Look around your garage. You’ve made it a really cool space that you never want to leave….except when you have to go. So…why not put a toilet in your garage so you don’t have to?
We spend more and more time in our garages lately and this site is all about making it awesome. There are lots of great reasons why you’re thinking about putting a bathroom in your garage, especially if it’s some distance from your house.
But you’re probably wondering if you can actually put a toilet in your garage.
You can put a toilet in your garage but will almost always need a permit to begin work. There are guidelines for how large the room is and how much space is around the toilet that must be followed. You’ll also need to consider the cost of of any structural changes needed to add the plumbing. It is a major project, and requires painstaking planning.
While this article isn’t intended to be everything you need to know to add a bathroom to your garage, but it can serve as an overview. There are many details that depend on your local municipality, so I highly recommend checking with your local planning office before you start any work. Even if you don’t need a permit, it’s better to check before you start than after you’re done.
Building Codes for Adding a Toilet in Your Garage
It’s critical that you start with the residential building codes that apply to your area. Seriously…this isn’t something you want to skip.
In most areas, the International Residential Code (IRC) will apply, however there are almost always local or state\provincial regulations that apply as well. The ICC has a great interactive website that lets you pull applicable code documents for your state here.
In addition to the residential codes, your municipality may have rules that prohibit adding a toilet to your garage, especially if it’s a detached garage.
Here in Florida, we need to pay special attention to any plumbing work that we do so that we don’t contaminate the local water system. Your state opr township may have similar restrictions.
Be sure you’re allowed to make structural changes to your home. Even if you are, be sure that your proposed changes fit within their guidelines.
You don’t want to get fined or get a court order to remove your hard work a few weeks or even years after finishing your new bathroom.
Once you look at the building codes, it doesn’t hurt to have an idea of what kind of bathroom you’d like in your garage. It’s not uncommon to find regulations that allow some types of construction but prohibit others.
How to Put a Toilet in Your Garage
If you decide to build your garage toilet on your own, here’s the process you should follow:
Designing the Layout
According to the International Residential Code, you need to ensure 21 inches (53cm) of clearance in front of your finished toilet. Other recommendations include the following:
- There must be 15 inches (38cm) of space from the center of the bowl to the walls on the sides of the toilet.
- The clearance needed for the back wall has to be 12 inches (30cm) added to half the width of the toilet bowl.
- The shower floor must cover a minimum area of 30 by 30 inches.
- There should be 24 inches (61cm) of clearance in front of the shower entry.
This layout is followed in most cities, but as I mentioned above, there could be other local requirements.
Designing the layout that factors in all these recommendations is important to keep you in compliance with the building codes. It’s also a great way to design a toilet space that won’t be a health hazard.
Adding the Drainage Pipes
Chances are your garage is on a concrete pad. Unless you have plumbing pipes already installed, you’re going to need to make some changes to the foundation.
With that, you have two options. The first is to break through the floor, install your drain pipes, and patch it when you’re done.
The second option is to set your toilet on the shower on a raised platform that allows you to run waste pipes through the wall, and then underground once outside.
I know I sound like a broken record here, but no matter which option you choose, make sure it adheres to the building codes for your area.
Providing Water Supply
The water supply for your toilet and shower will most likely come from underground pipes from your house.
It’s not a good idea to run the pipes on the side of the garage walls unless you have an insulated garage. They could freeze and crack during the winter.
Professional plumbers recommend using a 3/4-inch pipe to be sure that you have enough water pressure.
If you need hot water in the toilet for whatever reason, installing a small water heater is a better option compared to running an underground pipe from your main house water heater. It’s often much more economical and efficient, and at the same time requiring less piping.
Dealing With Ventilation and Humidity
No matter what setup you decide on, you’re going to need additional ventilation to deal with odor and humidity.
Aside from the problems that humidity causes in your garage, the International Residential Code requires that either a window or dedicated ventilation be installed.
Proper ventilation ensures that the steam and moisture from the toilet won’t float around the space for long. This is important if you spend a lot of time in the garage instead of using it as only a toilet.
Painting the Walls
To ensure protection against mold, you should paint the walls in the toilet and in your garage with moisture-resistant enamel paint. Not only will this make the walls easier to clean, but it will help stop mold growth as well.
I have several paint recommendations after my experience painting my garage. It’s one of the most popular articles on this site, so I know you’ll find great information there.
Things to Think About Before You Start
Hopefully you’ve figured out that installing a toilet in your garage is a major project. It can easily cost thousands of dollars and takes a lot of planning.
Here are some things to think about before you get started:
Are You OK With Structural Changes?
You’re almost certainly going to have to make structural changes to your garage, and you need to be OK with that.
It may require tunneling and trenching through your concrete floor into your yard or driveway. The location of your garage, in relation to the position of your sewer or septic system, will play a role in any decision you take at this point.
Personally, I know this is a deal-breaker for me. As much as I’d like a toilet in my garage, it’s not worth the amount of work that would entail.
Do You Need a Professional?
If you’re the DIY type or have a lot of experience in construction and home remodeling, you can install your garage toilet on your own. Otherwise, I highly recommend having a professional do the job.
Remember, this could be an expensive project, and not a good time to learn by trial and error.
If digging through the concrete floor in your yard is unrealistic or just too expensive for you, you can consider fitting your toilet with a macerating plumbing system.
This above-floor plumbing technology will pump waste through a small-diameter piping structure and won’t require you to dig up your floor.
You can put a toilet in your garage as long as the building codes in your city allow it, and the structure of your property supports it. Take some time to weigh your options and consider the investment carefully.
Don’t hesitate to get professional help if you feel you can’t complete the process on your own.