Guest Column - September 2003
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Selecting Restroom Accessories for Heavy-Use and Abuse Facilities

By Alan Gettelman

When selecting the right restroom and locker room accessories, it's important to first analyze the usage factors of these environments and your facility's maintenance practices. This will assist in reducing future replacement costs and ongoing custodial expense. The overall goal is to make sure you provide attractive, functional facilities for your patrons at the very lowest cost.

Evaluating your needs is the first step. For example:
  1. What are the restroom lifecycle and maintenance cost objectives?
  2. What is your current experience in terms of replacing and/or servicing accessories and partitions, and at what cost?
  3. Are there design criteria to be considered?
  4. What are the demographics and behaviors of the restroom patrons in terms of heavy use, abuse and vandalism?
  5. What kinds of damage and functional failures do you experience?

With the answers to these questions in mind, the task of choosing accessories becomes much easier. Next comes doing your homework about the various types of options and materials.

For starters, recessed mounting of accessories is often preferred for both its architectural styling and vandal-resistance.

There are several advantages to recessed paper-towel dispensers and waste receptacles, sanitary napkin/tampon vendors and disposals, and toilet compartment seat cover and tissue dispensers. Recessed mounting promotes a clean, flush, high-quality appearance, maximizes clear space for barrier-free compliance as well as offers less exposure in vandal-prone restroom environments.

A popular material is stainless steel. Its features include: a neutral color so as not to compete with the interior design color palette, moderate-to-good impact resistance (especially for reinforced and radiused models), and excellent cleanability and corrosion-resistance.

Other material selections are plastic (ABS or polymer) and metal (painted, powder-coated or chrome-plated). Priced often at 50 percent less (or even more) compared to stainless steel, these materials offer the advantage of low initial cost. Some recreation property managers, who expect heavy use and abuse to inevitably take their toll, may prefer these materials because of their equally low replacement cost.

An example of a design integrated restroom installation coordinating recessed paper towel/waste, sanitary napkin/tampon vendor and disposal, dispensers for toilet tissue and seat covers, and solid phenolic toilet partitions.
Give it a dry

Warm-air hand dryers are coming into their own. While it's true some restroom patrons may not prefer dryers, recreation property managers are installing them with frequency.

Economically, they're substantial money-savers: a 90-percent savings compared to paper-towel usage. Also, they reduce maintenance costs.

For recreation restrooms and locker rooms, they eliminate paper for plugging toilets, sinks and urinals and combustible material for starting fires.

Many models are on the market with a large selection of materials available such as vitreous enamel/cast iron, drawn steel, painted/cast aluminum, and molded plastics—all at price points to meet budget parameters.

Suds and stuff

Soap dispensing offers many options. Countertop dispensers are the most popular. And now, large cartridges of soap can be installed under the counter to service up to five dispensers with up to 13,000 hand washes each for heavy-use restrooms.

This substantially reduces maintenance labor costs and just about eliminates patron complaints when dispensers are out of soap.

Then, there are the proprietary systems where small-cartridge plastic soap dispensers are provided for "free" with purchase contracts for the soap. Property managers should understand that nothing is literally for free, and that soap contracts may limit their purchasing negotiations as compared to universally dispensed bulk soap.

The great divides

Keep in mind, toilet partitions are the #1 target of vandals.

There are four basic materials; the following is a brief overview of each:

  1. Solid phenolic—Considered among the most durable, solid phenolic provides excellent structural stability; impact-, moisture, and graffiti-resistance; and is specified where maximum vandal resistance is required. Marks wipe away from its ultra-hard panel, door and stile surfaces with solvent, without ghosting. For recreational properties, the moisture-resistant feature makes it ideal for locker rooms adjacent to pools and spas and where hose-down maintenance is performed. Most manufacturers offer a large variety of colors and one or two levels of fire-code compliance.
  2. Solid plastic—Polyethylene is appropriate for high-traffic restrooms and also where hose-down maintenance is performed. It offers a solid-color core and good structural integrity. Its soft, porous material is somewhat vulnerable to scratches, ghosting and graffiti, which can be removed by sanding down the affected areas. A moderate number of colors is offered.
  3. Laminated plastic—A variety of colors and patterns is available, with panel, door and stile cores fabricated with a core of heavy-duty particleboard. Features include impact-, graffiti-, corrosion- and scratch-resistance. Avoid installation where hose-down maintenance is required.
  4. Hollow-core metal—There are two major advantages: a wide range of color options and low cost. Appropriate applications are low- to moderate-use restrooms in commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. Naturally, this material is vulnerable to scratching, graffiti, rust and corrosion.

Three basic hardware materials are available for partition installation: Zamak, stainless steel and aluminum, with some manufacturers offering heavy-duty hardware packages with continuous, full-height door hinges and U-channels.

Mounting configurations include overhead-braced (the most stable), floor-anchored, ceiling-hung (facilitates floor maintenance), floor-to-ceiling anchored, and barrier-free.

Again, the goal is to select restroom accessories and toilet partitions most appropriate for your needs and budget. As you can see, there are many, many options for restroom accessories including materials, design and engineering features. Careful evaluation of your restroom usage factors can help maximize your return on investment and keep your facilities attractive and functional at the lowest possible cost.

Alan Gettelman is director of marketing for Bobrick Restroom Equipment, Inc. For more information and a complimentary copy of the "Barrier-Free Restroom Planning Guide," call 800-553-1600 or visit