Bathrooms Basics: 6 Tips to Plan your Bathroom Plumbing and Layout

Bathroom basics: 6 tips for planning your bathroom installation and design

BTT House / Salamanca Architects. Image © Eduardo Macarios

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Although the design and layout of bathrooms we use today dates back thousands of years, they are still considered to be one of the most difficult bathrooms to design and renovate. There are many rules of thumb to consider in the earliest stages of planning a bathroom, notably that it requires a lot of association and “pre-planning” with plumbing fixtures, electrical circuitry, angular or uniquely shaped fixtures, and small floor spaces. This article looks at the basics of bathroom installation and how to match each fixture to optimize the bathroom layout, facilitate your DIY remodeling project, or design the space from scratch.

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Throughout history, civilizations have developed their own sanitation systems based on their geographic, cultural, and economic conditions. For example, the use of a toilet seat is common in the western world, while most people in eastern countries use the floor-mounted squat toilet. Although bathrooms are one of the smallest rooms in a home, they are certainly among the most challenging and critical to design as they feature multiple fixtures and plumbing fixtures that require careful planning. Of course, the larger the bathroom, the more space there is for the free installation of fittings and cabinets, but architects have managed to define minimum dimensions and specific floor plans to consider for small bathrooms, in order to ensure comfort, accessibility and practicality, in particular for children, ensure the elderly and disabled people.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 3 of 14Brutalist duplex apartment in Riverside Tower / Studio Okami Architects. Image © Olmo Peeters

Read on to learn about plumbing basics and develop the very first steps in designing a bathroom. This article is all about bathroom plumbing and fixture placement and not the different types and dimensions of bathroom floor plans explored here.

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Consult local plumbing codes and licenses

The International Plumbing Code (IPC) is a model plumbing code that sets minimum requirements for plumbing systems with the aim of protecting life and health and ensuring the safety of building occupants. The IPC establishes minimum requirements for plumbing systems based on mandatory and performance-based provisions, such as non-potable water systems, to name a few. While this model is comprehensive, each country has its own regulations, so it’s important to make sure you’re following your location’s guidelines. Also, it is ideal if you use a licensed plumber or have him/her do the work and install the pipes on site to avoid any implacable or dangerous accidents.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 8 of 14Itu Apartment / Superlimão Studio. Image © Maira Acayaba

Know Your DWV Fittings (Drain, Drain, and Vent)

DWV fittings are used for drain, waste and vent applications primarily in plumbing systems with continuous water flow. These fittings are often available as a bonded or gasketed system with a size range of 1.25″ to 24″ (3cm – 60cm). The most common types of plumbing tubing are copper, galvanized steel, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the uses of which vary depending on their intended function and water flow pressure.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 12 of 14DWV fittings. Image © ArchDaily

Besides the pipes, DWV fittings also include various types and shapes of ports and vents, each corresponding to a specific function. A “tea‘ is a fitting that connects to the pipe at a 90 degree angle, a ‘bye” Fitting connects at a moderate 45 degree angle, a toilet flange connects to a 90 degree fitting that connects directly to the drain line, a p-trap is a U-bend unit that prevents sewage gases from flowing back up your drain while allowing sewage through, a bend closet is a 90 degree elbow pipe with a gradually curved corner that allows waste to flow through without clogging, a cabinet flange assembles a toilet on the floor and connects the cabinet arch to a drain pipe, and a flush socket is a piece that is connected to a pipe to gradually reduce its size.

Using the right fittings will prevent leaks, while drainpipes that aren’t properly ventilated can eventually release bad odors into the home. For example, if a branch line connects to a main drain line, the fitting should always be a “star” to avoid the waste water hitting the side of the pipe and flowing back toward the vent pipe.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 10 of 14drinking water supply system. Image courtesy of Uponor

Evaluate existing bathroom conditions

Before designing a bathroom, it is important to fully understand the existing conditions of the bathroom. where the manhole is, wall conditions and existing finishes, what fixture will be removed/retained etc. Ensuring proper water pressure is also very important as you may need to replace the existing shut off valves. If the water pressure is low, you may need to add a booster pump, and if the pressure is too high, you may need to install a pressure reducing valve.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 11 of 14Flow chart for sink and toilet. Image © ArchDaily

Locate the shaft wall/wet wall

All homes have a ‘wet wall’, also known as a shaft wall, which houses plumbing and the main drainage pipes, and is usually much thicker than a normal interior wall. Installing fixtures on or near this wall eases the entire installation process and minimizes the number of pipes/connections used since all pipes eventually lead there.

Plan the water and drainage systems

Although the rough spots, or distance from the pipe in a wall to the faucet, depend on bathroom size and design constraints, most regulations dictate that faucets should not be placed too close together. Bathrooms often require at least 6 pipes: 5 water pipes – a hot and cold water pipe for the shower and sink and a cold water pipe for the toilet seat, each feeding into a main sewer line. Since this is where all the lines converge, the sewer line is wider than the rest of the pipes, ranging between 11 and 16 cm (4.25 and 4.5 in) compared to 1.25 and 4 cm (0.5 and 1.5 in) at water pipes. All drain lines should also have vents to allow air into the drain lines and push dirty water down.

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 14 of 14Example of a plumbing plan for the bathroom. Image © ArchDaily

For the toilet, the center of the unit drain is approximately 45 cm (18 inches) above the finished floor and in the center of the vanity. The sink’s hot and cold water lines (hot on the left, cold on the right) are elevated nearly 7 cm (3 in) above the drain and are spaced 21 cm (8 in) apart, reaching a height of approximately 53 cm (21 in) above the finished floor.

Regarding the toilet seat, the center of the cabinet flange should be placed 30 cm (12 inches) away from it finished Back wall with a total distance of at least 76 cm (30 inches) between finished side wall and the side of the vanity. As far as the shower area is concerned, there are no standard pipes as they vary depending on the type of shower and drainage system, but typically range from 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 inches).

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To ensure that water flows continuously, most plumbing codes call for a slope of 0.63 cm (0.25 inch) per 30 cm (1 foot) on a horizontal drain pipe, while some require a slope of 1/8 inch per foot for larger pipes (larger than a 3 inch diameter pipe).

Bathroom Basics: 6 Tips for Planning Your Bathroom Plumbing and Design - Image 13 of 14plumbing slope. Image © Ernst Neufert ARCHITEKTENDATA / ArchDaily

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