Installing a Basement Half-Bathroom

Bob discusses the installation of a basement half-bathroom, including wiring, plumbing, and radiant heating.

Clip Summary

Bob explains how remodeling a basement presents owners with options they didn't realize they had. In the Melrose home project, a space previously used as a little paint closet was converted to house a half bathroom that is badly needed in a home with only one bathroom for its four members. The area was reframed and the staircase restructured to accommodate the room. Al Leone of Plumbers Union Local Number 12 installed the new piping using PEX flexible tubing. Electricians were then called in to rewire the area. Electrician John Schiavone installed the wires, circuits, switches, and outlets.: Georgia Pacific DensArmor Plus was used for wallboard for the bathroom in the basement remodeling project. Jim Larsen from Larco Wallboard reviews some of the features of the wallboard, including a fiberglass face to resist mold and mildew. The wallboard is easy to work with and will work with a plaster or drywall finish. A drywall finish was used in this project. The existing basement floor was a cold concrete slab that will now have ceramic tile floor installed over radiant heat mats. Bob talks with Kevin Murray from NuHeat Inc. about the electrical radiant heating pads. The pads go underneath the tile and can reach a temperature of about 92 degrees. Using the pads to heat a room uses about the same amount of electricity lighting the room. The pads plug into a programmable thermostat so the heating can be set to come on at regular times during the day. Murray then demonstrates how the pad is installed. First, it is dry-fitted to the floor and set to fit the general area. The pad is then affixed to the floor using an adhesive mud. After the mud has been put on the concrete and the pad set in place, a float is used to press it down. The pad is made of a porous polycarbon fabric. After all the pads are put in place, the tile setter can put in the mastic and tile. Mike Blangiardi from Portsmouth Quality Flooring set and grouted the tile after letting the thinset sit for 24 hours. The homeowners selected a DalTile ceramic tile for the laundry and bathroom area. The homeowners should wait another 24 hours once the grout is complete before using the room. Basement toilets and showers need special equipment to pipe water and waste up and out to the sewer. Bob talks with Robert Lechner of Saniflo about the macerating toilet and other special piping equipment being installed in the bathroom. Lechner explains how water and waste is evacuated out the back of the toilet into the macerator. The macerator contains motorized blades spinning at 3,600 rpm that liquefy any solid matter. This slurry can then be piped out of the basement. The toilet has a European-style bowl and a 1.6 gallon tank. The pipes require almost no maintenance but objects other than waste products should not be flushed down the toilet to protect the macerator. The suggested retail price for the entire package including the macerator, piping, and toilet is $869. It is one of the most affordable solutions available for locating a bathroom below grade. The addition of this half-bathroom should make a big improvement in the quality of life for this family of four.
So, remodeling a basement often gives you some options you didn't know you had. And very often any remodeling project leads you to a point where you say, "Well, you might as well do this too, there goes the budget," sometimes.

But, what we had here is a situation where the back corner of the old nasty dirty basement, formerly a little paint closet , was a perfect location to carve out a badly needed half-bathroom.

This is a three, four-bedroom house with one bathroom. Very often that's what they built back in the 1920's, and this is a family with two little boys.

So it makes sense to provide some additional plumbing.

What we've been able to do here once we re-framed the area, restructured this little staircase that goes up to the kitchen was essentially to rough it out.
Our plumber, Al Leone, was back with another apprentice from the Plumbers and Gas-Fitters Union.

Local number twelve training program. They made quick work of a pretty complex plumbing Bob by using Peck's flexible tubing.

We will have a combination of a half bathroom with a little sink.
And hook ins for the laundry equipment, the washer and dryer. There will also be enough room for a spare refrigerator down here.

But once the plumbers were through with all the the essential rough work that had to be done, including some specialized plumbing, because the toilet in the basement doesn't necessarily work without some assist. More about that later. We had the electricians come in to move wires and pull wires and get things going.

Electrician, John Schevoni also had his work cut out for him. Running all the new lines. You don't think about it much, but a bathroom and a laundry require quite a few circuits, switches, and outlets. And, it's important to have a licensed electrician do this work and get the proper inspection.

Working in a basement, lots of choices to be made.
We've used Georgia Pacific it's armor plus for all the wall board.

Actually, this a great product to use in basements.
It's, the face is a fiberglass face, it's inorganic so it doesn't host mold or mildew like other paper face products do.

Then screw it.

It's very easy to work with.
It's very similar to working with regular blue board or dry-wall itself. Cuts, snaps the exact same. This product will accept both plaster and a drywall finish.

Where you drywall finish typical three coats on the seams you'll completely skim the surface of the drywall or you could bond veneer plaster it, just like you would blue-board.

Once the walls were done, we took a look at the floor, which is an old concrete slab cold underfoot and we decided the best thing to do would be to put down a nice ceramic tile floor, with some electric heat pads underneath it.

Alright, so Kevin are you ready to put this in?

I am ready Bob.

Well, first of all. What is it? It's a radiant heating source, right?

Yes, it's electrical radiant floor heating. As you can see it comes pre-built. The only pre-built on the market.

It comes with your leads right here that go into a programmable thermostat.

Wait a minute isn't this, so this goes down underneath the tile.

This will go underneath tile, stone , or any kind of free floating wood floors such as laminate engineer.

