5 Building Codes for the Bathroom


When remodeling or completely gutting and replacing a bathroom, there’s more than just building permits, costs, and designs to think about. You also have to consider multiple building codes.

Building codes are regulated by the local and state governments and differ from not only state to state, but also city to city.

Failure to abide by these codes could eventually require that all your hard work and financial sacrifice be modified and that modification could be expensive along with possible fines that may be imposed.

It is important to research your local building permits thoroughly before going forth with a bathroom remodeling adventure. Here are the codes to consider:

Bathroom Sink Codes:

There are minimum clearances and spaces that are determined by local regulators. All bathroom sinks should be 4-inches from the side walls, at minimum, and should also have at least 21-inches of front clearance.

Two separate sinks built next to each other also have to have a spacing of 4-inches or more. The 4-inch rule also applies to the spacing between the sink and the bathtub.

Shower and Bathtub Codes

Forget about building your tiny shower. The shower floor has to be a minimum of 30x30-inches. You can build a shower as big as you want, just be sure you remember the 4-inch rule regarding the sink. The shower and tub both need anti-scalding devices.

This is a device that should be included even if it wasn’t mandated by a bathroom building code. Too many tragedies involving young child occur with scalding hot water surprisingly coming from the shower or bathtub faucet.

The shower door needs to have an opening clearance of at least 24-inches. So says the building code. This is because shower doors often are made of materials, such as glass, that can easily break and pose a danger.

Toilet Bathroom Building Codes

The front of the toilet needs to have at least 21-inches of clearance. Many cities and communities require the toilets to have water conserving devices. These are devices that allow the flusher to pull a certain way for fluid waste and another way for solid waste. More water is used for solid waste while less is used for fluid waste.

Electrical Building Codes

Electrical codes are extensive and you must abide by them for safety and civil responsibility in regards to electrical usage. Following electrical building codes will also save the homeowner or building owner money.

Electrical codes are designed to prevent fire and death and injury from electrical shock. A person installing electrical wiring without following building codes will most likely be held liable in the event of a fire or shock due to faulty wiring.

Building codes regulating wiring may also require lights to be waterproof. Outlets will need to be ground fault current interrupter outlets, or GFCI outlets.

Plumbing Building Codes

Plumbing codes will regulate how waste water and sewage is handled and will be different in the urban setting from the suburban communities. Some communities require sewage to go to the city sewage line while others permit the use of septic tanks.

Bathroom Building Codes FAQ

What is the minimum bathroom size for a shower and toilet?

Many plumbing codes do not necessarily have a minimum size requirement, but there are codes regarding how far away the toilet should be from other fixtures in the room. In order to achieve proper spacing, bathrooms typically need to be at least 30 to 40 square feet in size.

How far does a toilet have to be from a shower?

Plumbing codes and building codes vary from state to state, city to city, and county to county. Because codes are varied, the minimum required distance between one bathroom fixture and another, such as a toilet and a shower, also varies.

However, expect that the distance between these two fixtures should be at least 18 inches, give or take a few inches either way.

Does code require an outlet in the bathroom?

Codes and requirements regarding electrical outlets are actually part of the electrical building code, not the plumbing building code. However, these codes do also need to be considered when building or remodeling a bathroom.

There is no enforceable national electric code because building codes like this vary by municipality. This means that where you live dictates the number of outlets you may or may not be required to have in any given room of the home.

Expect that one outlet is likely required, as this is common, and plan for this until you learn the specific coding requirements for the area where you live.

Does a bathroom need a sink?

By definition, there are multiple types of bathrooms. And often, the bathroom does not require a bathtub.

in order to be called a full bath, the room must have a toilet, a sink, a shower, and a bathtub. A three-quarter bathroom can have any three of these and a half bath can have any two.

When a bathroom is literally just a toilet, it is called a water closet.

Therefore, the bathroom does not have to have a sink. However, most people do enjoy the convenience of having a sink in the bathroom.

Does a bathroom require a GFCI breaker?

GFCI receptacles are safer to use in damp environments and may be required by some plumbing codes. This does take some extra work if you do not already have one of these breakers, so you will want to check your local electrical code to find out if this is a bathroom requirement.