Tech topic: Wall-Hung toilets
From public places to private spaces
We’ve seen wall-hung toilets for years in airports, stadiums, hospitals and office buildings. These applications were pressure assist driven, in that they drew water pressure and power from the piping behind the wall. These are still the leading applications for wall hung toilet installations.
As high rise structures were being built, the change from horizontal under-floor piping to vertical in-wall piping drove the need for wall hung toilets in residential/homeowner oriented spaces, explains Lovin Saini, senior product manager for Gerber Plumbing Products.
As real estate prices and capital costs have increased over time, wall hung toilets that use gravity became important in hospitality and multifamily sectors, where smaller bathrooms required off floor, more compact installs. To get the best use of these toilets, vertical piping and a well developed ventilation and plumbing infrastructure must be designed into the building.
“Wall hungs are usually needed in applications such as high-rise condo or office buildings where the plumbing is built into the wall and not into the floor,” Saini says. “When you think about a high rise like a hotel or a condominium tower, a lot of time it’s cheaper and requires less material and less time. In this application, you run pipe vertically rather than spider web them up, underneath the floor, up underneath the floor, up, underneath the floor again. Installation efficiency, construction efficiency, and the way the plumbing piping is designed into the building, dictate whether you are installing floor mount or wall mount.”
Usually in the commercial public spaces, what’s taken into account is ease of maintenance and cost of maintenance, Saini says. “If you are building a large building — even if it is not multiple stories — it requires a use pace of many, many users per day, multiple flushes per hour, whereas is a home you may use the toilet three or four times a day. In an office space for a small company, the toilets may be used four times an hour.
“A lot of times it’s easier to build a building, run the pipes all the way across the area of the perimeter, if you will, and then, because of the sturdiness required for multiple use per hour, a wall hung toilet, held by a strong set of carrier arms, is probably going to last you a lot longer than a floor mount model. Secondly, getting the toilet off the floor you have ease of cleaning for health considerations. From the commercial standpoint, that’s why wall hungs are that much more desirable.”
With so many users per hour, you need strong, available pressure all the time, he adds. “The strongest pressure is located in the pipe, so you need that model of toilet to connect the pressure to the pipe, whereas in a home the toilet is on the floor and is connected to a tank of water to flush the toilet for you.
“The best way I ever had it put to me was from a developer in New York, where the average cost of real estate can be $3,000 to $5,000 per square foot. The reason they are converting to a lot of wall hung toilets is because it has a more compact design. He said they can shrink the bathroom space because the wall hung toilet isn’t blocking as much room and add two or three square feet to that apartment and add $9,000 to $10,000 to the asking price.
By installing wall hung, they were able to conjure up square feet where they weren’t able to before. They were able to add living space to the apartment at the expense of the bathroom where people aren’t demanding that much more square footage. The wall hung opens up more square footage which gives you more living space which gives you more revenue,” Lovin says.
Wall hung toilets are much more common In Europe, where there is a lot more multi-family housing, and not as many single-family homes as we do, in the U.S., Lovin says. “It’s a much more condensed area. They are more accustomed to living in smaller spaces and multi-user spaces, so from the construction side they are building piping into the walls rather than the floors.” There’s also the appeal of the design aesthetic and builders and user like that the toilet is more compact.
“In the U.S. and Canada, we are seeing more of the wall hung option in single-family home design,” Saini says. “We’re seeing more of it on the coasts—-typically your fashion trendy places first — San Francisco, L.A., New York, Miami, Vancouver and Toronto, wherever newer design and international flair come into play.”
These are also places where high real estate prices and overcrowding are already in place, he adds. “There’s a large predominance in those areas of high-rise apartment and condo towers. Canada is a little closer to Europe than America is in their design preferences. In cities like Vancouver, where they have a huge Asian population, these cities are really adopting wall hung. You have faster growth on the residential side, with the higher volume on the commercial side.”
