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The IRC does not say a master bathroom door is necessary, so it depends on your preference. Not having a door can improve bathroom lighting, ventilation, and space. However, it can lead to steam-caused damp in the bedroom, rapid heat dissipation, and sleep disturbances when the toilet is used at night.
Bathroom doors exist primarily to provide privacy to the occupant. Master bathrooms are typically only accessible from the master bedroom, thus making privacy less of an issue. This has caused many homeowners to wonder if a bathroom door is really necessary for a master bathroom.
Before making the decision to install a master bathroom door or not, you will need to check the building codes and consider the benefits and drawbacks of not having a bathroom door. This is what we discuss in this article.
What Does the International Residential Code Say?
The International Residential Code does not make any specifications regarding installing mater bathroom doors or not.
There are also no rules in the IRC about having to be able to lock a bathroom, which would infer the necessity of a door.
You should always check your state-specific and local codes to see what they say just in case they have added a stipulation not included in the IRC, but it will probably just come down to personal choice.
En-Suite Bathrooms Do Not Need Doors
As we have already mentioned, master bathrooms are typically those that are en-suite with the master bedroom, making the primary function of a bathroom door—privacy—less of a necessity because the bathroom does not open onto a shared space.
If you are a single person staying in the master suite, then you will likely be the only person who will use that bathroom, so you do not need a bathroom door. If you ever wanted to ensure privacy, you could always close the bedroom door.
Couples sharing the master suite are less likely to utilize a bathroom door, even if one is installed.
Bathroom Location and Layout Can Make a Difference
A doorless master bathroom is more widely accepted if it does not open out onto the main part of the master bedroom. Instead, it should be tucked around a wall or separated from the bedroom by a dressing room.
Furthermore, even if you are happy to leave the bathroom without a door, there are certain bathroom layouts that will make this option more acceptable.
E.g., do not position the toilet in line with the “doorway” or right beside it.
Although less important, it is also better if you do not look directly at the bathtub or shower when looking from the master bedroom. Instead, place the bathroom vanity in this spot.
There Are Benefits to Not Having a Master Bathroom Door
There are certain benefits attached to a decision not to install a master bathroom door.
- Ventilation benefits: Natural ventilation is important in a bathroom, especially one without the assistance of mechanical ventilation. An open bathroom door promotes airflow, but the door itself can still create air pockets or act as a barrier, preventing optimal airflow. This is not a problem when there is no bathroom door.
- Light benefits: As with airflow, the distribution of light is more impeded by a bathroom door, even an open bathroom door, than it would be if there were no bathroom door. This additional light is especially important in bathrooms without windows.
- Space benefits: If your master bathroom or bedroom is on the small side, then omitting a bathroom door can really save you some floor and wall space. In addition, there are codes regarding the swing clearance of a bathroom door, so skipping the door can be the difference between having a bathtub or not, having a big shower or a small shower, etc.
- Cost benefits: When you are building a new bathroom, excluding a bathroom door will reduce the costs of the build as you will not have to buy the door and frame and hardware.
Drawbacks of Not Having a Master Bathroom Door
When it comes to not having a bathroom door for your master bathroom, there are some very real drawbacks that you have to consider. You need to decide if you would be prepared to handle these in order to get the benefits of this option.
- Odor: Toilets are a daily source of odors. Often people prefer to pull the door closed behind them to allow the odor to dissipate. This will not be an option with a doorless master bathroom. The odors can readily permeate the master bedroom, which is really not ideal.
- Steam: Even if you have a mechanical extractor fan, steam from a hot bath or shower will spread into your master bedroom. If the ventilation in the master bedroom is not optimized, then the steam can cause the bed linen, curtains, carpets, etc., to become damp. The bedroom furniture can also be compromised.
- Heat loss: When you take a hot bath or shower, you want to be able to trap the heat in the bathroom for the duration of the bath or shower. If you have no master bathroom door, the heat created by the water and the heater (if you have one) will dissipate more rapidly by moving down the temperature gradient into the bedroom.
- Sleep disturbances: When you have no bathroom door, and you share the master bedroom with someone, then every time they go the bathroom in the middle of the night, you will see the light and hear the flushing. This can become incredibly frustrating for the person trying to sleep and a point of anxiety for the person who has to use the toilet at night.
- Resale value: The abovementioned drawbacks can be deal-breakers with many potential future buyers. So, if you are planning to sell your house, it may be better to install a master bathroom door in order to make your house more saleable. If your home is a starter home, then many new couples may be looking at the listing, and bathroom privacy is more important for a new relationship.
If these drawbacks are enough to sway your decision in favor of installing a bathroom door, check out our bathroom door sizing guide to make sure you go with the best option.
Alternative Option: The Separate Toilet
If you install a separate toilet space, then you eliminate the issues of odor, sleep disturbances, and, to a certain extent, resale value. However, you will lose out on more space than if you just installed a door on the whole bathroom.
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