Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Is That Toilet Hanging From the Wall Falling Off?

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Commercial equipment in residential buildings happens. In fact most innovations begin in commercial buildings, but we may want to consider if we really want them in our homes. A toilet may be an example of this idea.

Many building innovations begin in the commercial environment. When they are established, we find them moving over to the residential structures. Sometimes this is due to cost. Sometimes this is due to the slow pace of change in residential architecture. When we do take the innovations from commercial buildings to the residential, we do find problems with the learning curve connected with installation. There are buildings built with the common techniques of an apartment complex or office building, but they are meant for residential use. Some of these techniques become more noticeable when we look at the plumbing and air conditioning. A toilet that I found fit into this example.
    What is the difference between commercial and residential plumbing? An office building will be focused on saving energy. Facility managers will see this as their main expense. The water bill can be quite high
as well, so you do see low flush toilets and automatic toilets. You will see recirculating water systems to keep hot water hot and cold water cold. Automatic sinks also save water. In older structures you will see something else that is different, and that is how the plumbing lines may run. Taking the water lines through cabinets instead of the walls is found in older buildings. Hot water systems can often be centralized. One innovation for toilets was to hang them on the wall, instead of having a base. These units typically do not have a tank of water, so they do not experience the problems associated with the float valves. Another benefit is that the cleaning crew can quickly sweep and mop underneath the toilet. Trust me, when you have 15,000 people go through a facility in one day, you want to be able to clean quickly.
    One home inspection led to the discovery of a hanging toilet installed in the home. One step in checking a toilet is to see if the toilet is secure. Toilets which are not securely attached can leak. I noticed that this toilet was slightly loose. Looking down, I saw the gap between the toilet and the wall. These toilets are installed by having the a lip on the unit hook onto a matching rail on the wall. Depending upon the model, there might be bolts underneath the unit. The framing in the wall has to be sized appropriately to handle this weight. The mounting bracket has to be installed securely. Now we are moving into a touch area: what weight was that bracket and framing designed to handle? Listening to the news, you may be aware that the average weight of an individual has been going up. This can weaken the mounting bracket. The other problem may be that the framing and bracket were never truly installed/made properly in the first place.
   If I see the gap between the wall and toilet, is there a problem? The size of the gap is an indicator. Once we go over an eighth of an inch, we do need to be concerned. The movement places stress on the plumbing connections, so we need to look for leaks (these leaks can be on the supply and input sides). Leaks can be in the wall. In tiled bathrooms, this can be harder to discern. Tiles can hold moisture, but this is not as easy to see as in sheetrock. If tiles are loose, you may have a leak. Next check to see if the toilet is secure (how much does it wiggle?). If the movement is quite noticeable, your concern should rise. There is no way to know when the mounting bracket will fail, so if you notice the wiggle, you should contact a plumber.
   An entire post about a toilet? I do enjoy the cleaning aspect of hanging toilets, but I think that I prefer a toilet with a base. At home, my younger children use the toilet as a stepping stool to a sink. There is the old joke: Confucius says that he who stands on toilet is high on pot. Still, I hear of accidents which happened because people were standing on a toilet.   

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
713.781.6090

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