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Why Do American Houses Have So Many Bathrooms? (theatlantic.com)
179 points by prostoalex on Jan 27, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 451 comments

I've lived in a 1 bathroom house in the US and i said never again. It was one of the first things I looked at when buying a house overseas as well, and it served me well.

Problems with a single bathroom which includes the toilet:

If you have kids, everyone is fighting over a scarce resource in the morning. Showering/shaving/etc all takes time and you're all leaving in a narrow window.

If you don't have kids the people buying the house may, and they will care. It makes selling the house so much harder.

The bathroom _must_ be cleaned to be guest ready, and they get to accidentally snoop through everything. I love my ensuite for this reason. (and if you don't care about it being clean, your partner probably does)

If you have the room, why not have an extra bathroom? So much easier to build in new construction than add later.

When I lived in Australia the toilet was in a separate room, so the 4 bedroom house worked ok with only 2 bathrooms. The toilet wasn't blocked/held hostage by someone taking a shower. (washing your hands on the other hand...) But this also helped sell the place, since with 2 full bathrooms you can have kids/house mates/etc.

My current house has 3 baths with 4 bedrooms. One is in the in-law suite, which I airbnb, so we have 2 on the main floor. It makes 2 baths for 3 bedrooms. This feels like a nice "adult" house. We have a spare rooms for house guests, and they have a full bathroom they can use. This means we can host friends/family for days/weeks and we can be annoyed by their personality, instead of annoyed fighting over a bathroom. ;)

Of all the weird things in the US, a house having "too many" bathrooms really doesn't seem like a problem.

I grew up in a 1 bathroom house until I was 14 or so. 1 bathroom for a family of 4 was rough. If anything ever broke (which it did because the house was old), and it's a full on emergency. Having to drive 15 minutes to use bathroom and take a shower at a family members was a common occurrence.

My current house has 3 full bathrooms which is really too many for just my wife and I. But, the extra bathroom has come in handy as we have remodeled over time.

I lived in a 1 bathroom house until I was 18 with up to 4 other people and I honestly don't remember there being many problems - apart from occasionally having to chip ice out of the bath before getting washed :-)

Same here, though it helped a lot that we were in the middle of nowhere and going outside was very much an option when someone was on the toilet.

Heck, I shared a house with 8 people in college that only had one bathroom... That was more of a challenge, but it was rare that we were all there at the same time, so it mostly worked.

>Same here, though it helped a lot that we were in the middle of nowhere and going outside was very much an option when someone was on the toilet.

"I have to pee outside" is going to count as a problem in most people's book.

> chip ice out of the bath

I am not familiar with what this phrase means nor does a quick Google help. Is it to be read literally - "it got so cold during the winter that ice formed in the bathtub and had to be chipped away before use"? Or is it an idiom for an unspecified location.

I think the implication is that everyone else used up all the warm water.

No - I literally had to chip ice out of the bath some winters.

My parent's house was old and not heated terribly well - which I didn't notice until I went to university and stayed in a centrally heated halls of residence and returned.

I was in a 2 bedroom house with 1 bathroom and three people, including me, until I was 18.

I don't remember it being too bad, probably because only two people in the house had to leave in the mornings, and we left at different times. Also because I didn't know anybody who had more than one bathroom. Our extended neighborhood was all 1940s construction.

I lived in a 1 bathroom apartment in 4 even in my 20s. I don't remember many issues, to be honest, but I think it really depends on how long your morning routine is.

Friendly, unnecessary, pedantry: "for just my wife and me".

"I" is used when it is in subject position. Occasionally, the rule is a little bit obscure ("He does it better than I", where the subject position is implicit ("better than I do it")).

This grammar error is becoming very common even among well-educated writers and speakers, in the US at least. It must be stopped!

I'm usually not one to pick up on grammar, but I like to pick people up on this one because it's usually an example of people being pretentious, yet getting it wrong.

I always say "me and my wife", because in the town where I grew up, to say "my wife and I" would be pretentious. But when people say "for my wife and I" it goes through me. It's double reverse grammar pretention.

Probably because of the far more atrocious "me and my wife" grammar error.

Edit: Wait, "for my wife and I" was a grammatical error?! The fuck? Fuck the rules! That's a stupid rule.

Would you say "for me" or "for I"?

> This grammar error is becoming very common even among well-educated writers and speakers, in the US at least. It must be stopped!

Thank you for the feedback. Rest assured, I am not a well educated writer, but always trying to improve. This is one I normally catch using the trick to remove the other person and think about what sounds right.

wow. I consider myself pretty good at grammar and could easily make this error. Is there a proper name for it?

Agree with all the above, but let me put this in computer science context:

- bathrooms are a scarce resource

- usage is not evenly distributed, greatest usage is 1. in the morning and 2. when you are running late :-)

- queues form at critical moments and hold up the entire pipeline (e.g., getting ready for work, school, etc.)

The best way for you, or your potential buyer to resolve this bottleneck is to have more of the bottle-necked resource.

You can also partition your major resource into smaller sub-units to decrease contention, increase parallelism and improve throughput. E.g. separate your bathroom from your toilet.

Agreed - that's better than my initial conclusion: pee in the sink.

I find you reply funny but I think you got downvoted because these analogies usually go the other way round: CS thing is described in layman's terms to make it understandable.

Going the other way round seems a bit strange, IMHO.

When cooking I often find myself pondering that food prep has a very similar space-time tradeoff [1] to CS algorithms. Protip: Sprawling over to non-kitchen areas for mixing bowls and whatnot can provide a significant speedup vs moving things around in a limited kitchen workspace.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space%E2%80%93time_tradeoff

Agreed completely. I have a 4-bedroom, 3 bath house, and we use them all. We have one attached to our master bedroom, one main bathroom on the main floor, and one in the basement. We spend a lot of time as a family in the basement, we spend a lot of time with guests on the main floor, and my wife likes to use our private bathroom as a little getaway.

I think a decent rule of thumb is one bathroom per floor, plus one. It really sucks having to wait for a bathroom when you need it, and they take up so little space (especially if it doesn't have a bath/shower) that it makes no sense to skimp. We've used all the bathrooms simultaneously, so it's hard for me to consider having fewer.

One per floor, plus one, makes a lot of sense to me.

I don’t think having multiple “full bathrooms” is so important, but “half bath” ie. a toilet and sink takes up very little space, and it’s the kind of thing that, when you need it, you NEED it. So it’s worth it.

In my country we don't call that a bathroom. You can't take a bath in a "half bath". It's just a toilet.

A typical Dutch house has a toilet + sink downstairs for guests or for convenience of the owners. Upstairs there is a bathroom with a toilet, shower, sink and shower for the owners of the home to use.

Because the US traditionally consolidated WC/baths, there was only one room, and people found it more polite to call it the bathroom. Needing to 'use the bathroom' then became a catch all for any function that might happen in there.

But when we started building some without bathing accommodations, the customary terminology didn't go away. Everyone already understood that 'going to the bathroom' really meant using the toilet. So, the term 'bathroom' stuck.

It's called a washroom or a "powder room" in Ontario, Canada. Powder room specifically refers to a small room in a house with only a sink and toilet and is not a term I personally use. A washroom is any room with toilets and sinks, whether or not it has a bath/shower, especially in commercial settings, but "washroom" seems to not be used in the US much or at all, in my experience.

Seems like in (mainland?) Europe people dare to use the actual word a bit better rather than hide the meaning: if the main purpose of the room is the toilet bowl inside of it, it's called a toilet or a wc

"Water closet" or WC is hiding the meaning just as much as "washroom", in my opinion. Both imply a room with washing facilities.

Calling the room a toilet just sounds odd to me, because the toilet is in the room, but I understand why it's used like that.

I've also heard "I'm going to use the [toilet] facilities".

> In my country we don't call that a bathroom. You can't take a bath in a "half bath". It's just a toilet.

What do you call a room with a toilet, sink, and stand-up shower? That's what one of the full bathrooms in my house is.

> I have a 4-bedroom, 3 bath house, and we use them all.

This tends to be more or less valid for any resource in the house (extra room, closet, etc.). And as it stands bathrooms are on the important side. If you had one bathroom per resident they'd still all be used simply because the people would thoroughly enjoy not having their stuff moved around or bothered by anyone else, or ever risk having to wait for someone to get out first. So you'd just have "assigned" bathrooms.

You could even have an extra one that can come in handy when you are remodeling or simply experiencing technical issues in one of the others.

