Top tips: creating an understairs toilet
A second toilet is a real bonus and there's often room to squeeze one in under the stairs. But what do you need to know if you're thinking of having one? Elspeth Pridham gives you ten vital tips for installing one...
Any loo you install must be connected to the soil pipe. Unless this runs conveniently through the cupboard you will need to install a macerating toilet. This looks much like a standard toilet and occupies about the same amount of floor space. The difference is, this loo uses a macerating blade to liquefy waste that is then pumped through a small pipe to the soil stack. The leading supplier of macerating loos is saniflo - visit www.saniflo.co.uk for more information.
You will need a water supply for both the basin and loo. Consult a plumber before starting the project to find out the extent of the work involved. Pipes may need to be extended under the floor and therefore the boards in the hall will have to be lifted. The plumber should also be able to advise you regarding any specific regulations for installation under the stairs.
Clear out the cupboard and ask the tallest member of the house if they are able to stand upright in there. The basin should be positioned against the tallest wall, as your family and guests will want to stand to wash their hands. The loo can be positioned under the slope of the stairs - as the pan protrudes into the space, men should still be able to stand when using the toilet.
Buying a basin
There are many compact basins available designed specifically for use in a small space. Wall hung designs are best as they not only leave the floor area clear but are easy to clean around. The pipes under the basin can either be channelled into the wall or boxed-in for a streamlined finish. The Frico basin, £187 from Aston Matthews, measures 410mm wide and incorporates a chrome towel rail and liquid soap dispenser; contact www.astonmatthews.co.uk.
Don't forget storage
In a confined space it is important to incorporate some storage to prevent your new loo looking cluttered. A small cupboard built under the sink, wall hung unit or basket next to the WC are all you need to hold spare loo rolls and cleaning materials. You will also need a hook or ring for the hand towel.
Keep it fresh
In line with UK building regulations all domestic toilets must have adequate ventilation. As there is no window under the stairs you will need to install an extractor fan with a duct to an exterior wall. Your plumber should be able to advise you on this or visit specialist websites www.airflow.co.uk or www.vent-axia.com.
Consider the heating
As this is such a small room it is unlikely you will need to install a radiator as there will be sufficient heat drawn in from the hall. However, to keep the room extra cosy and towels warm and dry you might wish to consider fitting a heated towel rail. This can be wall mounted to keep the floor clear, but make sure there is space around it to avoid painful burns.
Open and shut
A door that opens into the under stairs loo makes it awkward to manoeuvre around and will hit either the basin or the toilet. The door will need to be hinged to open out into the hall. If the entrance is an unconventional size and shape you will need a carpenter to make a door specifically for you. Choose a design that echoes the panelling on the side of the stairs and paint it to match.
Let there be light
Once inside with the door shut this is going to be a dark space. Stop your new loo feeling like a cupboard by installing attractive lighting. Either a wall light above the basin or spotlights set into the ceiling will suffice, operated by a string pull inside the room or a switch on the wall outside the door.
Avoid using dark colours as they will make this small space with sloping ceiling feel like a cave! Choose pale, neutral shades such as off-white, stone or cappucino for a sophisticated finish. Paint the walls and ceiling in the same shade or, for an easy clean option, use tiles. Run the same flooring from the hall into the loo as this will give a greater sense of space.