Tips for designing a user-friendly bathroom

Here are some pointers for making your home bathroom more user-friendly for everyone in your family and those with special needs. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and provide more thorough information on making the bathroom workable for wheelchair users.

General dimensions

Give yourself plenty of space in the bathroom for maneuvering and making changes. Allow at least sixty inches of open space in every direction. A sink with an enclosed vanity should have at least sixty inches of floor space in front of it.


Make your doors thirty-six inches clear. Allow eighteen inches next to the door on the latch side if the door is opening toward you. Allow twelve inches on the latch side if the door is opening away from you. Leave sixty inches clear in front of the door on the swing side and forty-eight inches clear on the opposite side. Use lever door handles instead of doorknobs.

Plumbing fixtures

The current standard height of a bathroom sink is thirty-six inches. If you are shorter or need to sit at the sink, this is too high. Adjust the sink height for your own needs. If your knees need to fit under the sink, or you need to sit in a chair or wheelchair, allow around twenty-seven inches of clearance below the sink for a depth of at least eight inches at your knees and eleven inches at your feet. The space under the sink should be at least thirty inches wide. Use lever-style faucet handles.

The toilet should be located eighteen inches from a supporting wall with the opposite side open. Choose a taller toilet height, such as Kohler’s “comfort height” toilet. Select a substantial, lever-style flush handle.

A shower with interior dimensions of at least forty-eight inches deep and thirty-six inches wide, not including the door swing, allows for maneuverability as well as the use of a shower seat, walker or wheelchair. A wall-mounted, hand-held shower is more versatile than a stationary showerhead. Use lever-style faucet handles instead of knobs or cross handles.

Bath-lovers should choose tubs that are not too deep or ones that have a door entry. Tub seats and hand-held showers can make a tub more user-friendly.

Safety features

Provide grab bars at the sink, the side of the toilet, in the bathtub space and in the shower. For more tips, see the sidebar “Easy Fixes for a Safer Bathroom” on page 29.


A tilt mirror over the sink that allows you to adjust the angle adapts to the height of any user. Full-length mirrors also provide flexible use.


Adequate, bright lighting is critical to bath safety. Combining a full-room, ceiling-mounted light with wall sconces on either side of the mirror at the sink and a down-light over the sink works well. Recessed lights over the tub and in the shower provide safe, adequate light.


Make sure there aren’t any steps or thresholds of more than a quarter-inch in height, including at the threshold of the shower. All walking surfaces should be nonslip—nonslip tile is best; carpet can be a tripping hazard.

Counter surfaces should be non-glare. Stone is not recommended because glass breaks easily if set down too hard on the stone.

Categories: Bathroom Remodeling Tips