Adding a Basement Bath Below Grade, What To Do First?

Before beginning any project, you first need to take measurements, accurate measurements. I don’t mean just the length and width, but also the height and if you are working in a basement environment, you need to measure HVAC obstructions, plumbing and electrical accesses.  This project has all of the above issues, and each one has to be dealt with.  Before framing the measurements were 9’10 long x 7’10 wide.  The heating and cooling duct protruded down the entire length of one wall and this killed 10 inches of height below the duct.  With a ceiling height of just 7’6″, the duct really cramped one entire wall area.  My being 6’5″ tall, I knew I would have some serious design compromises.

From a style perspective I knew what I wanted, but now I had to make it fit into the space I had available.  I had hoped Elaine Griffin’s book Design Rules would have arrived to help me through this part, but it didn’t get here until the project was nearly done and so I was on my own.  Elaine has a down to earth way of explaining design that even I can understand.  I knew a spa/tub would be the largest element of the bath, but adding a full bath to a basement requires a different approach than adding a bath or converting an upstairs room to a bath.

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The height issue can be mitigated by breaking through the slab and sinking the drain/waste lines below the existing slab and sinking either a sump or waste station in a deep hole cut into the existing slab. Even though I am a big fan of making big rocks into small rocks using big tools, this was one time I chose to go the more conservative route and preserve the slab, and instead use a lift station to handle moving the waste water vertically to the drain lines. I spoke with Bob Lechner of SaniFlo and after calculating the amount of waste water that would be moved, he recommended the SaniCube system. The Sani-Cube can handle the large tub, toilet and sink, along with the washing machine located below the main waste line elevation.  The SaniCube with its two powerful macerating pumps can even handle the kitchenette being added at a later date.  Fortunately, there is a utility closet behind the bath that has room for the Sanicube’s footprint and enough room for maintenance on the lines if needed.

For design ideas, I used my Punch! Software Landscape and Home Design Professional.  The software allowed me to do basic layouts and see how the different fixtures would best fit into the area.  I also played around with different wall finishes,  from marble to tile.  After this step I had a rough idea of what the space would look like when finished.  But there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before this bath is functional.

— Hal Jones

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