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Shop Sweet Shop #7: Stairway to Storage Heaven - Part 2 - Installing plumbing in my stairs

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Blog entry by magaoitin posted 12-27-2016 06:07 PM 1127 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Stairway to Storage Heaven - Part 1 Part 7 of Shop Sweet Shop series Part 8: Oliver 4010 Table Saw setup »

What do you put under your stairs? Storage is the obvious answer. I am losing some valuable floor space for tools with the stairs, however I have ample storage space now up in the loft (with easy access) so I really don’t need to build cabinets or roll out boxes to store stuff under the stairs.

Everybody uses this space for storage; maybe build some cabinets, or a coat rack? Or maybe think very differently, and create a homage to Harry Potter. I could build out a little bed with a light for a quick nap between projects. I’m single so I don’t have to worry about getting kicked out of the house after an argument, but it is always good to plan ahead. Hmmm what to do?



So what can I hide under my stairs that would:
1. Make use of wasted space
2. Fun construction project
3. Interesting/different


I built the stairs over where the plumbing came into and out of the shop. And have (2) drain waste lines (a 1-1/2” where the shower was, and a 3” for the toilet) in the middle of the floor, and a 1 1/2” in the wall for the old sink, along with a ¾” water line in the wall. Since the height of the stairs doesn’t lend themselves to enough room for a toilet, I figure this might be a good place to install…a urinal.




It needs to be installed so a door can close it off from dust and just being unsightly. The finish-trim is still months away at the rate I am going, but I have the basic idea to just use a set of standard European cabinet hinges and a large cabinet door blank, then cover the door with cedar panels to make it match the adjacent pony wall.


Being a scrounge I salvaged a “little used” Sloan WES-2000 waterless urinal from a remodel my company was doing a few years ago. For some reason I had always wanted a urinal and we were yarding out dozens of them and they were just being thrown away, so I grabbed one on the off chance I would get to install it in a shop one day.




These were sold by the truckloads to cities, municipalities, and just about every government agency around back in the late 90’s and 00’s in a laughable ploy to conserve water. What everyone figured out (well after $10’s of millions were spent retrofitting existing restrooms) was that they are extremely expensive to operate in a commercial environment. The sales pitch and advertizing leads you to believe you are not using a drop of water, they downplayed the “technology” that was in the replaceable cartridge and biodegradable sealant that is proprietary to Sloan and Falcon, and came with a proprietary cost. Each cartridge runs anywhere from $45-$55 and is good for an advertized 6,000-7,000 “uses”. Compare that to a standard flush urinal and the “savings” is between 9,000 and 25,000 gallons of water per cartridge (and depending on how old in inefficient the urinal was). With municipal/government rates, 9,000 gallons of water is around $70-$75 in the big city by me, so it appeared to be a cost savings AND an eco-saving the planet move.




However these turned out to be a nightmare to service on a commercial scale. Expensive cartridges, labor to remove and replace if one got plugged (nearly every week) and suddenly it was tens of thousands of dollars to operate. Plus in very high use buildings, the cleaning staff couldn’t keep up with the volume so they started to smell just from splash and “over-spray” since there wasn’t any water to wash down the bowl after each use. However, on a residential scale or small shop, were only one or two people are using it, it works great. Plus you don’t have to run a water line to it, just a drain and a vent. The down side is that they were expensive to operate for a small business. In the past 10 years the bio-sealant price has fallen a bit, and you can buy it in 1 gallon jugs through Amazon. And if you are really frugal you can wash out the cartridge and reuse them.




I actually installed this in the bathroom of my last house and used it for 3-4 years. Depending on use, and cleaning, and how much water I am drinking per day, a single cartridge lasts me anywhere from 8 months to 1 year. I felt that was a good trade for not having to run a water line to it and then deal with a flushometer (I have never been able to adjust one correctly anyways). I picked up a full case of cartridges at an auction for $30, since no one knew what they were for. I should be set for at least the next 20 years







It just fits under the stringers, below the landing. It is kind of a tight fit but in a way that adds to its novelty (at least that is what I am telling myself). Add a hidden door and no one would ever suspect what you have going on. I have been enamored with Murphy Door’s hidden bookshelves to other rooms and have wanted to try building something like this on a small scale. I don’t have a big enough house to hide off a whole room, but the idea of a hidden door appeals to me for the woodshop “powder room” I am designing. This is small enough I won’t need any fancy door hardware, just a couple of cabinet door hinges. If it works, the “door” will also fill in as the screen wall when it is in use.

Since I am building this over where the old bathroom was, I already have a drain through the slab, and just need to run a vent line up and outside. In my previous post you can see the vent up in the loft and running out through the exterior wall. I am not sure how I am going to finish this off or cover it yet upstairs. I repaired the waterline to the shop last summer and everything is plumbed to a spot under the stairs. It also makes sense to put a shop sink here.







Getting the FRP and inside corners installed in this little cubby required the use of a midget. Luckily I found one cheap on Craigslist in the personals section.




Looking down on the end of the urinal, I have just enough clearance to put a door in and flush everything out to make it disappear. I would have liked to have this stick out a little further, but that would have defeated the purpose of having it completely hidden behind a door. As a result you end up standing very close to the stairs and don’t really get to “see” what you are doing. Just aim and pray.


I blocked everything out to make sure that it would all fit and leave room for a door I want to install on the upper section of the stairs to be able to swing open.




I don’t know if I like the sink here, or if I should build it in under the upper section of stairs. It kind of sticks out into the walkway too much for my liking, but the plumbing is in place. The sink was $5, and I have less than $20 in material for the drain line and PEX hose and 3 fittings. Add to it that with as nice as the stairs are finishing out, I might not want this eyesore here at all.

I am not going to install a hot water tank under the stairs, though it would be a good place for one. In preparation for a shop sink, I ran a 240v 30A line to this spot thinking I would eventually find an electric on demand hot water heater from an auction or craigslist that would work.


In another twist at work (and score for me), we ordered a small commercial electric point of use water heater for a client, who then changed their mind just before we installed it, and it sat on a shelf for about a year before the boss told me to clean up the warehouse and throw out everything collecting dust. Whatever was left we would donate to one of the Architectural Salvage places for a tax write off. I ended up with this.







I went ahead and plumbed in the lines for the cold water, drain, and the electrical connection for the hot water, but I haven’t purchased a faucet yet. So now I have hot and cold water for a sink, and a urinal installed under my stairs. If I decide that the sink is not right, I only have to replace (3) 3’ tall cedar boards. These are all scrap anyways so it’s not a loss to cap everything off and move on.





with stain on the cedar.




So what else could I do with these stars? They seem a little dark; maybe some illumination is in order.

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.



1 comment so far

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1766 posts in 1725 days


#1 posted 12-28-2016 01:17 AM

Now that is pretty cool. I have to sneak inside with the threat of “if you track sawdust in the house….” over my head. Great work

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

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