Renting a basement unit with a grinder (macerating) toilet

9 Replies

I'm currently considering purchasing a property with a basement unit.  The basement currently has a grinder toilet (macerating toilet) hooked up.   The full bathroom (sink, shower, and toilet--obviously) passes through the grinder apparatus before being discharged/pumped up towards grade and into the city's sanitary sewer line (Baltimore City utility).

Not sure what the additional risk/liability/maintenance costs (etc.) are that I should be taking into account.  I'm assuming because the unit is somewhat loud (and the basement bedroom is a bit undersized), I won't be able to attract full market rent... Are there any other precautions I should be weary of?

The system is currently connected to battery backup.  I'm debating if I should assume a full tear out of the basement bathroom will be necessary - in which case, I'd install a more "belt-and-suspenders" sewage ejection pump (may limit noise generation and risk of sewage back-ups) - and if this is the best path forward, than I'd have to negotiate a pretty substantial price-cut with the Seller.  

Last thing I'd want is for the existing system to fail, a sewage backup to occur, and have to worry about providing temporary housing for a tenant while a costly hazardous waste cleanup goes underway.  

Thanks for any help/advice the BP community can provide! 

@Greg Parks

We have a student rental with a macerating toilet in the downstairs/basement bathroom (a 3-level split) ... near as I can guess in our case, it was installed because the prior owners did not want to hammer a trench into the slab and install a traditional toilet.   

While we do plan to replace it in a few years when we perform a "full gut" of the lower level, we have been managing fairly well with it.   The biggest issue we have is educating our "young" student tenants that with the exception of toilet paper "if you did not eat it, do not flush it" ... those idiotic personal wipes are the worst (talk about a "solution" looking to create a problem/need and market).  In the worst case, it takes a service call and an $80+ plumber's bill for them to understand.  We also tell the tenants to avoid using that washroom during a power outage (fortunately there is another in the house).

I also find it uses a lot of water in comparison to the HET flapperless toilet we typically use, but that may be the particular model we have.

@Roy N. -- Thanks so much for the detailed response!! If I go ahead with the purchase, I'll certainly do my best to walk future tenants through some "toilet best practices" to help avoid costly plumbing bills.  Overall, your feedback has been very reassuring though.  I do have a few follow-up questions if you don't mind me asking: 

Were there any insurance premium implications that you encountered because of the bathroom's toilet type?

Do you know if there was a separate backflow preventer valve installed to serve just your macerating toilet's discharge line? 

Do any other plumbing fixtures feed through your macerating toilet? 

One concern I have is that the subject bathroom's sink AND shower discharge through the macerating toilet, and if a tenant is using the shower/sink/toilet on a daily basis, it will cause the maceration/pump system to deteriorate at a much quicker pace. If I have to replace the toilet every 4-5 years, I'm looking at an $800+ recurring expense, which will really hinder future returns for this property.  

Maybe there is an extended warranty or replacement plan that will help to offset these costs in the future?  

We have one of these installed due to below grade toilet. It is also a student rental and we do have a sign above the toilet that says nothing but TP. I figure our students arent going to remember to tell thier peers. No insurance issues.

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@Greg Parks I have macerating toilets on my boat and yes they aren't very quiet.  I wouldn't let that stop me from buying the house.  Learn how to work on them and educate the tenant.

Originally posted by @Greg Parks :

@Roy N. -- Thanks so much for the detailed response!! If I go ahead with the purchase, I'll certainly do my best to walk future tenants through some "toilet best practices" to help avoid costly plumbing bills.  Overall, your feedback has been very reassuring though.  I do have a few follow-up questions if you don't mind me asking: 

Were there any insurance premium implications that you encountered because of the bathroom's toilet type?

No premium.

Do you know if there was a separate backflow preventer valve installed to serve just your macerating toilet's discharge line? 

Here bathrooms, particularly those below grade are to be equipped with their own back flow protection.   In this case, the macerating toilet feeds into the stack at the level of the main floor toilet ... but we added a backflow on the line.

Do any other plumbing fixtures feed through your macerating toilet? 

Yes, the tub/shower in that bathroom feeds into the macerating toilet.  The vanity feeds into the laundry sink drain which has its own lift pump.

One concern I have is that the subject bathroom's sink AND shower discharge through the macerating toilet, and if a tenant is using the shower/sink/toilet on a daily basis, it will cause the maceration/pump system to deteriorate at a much quicker pace. If I have to replace the toilet every 4-5 years, I'm looking at an $800+ recurring expense, which will really hinder future returns for this property.  

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :
We have one of these installed due to below grade toilet. It is also a student rental and we do have a sign above the toilet that says nothing but TP. I figure our students arent going to remember to tell thier peers. No insurance issues.

Colleen ... our sign reads: "If you didn't eat it, don't flush it!"

I have had one in a student rental since 2006. Had to replace the motor once after one tenant repeatedly flushed things bigger than TP down (I think it was about $350 for motor + handyman's install time). Aside from that, works fine and reliably. You do have to educate tenants that it won't work if the power goes out or the circuit breaker trips. Good luck with it!

@roy n.  I like your sign!  We have had one of the current students come back  3 years in a row and he seems to remind the others. 

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