I grew up (UK) in a house that had an outside toilet and no bath (Had a tin bath would haul into kitchen and fill up once I outgrew the sink). Was around the age of 11 when we finally got a indoor toilet and real bath. But that was a georgian era house and common in many area's and you see many that have had add-on buildings to add toilets etc.

But as a friend from Canada put it - they had gaps between houses in his country compared to over here, they would build a small housing estate in those gaps.

But then, it's fascinating to compare buildings and code over the years, country by country. Things like legacy infrastructure, climate and history all come into play and darn interesting.

[EDIT ADD] Note was house of 4 (2x adults 2x children] and outside toilet sure does cut out any morning queues - based upon my experience. Though 2 bedroom - was late teens when I left home that I got a room to myself.

You might find out how common from this article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21698533

> I grew up (UK) in a house that had an outside toilet and no bath

Were you born in 1800?

Joking aside, what decade was this? And is this common?

I grew up in rural VA in the 70s-80s. One bathroom in a house that was built in 1890. I was lucky, as the kid down the (dirt) road did not have a bathroom, rather an out-house. That house had a single cold water faucet in the kitchen. Seems to now have plumbing, evident by the vent pipe in the roof.


I suppose this is all hip now with off-grid living and van dwelling. Back then it was called poverty.

Born 1967, so talking 70's and back then, probably. Was an era of which people saved over credit (which was very hard to get), we had glass bottles that had deposits for recycling before plastic moved en masse and a car was a luxury item. Didn't have a phone as couldn't afford it and when we could, thanks to TV messages of hackers of doom taking over the planet and me owning a computer - my mum wasn't going to enable that. Oh and we walked to school and was rare for kids to be driven to school, indeed they had the piss taken out of them for being lazy by the other kids.

How times have changed - not all for the better.

[edit add] Oh and we had no central heating until my teens, and frozen ice inside the single window pains during winter(double glazing - luxury item then).

I live in a 3/1 in the US, and having a 2nd bathroom was on our list, but when it comes down to it, we all end up sacrificing something.

As you mention, an en suite master bathroom would be incredibly nice, and if we remodel, it's _the_ #1 non-negotiable item on the list. Private bathroom for us, 'clean'/separate bathroom for guests/visitors.

My sister lived in a 4/1 with an odd feature: a toilet on a wooden pedestal in the (full-size) basement. No wall around it, not even a curtain. Just sitting there in a corner.

As she put it "you only need it every once in awhile, but when you need that second toilet, you're REALLY GLAD you have it!

I don't find the proliferation of bathrooms/toilets in large houses surprising at all. If I lived in a 4000-5000sqft mansion, I might not mind a 2-3 minute walk to get to my bedroom at night, but I sure as hell don't want to have to do so every time I have to use the facilities. It simply makes sense to have a toilet and sink, at least, near the rooms you use regularly.

Any chance your sister was in/near Pittsburgh or the surrounding coal-country?

The "Pittsburgh toilet"[1] is a relatively common basement feature in older homes of steel and coal industry Appalachia. Often there would be a showerhead nearby as well, and the room was intended for the worker to come home through the basement, clean off the day's grime and 'do their business' rather than dirtying the proper upstairs house. The showers are removed pretty easily but the toilets are not.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_toilet

Not Pittsburgh (upstate NY), but I got a chance to learn something new today! thank you.

Was your sister in Pittsburgh? It's a thing there.


> Of all the weird things in the US, a house having "too many" bathrooms really doesn't seem like a problem.

"Problem" is a bit dramatic, but it is annoying to me when a house I'm looking at has, say, "3 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms." Who the heck needs that many bathrooms, and ultimately you're paying for all those toilets, and they're taking up square feet from living areas.

Also, hot take: en suites suck. I don't need to be _that_ close to where I take a crap. Feels like a prison-cell layout.

Guess everyone's experience is different.

We always had one bathroom for a family of five (5) growing up and, honestly, there was never an issue with it. Since it was always that way we learned from birth (practically) that you can't hog the bathroom, so everyone learned not to, so nobody ever did. I always toweled off, dressed, and did my hair in my bedroom. There was certainly no reading on the toilet or other activities going on in the bathroom. Plus, it was normal, I can't think of a single person I knew growing up that had multiple bathrooms (grew up poor, everyone lived in older construction, mostly smaller apartments). My dad actually grew up in a family of ten (10) with only 1.5 bathrooms.

Even now friends comment on how little time I spend in the bathroom.

Nowadays I have 1.5 baths, which is usual for this area (old construction). The half bath it totally unnecessary (just myself and my spouse here) but it's sometimes nice not having to go upstairs to pee. And of course the half bath isn't original to the house.

I live in a 1 bathroom apartment with my wife. Even with no kids, it's still tough. The marginal benefit of adding 1 more bathroom is enormous, kind of like a dual core vs single core processor.

I actually dislike ensuite bathrooms for myself. Like that there is separation for sleeping and showering/bathrooms. The moisture from the bathroom comes to the bedroom. On guest rooms it's can be nice that the guests don't have go around the house when they want to use the bahtroom.

Optimally, I'd say a house should have one toilet on each floor, and at least two toilets and bathrooms.

The huge benefit of the ensuite is not waking up the rest of the house if you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom (which I often do). Also, don't get your comment about moisture from the bathroom. We have a fan and door on the bathroom which prevents any moisture from coming into the bedroom.

While I agree with this, I think there is a somewhat middle ground between a single bathroom in the house and what I see now in many houses where EVERY bedroom has its own en-suite bath.

The main thing for me is that I feel like all the "kids" bedrooms having to share 1 bath is a good thing - learning to share is a valuable thing IMO.

Where have you seen this? Maybe I haven't been in any rich peoples' houses, but I've never seen a house with any kid's bedroom having its own private bathroom.

I've seen it, although it depends on the surrounding demographics. The suburbs I currently live in, it's uncommon. But much of the newer urban housing I looked at before deciding on a place had that particular set up. As well as some older housing, which happened to be in the vicinity of a local college.

Barring the specifics of rich people's house, you'll generally see this set up in places where the "kid's rooms" are not, in fact, intended for kids. Where I've seen it in urban homes, it was designed so there was definitively a master suite, but then every other bedroom came paired with it's own en-suite. From my understanding talking to builders, it's done this way since a large chunk of owners in that area are young professionals that rely on renting out other rooms in the house (whether to other young professionals or AirBNB-style short term rentals) to afford the home. In college areas, you get similar rational, but because every room tends to be rented out to a student, there's usually not a definite "master suite" and all of them tend to be similarly sized and equipped with amenities.

While the bathroom may not be "private", I've seen loads of houses where there is a 1-1 ratio between bedrooms and bathrooms. Often times a bathroom for the kids room is accessible both from the bedroom and a hallway.

I've seen quite a few where 2 'kids' bedrooms have a "jack-and-jill" bathroom (eg, a bathroom between the two rooms, that connects them both).

Satisfies the "kids bathroom" and "sharing" all at once!

> But the U.S. wasn’t always so profusely bathroomed. In the past half century, the number of bathrooms per person in America has doubled. “We went from two people per bathroom to one person per bathroom in the last 50 years,” says Jeff Tucker, an economist at Zillow. “That’s amazing, because postwar America was already rich and booming, and we just, you know, kept building more bathrooms.” Across the country, bathrooms are multiplying—including in apartments and condos—even as American families and households are getting smaller.

The article misses a major point here which explains much (though not all) of the trend: household sizes have decreased dramatically in the last 50 years, and the number of single-person households has increased dramatically. Single-person households can generally be expected to have at least one bathroom per person, and small households will generally have higher ratios than large households.

In 1960 single-person households were about 13% of all households; they have more than doubled, to about 28% in 2019 [1]. In 1960 the average household size was about 3.3; in 2019 it was 2.5 [2].

[1] https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizat...

[2] https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizat...

> postwar America was already rich and booming,

It was booming, and it was richer than it ever had been, but it was very poor by today's standards.

GDP per person in 1950 was 27% of the 2019 level.

And since this always has to be pointed out: That is adjusted for inflation.


GDP just reflects economic output, not the distribution of the resulting wealth to real people. If you want to adjust for anything, adjust for the cost of healthcare, education, and amount of consumer debt.

There's a LOT more to wealth than GDP/person, saying postwar america wasn't rich is absurd.

exactly. The economy didn't need to support so many restaurants and food services when most people cooked at home. People also mostly entertained themselves or spent time with friends/family. Moving all that to a company or service will raise the GDP.

Plus childcare and eldercare. Take those and the ones you mention into account, and GDP/person has probably dropped since the 1950s.

It's easy to confuse relative and absolute wealth.

Relative: 1950s USA was easily the richest country in the world, and in history.

