consider some feature lighting set into the floor around the bath.

When it comes to Building Regulations, the bathroom is split into zones and the ingress protection (IP) rating of the lighting you choose should reflect the zone that it will be used in.

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