And essentially these wires get warm and that's what transfers the heat?


This is one wire going through; it all gets warmed up and we can get it up to about 92 degrees.

Isn't it awfully expensive to rent?

You would think that, Bob, but actually running a mat like this in a room like this, it's equivalent to running your lights. But the great thing about it, it's on a programmable thermostat, so you can't leave your lights on, or you can't Leave this on. So I guess the thing to remember is that your not using it for constant heat all winter long.

You're only using it when you're in the area and you need the warmth, right, if you're barefoot and you know.

Right outside the room and kids are playing and running around and they want to come use the bathroom here.

Exactly if you're in the bathroom at five thirty in the morning you only have it on five to seven That's the only time you will need it.

So how do you install it, Kim?

Well, it's easy, Bob.
Actually the way you go about this is first you're gonna dry fit it. Make sure it, you know, you have the right mat for the right room.

As you see this does fit. It fits perfectly with the vanity and the toilet.

So it doesn't have to cover every last square inch its just a general area.

Yeah, typically we don't want to get on any vanities. You know, we'll go 18 inches from the back of the toilet, just so you have, when you're standing you have the right heat.


What we do here is we got I tell people this is a small mat, but our mats come large. I tell them to start with half, open it up thin thinner mud it down.

So what is the mud you are using?

It's just your typical mud.
Your thin set you know you can get it as watery as you want or as you see I didn't.

It's why I kept it, sissy a little thick that's the way I like to put it.

And what I'll do is I'll just come and don't be afraid, you're not going to ruin the mat it's very durable.

I put in half here, and I just go at it do what I have to do with my saw.


And basically, it will adhere to the ground it is a porous mat so it will come through let's get a little more here.


So you're using a float now, just to press it down into the.

Yes, sir. I want to make sure I get all the bubbles out.


And make sure it's as flat as possible.

Is the mat made out of some sort of plastic or fiber glass?

It is a poly-carbon type fabric.

Like I said, it is porous, so it will come through, seep through a little bit.

And then, do you put another layer of the thin-set on top of it now?

Yes sir, as soon as you going to put the tile down.

Okay, so the next step, the next step would be the tile setter putting down his mastic and tile.

Exactly, and like I said don't be afraid to walk on it.

Yeah, it's simple.

Alright, well thanks Kevin.

Thank's Bob.

Alright, so Mike, how long have you waited between setting the tile down and doing the grout?

24 hours Bob.

That's generally the recommended time right?


That's correct.

And what kind of grout is this?

It's just the basic grout.

There's nothing nothing synthetic or anything?

No that's just what you get.

These are Dowell tile we are putting down.
Is it a ceramic tile or a porcelain tile?

These are ceramic, Bob.


And I believe the homeowner's choice had a lot to do with, well, not putting down a plain, white finish that would show dirt and dust and lint because after all, this is a laundry room.


It' a good choice. And once you've grouted it, then how long do you have to wait before you can actually move in?

Another 24 hours, basically.

There you go.

In a basement, if you want to install a bathroom and a toilet, you're usually going to be too low below the ground to be able to have stuff go out to the sewer, so you have to install a specialized toilet that involves pumping and macerating.

Bob, tell us about the design of this toilet.
It's unusual. It looks different from anything we're used to seeing.

Well as Alan mentioned, it's a back outlet toilet.
That's so that the waste can be evacuated from the bowl into a macerator behind it.

Right, right. inside the macerator is a motor with stainless steal blades that spin at 3600 RPMs.

So that all solid wastes are being churned up.

It turned into a liquid.




That allows us to pump out of a three quarter inch pipe. So that's a very difficult thing for some people to understand that we are pumping liquids at that point. We're not pumping any solids. All the paper and waste is turned into a slurry, so to speak.

Now the actual design of the bowl seems different.

It's a European style bowl.
It's, the company's been based in Europe for fifty years, and in Europe many of the manufacturers make this type of bowl.


It's an elongated design.

It is an elongated bowl but we have a round front in this particular model is elongated as well.

Al, can I bring it in?


OK, now from the point of view of water conservation in all this, does this conform to?

It is the 1.6 gallons, 1.6 liters.

1.6 yes Again, no kind of rubber flange or anything there?

There is a tank to bowl seal.

Oh I see it, yes.

It's a standard tank. And then again, you bolt it down to the base.

That's correct.

So, Bob, having a pump attached to a toilet, one would worry about maintenance and stuff, I mean.

Virtually no maintenance needs to be done.


There are certain things that you don't want to do with this. You don't want to flush down, just because it is a grinder, you don't want to flush things down here that you wouldn't flush down an ordinary toilet.

You have to be careful what you put in.


What about the cost?

Cost or suggested retail list price is at $869 for this unit.

Including the macerator?

Macerator and toilet.

The whole package, yeah.


Well, it's absolutely terrific as it's really the only way to locate a bathroom in a basement situation, below grade.

It can save you thousands of dollars over any other method of installing a bathroom in the basement below the grade.


Well, the addition of a half a bathroom will make a big, big improvement in the quality of life around here for this little family of four.

That's all for this week.

Next week, we'll be putting in the underlayment, installing slide lock storage cabinets and doing some necessary chimney repairs, and putting in a fireplace insert.

Till then, I'm Bob Villa. Thanks for joining us.