Absolute: In today's world, that affluence is only average for the world. Other countries around there are Brazil, China, and Algeria.

Both those things are true.


It's relative, not absolute. Saying America today isn't richer than postwar America is even more absurd.

Just like today, wealth is not evenly distributed.

There are people in the US today living in abject poverty. Name the cause, fine, but that doesn't make it less true.

The poverty level 70 years ago would have been even more desperate.

> And since this always has to be pointed out: That is adjusted for inflation.

I must point out a concern about your out point.

Is this using CPI? PPI? Currency supply? Something else?

Education, housing, and many other expenses have outpaced "inflation" for decades.

I'd argue that housing and education today are better on average than in the past as well.

We have grown-up people earning 4x median wages on this website living with roommates, am not sure it was the case in 1950.

Yes, because of special circumstances in one metro area; that isn’t typical nationwide.

The Bay Area is definitely an extreme, but millennials nationwide are doing worse financially than their parents, even though they're working more. Here's one of my absolute favorite articles on the topic, which addresses everything from work/health/education/housing.


Not really. Millennials certainly face different problems than previous generations but it would be generally inaccurate to say that they are financially worse off. Going back to that article you linked, I have to take the opposite stance in terms of its quality. Articles which rely heavily on anecdotes to make their point are really not a good way to try to understand what constitutes "typical". In fact, they're mostly useless for that. If you want to understand what really is "typical" then you really need to dive into some dry and boring data releases. Let's use the BLS Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers Archived News Releases found here https://www.bls.gov/bls/news-release/wkyeng.htm

These reports provide reliable information about median weekly earnings for full-time workers, are available online going back to 1996, and include more specific data about different age groups. Let's compare the age range of 25-34 in Q1 1996 (non millennials) to the same range in Q4 2019 (millennials) while adjusting for increases in cost of living using CPI-U. Here are the major spending categories assessed in CPI calculations https://www.bls.gov/cpi/questions-and-answers.htm#Question_1...

For ages 25-34:

Q1 1996 weekly earnings: $419

% change in CPI-U over duration: + ~66%

Q1 1996 weekly earnings in Q4 2019 dollars: $695.54

Q4 2019 weekly earnings: $815

% Increase in real weekly earnings: ~17%

The plural of anedcote is not data, but there's more to financial better/worse off-ness than comparing the percentage change in Consumer Price Index.

As the comment states, that calculation is the change in real weekly earnings. "Real" being calculated using CPI-U. To reiterate, the purchasing power of the median weekly earnings for the 25-34 group is 17% higher now than it was in Q1 1996.

“BLS data collectors visit (in person or on the web) or call thousands of retail stores, service establishments, rental units, and doctors' offices, all over the United States to obtain information on the prices of the thousands of items used to track and measure price changes in the CPI”

At least from that sentence and a cursory glance at categories collected, it doesn’t appear they’re specifically factoring in mortgages / home ownership aside from rents nor medical insurance aside from one-off clinic visits (which, given CPI is a snapshot of purchasing power at a given time and not a measure of lifetime household wealth, why would they?).

I don’t doubt purchasing power has gone up — private car ride hailing, specialty juices and cleanses, avocado toasts, food delivery, organic foods, wellness products, travel, hotels, all the once-expensive things people love to criticize millenials for buying are truly more accessible than ever.

That doesn’t definitely say anything about how much the cost of long-term financial obligations such as education, insurance, and home ownership costs, however.

Buildings and other structures are considered capital goods and investment items rather than consumption items as they provide a service and may appreciate over time. This is why mortgages aren't counted in CPI calculations. https://www.bls.gov/cpi/factsheets/owners-equivalent-rent-an...

As for medical costs, it's more complicated but as an overview:

    The CE (consumer expenditures survey) tracks consumer out-of-pocket spending on medical care, which is used to weight the medical care indexes. CE defines out-of-pocket medical spending as:
        patient payments made directly to retail establishments for medical goods and services;
        health insurance premiums paid for by the consumer, including Medicare Part B; and
        health insurance premiums deducted from employee paychecks.

But you're right, there are still plenty of problems. Like I said in my original comment, the problems faced by millennial are different than those faced by previous generations. Often these new problems can be considered more stress inducing due to a higher degree of initial commitments required to even enter many new fields (i.e. student debt) and uncertainty about the future. Whether these new problems are worse than the problems which they largely replaced depends on your definition of "worse".

But why CPI-U, why not CPI-W, or the more useful C-CPI-U. How do seasonal adjustments change the picture? What investments are those 25-34 year olds making in 401k, mortgage, stocks/bonds so that when they're in the 35+ bracket, and how might those compare? What does class mobility look like for the bottom 25%? How happy are the respective cohorts? How many hours/wk are those people working to get that purchasing power?

The huffpo anecdata-based story is "just so", but comparing a single quarter, for a single age-group, based on a single metric known to have short comings, and presenting it without context as "the reality", tickles my "just so" meter, from the other side of the spectrum.

>Why not CPI-W

If I'm trying to assess if a typical 25-34 year old is better off now than in 1996 why on Earth would I use a measure which only assesses a specific section of the population which constitutes less than 30% of the U.S. population? CPI-U covers about 90%. Barely anyone uses CPI-W.

>Why not C-CPI-U

I would love to. Unfortunately C-CPI-U figures only go back to December 1999, bit of a problem if I'm trying to work from Q1 1996. Also, C-CPI-U tends to be a bit lower than normal CPI-U meaning that 17% increase would actually be slightly larger if assessed with C-CPI-U.

>How many hours/wk are those people working to get that purchasing power?

Since we're using median earnings I'd need median hours worked for the same age range at the same times in history which is not something I could find. That said, weekly hours worked by employed individuals have been decreasing for decades. That trend shows no signs of reversing. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PRS85006023

A lot of the rest of the questions are harder to answer given available data but most are also of pretty questionable usefulness when trying to assess the financial well-being of a "typical" millennial relative to the previous generation. If your question is specifically "Does the typical working millennial have a worse material standard of living than their parents?" the answer is no.

If you want a more complete and accurate answer then use the data from primary sources to figure it out yourself. Every person that data has to be filtered through before it gets to you adds an extra layer of bullshit because when dealing with economic stuff you should assume that everyone has an agenda. That's true for Huffington Post articles and for random internet comments, like this one.

When I tell people here in Poland that I have friends living in LA, SF or NYC, making six figure salaries and living with roommates to be able to both live where they want AND pay off their student loan debt, they are dumbfounded.


Adjusted for inflation that's about a $35,000 median family income compared to an average of about $55,000 today. Still not great, but other items like homes were cheaper (and smaller), cars, etc. So not quite as bad as the GDP per person, but it does make me think about how that monumental rise of GDP isn't reflected more closely in how much money is being made by the average working person

Income per family is a treacherous measure, since family sizes have shrunk considerably.

If I marry you, our family income has doubled, but none of us is any richer.

> Income per family is a treacherous measure, since family sizes have shrunk considerably.

> If I marry you, our family income has doubled, but none of us is any richer.

I don't disagree with your core point, but I have to nitpick a bit the last part.

Expenses don't grow linearly with the number of people in a family, especially with the number of wage-earning adults. You will be richer in a couple, and I don't only mean emotionally :-) Rent won't double, all sorts of other living expenses can be shared, etc. Disposable income should definitely be higher than for 2 single people.

I feel that a decent chunk of the issues in modern societies is that many people are single for long periods of time. That makes things really hard financially, plus there's less support in case of issues...

I would expect that two could live a fair bit more cheaply (apples to apples) than double what they individually spent as singles. Rent, utilities, and (to a lesser extent) groceries all seemed to get quite a bit more efficient when we moved in together.

The "median family" is wildly different today than it was 60 years ago. A skyrocketing percent of households are single individuals with a single income and no child expenses.


That's a very valid point, but I assume the same trend would show up (though not as drastically) in the number of bathrooms per bedroom. (If not, then the article is bunk, but I assume it does.)

I'd also be interested to know the trend in the percentage of floor space given over to bathrooms, which would fuzz both the number of bathrooms and the increased bathroom size. It seems to me like a lot of space wasted, personally, although I admit it does feel nice to walk into a (rare) beautiful full-sized master bathroom.

Yes, I expect the trend would still be there, just not quite as dramatic.

We live in a 3-bedroom 2.5-bath home and I wouldn't want to give any of the bathrooms up. Not having two full bathrooms would be seriously annoying when either my or my wife's parents are in town, which is about 6 weeks a year, and not having the half bath on the ground floor would be mildly annoying all the time (and slightly more annoying when friends are over).

