(ARA) - Bathroom additions rank among the most common home improvements, and the investment almost always pays off at resale. But when it comes to basement renovations, the expense and mess of digging for plumbing drainage lines makes adding a bathroom financially impractical for many homeowners.
As a result, homes with plenty of sub-level promise remain underutilized.
"I see a lot of basements in my work," says real estate professional Daniel Pitman of Brentwood, Tenn.
"Too often, they remain unused, wasting perfectly good space and valuable real estate. Owners just don't know what to do with them."
The biggest obstacle, he says, is that homeowners "don't ever visualize putting bathrooms down there because there's no way to drain the fixtures. Adding sump pumps is expensive, and they leave a big hole."
There is a solution that can help homeowners overcome the basement-renovation hurdle. Above-floor plumbing makes it simple and cost-effective to install a bathroom virtually anywhere in the home without breaking through the floors -- a special advantage when those floors are made of concrete.
The innovative technology has been a European plumbing staple for half a century and is catching on in the United States for basements, tight spaces like closets and attics, and even temporary bathroom additions.
That last application is possible thanks to toilets which are as simple to "un-install" as they are to put in, making them ideal for creating short-term living quarters for a nanny, an in-law or a convalescing person.
Instead of routing waste and water through a conventional floor drain, Saniflo plumbing moves the effluent to a macerator pump, housed in a small plastic box installed at floor level behind the toilet.
The macerator uses a fast-rotating cutting blade to break up waste and toilet paper. The resulting fine slurry is quickly and quietly discharged under pressure through small-diameter, above-floor piping to a septic tank or the sewer system.
"When you offer people an alternative to getting the sledge hammer out and busting up the floor, it's no contest between above-floor and conventional plumbing," says John Haas, owner of Central Hardware in Elkhart, Ind., which does an active business in Saniflo products.
"Saniflo has been the most successful new product that we have taken on since I came here in 1988."
Dream come true
Daniel Pitman and his partner Duane Enoch avoided basement excavation themselves by using this technology to help turn a 6,300-square-foot residence in Brentwood into their dream home.
Located 15 miles south of Nashville, the house was just right for their needs. Knowing they could easily convert the 2,400-square-foot, unfinished basement into separate, but spacious accommodations for Enoch's aunt and grandmother sealed the deal.
But what made their dream come true was a full-scale, luxury renovation of the lower level, including Saniflo system installations for all their plumbing needs.
Enoch's aunt and grandmother "have their own entrance, kitchen, and laundry room -- even a fireplace," Enoch says of the comfortable and well-appointed sub-level "home" designed for his relatives.
The ambitious renovation project also included two master suites with toilet, sink and bath/shower installations.
A former pipe-fitter plumber and now a home inspector, Enoch says their luxury basement transformation was an ideal improvement for the home.
"Initially, we had a plumbing contractor come out and quote us a price to rough in conventional, below-floor drain lines for the bathrooms," Enoch says.
"Going with Saniflo instead probably saved us ten grand."
But the plumbing s appeal went beyond these impressive cost-savings.
"We loved the fact that the system spared us from having to go through that concrete dust," adds Pitman, referring to the need to blast through the floor to install traditional plumbing systems.
"The mess would have come up to the top floors eventually. That clean-up factor is really the big selling point for above-floor plumbing."
The system had several other factors in its favor as well:
* Concealed plumbing: Enoch liked the fact that the macerating pumps could be concealed behind the wall, an important advantage for the luxury setting they envisioned.
"That's what sold me on the technology. We have access panels in both baths, which makes it easy to get to the macerator boxes."
* Just like regular plumbing: Because the plumbing is concealed, "Most people don't even know an above-floor system is any different than conventional plumbing," Enoch explains, referring to the look and comparatively quiet operation of macerating technology.
* Quick and easy installation: Without the digging to make drainage connections, the couple's bathroom installations took a little over half a day.
Enoch and Pitman's expansive residence is typical of this fast-growing upscale community, known for its large lots and serene settings in the rolling hills of middle Tennessee.
But unlike many other homes in the area, the Enoch-Pitman dream home is fully utilized from top to bottom for the benefit of all four family members, thanks to the basement renovation with above-floor plumbing.
"I didn't want them to go to a retirement community," says Enoch of his grandmother and great aunt. "Now they have family upstairs, and we have family downstairs.
And they are absolutely in love with the bathrooms." Courtesy of ARAcontent