Can a Bathroom Door Swing Out? Expert Tips & Advice

Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

Doors are an essential part of any building design, playing a crucial role in aesthetics, privacy, and functionality. One aspect that is often overlooked but plays a significant role in space utilization and safety is the direction in which a door swings.

Specifically, in a bathroom setting, the question arises – can a bathroom door swing out? This topic may seem trivial, but it carries substantial importance when it comes to designing a practical and comfortable bathroom space.

The direction a bathroom door swings can impact several factors including the accessibility, safety, and efficient use of space within the bathroom. Additionally, it can also affect the overall flow of your home’s layout.

In this article, we delve into the pros and cons of having a bathroom door swing out, examine relevant building codes and regulations, explore alternatives, and provide guidance on how to choose the most suitable option for your specific needs.

Let’s explore the various aspects of this interesting facet of bathroom design.

Understanding Door Swing

bathroom door swing

Explanation of Door Swing

Door swing refers to the direction a door moves when it is opened. It is determined by the placement of the hinges and the handle. The swing of a door can significantly affect the functionality and accessibility of a room, particularly in small or tightly-packed spaces like bathrooms.

Types of Door Swings

There are two main types of door swings: inward and outward.

  1. Inward swinging doors: These are doors that open into the room. They are the most common type of doors found in homes due to their space-saving nature when the door is open. However, they can limit the usable space inside the room when being opened or closed.
  2. Outward swinging doors: These doors open outwards, away from the room. This type of door swing can be beneficial in terms of safety and accessibility, as it allows for easier exit in case of emergencies and is more accommodating for people with mobility devices. However, it could potentially obstruct hallways or adjacent rooms.

In addition to these, there are also left-hand and right-hand swings, which refer to which side the hinges are located when you are facing the door. For example, a left-hand inward swing door has its hinges on the left side when you’re facing it from outside the room.

Pros and Cons of a Bathroom Door Swinging Out

Advantages of having a bathroom door swing out

Sure, here’s a brief overview of these advantages:

  1. Space Saving: Outward swinging doors can be a great solution for small bathrooms where space is limited. An inward swinging door requires clear space on the inside to allow it to open fully. By having the door swing out, you can utilize all of your bathroom’s interior space for fixtures and movement.
  2. Accessibility: Accessibility is another important advantage of outward swinging bathroom doors. In case a person inside the bathroom faints or falls near the door, an outward swinging door makes it easier for others to get inside and provide help. An inward swinging door could potentially be blocked by the person who needs assistance, making access difficult.
  3. Safety in Emergencies: This also plays into safety considerations. In the event of emergencies, outward swinging doors allow for quick and easy evacuation. This is particularly important in situations where speed is crucial, such as in a fire.

It’s important to note that while these advantages are significant, there may also be potential downsides to consider, like potential obstruction issues in narrow hallways, privacy concerns, or aesthetics and design continuity. Always weigh the pros and cons based on your specific situation before making a decision.

Disadvantages of Having a Bathroom Door Swing Out

While having a bathroom door swing out can have its advantages, it’s also important to consider the potential downsides, as gathered from various sources across the internet.

  1. Potential Obstruction in Hallways or Adjacent Rooms: One of the primary concerns with outward swinging doors is that they can cause obstructions in hallways or adjacent rooms. When you open the door outwards while you’re inside the bathroom, you may accidentally hit someone walking through the corridor. This can cause inconvenience and even accidents, particularly in homes where there is a lot of foot traffic or where space is limited.
  2. Privacy Concerns: Another issue that can arise with outward swinging doors is related to privacy. Some people feel that an inward swinging door offers more privacy, as it’s easier to ensure the door is fully closed.
  3. Aesthetics and Design Continuity: Finally, aesthetics and design continuity can play a role in the decision-making process. Since most bathroom doors swing inwards, having a door that swings outwards can disrupt the visual flow of your home’s interior design. Additionally, finding a bathroom door that swings outward could indicate poor construction or a poor design choice.

While these disadvantages don’t make having an outward swinging bathroom door impossible, they are important factors to consider when designing or remodeling a bathroom. Ultimately, the decision should be based on the specific needs and circumstances of your home.

Building Codes and Regulations Related to Door Swing

Building codes are essential guidelines that dictate the standards for construction, including door swing. They ensure safety and accessibility in building designs.

Overview of Common Building Codes

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) specifies that doors should swing in the direction of egress (exit) for rooms with an occupant load of 50 or more persons^1^. This means that in larger spaces like auditoriums or meeting halls, doors should ideally swing outward for a quicker and safer evacuation during emergencies.

For residential spaces, the International Residential Code (IRC) has specific requirements for glazing within 24 inches of the hinge side of an in-swinging door^5^.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also sets guidelines for door swings to ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities. However, it does not specify the opening force for exterior doors^6^.