> “That’s amazing, because postwar America was already rich and booming, and we just, you know, kept building more bathrooms.” Across the country, bathrooms are multiplying—including in apartments and condos—even as American families and households are getting smaller.

You'd expect that wealth to show up in new construction more than in retrofitting every existing home, so bathrooms as a lagging indicator makes sense to me.

As for bathrooms in modern US inner city apartments, I believe it's mainly because many bathrooms allow the apartments to be shared by several flatmates. For the developer, it opens the market to more buyers.

American dwellings are larger than European Union ones for several reasons:

- Most US homes are new: All over Europe, people live in much older housing and apartment stock. Go back to 1940, and the US only had a 130 million population, which typically lived in large families in shared houses. In 1940, the European population (excluding Russia) was already 420 million. Thus, whereas the US population has more than doubled since then, the European population has only increased some 50 percent. This meant construction of far more dwellings in the US in the large 80 years.

- Eastern Europe: Eastern Europe has been much poorer than the US during the last 80 years with people largely living in apartments.

- Space: The US simply has more space per capita. We are 500 million in the European Union (for a few days more) in an area half the size of the US.

- Sprawl: The great US population expansion coincided with the automobile revolution allowing for people to live in suburbs far from city centers, which in turn allowed for larger houses.

- White flight: Europe never had an exodus from city centers comparable to the US.

- Materials: Europeans live in brick and mortar houses or concrete buildings. American houses are made of wood and are cheaper to construct allowing for larger homes.

- White flight: Europe never had an exodus from city centers comparable to the US.

Umm, not sure where you got your info but white flight is present in any major Western European city, they just have much better PR about it.

After the 2015 influx of migrants I noticed the segregation even more through some neighborhoods. Once the migrants were settled in one neighborhood, the natives with means quickly moved out to greener pastures making more room for the new guests and the cycle repeated itself.

Whenever I was renting in the expensive districts in Germany I mostly heard German/English spoken on the streets vs. when I was renting in the cheap districts I mostly heard Turkish/Arabic/various Eastern European languages on the streets/shops/doctor's offices and my German friends would ask why I chose to live in a "bad" neighborhood. Answer: because I don't care about the nationality of my neighbors, I live where it suits me the best.

But I get their way of thinking, we are social creatures and we are still driven by tribalism so most people don't want to live/socialize with strangers from vastly different cultures regardless of what lengths someone goes to convince them otherwise. This is universal for humans and not something country specific.

This is interesting. Do you have any particular notable examples?

The area around the Hbf in Munich, Gare du Nord in Paris, etc.

White flight in the US also wasn't about people leaving the city centers for the suburbs; it was about people leaving suburbs for other suburbs.

The postwar flight to more distant suburbs was due to WW2 veterans suddenly having way more wealth than they had pre-WW2 (i.e. during the Great Depression) and deciding they wanted an upgrade from living in a cramped, dirty, noisy city, with the meteoric rise of the automobile and marketing campaigns by developers helping out a lot as well. This flight was almost exclusively white, but it wasn't motivated by a desire to get away from black people, andd the only reason black people didn't join them was because of systematic racism gatekeeping them out of the new developments. Restrictive deed covenants imposed by developers, banks refusing to do businesses with people whose addresses are in black communities (most commonly known as redlining), and just plain old institutional poverty kept black people out of something that all Americans wanted to participate in.

Also keep in mind that suburbs weren't nonexistent pre-WW2 either; these old suburbs were transit-oriented and are now referred to as "streetcar suburbs". Pretty much every city in the US has a number of inner suburbs, just outside the central business district, that consist of single-family homes on an oblong grid of streets with alleyways and the occasional arterial (which originally contained a streetcar line) dividing the neighborhood (if anyone reading this has no idea what I'm talking about, let me know and I'll post Google Maps links). What was different about postwar suburbs is that they were much farther away from the city center and were car-centric in their design.

White flight was a later phenomenon that resulted from the civil rights movement dismantling a lot of racist institutions, causing white people to freak out and leave the suburbs they moved to following WW2 for other suburbs. Restrictive deed covenants and redlining were banned, black people finally being able to both move into any neighborhood and access mortgages, so of course they moved out to the suburbs. And then the white people fled. This is why much of the original postwar suburbs are now considered "the ghetto" (for example, Wynnewood was built as Dallas's version of Levittown, the whitest postwar suburb you could imagine, but is now majority black and Hispanic, and the name of the larger part of town it's located in, Oak Cliff, is almost used as a slur by racist white people). Black people moved in, racist white people moved out. Exploitative race-baiting real-estate agents even deliberately encouraged this phenomenon to buy low and sell high, a practice known as "block busting", which is now also banned. The agents would buy up a house in a white neighborhood and both sell it to a black person and send agents provocateur to talk to all the existing residents and stoke fears of black people moving in en masse. They would even hire black people to push baby carriages throughout the neighborhood! And so all the white people would sell their houses and move away ASAP, and because they decided they wanted to get out right now, they sold cheap. And the block busters bought up the houses and turned around and sold them at exorbitant prices to black people wanting to move to the suburbs for the first time. In Chicago, for example, block busting was so widespread that which suburbs were considered "white" and which suburbs were considered "black" would change every few months, as people would play racial musical chairs to a beat set by unethical salesmen.

Interestingly enough, many cities are now at a point where things have settled into a new mix: inner-ring suburbs are often very diverse, while the exurbs are extremely white. As PoC move farther out, white people build entirely new neighborhoods even farther out. My own experience in Dallas is that as the exurbs grow even farther and farther away from the city, more and more neighborhoods in the inner suburbs are becoming Chinatowns and Koreatowns (and as someone who lives in the inner suburbs and has diverse taste in food, I welcome this phenomenon).

This was a really great historical summary, thanks for posting it!

Only thing I'd add is "white flight" is still commonly used to describe both periods of large mostly white exoduses, and you'll often see it used in that manner.

Its just a large number of historians think the term is a bad misnomer because of how it implies the movements were directly motivated by racism even in cases like you documented where the causes were much more complicated.

I think car culture is probably the biggest one. In practice, there's plenty of space to build the sort of ultra-diffuse Mcmansion-y suburbs popular in the US in some European countries, but it's just less popular as a lifestyle compromise.

> American houses are made of wood...

Well, this depends on _where_ the house is built. Building codes vary wildly across the US. You won't find a new house in South Florida built out of wood.

In Texas you will find a lot of new houses with internal wooden frames, but the outside walls are made of solid brick, I think this is called "brick veneer".

> You won't find a new house in South Florida built out of wood.

Interesting, what do they build them from?

> In Texas you will find a lot of new houses with internal wooden frames, but the outside walls are made of solid brick, I think this is called "brick veneer".

Brick veneer is just a decoration. It’s not structural in any way. There is usually an inch wide gap between the veneer and the actual wall for drying purposes.

In South Florida external walls are typically concrete, and roofs use ceramic roof tiles. I think roof frames are made of wood.

Interesting note on the brick veneer. Even if they are not structural I think they are more durable than other types of siding.

What kind of concrete construction are they using? Straight up reinforced concrete? Or something like ICFs? Or maybe mortar joined cinder blocks? Do you maybe have some links I could read up about that?

As for brick veneer, I dunno really about its durability. It definitely is less susceptible to decay than traditional wood siding, but I don’t think it’s any better than cement fiber cladding, or other modern non-wood materials. Additionally, if anything goes wrong with it, I think it’s much harder to fix it in a seamless way, unlike other most types of siding, where you can just repaint them after repair. I have it on half of my house, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan.

A cursury search shows they mostly use CMU ( concrete masonry units ) aka, blocks. The floors and roofs are typically still wood frame construction.


> I believe it's mainly because many bathrooms allow the apartments to be shared by several flatmates.

In Europe (at least in the UK) it's common for houses/apartments to be shared by many flatmates regardless of the number of bathrooms. 4 seems to be roughly the upper limit on 1 bathroom. 5 bedroom places almost always have 2. And many houses with only 1 bathroom will have a second small toilet-only room.

Interestingly, new US apartment buildings are now predominantly wood frame as well. This is a recent change due to intricacies of fire codes and the politics behind them.

"Interestingly, new US apartment buildings are now predominantly wood frame as well. This is a recent change due to intricacies of fire codes and the politics behind them."

Wooden "stick-built" structures are also highly resilient in earthquakes and are, generally speaking, the best and most cost-effective way to build seismically safe buildings in earthquake zones.