When you are designing these you are definitely thinking about the different segments of the market that you are going for, Saini explains. In a home you have to work with your builder, homeowners and designer to understand what you’re trying to build. “In hospitality, if, for example, I’m starting at a Marriott Hotel in downtown Chicago, designed for comfort and a certain lifestyle aesthetic, those toilets you’ll want to design in a more contemporary design, flair, and a more modern look. These hotels will have design makeover every eight- to 10 years to keep the look fresh.”
On the more upscale side, a drawback of the pressure-assist units is that they are a little louder, which these venues don’t want. “They want a quiet toilet that won’t disturb their sleep, so they go for a gravity or non-pressure assisted model. In that market, you’re not trying to impress anyone with the design. You’re providing basic amenities for a comfortable stay. You’re looking at pressure-assist models to ensure longer reliability.
In a budget hotel chain, they are not going to invest a lot money in plumbing services to build a tank into the wall, he explains. It’s more of an operational concern because their business model depends on higher turnover rather than luxury, comfort and amenities. “They want a toilet that is a reliable flusher, looks halfway decent, and never cost them a day of revenue while a space is out of commission for repairs. At that level it becomes more 50/50 wall and floor mount.
“In new construction, you’ll see more wall mounts, in renovation, more floor mounts, because of the existing pipe work configurations. The higher up you go into the hospitality market, the more favorable the view of wall mount—again as new buildings are going up, they are spec-ing in more wall mount toilets. On the apartment side, new construction side, they will almost always go with a gravity.
There are two ways to get pressure assist to your toilet. In the commercial bathroom you’ve seen those big mega flush levers, or electronic flush levers that flush by themselves. The pipe that goes into the wall is like a big water pipe behind the wall with pressure coming through – water coming through at high pressure.
In that environment when you pull the lever you open up the flush valve which allows the water to come flying through the valve into your toilet and that’s how you get the whoosh, Saini explains. That’s one kind of pressure assister; you’re deriving pressure directly from the pipe. Secondly, the more common type of pressure that single users are probably used to, in a residential or single bathroom setting, is a tank type pressure assist. This a standard toilet with a tank, not a flush valve.
“In a residential setting, water pressures are not as high as they are in a big commercial setting where the water pressure has to be much, much higher. If we wanted to put a wall hung bowl and a pressure value in our home there’s isn’t enough water pressure in the wall to get a vigorous, powerful flush. So we use a tank-style pressure assist. You connect your toilet to the wall, let water in, and it stores pressure.
“When you flush the water is forced into the bowl and out and begins to fill up again, building and storing pressure for the next use. When you connect directly to a pipe with the appropriate pressure setting, that’s very consistent, reliable and everyday power. It really depends on what you are trying to do and how many flushes you are trying to accommodate in a short period of time.”
The biggest difference between installation of a wall hung and a floor mount toilet obviously will be the necessity of heavier studs in the walls to receive the carrier for the in-wall water tank and the tank itself. Typically the carrier is attached to studs with four bolts. “You have to have a very sturdy, reliable wall carrier to hold the bowl. In terms of framing it in, you’ll need heavier reinforced studs, and four-bolt carriers are highly preferred. They are constructed so that they take the weight evenly. Once you get that framed in, getting a bowl on that carrier is essentially set of arms that take the weight of the bowl. Our bowls sit on just about any standard size wall carrier.”
Yes, when doing a retrofit of a wall unit to replace another wall unit, or a floor mount, there will be some breaking into walls and/or floors depending on the project, Saini says.
Plumbers accustomed to having to cut into walls to get into leaks shouldn’t see this as a problem. “One advantage of a wall mount is if you are installing a tank type two -piece toilet, then you would use the wall carrier, we just talked about, and your repairs, which would mostly be in the tank are addressed just like a floor mount tank toilet because the tank is outside the wall.”
"This article was originally posted on ww.reevesjournal.com."