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How Much Space Do You Need for a Toilet?

A spacious luxury bathroom with large mirrors.

If you’re building or remodeling a bathroom, you need to leave at least four square feet for the toilet. It may be necessary to dedicate more room, however, depending on the exact layout of the bathroom. Be sure to account for space to comfortably close the bathroom door and move around the toilet.

If you’re planning to build a new house, or if you’re thinking about remodeling your existing bathroom, it’s important to consider how a space will be used before you start construction. Obviously, you’ll need a toilet in the bathroom, but placing it isn’t as simple as just making sure it will fit. When placing a toilet, it’s important to think about how the toilet will be constructed, how it will be used, and the placement of other fixtures in the bathroom.


An old worker remodeling a bathroom.

When placing a toilet in a bathroom, the first thing you’ll need to consider is where the water main is. While it is possible to extend or even move a water pipe, the process is very expensive and time-consuming.  

If you’re designing a house from scratch, odds are the placement of the water main will be determined by the placement of other rooms and the fixtures in them. To tell the truth, ensuring an efficient placement of water lines is one of the big reasons why many people choose to use a professional architect. While it is always possible to construct extra lines to meet a client’s artistic vision of what they want for their house, it will come at a cost.

In an existing house, the placement of a water main has likely already been determined. If you are redesigning an existing bathroom, you’ll likely want to keep your fixtures along the walls that have water pipes. Again, moving or extending these pipes is possible, but it will come at significant added expense and time.

A bathroom layout with pipes and frames.

Water pipes are typically located in walls that already have fixtures that use water (showers, tubs, sinks, and existing toilets). Determining the exact location of the pipes, however, can be tricky.

If you are adding a bathroom onto an existing structure, you’ll need to determine where there is access to water. You will likely want to consult with a contractor or architect who can help you to determine where the water line is and how best to reach it.

Once you know what wall the toilet will be located on, you’ll next need to consider how it will be constructed. Toilets cannot be dropped in to any space that can fit them. It is necessary to leave some space in order to maneuver the toilet into the correct location.

Typically, it’s a good idea to give your contractor or plumber at least eighteen inches on at least three sides of the toilet in order to get it to connect and fit correctly.  

If you have a small amount of space, however, it’s possible to get a toilet installed with as little as nine inches on the sides and at least a foot on the front. Keep in mind, however, that this will be a tight squeeze for many professionals, and there might be plumbers who will refuse the job because there isn’t enough room.


A bathroom with a bathtub and toilet.

Next, consider if the toilet can be used in the configuration that you’re considering. Think about how you and your family members will move around the toilet. Is there enough room to close the door while standing inside? Can everyone stand next to the toilet?  Is there enough room to maneuver?

Typically, a person needs to have at least 18 inches of space around a toilet (in at least three directions) in order to move comfortably. This will need to increase to three feet in two directions, however, if the toilet needs to be wheelchair accessible. This usually means that you will need to plan for three feet in front of the toilet and three feet on at least one side of the toilet.

This gives a person using a wheelchair enough room to roll the chair in front of, then next to the toilet. Keep in mind you may also need to install grab bars on the walls, which may require more room depending on the exact style and placement.

A bathroom with grab bars installed.

If you are planning a bathroom for a commercial establishment, be sure to check into the laws regarding handicap toilet placement. Cities and counties may have restrictions on how much space is required around a toilet in order for it to be considered handicap accessible.

Even if the toilet does not need to be wheelchair accessible, it’s a good idea to maximize the amount of space around a toilet. No one really wants to use a toilet that is in a cramped area, and the more space there is around the toilet the easier it will be to clean and maintain.

Other Fixtures

A bathroom with wooden bath tub and a vanity area.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the other fixtures in the bathroom in relation to the placement of the toilet. Ideally, a toilet will have an area that is separate from the vanity area. This prevents germs from spreading to areas such as make-up and tooth brushes. If you can, place the toilet and vanity areas as far apart as possible.

You will likely want to have the toilet within reach of at least one wall or cabinet side in order to install a toilet paper holder. Think about how this holder will be placed; all too often people only think of this as an afterthought after everything has been constructed, and realize that there is no logical place to put this.

You may also want to consider placing the toilet in a separate water closet (a small room located inside the bathroom). This allows a person to have some privacy as they are able to close a separate door to the toilet area, allowing other people to use the bathroom.

Water closets are becoming increasingly popular in new houses as they can allow multiple people (think siblings) to share a bathroom. This feature can significantly cut down on family arguments in the morning.

Once everything else has been determined, consider if you want to install additional shelving or cabinetry around the toilet. Because toilets take up a large amount of floor space, it often makes sense to install cabinets or shelving on the walls above the toilet. This is a large amount of space that can be perfect for linens or other supplies.  

What Can I do if I Don’t Have Enough Room for Installation?

A construction worker measuring a countertop.

If you don’t have enough room to install the toilet, but you think you will have enough room for it to be used afterward, you will have to plan to move the items that are in the way. This may mean moving or knocking out a cabinet or a fixture such as a tub.

If you are remodeling and were planning on replacing these fixtures anyway, this might not be such a big deal.  Otherwise, you will need to factor this additional cost into the cost of the remodel.

In some rare cases, it is necessary to remove a part of a wall in order to have enough room for installation. If this is the case for your home, consult an architect or general contractor before starting demolition.  They may have other ideas that can save you a lot of time and money.

Do I Need to Think About Electricity?

Generally, there is no need to think about access to electricity for a toilet, but there are some exceptions.  If you have a toilet that is using an electric pump (this is extremely rare) or that will be using an electric heating or cooling system, then you will also need to consider the availability of electricity when placing the toilet.