I, personally, was always aesthetically offended by "American" 2x4 stick-built construction, as we generally understand it, but it is indeed the case that wooden studs properly sheathed with plywood "shear panels" (and tied to the foundation, etc.) are tremendously strong at a relatively very low cost.

I believe this scales up to at least 4 story mutli-unit structures ...

The downside is it's quite flammable. There are a comparatively high number of these going up in construction, before mitigation measures such as sprinklers are in place, in particular.

Well, the exterior need not be wood - and in places like California wine country, should not be.

A steel roof, concrete ("hardi") siding, and "WUI" vents with relatively fine pores, when employed properly, can make the building exterior quite fire resistant, regardless of the flammability of the interior framing.

That being said, I do have steel sprinkler lines running onto the roof ...

They use wood construction because of fire codes? How does that work?

They use wood because it's cheaper. They're allowed to use wood due to relatively recent code changes. Google 5 over 1 construction for more details.

Just guessing here, but it could be that fire codes used to forbid wood, but then something changed (lobbying, whatever) making wood acceptable. Then construction changed to use wood (again) since it's cheaper than the fire-proof materials.

It's wood, Jim, but not as we know it.

The 'wood' used in tall buildings is a heavily processed product that is indeed pretty fire-resistant.

This is also good for climate change. Concrete is filthy, carbon-wise. Probably the ideal built-form, sustainability-wise, would be something like Paris or Milan, but made of wood.

Like a 5-8 storey streetwall of wooden multi-unit homes (whether apartments or stacked townhomes or whatever), dense-enough that it can be serviced with higher-order transit but no so dense that concrete construction is required for the buildings.

> in an area half the size of the US.

Is that so? Europe seems to have slightly more than 10 million square kilometers in area and the US slightly less than that. Europe is certainly more fragmented, but looking at thetruesize.com, one can use a better area preserving map projection and it seems that Europe has more space.

(I still agree with your points in general though.)

The EU (with 500 million people) is around half the size of the US. Europe including the land outside of the EU is much larger, as it includes vast areas in the former Soviet Union as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Serbia and a few other small nations.

My bad, I was thinking we talked about Europe (and not only the EU).

OP was referring to the EU. If it would be about Europe, then the population would be 740 million.

Fair point, I somehow misread this as Europe.

It depends on your definition of "Europe" - the EU is indeed quite a bit smaller than the United States, but the continent of Europe is, as you have noticed, slightly larger in area than the United States.

I can still remember pointing this out to someone on HN who stated that Europe would fit inside Texas.

To be fair, Texans believe the rest of the US would fit inside Texas.

Despite the points others made (which are all very valid), using the entire European continent is not a fair comparison when considering “useable” land area. Same consideration with Canada, which is also technically larger than the USA. The far northern climates are just not appealing to mass populations generally. Take Canada for example (second largest country behind Russia), the vast majority of the population lives within 150mi of the southern border with the US.

“This type of bath went out of style in Europe for almost a millennium after the fall of Rome, thanks in part to Dark Age scientists’ developing the very unscientific idea that bathing in water invites a host of awful diseases into the body’s pores. For most of the Middle Ages, “most [European] people didn't wash, or even get wet, if they could help it,” Bryson writes. When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, declared that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” in a 1778 sermon, he was talking about our garments, not our armpits.

This is a minor statement within the article but one which hints at shallow research in some sections. This makes me less confident in the rest of the conclusions.

Bathing was very common and encouraged during the “Dark Ages”. A few articles which do a better job than I can covering the hows and whys:




It seems like people so often underestimate dark age intelligence, as if everyone back then just spent their time groping around in mud pits. I'm curious how extreme you could go (in a Sokal affair kind of sense) and get away with it. Start a rumor that in the dark ages people bathed in giant tubs full of chicken blood because they believed it would ward off witches and prevent their souls from decaying. See how long it takes before columnists are solemnly citing this well-known dark-age fact.

I noticed that too. Triggered a Gehl-Mann amnesia warning for me. Interesting to think America may have a lot of extra bathrooms, but given the shallow research, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that article.

Really highlights their ignorance when the example they follow it up with is from multiple centuries after the end of the Middle Ages.

I've read Bryson's book, and while I don't have enough background to debate that specific point, he usually invests a significant portion of time into research. It looks like he chose to compile some excerpts from it into an article for Daily Mail https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1281933/Deadly-be...

Relevant quotes are toward the end:

"Well, until the mid-19th century, bathrooms were a rarity. Indeed, for 600 years most people didn't wash, or even get wet, if they could help it.

'Wash your hands often, your feet seldom, and your head never' was a common English proverb. In 1653, John Evelyn, the diarist, noted a tentative decision to wash his hair annually.

Robert Hooke, the scientist, washed his feet often (because he found it soothing), but appears not to have spent much time damp above the ankles. So most people fought dirt and odour by either covering it with cosmetics and perfumes or by just ignoring it.

Where everyone stinks, no one stinks. But, then, in the 18th century, suddenly water became fashionable, though only in a medicinal sense. Spa towns cropped up all over the country, and people started adjusting to the idea that they might now safely get wet from time to time.

Washing for the sake merely of being clean was remarkably slow in coming, however. When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, coined the phrase 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness' in 1778, he meant clean clothes. With respect to bodily cleanliness, he recommended only 'frequent shaving and foot washing'.

What really got the Victorians to turn to bathing, however, was the realisation that it could be gloriously punishing.

Many diaries record how people had to break the ice in their washbasins in order to ablute in the morning. Rev Francis Kilvert noted with pleasure how jagged ice clung to the side of his bath and pricked his skin as he merrily bathed on Christmas morning in 1870.

Showers, too, offered great scope for punishment, and were often designed to be as powerful as possible. One early type was so ferocious that users had to don protective headgear before stepping in lest they be beaten senseless by their own plumbing.

Increasingly, bathrooms - albeit shared and down the corridor - became standard in hotels, and hoteliers who failed to heed this trend paid a hefty price. Nowhere was that more memorably demonstrated than at the vast Midland Hotel at St Pancras Station in London. Designed by the great George Gilbert Scott, the Midland cost the equivalent of £300 million when it opened in 1873, and was a wonder in almost every way.

Unfortunately, Scott provided just four bathrooms to be shared among 600 bedrooms. Almost from the day of its opening, the hotel was a failure.

In private homes the provision of bathrooms was hit and miss. The rich proved unexpectedly reluctant to bring them into their lives.

' Bathrooms are for servants,' sniffed one English aristocrat. In existing houses, bathrooms usually took the place of a bedroom, but sometimes were jemmied into alcoves or corners. Baths tended to be of exceedingly variable sizes.

A bath at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall was so big that a stepladder was needed to climb into it. Others, with showers built in, looked as if they were designed to wash a horse. Moreover, baths were still extremely expensive. A bath alone could easily cost more than £100 in 1910 - a price well beyond most households.

The British journalist, Katharine Whitehorn, recalled that, as recently as the late 1950s, she and her colleagues on the magazine Woman's Own were not allowed to do features on bathrooms. Why? Because not enough British homes had them - and such articles, it was felt, would only promote envy."

My wife and I recently moved into a 2 bed 2 bath apartment, mainly because we wanted the extra bedroom for an office as she works remotely. I was surprised to discover that it is so nice not having to share a bathroom—no stress about getting in each other’s way in the morning, less bathroom clutter—it’s really nice. I can see how people would get used to it. And then of course having an extra half bathroom for guests is the obvious next step.

Me and my partner just did the same and it was so much better than we thought. Not longer having to time things in the morning, no longer needing to rush the other person because you are going to be late, no need to fight over shelf space.

Downside though is I end up spending more time in the bathroom since no one else is waiting to use it and it’s a bit of a quiet space.

It's now a deal-breaker on a property for us - also does wonders for spending time together in the morning as we can get ready in parallel and spend time together on the sofa rather than bottlenecking and avoiding each other to use the free bathroom.

And as you say, when we have guests staying we do share and let them have free reign of one bathroom. Makes things much easier to handle. We'd easily sacrifice bedroom space for an en-suite.

Right! When shopping recently I was looking for 1 bed 1.5 bath places for precisely that reason. I got extra lucky and snagged a 1 bed 2 bath place...

I think the morning congestion is one of the biggest reasons for the doubling of bathrooms over the last 50 years. In the past, only one person was in a hurry to be washed and groomed each morning. Now there are at least two, and even kids are much busier than they were before.

Another reason might be the accessibility of traveling. More people are used to staying in a hotel compared to 50 years ago, so when you have a guest you would want to offer them a comparable experience. That includes a private bathroom as you said.

