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Should Bathroom Doors Open In Or Out?

Bathroom doors should almost always open in and not out. The one exception to this rule are pocket or barn style doors that slide instead of swing. The main reason why a bathroom door swings in is accessibility. Many bathrooms are either in a bedroom or accessed through a hallway. To preserve space in those areas, the bathroom door swings in. Since people using the bathroom typically close the door, it doesn’t take up space in the bathroom. Looks are another reason why a bathroom door swings in. When a door is an in-swing, the hinges are located inside the bathroom. This is more attractive when you’re standing outside the bathroom.

As a custom home builder, I’ve built and remodeled hundreds of bathrooms. And the only times I’ve ever not swung the door inwards was when I used a sliding door. Because of code restrictions for a bathroom, there should always be enough space for the door to open inward. If you don’t have enough room for the door to swing into the bathroom, then the room is probably too small or the door too big.

If you don’t want to open the bathroom door inward, then I’d recommend installing a pocket door. They’re special doors that slide into the wall when open. They don’t have a traditional knob style handle but do have a lock. And they’re sealed which controls bathroom odors. Sliding barn doors would work too, but they’re not sealed and provide less privacy.

should bathroom doors open in or out infographic 1b

Should Bathroom Doors Open In Or Out?

In almost all cases a bathroom door should swing in. This is called an in-swing door.

It doesn’t matter if the bathroom is residential or commercial, it should still swing inwards.

The one exception when a bathroom door doesn’t have to swing in is if you use a pocket or barn style door. Since both pocket and barn doors slide instead of swing, you don’t need an in-swing door.

Should bathroom doors swing out? No, a bathroom door should not swing out unless there’s some reason why it can’t swing in. In a new home or a remodel that’s done to code, there should almost always be enough area and ceiling height for an in-swing door. However, there may be some odd situation when remodeling a very old home where the door can’t swing in. In that case it may be OK to swing the door outward as long as it doesn’t violate a building code.

Bathrooms are a unique room because they don’t usually get filled with much furniture. They’re a utility room that usually stays as built. So you don’t have to worry about the door bumping into things after the bathroom is built. If the door swing into a bedroom or hallway, this can be an issue.

Access is another issue. If the bathroom door swings in, you can easily access the bathroom from any other room. However, if the door swings out, it can make accessing the bathroom more difficult. Tight hallways are one example.

Reasons Bathroom Doors Swing Inward

Why should bathroom doors swing in instead of out? There are a few reasons why bathrooms are designed this way.

Bathrooms are a room that’s designed for utility. Generally speaking, most bathrooms are decorated and not furnished. They way a builder finishes a bathroom is more or less the way it stays. You don’t have to worry about bulky furniture getting in the way of the door, blocking a TV or creating an accessibility issue.

Accessibility is the biggest reason why bathroom doors should always swing in. It’s almost always easier to get into a bathroom when the door swings in and not out.

Here are several reasons why bathroom doors should swing in and not out.

Accessibility

A bathroom door that swings out can bang into furniture, block a TV, create a tight space in a hallway or block a walkway.

Most doors swing into the room that you’re entering. This is true of pretty much every room you access with a swinging door. A door that swings in makes it easier to get in and out of the room you’re entering.

You have to consider what’s on both sides of a swinging door. It’s typically better to open a door away from foot traffic. This prevents people from opening a door and banging into someone. Since most people will close and lock the door when a bathroom is in use, you won’t open the door into them. However, you could easily open an out-swing bathroom door and bang into a person, pet or child.

Out-swing bathroom doors can create tight spaces in hallways or around furniture. As an interior designer, you don’t want to design too much furniture around door swings. For this reason it’s better to open a door into a bathroom since there isn’t much furniture going in them.

Generally speaking, a bathroom should have enough room inside to open the door in and close the door comfortably. If you don’t have enough room, consider installing a pocket door or a smaller width door.

Safety

Bathroom doors swing inwards for safety reasons.

The lock and hinges are always on the side the door swings. If anyone gets locked inside the bathroom they have access to the lock and can take the door off it’s hinges. And this also makes it harder for people to break into the bathroom. This is one of the reasons why most rooms have doors that swing in and not out.

When a bathroom door swings out it can create a safety hazard for people outside the door. A door swinging in prevents someone from accidentally opening a door into a person or child.

Out swing doors can create tight spaces, especially in hallways or around stairs. Designing a home so that all the rooms have in-swing doors create a much safer and better flow.

Odor Control

A benefit of swinging a bathroom door in instead of out is odor control.

The swing of a door moves a lot of air in the direction the door swings. Check it out the next time you open or close any door of the house. You’ll create a breeze in whatever direction you swing the door.

When a bathroom door swings inward it sucks fresh air into the bathroom. This also has the benefit of keeping odors in the bathroom. The opposite happens when the door swings out. Any odors in the bathroom will be pushed out into the house. This is obviously not something you’d want to do.

bathroomdoor opening into a beautiful bathroom with yellow walls

Alternatives To Swinging Bathroom Doors

Even though most bathroom have doors that open in, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some alternative door designs that don’t swing, they slide. These are the pocket and barn door.

Pocket and barn doors slide back and forth along a track at the top of the door. They don’t have conventional door handles but do have a lock.

