Geberit’s in-wall toilet systems help builders maximize space and create more stunning bathrooms.
By Tim O’Connor, Senior Editor, Knighthouse Media
Universally, the toilet is the worst part of a bathroom. It’s cramped, uncomfortable to sit on and difficult to clean. For people with mobility issues or older users, it can be a challenge to sit down or lift themselves up off a seat unless the bathroom is specially designed for their needs.
“Toilets traditionally have not been all that attractive,” Ronn Jefferson, product manager for Geberit, says. “Everybody knows what they’re for and everybody uses them.”
Geberit has found a way to change people’s perspectives on the most important fixture in their bathroom: Lift it off the floor. The company’s in-wall toilet systems allow for bowls to seemingly float above the floor, making them much easier to clean and maintain. Further, the height of the bowl can be adjusted to the homeowner’s preference to avoid scrunched knees or stretched legs, allowing for a much more comfortable user experience, especially for those with limited mobility and the increasing number of people who want to remain in their homes as they age.
In-wall toilets create a significant space savings advantage. That’s an important consideration for homebuilders or remodelers who want to provide a clean look but don’t have the space for a large bathroom. Putting the toilet tank into the wall maximizes a bathroom’s footprint. “Now the space is much more open and inviting,” Jefferson notes.
Geberit has been offering in-wall toilet systems in the United States for more than 10 years – in Europe they are the rule rather than the exception, with Geberit as the market leader. “There’s no doubt that our business has relied on people coming from elsewhere in the world where they are familiar with wall-mounted toilets,” Jefferson says. “The more contemporary looks have definitely increased in demand in the building space over the last two or three years. It’s been a traditional space for so long and now people are looking for something new.”
Wall-hung toilets certainly fulfill that desire for contemporary design. “It only takes [homeowners] one look to see it is unique and different,” Geberit National Builder Sales Manager Steve Embree says. “When one sees a wall-mounted toilet it adds to the bathroom rather than being something you have to hide somewhere in the room. No one confuses a wall-mounted toilet with just another toilet.”
Introducing in-wall toilet systems was not simply a matter of putting new kinds of tanks – concealed tanks – on the market. Because in-wall systems were unknown in the United States – except in commercial applications – the company had to develop a product standard and work with toilet manufacturers to ensure compatibility. “We had to lay down the groundwork to get where we are today,” Embree continues.
With those standards now in place, Geberit is working to demonstrate the advantages of in-wall toilet systems to homebuilders that are looking for ways to distinguish their projects in a competitive market. The company has found early success in vertical housing projects where space is at a premium, but it’s still working on growing the market for single-family home installations. “It’s one thing to be acceptable; it’s another to be a preferred and desired product,” Embree says.
Geberit is a Swiss company that started in 1874 and is now known as one of the leading plumbing parts manufacturers and suppliers in Europe. In 2003 Geberit purchased Chicago Faucets, an Illinois-based manufacturer of commercial faucets since 1901. Chicago Faucets remains focused on the commercial side of the plumbing business while Geberit caters more to residential customers.
During the 1990s, Geberit’s bath drains business exploded as whirlpool baths became more common in homes. In response, the company concentrated on becoming the premier drain supplier for whirlpool bath manufacturers. Since then, it has grown to touch every part of the bathroom, from hands-free flushing to fill and flush valves, supplying all of North America through its showrooms and distributors. In addition to its offices in Des Plaines, Ill., Geberit operates a foundry in Milwaukee, an assembly plant in Michigan City, Ind., and screw machine shop in Elyria, Ohio.
In-wall toilet systems help builders and homeowners realize their goals for delivering a more beautiful bathroom. What marble was for sink counters or rainfall showerheads were for showers, wall hung could be for toilets. But to get there, Geberit first needed to get plumbing contractors comfortable with the technology. “Any time you have to change what a traditional plumber does, it takes time,” Embree says.
When it started selling the in-wall systems, Geberit dispatched trainers to teach contractors how to assemble and disassemble its toilet carriers. Today, most of that training is done in the field, and Geberit has posted videos on YouTube to guide plumbers through the process. “Early on we made an investment in training for the plumbing contractor,” Embree explains. “We have plumbers every day that have never touched one before but then walk away and say, ‘That was easy.’”
Teaching contractors how to install wall-hung toilets was the first challenge. Convincing them it would hold up over the long run as well as a traditional floor toilet was the second. To that end, Geberit designed its system to hold a maximum weight of 880 pounds, greater than a standard toilet. “Once they see it and they see the solid steel frame that holds up everything, it makes perfect sense and acceptance follows,” Jefferson says.
The possibilities in-wall toilets create for builders looking to save space and create striking designs have made Geberit’s systems an appealing choice for new home projects. “We’ve become a more cosmopolitan nation with the migration toward cities,” Embree states. “Wherever space is more precious it does make [in-wall toilets] much more desirable and interesting to builders everywhere. They can get more in the envelope than ever before.”
Geberit is building on that success by looking for ways to expand its product offerings and sales and marketing efforts. “We see a continuous progression in all systems and concepts over the years and I don’t think that’s stopping any time soon,” Jefferson says.