Regional Differences in Regulations

Building codes can vary regionally. For instance, in Arizona, the door swing is determined by the occupancy type and number of occupants within a room^2^.

In New York City, egress doors must be of the pivoted or side-hinged swinging type^4^.

Connecticut’s state building code requires clear measurements for doorways with swinging doors^8^.

It’s important to consult your local building codes when deciding on the swing of your bathroom door, as regulations can differ from state to state and city to city.

Alternatives to Outward Swinging Doors

While outward swinging doors offer several advantages, they may not be suitable for all spaces due to potential obstructions or specific design aesthetics. Here are some alternatives worth considering:

  1. Sliding Doors: Sliding doors move horizontally along a track, eliminating the need for space for the door to swing in either direction. They are often used in bathrooms with limited space and can add a modern, sleek look to the room.
  2. Pocket Doors: Pocket doors are a type of sliding door that disappears into a compartment in the adjacent wall when fully open. These are perfect for tight spaces since they don’t require any swing space at all.
  3. Folding Doors: Folding doors, also known as bi-fold doors, fold in on themselves while opening, taking up less space than a standard door. They can be a good option for larger bathrooms or for those looking for a unique design element.
  4. Inward Swinging Doors: Lastly, the traditional inward swinging door is always an option. It’s a common choice for many homeowners and, with the right design, doesn’t have to compromise on space or accessibility.

How to Choose the Right Door Swing for Your Bathroom

Choosing the right door swing for your bathroom is an important decision that can significantly impact the functionality and aesthetics of your space. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Space: The size of your bathroom plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate door swing. If you have a smaller bathroom, an outward swing might be a good choice to maximize your interior space.
  2. User Needs: Consider who will be using the bathroom and their specific needs. If someone with mobility issues will be using the bathroom, an outward swinging door may provide better accessibility.
  3. Privacy: Privacy can also influence your decision. Some people feel that inward swinging doors offer more privacy since it’s less likely to accidentally swing open.
  4. Safety: Safety is another key factor. Outward swinging doors can be advantageous in case of an emergency, allowing for faster exit.
  5. Aesthetics: Lastly, consider the aesthetics and design of your home. The door swing should align with your overall design theme and not disrupt the flow of your house.

After considering these factors, it could be beneficial to consult with a professional. An architect, designer, or experienced contractor can provide valuable insight based on their expertise and experience. They can help assess your specific situation, consider all relevant factors, and make a recommendation that balances function, safety, and style.


In conclusion, the decision to have a bathroom door swing outwards is highly dependent on individual circumstances and priorities.

Key points to remember include:

  1. Benefits: Outward swinging doors can maximize space within the bathroom, improve accessibility especially in emergency situations where quick evacuation or access is needed.
  2. Drawbacks: Potential obstruction in hallways or adjacent rooms, privacy concerns, and disruption in aesthetics and design continuity of the home.

As for the suitability of outward swinging doors for bathrooms, it’s important to carefully consider both the pros and cons. In certain scenarios, such as small bathrooms or homes with people requiring mobility aids, the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages. However, in homes with busy corridors or stringent design aesthetics, an inward swinging door might be more suitable.

The ultimate decision should be a balance between practicality, safety, aesthetics, and personal preference. It’s always advisable to consult with a design professional or contractor who can provide personalized advice based on the specific layout and needs of your home.


Can a bathroom door swing out?

A: Yes, a bathroom door can swing out. The decision depends on factors such as space, safety, and accessibility concerns. However, always check with your local building codes and regulations to ensure compliance.

What are the advantages of having a bathroom door swing out?

A: Outward swinging doors can save space inside the bathroom, improve accessibility, especially in emergencies, and allow for quick evacuation during a crisis.

What are the disadvantages of an outward swinging bathroom door?

A: Potential downsides include obstructions in hallways or adjacent rooms, privacy concerns, and disruption to aesthetics and design continuity.

Do building codes dictate the direction of a bathroom door swing?

A: Building codes vary by region and may have specific requirements for door swings. While some codes might not specify the direction of a bathroom door swing, others may have rules based on safety or accessibility concerns. Always check with your local building codes and regulations.

Can I change my inward swinging bathroom door to swing outwards?

A: Yes, it is possible to change the swing of your bathroom door. However, you should consider the pros and cons of doing so, and consult with a professional to ensure that the change complies with any applicable building codes and won’t cause issues with the rest of your home’s layout.

How does an outward swinging bathroom door affect privacy?

A: Some people feel that an inward swinging door offers more privacy because it’s easier to ensure the door is fully closed. However, the impact on privacy largely depends on the specific design of the door and lock.

Can an outward swinging bathroom door cause obstructions?

A: Yes, if you have limited hallway space or if the door opens into a frequently used area, an outward swinging door could potentially cause obstructions or accidents. It’s important to consider the layout of your home when deciding on the direction of your bathroom door swing.