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For the Media: Saniflo above floor, or macerating, plumbing technology solves construction site challenge.
Herndon Plumbing Installer Recommends Above-Floor Plumbing vs. Sewage Ejection
With three decades of installation experience, Mario Rink knows a good plumbing product when he installs one. His choice for basement baths? Macerating technology — an alternative to sewage ejectors and conventional plumbing that avoids the hassle and cost of busting through concrete.
HERNDON, VIRGINIA (FEBRUARY 22, 2010)—It’s an all-too-common scenario: You want to create a completely new bathroom in your basement, so you call a plumber for an estimate. With either conventional plumbing or sewage ejection, you discover that your installer must dig through the concrete flooring. That means a messy and time-consuming job – and a high job-cost estimate from the contractor.
“Most customers are not thrilled if you tell them you have to bust up the basement,” says Mario Rink, service manager with Herndon Plumbing & Heating, Inc., a family-owned business operating in Northern Virginia for more than 50 years. Rink himself worked as a plumber in Germany for 20 years before bringing his professional skills to the United States in 2001.
Rink says he gives his customers all the options, and explains the pros and cons of each. “I tell a customer I can put a sewage ejector in there, but that means I have to break into the floor to run my sewer lines. Then we have to re-close the floor. The customer hears about my having to jackhammer concrete and right away knows that means dirt and inconvenience. If you come in with a product like Saniflo, it’s an easy sell.”
What’s a ‘macerating’ system? Saniflo makes modern low-consumption toilet systems that use special above-floor, or “macerating,” plumbing technology, so there is no need to dig up the floor to install a bathroom. A macerating toilet looks very much like a conventional toilet and takes up roughly the same floor space. But instead of routing the flush water through a floor drain, the system moves it to a macerating pump, usually located atop the floor between the toilet and the wall. It can also be hidden behind the wall.
The macerator pump uses a fast-rotating blade to liquefy waste and toilet paper in the flush water. The waste is released under pressure through small-diameter piping to the sewer or septic tank. (This piping can be hidden in the wall, too.) The technology requires no special maintenance, and the pump is sealed for life. “Saniflo is a much cleaner product than a sewage ejector,” Rink adds.
Indeed, the simplicity of the above-floor solution is at the heart of its appeal to homeowners. “Where these products really come in handy is in old houses where the customer doesn’t want to break through walls or ceilings to run a sewage line,” Rink says. “I did a couple of those in Alexandria, and the customers were really happy with it.”
With a sewage ejector or conventional plumbing, the contractor has to jackhammer the floor and re-cement it later. Digging is unpredictable: The plumber may not know how thick the floor is, or if there are rocks or pipes. If he runs into a ledge, the layout for the bathroom will have to be reconfigured. Of course, most plumbers will agree that any time you open the concrete, there’s a chance of water seeping through the basement floor.
In addition to the obvious advantage of installation on top of any floor surface, Saniflo systems can also handle wastewater from the sink and the tub/shower – not just the toilet – to create a complete bathroom. The above-floor system can work up to 12 feet below and as far as 150 feet away from a septic tank or sewer line.
The problem with sewage ejection: With sewage ejectors, drain lines and a tank must be installed, which means major concrete excavation. “There’s really nothing to be gained by using sewage ejection,” says Rob Weed, a manufacturers’ sales agent with Studnicky Associates, which serves Saniflo distributors and installers throughout the Northeast. “You still have to trench through the concrete just as you would have to with conventional plumbing.”
A sewage ejector presents other challenges as well. The customer is limited to an area with enough space for a 30-by-30 inch sewage tank and a way to access it for maintenance and repair. Typically, these storage tanks accumulate waste over numerous flushes before the ejector pump finally moves the waste and water up into the main drain. If not installed properly, the tank cover can leak, which can cause gases to come into the house.
The Saniflo system pumps itself clear of waste with every flush, so there’s no storage of the effluent. “To maintain a Saniflo product is obviously much easier, because everything is above ground,” Rink says. “If a sewage ejection pump fails, you have to pull it out to fix it. That would be more costly and time-consuming than Saniflo, and most plumbers would just drop in a new one.”
“What if you had a leak?” The possibility for a storage-tank leak kept homeowner Frank Hunt from choosing a sewage ejector pump when he remodeled the basement in his suburban Chicago home and added a bath. “I didn’t care for the idea that there would be a storage tank of that size,” he explains. “What if you had a leak in that big tank?” Instead of taking that risk, Hunt chose a macerating system for his project.
A Saniflo above-floor plumbing system can be installed in half a day, on top of any floor, with no digging and very little mess. That saves the customer a lot of hassle and a lot of money. With Saniflo’s ¾-inch discharge pipe, it’s simple to install the system even in a tight space.
“The big key is labor,” Rink says, noting a sewage ejector installation will typically take two people two to three days, with the cost running 50 percent higher than a Saniflo installation. “With a sewage ejector, you have to bust up the floor on the first day, run the trench for the sewer line the second day, and on the third day close it up.” A sewage ejector usually requires a two-inch pipe, adding to installation challenges.
“I don’t understand why more installers don’t recommend using macerating technology, especially for basement-bath additions,” sales agent Weed points out. “Hands down, it’s a better way to go. And every time I’m at a local home show, someone comes to the booth and says they just put in a sewage ejector and had to tear up the floor. They didn’t know about Saniflo.”
“I’m not a person who tries to put cost first,” says Rink, who installed above-floor plumbing systems in Germany prior to coming to this country. “It’s more about service and convenience. But you do save so much with Saniflo.”
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