One area of my tiny house that I have come to think about a lot is the bathroom. Now of course you need a bathroom, a place to use the restroom, a place to shower, etc. It can range from in your tiny house flush toilet or composting, to an “outhouse” style with a properly designed system or even a flush toilet; But I am beginning to wonder if a bathroom should be outside the tiny home. It might be using the extra bathroom of the house you’re parked in the back yard of or it might be like Drew over at Tiny R(e)volution who build his “shower shack” photos at bottom of post. I’m not saying you should do this, but I think it warrants discussion.
The reason I’ve been thinking this is because while a bathroom of some form is a necessity, as it is in a tiny house, it takes up so much space and is used so little. This is a really important factor when it comes to small spaces. The amount of square footage should be directly proportional to the amount you use it. So for example your mattress takes up about 30 square feet if you have a queen size bed, which is a lot of space, but you use it for 8 hours every day. Compare that to the bathroom, about 22 square feet, I use it for maybe 30 or less minutes a day for showering, shaving, brushing teeth and going to the bathroom. If you simply look at it like a return on investment a bathroom is not that great use of space.
Now you can reduce your space by building a wet bath (frankly I’m not keen on that idea). You could also setup bathroom and shower outside, using an outdoor shower and bathroom, but there are a few months a year this wouldn’t work well. You also could arrange for whoever house you park your tiny house behind that you can use their bathroom. Obviously nothing will beat the convenience of having a shower and toilet in the actual tiny house, but I still struggle with how much space it uses versus how much I use it.
When folks ask us what was the most challenging aspect of building a tiny house we will chorus in unison: BATHROOM. Several factors made this the most difficult part of construction.
Firstly, this is the room we spend the least amount of time. For Cedric, this meant that finding inspiration to work on the bathroom was not easy. It was more interesting for us to design and build the kitchen where we spend the majority of our time. Secondly, designing a bathroom on wheels is challenging in and of itself. We love tile but the fact that the motion of moving the house would likely cause cracking and/or breakage threw that option out the window. We tried buying a shower pan but nothing fit our tiny space. We looked to RV and boat design but we wanted as little plastic as possible and much of those use plastic to create a waterproof space. We considered using a hardwood such as teak since it was available through the warehouse where we constructed, but we feared it would be too heavy. Our bathroom is on the tongue side of the trailer and we didn’t want to weight it down. That was another reason for throwing out the tile idea-too heavy.
Finally, we decided on corrugated tin which was light and attractive. Before installing the outer materials the walls and floor were painted with reclaimed, heavy duty marine paint that’s used on ships to prevent water damage. For the flooring we decided to make a stainless steel shower pan. Cedric found the material at a junkyard. It was previously a kitchen counter but Cedric shaped, cut and welded it to fit our bathroom space. This is where our community came to our aid because we did not have the equipment to reconstruct the stainless steel counter top. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of our friend Bill who has a machine shop. It was not a cheap option and it took a lot of work to get right but we don’t regret the time or the money spent. Our bathroom will probably outlast the rest of the house!
Once we had installed the tin and pan we noticed we had issues with standing water. We fixed this by banging the shower pan in around the drain allowing for better drainage. We built in a box on one side with a hinged lid where our bucket composting toilet is located. We heat our water with an on-demand hot water heater that’s propane powered. It works like a charm although we did have trouble keeping the flame lit on a very windy night!
The bathroom, or the wet room as we call it, is still not quite finished with one window left to trim but other than that it has turned out to be a great space. We created a drainage field based on a gray water system we had used while working on an organic farm. It allows us to water our plants while showering which our banana and pineapple plants love! We are careful with the products we put down our drains using biodegradable soaps and shampoos that won’t harm the soil or plants. If comments on our garden are any measure of success than we hit the nail on the head. Of all the gardens I’ve had in Charleston, this one received the most praise from neighbors. I definitely think the extra watering had something to do with that! Ultimately, we’d like to build an outdoor shower for summer months as well as a possible outdoor kitchen but we still have a few months to consider those options!
- What challenges have you faced designing WCs for tiny spaces?
If you asked me a year ago if I would ever be blogging about toilets, well I most likely would have laughed at you.
I have seen these before, but they are most often conversion kits and a never looked quite as nice. The Caroma Profile Smart is a Small profile toilet that has an integrated sink that uses the water before it goes into the toilet. I have told folks about these before and often get this disgusted look, if you have never had to fix one you might not know how they work. First the water fills a reservoir tank, that tank empties down into the bow through small holes at the top, the water collects in the bowl and well you know the rest. The water that goes into the reservoir is 100% clean water, same stuff you drink from the tap.
If you are in another country this may not be the case as they sometimes use grey water, which I hope catches on here, but here in the US of A we use the regular water to fill the bowl. What is more many folks put what are essentially chlorine tablets in the reservoir which creates a barrier if you will. In fact if you read any disaster preparedness guide they talk about if push comes to shove, you can drink from the reservoir (best to boil).
So what’s so great about this toilet first it actually looks somewhat attractive, the second is that it is a very narrow profile, perfect for tiny houses.
- High efficiency dual flush toilet – 1.28/0.8 gallons (4.8/3 liters) per flush
- Integrated sink for enhanced water savings
- After flushing, fresh cold water is directed through the faucet for hand washing and drains into the tank to be used for the next flush
- Unique water and space saving design
- Chrome buttons built-in to tapware design
- Easy installation
- Large trapway virtually eliminates blockages
- 12″ rough-in