Six Toilet-Planning Mistakes

Toilets might not be the centerpiece of a bathroom design, there are plenty of issues to consider such as rough-in space and more.

authors  | July 22, 2009

Have you noticed that very few award-winning bathrooms feature the toilet as a focal point? The toilet is a necessity, however, and few builders and designers spend enough of a client’s budget properly designing a decent setting for it.

Toilet-planning design errors can be divided into six categories: plumbing, noise, odor, code/clearance, placement and replacement. All six are addressed below:

Plumbing. For the past several years we have worked with 10-, 12- and 14-in. rough-in dimensions. The 12-in. rough-in is the most common and unless you tell plumbers otherwise, they typically will position the closet flange for that dimension. Often, in remodeling jobs, someone fails to measure the hold-down bolts of the existing toilet. Then, a toilet is ordered for the wrong rough-in dimension. The project is delayed while a new toilet is ordered.

Fortunately, Kohler, American Standard and others have 10-, 12- and 14-in. sizes for their most popular models. Many designers assume that if the trapway is concealed, the toilet can be adjusted for the required rough-in. This is not always true so check the rough-in requirements.

Noise. Sounds originating from the toilet compartment can be a problem if the toilet is located near the living area of the home. One solution is to sound-proof the bathroom walls. If the flushing action is the objection, select a toilet that has a low acoustic reading. If the ventilation fan is an issue, look for one with a low sone rating.

Odor. Designers need to address odor in one of two ways; Cover it up or remove it. The most common method of removal is to place a vent fan in the ceiling, centered in the bath space or the toilet compartment. Consider placing the fan low on the wall between the toilet and the wall in a half-bath or toilet compartment. It will be out of sight and close to the origin of the odor. Also consider connecting the ventilation unit to a timed switch to save energy.

Some add-on toilet seats contain an air purifier that will also help eliminate odors. This will require a 120-volt connection near the toilet. The 2009 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show featured a new concept introduced by Smith Innovations. The Odorless Toilet removes odor while the toilet is in use. Before sitting, the user pulls up on the flush handle to activate a fan inside the tank which redirects the odors into the sewer system. When finished, the toilet tank lever is pushed down to flush and deactivate the fan. The system can operate by battery power if an electrical connection is not available.

Code/Clearance. The National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends the center of the toilet be at least 18 in. from a vertical surface such as a cabinet, additional fixture or a wall. However, code requires no less than 15 in. Since this is a code issue, the side clearances generally are not the problem. It is the distance between the wall and the back of the toilet tank that can create expensive plumbing changes. The rough-in dimension (mentioned earlier) is the space from the center of the hold-down bolts to the back of the tank. If the house plan indicates half-inch drywall behind the toilet but you convince the client to add a 3/4-in. beaded board wainscoting in the toilet compartment, the toilet will not fit. Always communicate any deviation to the original plan to all trades.

Placement. The toilet should always be out of view from people sitting in dining areas, kitchens, living rooms and other related spaces. If the bath space is small, the designer might consider the door hinge location as a way to hide the toilet. Many clients even prefer toilets in their own compartments. The single exception to hiding the toilet may be a small hall bath with more than one entrance.

Replacement. A common mistake is replacing a standard rim toilet with an elongated bowl toilet. After the toilet is replaced, the door that opens at a right angle to the toilet will not close. Always measure the space in front of the toilet to avoid any obstructions. Another issue is replacing a standard close-couple toilet with a low-profile, one-piece toilet. Be aware that the shut-off valve most likely will need to be lowered. This could require access to the wall behind or beside the toilet. Consider the wall material and difficulty of access.

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