Installation Musts for Below Grade Bathroom Fixtures – A Reprint from Inman News

This is important information when installing bathroom fixtures bel0w-grade (in the basement) – this comes from Inman News ( author Paul Bianchina

Q: We need to install  a toilet and sink just below grade going into a septic system for my elderly  parents. Do we need an ejector-type toilet? Also is there a specific make/brand  that we should be looking at? Does someone also make an ejector sink or is  there a way to connect it to the toilet? –Susan M.


A: For the type of installation you describe, where both the  toilet and the sink are below grade, you actually need a sewage ejector pump.  With this type of installation, all of the liquid and solid waste from all of  the below-grade fixtures flows into a holding tank.


When the waste reaches a  certain level, a float mechanism triggers a pump, which pumps the waste up to  the home’s main sewer line. With this type of arrangement, you can also install  other fixtures below grade, such as a shower, bathtub or washing machine.


A complete installation includes the holding tank, which is  a noncorrosive tank that’s usually around 30 gallons of capacity; the pump and  float; a waste line that’s connected to the home’s sewer line; and a vent line  that’s connected to the home’s plumbing vent system. A grounded electrical  connection is also required for the pump.


If you’re not familiar with this type of installation,  you’ll want to have it done by a licensed plumber who’s experienced with  remodeling work. You’ll also need to check with your local building department  to see what plumbing and electrical permits will be required for the  installation.


Q: We recently  purchased a 7-year-old brick home with a crawl space. The inspector said we  need to get a vapor barrier installed in the crawl space to prevent mold. We  haven’t moved in completely yet but do stay at the house for four to eight days  a month.


During our last stay  we noticed that it took a long time to get hot water to the kitchen faucet.  It’s about 30-35 feet from the water heater. I haven’t been in the crawl space  but I’m wondering whether the floor is insulated. What would you recommend we  do? –Dave H.


A: You actually have three different issues here, so let’s  take them separately, along with my recommendations.


The vapor barrier in the crawl space is used to prevent  moisture from the soil from migrating up into the crawl space and, as the  inspector suggests, potentially causing mold problems. It can also cause  problems on the wood framing, and other issues in the crawl space. The vapor  barrier should be 6-mil black plastic sheeting, laid directly on the  dirt.


Crawl-space vapor barriers have been code for quite some  time, so it’s surprising that your 7-year-old house doesn’t have one. My  recommendation: Have a vapor barrier installed as soon as possible.


Issue No. 2 is the floor insulation. Because you had a home  inspection, the inspector would have noted the presence — or lack thereof —  of floor insulation in his report. A crawl space definitely needs a vapor  barrier if it has floor insulation, so unless the vapor barrier was removed for  some reason, you probably don’t have an insulated floor.


My recommendation: Floor insulation definitely helps with  heat loss, so it will keep your home more comfortable and keep your energy  bills down. If the floor isn’t insulated, I’d certainly suggest that you have  that done.


While floor insulation can help with hot water delivery by  keeping water pipes from losing heat, that’s not going to be the cause of your  delay in getting hot water to rooms that are some distance away from the tank.


My recommendation: Drain and flush the tank to be sure it’s  clean and operating properly. Check the thermostats to be sure they’re set  properly. Insulate all the water pipes under the house. Consider having a  plumber install a recirculating pump, which will make a big difference in how  fast hot water makes it to the back of the house.


Q: We live in a 2  1/2-story home with a finished attic. We recently had it insulated. I just  found out that [the insulators] didn’t insulate the attic floor, which I  thought they were supposed to have done. My husband says they shouldn’t, that  it needs to be “open.” Who’s right? –Kris C.


A: Insulation is used primarily to slow down the movement of  heat between heated spaces and unheated spaces, such as between the inside of  the house and the outside, or between a living space and an unheated attic.


Because both your main house and the attic above it are heated living spaces,  from an energy standpoint there is no reason to insulate the floor between the  two spaces. You could, however, insulate it if you wanted to reduce transmitted  noise from that upper room.


Remodeling and repair  questions? Email Paul at All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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