Both of these trends are common to most parts of the developed world, but people in other countries don't have as much space to actually go ahead and build more bathrooms.

We too have an extra bathroom now that we bought a house. Another thing to consider is a bathroom remodel will not retire an outhouse if you have an extra bathroom. Redundancy is really beneficial.

I just built my house with three bathrooms. ("Two and half," by American standards.) I almost did four, but I just didn't want to have to scrub another toilet.

Why three toilets:

The "half bathroom" is by the kitchen, living room, ect. It's just a sink and toilet. This is the one that, by courtesy, guests use. Because there's no bath, guests don't see our towels, toothbrushes, and other mess that accumulates. (No toothpaste stuck in the sink!) We also put prettier fixtures in there, because it's the one we go in most often.

Then there's a normal bathroom (toilet, sink, and tub) that the kids and overnight guests can use.

Then we have our master bathroom, attached to the master bedroom, which has a toilet, shower, and two sinks. (Useful when my wife and I brush our teeth at the same time.) The point of keeping it attached to the master bedroom is basically so we don't have to walk around the house in "bedclothes" when we have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Another thing that this article misses: A lot of people like to loose track of time reading on the toilet. There's nothing wrong with that when you have extra toilets in your house.

> A lot of people like to loose track of time reading on the toilet.

"If it's urgent, and all the bathrooms are occupied, turn off the wifi"

Ah if only there was another way to connect to the internet with phones

I firmly believe all workplace bathrooms should be completely Faraday shielded for this reason.

Except when I'm in the bathroom.

Not a great strategy against people reading books or the newspaper. Two things that are pretty easy to get used to.

Do people not have cellular data?

> There's nothing wrong with that when you have extra toilets in your house.

I’ve heard that might not be so good for hemorrhoids or hernias or whatever else could be caused by excessive strain placed in that region. I kind of want a raised South or East Asian style squatting toilet since I feel like squatting is better for the body.

Several years ago Kevin Smith claimed on his podcasts that his anal fissure was from reading on the toilet for extended periods. One instance he mentioned it was at this performance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sold_Out:_A_Threevening_with_K...

The first result for 'anal fissure toilet' appears to back this up

>The following are tips for preventing an anal fissure:

>Straining - avoid straining and sitting on the toilet for a long time.


You should look at the SquattyPotty. It's a raised platform that you put next to the toilet. You squat on it and do your business as you would at a traditional squat toilet.

Yes, a step stool does the same thing, but you can’t do a full squat as if you were on the ground.

But the squatty-potty fits nicely under the toilet bowl. It's better if you're space-constrained.

I've always found the habit of reading in the bathroom mildly horrifying. The bathroom is an unclean place. Get in, do your business, get out. Also baskets of magazines and nonsense in overspray range.

I might be putting too much faith in myth busters here but didn't they do a spot about how actually the kitchen was the dirtiest room in the house?

> (Useful when my wife and I brush our teeth at the same time.)

We're probably just city folks who don't know what we're missing, but my wife and I rather like being shoulder-to-shoulder at one sink...

Entertaining overnight guests frequently-enough that you design your home around that is kind of surprising.

Grandparents on both sides are far enough away that they stay often. We also live in a popular vacation spot, so we're happy to host friends when they come through town.

That being said, the "guest room" is really because we're not done having kids.


This is the optimum scheme of bathrooms imo. Everyone, guests included, is perfectly served;

For the actual numbers, go to this site [1] which the article cites. It has XLS files containing stats over time for all kinds of characteristics of American housing.

Eyeballing the "bathrooms" file, the "bedrooms" file, and the "bathrooms by bedrooms" file, it looks to me like most of the growth in bathrooms matches the growth in bedrooms, so maybe the question should be "why do American houses have so many bedrooms?".

One reason number of bathrooms per person may have gone up on average is because people have children later. Over the past 50 years average maternal age at first birth has risen from the low 20s to the high 20s.

So 50 years ago, a young couple would buy a house, and quickly start a family, lowering the bathrooms per person ratio. Now that couple might by a house, sized for the family they plan to start, but not start that family for almost 10 years. So for 10 years they are living with a higher bathroom per person ratio, helping bring up the average.

[1] https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/

When buying rental properties, you always want at least 2 bathrooms because otherwise a problem with a toilet is an emergency and will get you out of bed at 2am

Do American toilets break that often? I've lived in the same flat for 10 years; one and the same toilet. Never had a problem that made it useless for unacceptable amount of time.

The only thing that took long to fix, was when it loaded the water slowly. But that only meant longer waiting between flushing; merely an inconvenience.

North American toilets are bizarrely complex and seemingly designed to clog.

Cross section : https://www.maven.co/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/toilets-00.j...

This is because they use a siphon mechanism, which also results in a narrow diameter pipe. Old style ones use an enormous 14L of water per flush and still jam.

Other countries use gravity flush which has lower water usage and less blockages, but forces you to periodically clean the toilet bowl. Personally I would rather clean than plunge.

This article has a rather biased overview: https://toiletfound.com/siphonic-vs-washdown-toilet-which-is...

Personally I find US toilets need to be flushed repeatedly because you don't want to risk a blockage.

A lot of the complexity you see in that image is the trap. It holds water in it to prevent sewer/septic gasses from entering the home. Sinks also have them.

Both types of toilets have a trap. The complexity is due to the siphon mechanism.

(speaking on behalf of euros) thank you so much for making this thread make sense!

No poop shelf either.

Literally the most confusing thing about German toilets, from someone who grew up in the US... WHY would you want your poop to be entirely exposed to the air like this, on an elevated pedestal, as if it is some prize?

My wife has two daughters from a previous marriage. It's been my first foray into having girls in the household. I've learned to just accept that the shower will clog with hair occasionally, and we have to buy 4 times as much toilet paper now. I've become a part time plumber.

I've gotten very good at snaking, clearing clogged traps. I despise doing it.

These SinkShroom's have greatly improved my life. I put one each in my SO's tub and sink. They catch an impressive amount of hair.


Interesting, I'll check that out. What's always surprising to me is that along with all the hair, there seems to be some grease/black stuff that builds up with the hair. Not sure if that's something other people find.

I find those too. I assumed it was all the various products that get used in the shower / tub like conditioner etc.

I assumed that stuff was makeup, like eyeliner.

Get bidet seats. Everyone will thank you and you'll thank yourself.

It’s so cheap and easy to install too, it’s shocking how it isn’t widespread yet.

It is cheap, but if you have an electric outlet near by (or can invest in a minor renovation), the high end ones are worth every pennies. Auto cleaning, misting the edge of the bowl to avoid stuff sticking, warming the seat and water, adjustable jet, and even auo closing seat and auto flushing, or being able to flush with a button on the wall. It's glorious.

That's actually a good idea, as far as I'm concerned. Do you think the girls will appreciate it, or is it a big adjustment for them?

If the girls want to give it a try they will almost certainly appreciate it. Everyone who has tried a bidet that I personally know has preferred it to just TP. Plus, I believe (from experience) that a bidet is essential if you're a mensurating girl or woman who uses sanitary pads.

But the best thing about a bidet attachment is one or more toilet users can choose to not use it and it's not any different from a bidet-less toilet. It doesn't get in the way or anything, so it's there if you want it but not any inconvenience if you don't. My husband didn't use ours for the first year we owned it but after he eventually gave it a try he's now a regular user.

Plus it's so ridiculously cheap ($40) that it's worth trying out.

It takes them a bit more getting used to be they benefit more, too. Make sure to get a model that can adjust the jet angle sufficiently.

Do most bathrooms have electrical outlets right by the toilets? Mine sure don’t.

Many bidets have mechanical valves and do not require electricity. Ones like this can be had for $20-30 on Amazon. We used one like this for many years, although when we bought our house we upgraded to electric.

Cold water and wiping with a community towel.

You forget how advanced we've become with disposable toliet paper.

Modern bidets heat the water and the seat, and nobody I know with one (including myself) doesn’t have TP next to the toilet too, you just need very little of it.

As someone with a bidet, there's no way in hell I'm sharing a butt towel. The bidet wash isn't completely effective. It's not the same as sharing a hand towel.

Snaking the shower drain is one of my guilty pleasures in life, it’s so disgustingly satisfying to pull all of those hair clumps out.

I've had good luck with Whink Hair Clog Blaster making hair clogs vanish with minimal work.

Are you a single adult male with no children and few visitors?

I've always had a flatmate. Now my flatmate is my wife. Although, not that many visitors. The toilet was already old when I moved in.

American toilets are somewhat more mechanically complex than European ones, and they have smaller waste pipes.

