Regional plumbing codes can vary considerably, but there tends to be consensus on 15 inches being the standard distance between a toilet and a shower — or is it 24 inches? Maybe it's both, and maybe it depends. In truth, it's both, and they're not the only distances you should consider since things depend on the style of installations you're using.
The answer depends on whether the shower's beside the toilet, which would be 15 inches minimum, or in front of the toilet, which requires 24 inches.
Basic Dimensions to Consider
When measuring the distance from the toilet to fixtures on either side, the numbers you hear always mean from the middle of the toilet bowl on out — so, if a toilet requires 15 inches from the toilet to a wall or tub, that means from the very center of the bowl to the wall, not the outer edge of the toilet.
Of course, that's only true from side to side. When talking about the front of the toilet, you'll need either 21 inches clearance if you're adhering to the International Plumbing Code or 24 inches if you're following the Uniform Plumbing Code. The code in question varies from place to place, so refer to your local code specifications.
The ADA-Compliant Answer
Of course, the above may be the standard dimensions required, but they're not ADA-compliant. The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to ensure the world would become more accessible for those who have physical limitations in a variety of ways — this can mean anything from mobility issues to being wheelchair assisted.
Bathrooms have always been a notoriously difficult place for those with disabilities to navigate, but times are changing. Today, an aging population means that designing ADA-compliant bathrooms at home can raise a home's resale value and increase its marketability; plus it just makes the space more livable for everyone.
To have an ADA-compliant bathroom, you'll need 16 to 18 inches between a tub on the side or a wall from the center of the toilet. But, in front of the toilet, you'll need a 48-inch clearance, according to Buildings.com.
The Best Practices Answer
The National Kitchen & Bath Association is an organization composed of everyone with vested interests in bathroom and kitchen design, from manufacturers and fabricators to retailers and designers. Their mission is to ensure everyone "enjoys safe, beautiful and functional" kitchens and bathrooms — and that's regardless of age, gender or ability.
They recommend a distance of 18 inches between a toilet and shower and 24 inches of clearance in front of toilets. But, according to Better Homes & Gardens, aspiring to a 20-inch clearance from a tub or shower to the toilet is how to go.
If you'd like to learn more about best design practices in kitchens and bathrooms, invest in a copy of the NKBA Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards.
Not All Showers Are Equal
There are guidelines and then there's living with your choices. If you've got a shower where the door swings out, you'll need to ensure you've accounted for the width of that door opening wide and then tack at least 2 inches on top of it.
Clearance from a shower entrance is recommended to be a minimum of 24 inches, but 30 inches would be the best practice minimum. If you've got a bathroom with limited space, it's wisest to go for a sliding shower door, a curtain-style shower or even one of the doorless style showers that are growing in popularity.
Whatever your choices are, it's important to remember that having a poorly designed bathroom is a mistake one lives with daily. Take the time to consider what it will be like to use the space day in and day out, and design it accordingly.
Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.