Master bathroom traffic flow

Unlike a traffic circle or major intersection where every driver is familiar with protocol and flow, master bathrooms present a unique challenge. Homeowners who awake and depart to different jobs at the same time present different requirements than those who use the bathroom at different times. This often is the case in a family where only one parent is working, or perhaps with a retired couple. In either case, future usage requirements must be considered.

How we work out the solutions while planning for a possible sale or lifestyle change will determine the proper approach. It would be wrong to say there is a perfect solution for every project. Existing plumbing, unmovable walls, adjacent rooms and hallways are a major influence. Also, the homeowner’s willingness to modify these structures relative to their investment expectation must be factored into the equation.

If this sounds like a daunting situation, I assure you it is. However, by recognizing a few basic human preferences as well as personal hygiene factors, a solution that accommodates the owner’s preferences and the structure’s limitations can be achieved.

Toilet enclosures

Many master bathrooms include a separate toilet enclosure. This room should be a minimum of 36-in. wide by 66-in. long although the minimum IPC code, 405.3.1, allows for a 30-in. by 60-in. room. The door must either swing out or pocket. Obviously, a larger area is preferred depending upon the inclusion of a bidet, lavatory or other fixture. The suggested center line for a toilet from a wall is 18-in. with center line of an adjacent bidet being no less than 18-in. from the side of the toilet. Only space limitation relative to your clients’ desires will dictate herein.

Tub and shower considerations

Large soaking or jetted tubs require plenty of hot water and a dedicated hot water system should be considered. Many newer point-of-use systems meet this need and some can be dedicated to just a shower or tub.

The relationship of the shower, tub and lavatories is relatively simple and a common entrance/drying area often is the best answer. Large spaces may permit dedicated entrance and drying areas for the tub as well as the shower. I have found that in large spaces, more area dedicated to the bedroom or closets is much more appreciated than a big floor area in front of a tub or shower.

Consider specifying an under-mounted tub. This promotes a clean look and easy entrance and exit from deeper units. Avoid steps into the tub for safety reasons although a ledge over the deck surface can be used as a design feature as well as for practical use as a storage place. I suggest at least 4-in. of deck surface on all four sides and more if possible along the front edge to provide a seating area for easy entry into the tub.

Vanities, makeup tables

Dual vanities are common in a master suite, and too many times little consideration is given to elbow room and traffic flow. When placing vanities across from the bathing area, a minimum of 30 in. of clear floor space is recommended. In a master suite this rarely is a problem and 36 in. to 50 in. is common.

The minimum code requirement for dual lavatories is 60 in. overall with the lavatory bowls on 15-in. center lines from the ends. This may suffice for a couple of toddlers but two adults will be fighting for elbow room and counter space. The National Kitchen and Bath Association minimum recommendation is 76 in. This combines the minimum center line of 20 in. from a wall or end of a top with the minimum distance between center lines of 36-in.

For more information on bathroom layout, professionals are encouraged to read the many NKBA publications, particularly the “Bath Planning” volume of the Professional Resource Library and the Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards.

Finally, read and study designers of note, become active in your local professional

organizations and seek out the expertise of those who share their experience in publications such as this.