The best toilets I've found yet are the Australian ones; the pipes are huge! I can't imagine ever clogging one.

If it does ever clog, you can be 90% sure it's an issue downstream, like tree roots getting into the pipes. It's also common to have a toilet separate to the bath/shower, and we have the dual flush options.

I never really appreciated how advanced we are at plumbing. Perhaps it's a product of having to take water management more seriously.

Agreed. The U.S.-style fixture, floor, pipe flange, and wax ring all have to work together. A terrible interface design. I haven't seen the Australian style, but when I saw a UK style I was very impressed by the pipe-to-pipe link in the rear.

It is more for convenience for the landlord. A second bathroom can give them time to fix the problem for what's broken.

> Never had a problem that made it useless for unacceptable amount of time.

The acceptable amount of time for a toilet in a 1 bath rental to be useless is zero, at least from the perspective of the tenant. It is true that toilets are pretty reliable, though. I've had one problem with a toilet, but that was somewhat of a freak accident.

It depends on your renters- I’ll bet there are plenty out tenants out there who are so mechanically averse they won’t plunger out their TP; I know I met a few kids like that in college.

I’ve also seen my kids managed to do amazing things to the innards of the flush mechanism- break the chain, tangle the chain, move the plug out of position, and in one notable instance get the toilet to start “auto-flushing." All fairly easy fixes, but you have to be willing to get in the (clean water!) reservoir and jiggle parts around.

Older houses, especially those on septic, have additional issues with the plumbing becoming overloaded (my dad TWICE backed up our entire house by trying to send an half a fridges worth of food down the garbage disposal) but that will often take out multiple bathrooms.

A LOT of people just don't understand how to use a plunger.

You never know what kind of idiocy you'll get into with renters. The kinds of things that people think they can put down drains is endlessly astonishing.

I had one guy who kept putting kitty litter down the toilet, even after I started charging him to get it snaked out.

Another one that I have seen too often is people dumping paint down the drains...

No, only if you use too much toilet paper. In my almost four decades on this Earth I've never clogged or otherwise broken a toilet, yet I know people who this is a regular occurrence for them. I never owned a plunger until I lived with an excessive toilet paper user. Made me buy a bidet attachment.

People don't always respect the limits of what you can/can't flush down toilets, especially renters.

Tampons and "flushable" wipes that aren't really

And condoms. I've had more than one former partner tell me to go flush the condom. So I'd just wad it up in toilet paper and toss it in the trash. From what I've read around the internet this seems to be pretty standard in the sex trade too (and probably with hotel/motel guests in general).

You have to consider American diets. :-)

This is a nice joke, but the reality is that standard American sewage pipes are smaller in diameter than in Europe, and European toilets tend to flush with more pressure.

Most toilets in the US are created to be "green" when it comes to water usage, but the reality is it takes at least 2+ flushes most of the time instead of 1 because of it - but as long as the amount of water per flush is low it passes regulation.

In my experience, the US toilets from ~2000 to ~2005 were crap (heh), but since then they've figured out how to make a low flow toilet that works, and it's fine.

Or if they are Trump 10-15 times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VygBCFQVFgM

Low flow toilets are the worst.

A good, modern low flow works better than the old high flow toilets. A few years ago I lived in a new house with a Toto low flow. It was the best toilet I've ever used.

They used to be pretty bad, but with time I think they've gotten to be just fine.

You can't cheat physics. If you dump X gal of water from Y height it will have Z kinetic energy minus efficiency losses. We've greatly improved the efficiency of the water dumping mechanism over the years but a high end low flow toilet of today is still nothing compared to a high end toilet of decades past. That said, there's a lot of crappy old toilets out there that don't flush any better than a modern low flow toilet and take 5+gal to do it.

Source: Moved into a house that was once owned by wealthy people. The upstairs toilet was clearly top of the line circa 1940s and is awesome. The downstairs toilet was clearly subject to some serious compromises for packaging reasons and is nothing special.

You most certainly can improve upon bad implementations. Kohler's most recent line (within the last 10 years) are considerably better than all toilets I've had before. They consume much less, flush once and don't make an excessive amount of noise.

Could you talk more about this? Anecdotally I've found american diets to not be fiber rich and full of fried foods, resulting in less solid BMs, but maybe you have more information?

edit: any explanation for downvotes?

I don't know why you are being downvoted by I can chime in with my own experience. I switched to a largely whole food plant based diet last year, instead of getting 1/4-1/2 of the recommend fiber intake I now get 2x+ the recommend fiber intake. My stool has gone from clay logs that often took considerable effort to pass and would stick to the porcelain to effortlessly (amost freakishly so) pass and tend to have a considerably smaller diameter that breaks up more once it is in the bowl.

My pre-whole food plant based diet bowel movements would also leave considerable residue, often requiring 4-5 different wads of toilet paper AND 2-3 wet wipes to wipe clear. Now 1-2 wads of toilet paper leave me rarely even needing a wet wipe.

Honestly it's the biggest difference I've noticed since switching to whole food plant based. Frequency of bowel movements and just how easy/clean they are, I used to regularly have to clean part of the toilet bowl where clay-poo would stick and I've not had to do it once since switching my diet. Then mu grocery bill as the bulk of my kcals come from oats/bananas/potatoes now.

What I would like to know is why the America average wash cycle requires around 40 gallons (151L) of water [1], when my machine in Europe uses around 13 gallons (50L) and a 10 year old one uses 22 gallons (84L).

[1] https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2018/06/08/new-california-wa...

My front-loader in the US uses about the same as yours.

Top loaders were popular in the US for a long time, and they generally fill all the way up.

> Top loaders [...] generally fill all the way up.

I have a top loader (a Whirlpool from 2011) and it most definitely doesn't fill "all the way up". It uses as little water as a modern front loader and also adjusts the water level based on fill level.

> It uses as little water as a modern front loader

I am afraid that is physically impossible, unless you are washing a single pair of socks.

I think there is difference in the way top loaders are build in US and EU. US top loader is basically front loader put on it's back, that's why it have to fill all the way up. EU top loader have the drum sideways so it works in the same axis as front loader and you put your clothes trough the doors in wall of the drum.

Huh. I was really confused by GP's statement but that explains it. Never ever have I seen a top loader with a vertical spin axis.

Wow. I’ve never seen a top loader with a horizontal spin axis. Until now I never even contemplated it could be different. I wonder what other stuff is like that.

The top loaders I have seen here in Sweden have just been front loaders except the instead of having a window you load the drum through a hatch in the rim. That design should use exactly as much water as front loaders.

Yup, that's the difference. American top loaders flip the drum on its side so the opening of the drum is at the top.

This also typically allows for a larger drum.

I just went to the website of a local tech shop that sells washing machines, and grapped two midrange Whirlpool models, a top loader and a front loader. Since I'm in Europe, regulations require that shops display a trove of efficiency data that is calculated for standardized model washing cycles. The front loader has 7kg loading capacity and uses 8850 liters per year. The top loader has 6kg loading capacity and uses 8500 liters per year. Because of the difference in loading capacity, the top loader is 10% more efficient in its water usage. So okay, slightly more efficient, but top loaders are certainly not hopelessly inefficient as the discussion seemed to imply.

I looked up two entry level machines on a Canadian website:

* Top loader - 4.4 cubic feet, IWF 6-1/100

* Front loader - 5.0 cubic feet, IWF 3-1/5

Not knowing what those meant, I looked it up. The "water factor" represents how much water a machine uses, in gallons per cubic foot of capacity. In other words, the front loader uses about half the water that the top loader uses.

As another commenter said, top loaders are different in the EU - in North America, the whole drum is turned on its side and water must fill as far up as the clothes go - there's no tumbling action to shift clothes in and out of the water at the bottom of the sideways drum in a front loader (and a European style top loader)

I'd like to see how that's measured, and how it compares to real life usage. Our house came with a high efficiency top loader, but it constantly goes unbalanced if not really carefully loaded (and sometimes even then). Its solution is to try and rebalance itself by filling the drum up with water and agitating, up to three times before quitting with a warning.

He probably just looked at a European-style top loader. My family here in Sweden had one of those over 30 years ago, and it is just a window-less front loader which you load through a hatch in the rim of the drum. It is a bit more of a hassle to unload them but they use virtually the same amount of water as front loaders.

Interesting, I’ve never seen one like that in the states. Yeah, that should be functionally equivalent.

Top loaders are common in Japan and they use a tiny amount of water. They also have a feature to drain the bathwater to use instead of the tap. Of course a "bath" there isn't for cleaning but more like a jacuzzi.

