Today’s McMansions Are Flush With Bathrooms

It seems like every occupant in a home these days needs a private privy. And at the same time, homeowners have less of an understanding of how their septic system works.

Contact Jim with your comments, questions and opinions at
Contact Jim with your comments, questions and opinions at

A few stories I’ve read recently remind me of the challenges pumpers and onsite system inspectors face today and how, in some ways, it seems like common sense has gone out the window. Read on and let me know if you agree. 

A bathroom for every day of the week

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting report recently explaining that homes today are being built with many more bathrooms than in the past, and the change is causing problems for septic system designers. The story quoted statistics that since 2010, almost seven in 10,000 U.S. homes have 10 or more bathrooms. That figure was one in 10,000 homes in the 1970s.

The story quoted a New York Realtor who says average homes used to have one to two bathrooms but that today families feel like each child has to have his or her own bathroom. And the Realtor reports that most of the high-end estates he sells today have 10 or more bathrooms.

What’s driving the race to add restrooms? Professor Nick Haslam of the University of Melbourne in Australia explains the phenomenon in his book, Psychology in the Bathroom. “I think many people are becoming more disgust-prone, not less, and as human waste is a primordial object of disgust and other people’s waste is more disgusting than one’s own, this motivates a desire to have separate rooms,” he states in the book.

Realtor John C. Kean had this to say to The Wall Street Journal about the onsite problem homeowners face with so many bathrooms: “You’re going to lose power, lose the pump, people aren’t there for six months and you’ll have no idea the pump isn’t working so you can’t flush any toilets … 75 percent of these bathrooms are never being used except for Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.”

Tell pumpers something they don’t know.

Yes, pumpers realize people view human waste as disgusting, and they certainly have learned that other people’s waste is more disgusting than their own. But what do many pumpers say about the odors they encounter on the job? “That’s the smell of money!”


Seriously, though, there is truth in the complexity of caring for systems in these McMansions with so many bathrooms. Owners of these big estates may often fail to understand that septic systems have flow-capacity limits. They are not used to having someone suggest curtailing their activities — for instance watching the amount of flushing during a big weekend affair — or the consequences of inviting 50 visitors to stay overnight and they all take long showers at once in the morning.

Estate owners also may not understand what it takes to replace or repair tanks or drainfields. I’ve heard many a pumper say the wealthiest clients want massive onsite projects completed without any evidence that a blade of grass was out of place. They say landscaping interruptions are out of the question.

And the dynamics of following the underground route of the tanks and field lines escapes the high-end homeowner. They are dead sure you can do all that work without disturbing the swimming pool or tennis court. Also, if you start on a Monday morning, you can certainly be done by their Wednesday afternoon book club meeting. Oh, and about the noise; there can’t be any. And, of course, your crew can’t use their bathrooms during construction, but there is also no way they will allow an unsightly portable restroom in their yard.

I remember growing up in a house where six of us shared one bathroom. I guess there are some places in the world where one person now has six bathrooms. These are both extremes and it’s true that most families have found a happy medium when it comes to the number of bathrooms in the home. Have you worked on any of these large estates and encountered challenges? Let me know about it and I’ll share your story with Pumper readers.

Slacking off on onsite rules is OK: The Health Department

In Indiana’s Allen County, near Fort Wayne, county commissioners recently sent the wrong message about timely reporting of forms associated with septic system inspections. And in this case, it’s doing nothing to help homebuyers, home sellers or pumpers who are concerned about keeping the environment clean.

Regulations for several years have required homeowners to submit a form proving they told prospective buyers about their right to seek a time-of-sale inspection by a certified septic system evaluator. According to The Journal Gazette newspaper, real estate agents handling property sales were dragging their feet and failing to submit these disclosure forms within 30 days of closing as required.

So the county Health Department is going to reinforce the rules and insist these documents are filed on time to prevent misunderstandings about an important and potentially expensive issue for property transfers, right? Wrong. A Health Department administrator proposed eliminating a $25 fine for nonreporting, telling commissioners that the real estate sales community found the fine was punitive.


Punitive? A $25 fine for failing to prove an inspection disclosure to homebuyers? Ask the homebuyers. They wouldn’t likely agree with that assessment. They wouldn’t want to give up any protections the Health Department regulations afford them to ensure a functioning system upon move in.

And neither would pumpers who serve the county. Septic system professionals too often find themselves in the middle of messy disputes between buyers and sellers because of lax or absent time-of-sale rules. When systems fail, they get the call to provide emergency service — which it seems always comes on a weekend or holiday. They are the ones who are asked to blame either the new or previous owner for problems discovered after the sale. They get to hear the criticism when homeowners and government officials unfairly charge that these failures indicate decentralized wastewater treatment is inferior to municipal sewer systems.

There is no excuse for giving responsible parties a pass when failing to file the appropriate onsite reporting forms. This situation is like forgiving a speeding ticket because the motorist decided not to pay it on time. We know that would never happen.


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