Water Closets: Essential or a Waste of Bathroom Space?
By Terri Williams
August 18, 2020 | 4 min read
When you’re designing a bathroom, you’re probably going to view the 2019 trends in bathroom technology and the latest faucet trends for inspiration. A water closet is another bathroom feature that is popular among some homeowners — but it’s considered unnecessary by others. So, how do you know if it’s the right choice for your home?If you’ve never heard of a water closet, Elle H-Millard of the National Kitchen + Bath Association (NKBA) explains, “The water closet is basically a toilet in its own room.” Do you need a toilet in its own room? Let’s find out.
A water closet provides privacy. Image: Sisoje/Getty Images
Shop These Products Now: Wall Mirror – Small TowelsNathan Outlaw, President at Onvico, a general contracting and design-build company in Thomasville, GA, tells Freshome that he always recommends water closets for master bathrooms. “They help add privacy for the toilet user and allow a spouse to continue to use the bathroom when it may have been too embarrassing otherwise.”In fact, H-Millard says homeowners could even have two water closets in the master bathroom. “You could have water closets off to the side and you can have two — his and hers — guaranteeing each person their own true privacy.” This would be an ideal scenario in a Jack and Jill bathroom, too.
A water closet can be quite stylish. Image: fiphoto/Shutterstock
Shop These Products Now: Modern Toilet – Rain ShowerShe says that water closets are trending. “This is a very European movement that is taking the U.S. by storm.” Ironically, H-Millard says Americans are opening up their showers just as they’re cordoning off their toilets. “The shower zones are totally exposed, but we are closing off the more private functions in the bathroom,” she explains. “Bathing in front of others seems to be more acceptable but we are still needing our privacy when using the water closet.”
A water closet puts distance between the commode and your toothbrush. Image: MartinPrescott/Getty Images
Shop These Products Now: Tooth Brush Holder – Modern FaucetOne advantage of a water closet is that it can make your bathroom more sanitary. For example, toothbrush holders are one of the “Nasty 9” — the nine germiest places in your home. When we spoke with Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona who is better known as “Dr. Germ,” he warned against storing your toothbrush holder close to the toilet. When the toilet is flushed, all of those particles sprayed through the air may land on the toothbrush holder. A water closet ensures that your toothbrush — and other toiletry items — are a safe distance away from the commode.
A small water closet can induce claustrophobia. Image: zilber42/Getty Images
Shop These Products Now: Toilet Faucet – Toilet BrushSo, how much additional space does a water closet take up? Not much, according to H-Millard. “If it’s not an ADA-necessary water closet, they can be as small as 3’ x 5’,” she says. But when they’re too small, they might make the user feel claustrophobic.Another concern is that water closets can sometimes take up valuable space that could be used for something else.
Sometimes, water closet space could be better utilized. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock
Shop These Products Now: Tub Faucet – Towels“We have several master bathrooms that we have removed the water closet from to help open up the bathroom,” Outlaw says. “In some cases, the addition of the water closet just takes up too much space and makes a bathroom feel dark and cramped.”However, he has another solution. “In these cases, we generally recommend a freestanding shelf or some type of furniture to help block the view and provide privacy to the person using the toilet.”
Looking at the mirror, you can see that this water closet has windows. Image: pics721/Shutterstock
Shop These Products Now: Lights Over Mirror – Towel BarA water closet can be as small or large as you need it to be. However, always consider resale value if you’re thinking about making it expansive. Homebuyers may not appreciate that it’s taking up valuable bathroom space.Although it’s a small room (within a room), don’t skimp on design. There are several types of fabulous bathroom wallpaper designs that can make the water closet the bathroom’s most stylish area. A frosted glass door is another option to keep the water closet from looking bland. It will also keep this enclosed space from looking dark and drab.And even though the water closet will have its own light fixture, keep in mind that the door will be closed when it’s in use, so make sure the lighting is sufficient. In addition, if space is an issue, consider using a pocket door.Another consideration: Outlaw says guest bathrooms wouldn’t really need a separate closet since they’re less likely to have more than one occupant at a time.
Make sure there’s sufficient lighting in the water closet. Image: Sisoje/Getty Images