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Basement Toilet Options

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Basement Toilets: What are your options?

Also known as “Pittsburgh potties,” basement bathrooms were once a staple of working-class towns [1]. Nowadays, they’re far less popular but many homeowners still choose to install them. It’s nice to have an extra toilet in a crowded house.

Basement toilets actually come in many varieties. The awkward positioning often places them below the main sewer line, requiring a specialized mechanism for removing waste. Looking for the best toilet? Read this guide first.

Below, you’ll find the most common types of basement toilets available and how each function.

Basement Toilet Options

Some Due Diligence

Before you commit to installing a basement toilet, there are a few things you should consider.

First, check the zoning ordinances and building codes in your area. It’s possible that a basement toilet puts you in violation of sewer codes, which could hurt the resale value of your home.

The best way to go about this is to speak with a contractor or contact your local building authority.

With that out of the way, consider whether you just want a toilet or something more substantial.

A basement isn’t usually the place for a full bathroom, but with a little determination and the appropriate resources, there’s no reason not to add it.

If you want a full bathroom, you need to think about waterproofing and heating as well. You don’t want your basement to start collecting moisture damage and mold.

Since most toilets are gravity-fed, if your main sewer line is below your proposed toilet, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’ll need to get one of the following specialized toilets.

Pressure-Assisted Toilet

Even if your main sewage line is deeper than your basement toilet, it may not be deep enough. In cases where the toilet just needs a little extra help to prevent clogs, a pressure-assisted toilet is an excellent option.

As the name implies, pressure-assisted toilets use air pressure to aid in the extraction of the toilet’s contents.

This added pressure should be all you need to prevent any clogs, even if your toilet is level with the sewer line.

Furthermore, pressure-assisted toilets have other benefits as well. They use less water per flush than their gravity-activated counterparts and perform better too, thanks to large flush valves.

These larger flush valves allow water into the bowl’s trapway more quickly, thus increasing the peak discharge (gpm) flow rate. The net effect is a higher velocity, shorter duration discharge, which gives improved extraction performance.

R. Bruce Martin of PM Engineer Magazine

Upflushing Toilet

If your sewer line is considerably higher than your basement, a press-assisted toilet won’t be sufficient.

In that case, a great option is an upflushing toilet. Again, the name gives away the basic gist of how it functions.

An upflushing toilet has an extra chamber that contains an electric pump. Once installed, it works just like a regular toilet.

When you flush, the waste goes to the pump unit (usually behind the toilet) where it’s macerated to prevent clogs, and then pushed up to your main sewer line where it empties normally.

Even though most people haven’t heard of them, upflush toilets have been around since the 1950s [2].

Despite needing electricity to function, an upflush toilet is much simpler to install than a regular toilet, since there are no pipes running under the floor. All you need is space to place the pump unit behind it.

Sewage Ejector System

If you’re not content with just a toilet and want to add more fixtures to your basement, you might consider a sewage ejector system.

It’s a great option if you want to add a washing machine to your basement too. Of course, this assumes you can’t just connect to your sewer line directly due to the height.

A sewage ejector system works similarly to an upflush toilet but allows for several sources of sewage to connect to it.

Installing a sewage ejector system requires a permit in some areas, so it’s especially important that you contact your local building authority if you want to install one.

Essentially, a sump basin (akin to a septic tank) is installed in the ground below grade. Then, all the sewage lines from your basement can be connected to it.

When the sump basin fills up to a certain level, a pump ejects the waste into your main sewer line just like the upflush toilet would.

Composting Toilet

And finally, you can always install a composting toilet.

Far and away the most eco-friendly option [3], composting toilets use very little water and turn your waste into usable compost.

While they’re quite functional, composting toilets certainly aren’t for everyone.

Each unit consists of a composting chamber under the toilet seat where waste collects. Once the chamber is full, it’s emptied and the waste can be used or discarded.

The Perfect Toilet for Every Basement

As you can see, there are many good choices for your basement toilet.

The main consideration is whether your main sewer line is above or below the basement.

If it’s at least level with your basement, a pressure-assisted toilet works great. If it’s well above it, you may need an upflushing toilet or even a sewage ejector if you want more fixtures.

For the smallest initial investment, consider a composting toilet as well.

FAQs:

References:

  1. Cbs. “’You Wanted to Know’: Pittsburgh Potty Origins.” CBS Pittsburgh, CBS Pittsburgh, 17 Sept. 2012, pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2012/09/17/you-wanted-to-know-pittsburgh-potty-origins/.
  2. “Finding the Right Saniflo Toilet.” UpflushTOILET.com | SaniFlo Products, www.upflushtoilet.com/collections/saniflo-toilet.
  3. Dowse, Peter. “Why Are Composting Toilets Good for the Environment?” Ecoflo Wastewater Management, ecoflo.com.au/blog/why-are-composting-toilets-good-for-the-environment.
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