Pocket doors recess into the wall which means you need a thicker wall and special construction. This means they’re more expensive and more work to install. However they seal tight and provide maximum privacy and odor control just like a swinging door.

Barn doors hang next to the wall and cover the door opening, but they don’t seal or recess into the wall. You can mount them against any door opening as long as there’s enough wall space to allow for the slide. Installing them is much easier than a pocket door because you don’t need to open the wall or build anything. Simply install the tract and hang the door. Unlike pocket doors, they don’t seal tight which means less privacy, security and odor control.

If you don’t want your bathroom door to swing in, I’d recommend installing a pocket or barn style door instead of an out-swing door. Although there are some limitations. You need to either tear open the wall and install the pocket door frame and tract inside the wall cavity, or have enough wall space to mount the barn door. For a 36 inch barn door you need an addition 36 inch of wall space for it to slide open.

Why Do Public Bathroom Doors Swing In?

The doors to a public bathroom swing in because of safety reasons. If the door swung out, you could bang into people as they walk by the bathroom. Public bathroom doors are generally 36 inch wide which means you need 36 inch of space around the door if it opens. It’s safer and easier to access the bathroom if that 36 inch of space is inside the bathroom itself.

The hinges are located on the inside of the room when the door swings in. This makes the bathroom safer to lock up after hours when it’s closed. If the hinges were on the outside of the door, the hinges could be popped and the bathroom could be accessed. The best way to secure a locked bathroom is to place the hinges on the inside which requires an in-swing door.

Can Bathroom Doors Open Into A Hallway?

Bathroom doors generally open into the bathroom. However, if there isn’t enough room inside the bathroom for an in-swing door, a bathroom door can open into a hallway. However there are some code restrictions. If you plan on opening a bathroom door into a hallway make sure you check with your local building department for approval.

For example, you can’t open a bathroom door too close to a set of steps. This would create a falling hazard because people would need to step back towards the steps in order to open the door. Things like this should always be considered when designing the layout and flow of a home.

Swinging a bathroom door into a hallway can present some challenges based on what’s around the door and the flow of the house. Is the bathroom at the end of a hall with nothing around it or in the middle of the hallway on a long wall? How wide is the hallway? If you have a 36″ bathroom door swinging into a 36″ wide hallway, that can create a tight space. As a rule, if I’m forced to swing a bathroom door into a hallway, I always install a door that’s narrower than the hall is wide.

If you can’t swing a bathroom door inward for whatever reason, I’d consider installing a pocket or barn style door instead. They look great and solve the problem of which way the bathroom door should swing.

Can A Bathroom Door Open Into A Bedroom?

Most of the time a bathroom door should open into the bathroom. This includes bathrooms that are in a bedroom. However, a bathroom door can open into a bedroom if you have enough room for the swing.

In small bedrooms this can be a problem once you bring in the bed and furniture. You need enough space for the door to swing open and some room for the person using the door. If you don’t have enough open space around the door for it to comfortably open, the room will feel tight. You could also end up banging expensive furniture with the door when you open it.

If a bathroom door opens into a bedroom, there should be enough space for it to open fully without hitting furniture.

Opening a bathroom door into a bedroom is a challenge because you have to take a bed and furniture into account. You also have to think about the door leading into the bedroom and where the bathroom is located in relation to furniture and the closet door.

When you design a bedroom’s layout on paper, always factor in furniture bigger than you think you’ll use just in case.

If the bedroom is large or medium size, designing the room gets easier. The bigger the bedroom the more space you’ll have for doors to swing.

Gallery

Here’s a small gallery filled with some of my favorite bathrooms. As you can see, each one either has a door that opens into the bathroom or a sliding door.

beatiful small bathroom with door opening in including skylight

Small bathroom with door opening in.

powder room with in-swing door wainscoting

Powder room with in-swing door and beautiful white wainscoting.

peach bathroom with walk in shower and soaking tub inswing door

Peach bathroom with walk in shower and soaking tub.

Beautiful bathroom with door swinging in. Large soaking tub.

Beautiful bathroom with door swinging in.

Modern style bathroom with double glass pocket doors.

Modern style bathroom with double glass pocket doors.

Summary: Should Bathroom Doors Open In Or Out?

Bathroom doors should almost always open in and not out. The one exception to this rule are pocket or barn style doors that slide instead of swing. The main reason why a bathroom door swings in is accessibility. Many bathrooms are either in a bedroom or accessed through a hallway. To preserve space in those areas, the bathroom door swings in. Since people using the bathroom typically close the door, it doesn’t take up space in the bathroom. Looks are another reason why a bathroom door swings in. When a door is an in-swing, the hinges are located inside the bathroom. This is more attractive when you’re standing outside the bathroom.

As a custom home builder, I’ve built and remodeled hundreds of bathrooms. And the only times I’ve ever not swung the door inwards was when I used a sliding door. Because of code restrictions for a bathroom, there should always be enough space for the door to open inward. If you don’t have enough room for the door to swing into the bathroom, then the room is probably too small or the door too big.

If you don’t want to open the bathroom door inward, then I’d recommend installing a pocket door. They’re special doors that slide into the wall when open. They don’t have a traditional knob style handle but do have a lock. And they’re sealed which controls bathroom odors. Sliding barn doors would work too, but they’re not sealed and provide less privacy.

If you have any questions or comments about bathroom design, email any time.

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