I should have used past tense. I have heard the newer high efficiency ones don’t fill up all the way, but the older and cheaper models I had absolutely did.

Every old model I've used had a water level selector. Small, medium and large. Even going back 50 years.

Now the modern washers don't trust you to make the proper selection, and often don't get your clothes completely wet.

To supplement your anecdata: having used many an old top loader, they do have different fill levels - varying from "small" filling halfway up the drum to "large" as high as it can go. As an individual, even using the "small" setting uses a huge amount of water - no way to wash a few pairs of socks or whatever other small loads you might have.

I've never had an issue with modern front loaders not getting my clothes wet. They are much better at spinning them dry at the end, though.

Right, and all of those low-efficiency units had to cover the clothes in water because they only agitated horizontally. Whereas my front loader agitates vertically and lifts the clothes in and out of a smaller amount of water.

For some reason, about 15 years ago in the US it was almost impossible to get a top loader washer (out of 30 models on the floor, only a couple "value" models would be top loaders), because of efficiency requirements. Then they started to come out with higher efficiency top loaders, and now you see more top loaders again than front loaders.

I think the big thing that is different in the current top loaders, vs the old ones, are some don't have an agitator -- instead they use a low profile impeller at the bottom to force water vertically. And the ones with an agitator have the impeller shape at the bottom, so there is still vertical water movement.

The front loaders started to go out of style, partly because people complain about an oder build up in them. Not sure what that is about. And worries about the seal in the door leaking (if the float gets stuck and it puts too much water in it -- my brother has that issue periodically).

I would think that a good top-loader design would be something that has a pump at the bottom (under the basket), and circulates water to the top and sprays it down on the clothes. But I haven't seen any like that though.

> What I would like to know is why the America average wash cycle requires around 40 gallons (151L) of water [1]

Your source does not call this the average, but the upper limit. Washing machines have a range of sizes you can set them at ranging from small to "super-max". Also a range of durations depending on how many cycles and how much washing is needed.

You'd need to relate it to how much laundry gets washed per gallon.

Also, some parts of the US are semi-tropical and even swamp. Not every state is as worried about conserving water.

The USA is slowly moving to front-loading washers. The top loaders were water hogs.

I was confused by this and the sibling comment, but apparently "top-loader" in the US sense means a type where the drum's spin axis is vertical – which I didn't even know existed before this thread. "Top-loader" around here (Northern Europe at least) means a design where the spin axis is horizontal but you load and unload the machine from the top, via a hatch on the side of the drum. Because the drum is oriented the same way as in a front-loader, water usage should be equal.

The problem with front loaders are that the rubber gaskets get moldy. You can get lower water use top losers now.

I've never actually had this happen in 35 years (I live in a front loader country, and have never used a top loader). I'm not sure if there's something different about American front-loaders, or if it's just some difference in usage practices.

Or it could be use of liquid detergents, which seem to be more common in the US. My washing machine's manual specifically warns not to use liquid or pod detergents, and they lead to internal buildup.

If possible, just leave the door and detergent drawer open.

+1 for also mentioning the detergent drawer. That thing is a breeding ground, I believe many molds thrive off of detergents.

I mean, yes, but it is just annoying to have to do that.

Ours has a cleaning cycle we run about once a month that sanitizes the machine. I've been adding a recommended cleaner with it, but I think even that is unneeded.

Like currently moving to front loaders? Top loaders were once common in the UK, but I don't think I've seen one since the seventies, maybe eighties.

Top loaders are still common in Australia and New Zealand. They’re terrible, but they are cheaper than front loaders and are what many people are used to.

They are great for people like me who remember to put something in something just after I start running it.

I can pause my front loader and add laundry, I'm not sure how the machine does it, perhaps I cannot add just whenever I want -- depending on the wash cycle, but I've never had the problem of not being able to pause the washing and add new laundry that I forgot.

Front loaders are extremely water efficient, there’s not much water in there and when you use the pause feature it can drain away enough water should that be necessary to make it safe to open, but mainly it just gives the clothes and liquid a chance to tumble to the bottom as they’d all spill right out otherwise and (then release the lock to make actually opening the door possible). By contrast, top loaders don’t even have a lock and don’t need a pause feature. There is usually a trigger switch to detect when the lid is open to stop the agitation for safety reasons, but there is no mechanical lockout and no delay: you can just open the lid.

Yes, currently. Right now it’s probably around 50/50. There are still many people who prefer the lower price and familiar design.

Last time I saw a top-loading washing machine was 1988 in a student flat!

Unfortunately a cheap front-loader only lasts about 3-5 years under normal usage, whereas the equivalent top-loader tends to last twice as long. I have no idea why that should be the case, but I've seen that too many times to discount it.

Washing machines are in a weird place where they are expensive to replace, but parts and labor to fix them when they break is almost, if not more expensive.

Comfortable to use tho


wasting water does not get your stuff 'more clean'

You probably have to cite some studies on this, if you want to convince anyone that more water is required.


As soon as you have >1 persons, you are going to find the bathroom to be a bottleneck at some point.

This is one reason I'm a fan of the french style: a separate room for toilet from the bath. This way one activity doesn't block the other.

Thank you! I didn't understand what the issue was with just 1 bathroom. Of course, if your bathroom is also your toilets...

I moved to Belgium where apparently it's also normal to put toilets in the bathroom, and I still don't understand why one would put the dirtiest place in a house in the same room as the cleanest place.

I don't want to shower and brush my teeth just a meter away from the toilets.

In the US, a "bathroom" is usually a 3-piece (bath/shower, sink, toilet). A toilet/sink (no bath) is usually called a "half bath" in real estate listings (2.5 baths is common in suburban homes - one master suite, one serving the other bedrooms, and the "half" near the kitchen or living area).

And then someone wipes their behind and have to open/close two doors before washing their hands. Nice!

You can have a sink. You don’t need a bath tub or shower to wash your hands.

Toilet with a sink is called half bathroom in US. GP mentioned separate toilet. I've seen this setup in Europe a lot:


My wife and I tend to only rent places that have at least a powder room on top of a primary bathroom for this exact reason. It isn't often we need that dual toilets, but after contracting food poisoning with only a single toilet... we decided never again.

Dual toilets have rescued us twice now from inevitable accidents.

I'd say more like "comfort."

No one wants to hold it while the other person is having a nice relaxing poop.

More than one person can use a bathroom at the same time.

Toilets are a bit trickier, but if you're spending enough time on the toilet for it to be a bottleneck in your hosuehold, you may want to consider adding more fibre to your diet.

sure just like we can also live in our cars or 100 sqt houses. What if you don't want to rush, when the other person knocks on the door?

Agree! But what I don't understand is the 8 bedroom, 14 bathroom type of houses (rich people). I mean what's the point. I agree that you need at least two bathrooms in a home and max one bathroom for each bedroom...but after that, what's the point?

Need in the sense that, it improves the quality of life, and it's a worthy expense.

Those houses are designed for entertaining and large parties. Any event hall that you go to will have at minimum 1 bathroom for each gender with multiple stalls, 2-6. This is still a home, so they choose not to have stalls in bathroom setting, hence 6-10 "extra" bathrooms.

Additionally in the very large houses the bed/bath ration doesn't capture the setting of the bathrooms. There is a house not to far from me that has a connected indoor pool and that has 3 bathrooms for changing/shower.


makes sense. Why not have them, when you can afford them? So your own bathrooms are not used by the guests...

Proximity matters. If I have a basketball court in my house, I'm going to want to have a little locker-room/bathroom off of it so that I (and my guests) don't have to trek to the bathroom in the main hall. If I have a 10-car climate-controlled garage with lounge where I hang out and show off my Ferrari collection, same thing. If I have an amazing pool that all of my kids' friends want to use, I'm going to want them to use the bathroom with the outdoor entrance so they aren't tracking water in the house.

These aren't small houses.

I think that's it.

I have a very wealthy relative who lives in the USA, and I visited when my younger brother was just 6 years old. It took him several complete tries of running round the house to count all the bathrooms (and not lose count).

There was one per bedroom, then one on the ground floor, one by the garage and one which was easy to get to from the beach.

The neighbour's house's guest room's bathroom was also the general bathroom; it had two doors with appropriate locks. This seemed like an efficient design.

Bathrooms with two doors are annoying. Typically, the door to the bedroom gets locked and not unlocked, so you have to go around to the hall door anyway. Also, unless the bathroom is large, the doors typically clash.

With a house like that, you're probably doing a fair bit of entertaining. You're going to be glad you have those extra bathrooms when you have 60 party guests.

Guest bathroom and when you have large parties often.

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