Planning a Bathroom

Bathrooms are small, but they’re densely packed with potential projects. In fact, most of the installations needed for a kitchen are also needed in a bathroom. Begin the planning process by assessing your needs:

■ Should the bathroom be configured so that two people can use it at the same time?

■ Do you just want the basic ensemble of toilet, tub/shower, and sink, or would you like something extra, such as a spa, a double sink, or a luxury shower?

■ Does your bathroom need more light? If you have a window, is it in a place where water collects and causes problems?

■ Is better ventilation needed, or perhaps another electrical outlet, or more counter space around the sink?

■ Do you have enough towel racks and other storage room?

■ Is the shower or tub large enough?

■ What style is your bath calling out for?

If you examine your present bathroom, you may be surprised at how much of it can be salvaged. If the basic layout works—the fixtures are placed comfortably apart and there is enough room left for storage and towel racks—then you can keep your basic plumbing and only replace fixtures. Even if your bathroom as a whole needs remodeling, one or more of the fixtures may be worth keeping. Perhaps the color and condition of wall or floor tile is such that it can be preserved. Often you can find new fixtures, tiles, and wall treatments to go with them.

If you do decide to move fixtures around, be prepared for major plumbing chores. The first question to ask is whether you can run a drain to the new fixture location. You may need to hire a professional plumber to tell you whether you need to install a new plumbing vent—a major project involving running a sizeable pipe through walls and possibly the roof. If the space seems unworkable, consider moving walls to make more room.

Lighting is important in a bathroom. Usually, you want a good general overhead light, another overhead light in the tub area, and lights above or alongside the medicine cabinet and mirror. Choose these carefully; you should aim for adequate illumination without glare.

Comfortable clearances. When it comes to bathroom fixtures, an inch or two can make the difference between feeling comfortable or cramped. Map out the floor of your bathroom on graph paper. Cut out scale-size pieces of paper to represent the fixtures. Move the pieces around until you find the most usable configuration. If a door swings inward, make sure it won’t bump into a fixture or built-in unit. The dimensions given in these drawings show the minimum requirements for ease of use. Fixtures placed closer to each other than these minimums will make you feel squeezed. Usually, it’s best to give yourself more room than the minimum, but don’t go overboard and space things too far apart. Watch the details: Plan your towel racks and hooks at the same time as you plan your fixtures.

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