The Family Bath: High-traffic and kid-friendly

The family bath is a serious workspace. It's got at least three fixtures (typically toilet, sink, and combination bathtub/shower) and is also the central depository for toothbrushes, towels, medicines, and all manner of grooming gear. The minimum floor space for a three-fixture bathroom is about 40 square feet.

The key to solving the family bath puzzle is determining how many people will be using it at the same time. "I have two kids, so in my house, using the bathroom is almost a community event," Dallmus says. If the family is lining up every morning to get in, consider separating the toilet and shower from the sink area, a technique known as zoning. "Someone can be in the shower, a function that demands more privacy, and they can be cloistered off behind a wall or pocket door," Dallmus says.

Similarly, a separate toilet stall (often called a water closet or WC) can open up a room to more than one user at a time without sacrificing privacy. Such a space should be at least 36 inches wide and 66 inches deep for maximum comfort. Another option is a stall with half-height walls, which feels less cramped, lets in more light, and eliminates door-swing issues. Sinks — what type and how many — pose the next question. For a family, double sinks can be handy, but to be really functional they require 6 feet of counter space; anything less and you'll elbow your neighbor while brushing your teeth. If you prefer the look of pedestal sinks, bear in mind that you'll have to account for storage needs elsewhere.

Bathing is the last piece of the puzzle. Remember that regardless of size, a bathtub needs at least a 12-inch clearance from any adjacent fixture and 36 inches of clear floor space for someone to get in and out easily. If you're looking to conserve floor space, a shower stall takes up about half the area of a tub, although you'll have to account for door swing if you're not satisfied with a shower curtain. If you opt for a shower, choose a stall that is at least 36 inches square; anything smaller feels claustrophobic.

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