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Who Decides How High the Urinals in the Bathroom Are?

Dumb question treated with a degree of journalistic rigor far beyond what it deserved, part 4,832

Most men’s bathrooms boasting four or more urinals feature at least one urinal that’s mounted slightly lower than the rest. This li’l guy is useful if you regularly have to take your young son to the bathroom so you can watch him reliably drop trou into a puddle of other men’s urine. But is there one standard height at which the regular urinals and kiddie pee receptacles have to be mounted?

It seems like the sort of question that should easily yield a simple, finite, Google-able answer, and at first glance, it does. According to Hunker, a blog dedicated to all things design, installing a wall-mounted urinal requires following some plumbing codes: “For standard home use, 24 inches is the general height requirement for a wall-mounted urinal. That’s the measurement from the lip or rim of the urinal to the floor.” However, Hunker also reports that one must check with their local building codes, “for potential slight variations before installing, as it is possible your community has specific regulations regarding urinals.”

In other words, the height of a urinal is based on the codes that rule over the building you reside in, codes which are open to slight variations depending on the state and/or municipality. “In the U.S., states and municipalities have adopted these various codes as they are meant to ensure the health, safety and general well-being of the occupants within homes and buildings,” reports Do It Yourself.

To find out exactly what the building codes are for your particular area, you can search for your state’s codes via The Buildings Guide blog. “The government sites linked on the blog contain useful information surrounding building and dwelling codes as well as many more including structural, plumbing, mechanical, electrical and accessibility codes,” explains Do It Yourself.

Either way, if you’re stuck using the lower urinal because the others are occupied and you can’t hold it anymore, just remember that it’s not, technically, the kiddie urinal, despite that being the common perception. “Especially at locations where children are not located normally, like an office or workplace,” asks one redditor, “doesn’t that just lead to getting your pants wet easier from the longer drop off liquid?” As another redditor responding to the question points out, varying urinal heights outside of a family location are actually for accommodating people of different heights, because no short king should have to go on his tippy-toes just to take a leak.

Alternatively, according to Jenny, a customer service representative at American Standard, a North American manufacturer of plumbing fixtures, varying urinal heights could be a sign that the building is trying to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities) guidelines. “The guideline is that when installed, the top of the urinal rim has to be a maximum of 17 inches from the finished floor,” she says. The ADA’s compliance website confirms said guidelines, adding, “Urinals shall be 13 1/2 inches deep minimum measured from the outer face of the urinal rim to the back of the fixture.”

According to one ADA representative, this 17-inch maximum height is determined by their access board, who comes up with minimum guidelines based on research. “We don’t originally draft standards,” she tells me. “They have a lot of input from the disability community and manufacturers. They take average wheelchair height and other factors into account.”

If that last part strikes you as odd, it’s not just you — there does indeed seem to be some consensus around the fact that people in wheelchairs are less likely to use a urinal in the first place. But, as one person in the Google Group discussing this very subject points out, “Not everyone who is handicapped is in a wheelchair. I’ve seen people on crutches who seemed to be doing just fine at the lower urinal, although I assumed that they were actually intended for use by small boys.”

Alternatively, as another redditor seems to believe, shorter bathroom urinals are “for guys with big dicks.”

Either way, just remember to hold it properly.