How to plan your bathroom

Good planning and design are crucial in bathrooms, where safety and function are so important. Image courtesy of Caroma.


The easiest way to approach your bathroom design is to consult with a bathroom designer, but it also pays to think beforehand about the sorts of things you want. The first thing you need to establish when you're planning a bathroom is how it's going to be used. The bathroom is one of the busiest rooms in any house and sees a lot of traffic. People often need the bathroom at the same times too, which can create a chokepoint in your daily routine if you don't properly plan for it. Knowing what you have to work with, and what kinds of factors are going to affect your bathroom design will have a strong bearing on the decisions you make regarding what sorts of fixtures you want and where you want them.

Below are four big factors that will affect how your bathroom is designed:




The position of your bathroom relative to the rest of the house will play a large part in how efficient and useful it is. Ideally, it should be positioned near to other rooms where water is used, like the kitchen and laundry. This helps with the placement of the hot water system, which should be installed as near as possible to all of these rooms. A shorter distance between the hot water system and the places where hot water's needed will increase your water efficiency by a great deal, and will also help keep plumbing costs down. Secondly, the bathroom should be in close proximity to the bedrooms for ease of use. If you’ve ever had to make the midnight dash to the toilet (we've all been there) then you’ll appreciate every step you don’t have to take to get there.

If you're installing a second bathroom on the opposite side of the house, or if your house is designed in a way that makes access to the hot water system difficult, you might also consider installing a small continuous flow hot water system to support it.


Size and layout

How much room you have to work with will determine what will fit, where things should go and generally what's likely to be practical. Measure it out, and then draw a rough sketch of the layout and shape, including measurements to give you a reference point. Be sure to include things like which way the door will swing - if it swings in and can’t be changed to a sliding door or adjusted to swing outwards, then you can’t really put anything behind it.

If you want a shower stall, you will need to allow room for a space of about 900mm x 900mm. Unless you have a lot of space, that's likely to be installed in a corner too. If you want both a bath and a shower but you don't have the space, consider installing a shower head above your bath. Have a think about the amount of space you have and how much room you'll need for the vanity and other fittings - don't forget to leave plenty of space to move around!

It may also be a good idea to plan your bathroom so that the shower, bath and vanity are all along a single wall of the bathroom, to help cut down on plumbing costs.


Number of people

A family using a bathroom will have very different requirements to an elderly couple or to a single occupant, so factor this into your design. Dual sink vanities, separate toilet facilities and separate bath and shower setups are all ways to get around the daily chokepoint created by four or five people all jostling to do their hair at once. Young children and the elderly or phsically impaired will also have different needs to think of. If your bathroom will be used by only one or two people, then there's no need to overdo it unless you're planning on starting a family.


Budget and time

You need to think not only the amount of money you’ll need to set aside, but also about the time involved. How much money are you comfortable with spending? This is entirely personal and will vary from person to person. Just be aware that it's very easy to get carried away and turn the bathroom into a bottomless pit of expense. Do you really need those designer Italian marble floor tiles, or could you achieve a similar effect with a faux stone or ceramic? The best approach is to decide beforehand what you're willing to spend, and then work as closely as you can to the confines of your budget.

If you're building a new house then time is probably less of a pressing issue, but if you're renovating you will need to account for the fact that the bathroom will be completely unusable for the entire period of the renovation work. This may involve finding alternative bathroom arrangements (or even alternative accommodation) for the people in your house who use that bathroom. This might be easy, but if you're forced to stay in a hotel you'll need to factor that into your budget too. The less time the renovations take the better, but in most cases you should allow for a fortnight at the very least. It's always better to have the job done properly than done quickly.

Last but not least, make sure you're 100% certain of what you want before building starts. Changing plans once the work's already started is likely to cost you a whole lot more money, push work way past deadlines, create confusion and frustrate your builder.


Want more ideas? For pictures of some of Australia's most stunning bathrooms, check out our bathroom ideas gallery.