male office worker in a bathroom stall

Why Do Bathroom Stalls Have Gaps?

Bathrooms in residential properties have a regular door that goes from the ceiling to the floor. Whereas public restrooms have a large space above and below the door. There are many reasons why this is, and in this article, I explain why bathroom stalls have gaps.

In general, people can see if a stall is occupied, it deters vandalism and undesirable behavior, provides more ventilation, they’re easier to clean, if someone faints they can be helped almost immediately, they’re cheaper to make, and it reminds people to spend the least amount of time possible.

There are 7 main advantages of bathroom stalls having gaps in public restrooms, below I will explain these in more detail. There is no clear historical record about why bathroom doors with gaps were first invented. But, each of these reasons is good enough to warrant making public restrooms this way.

Reasons Why Bathroom Stalls Have Gaps

Bathroom stalls are installed in places where many different people use them. Whereas, bathrooms in residential homes are used only by the people that live in them. Therefore, there are many reasons why it’s best to have gaps in a public restroom. Here they are in no particular order.

1. People can see if a stall is occupied

Going to the bathroom is largely a private thing and not polite to talk about, especially not with strangers. Therefore, needing to knock on a bathroom stall to see if someone is inside is a bit awkward.

Taking a quick glance and seeing that someone is using it saves an awkward back and forth. If all the stalls are occupied, a person waiting may decide it’s best to hold it and go when they get home.

2. More ventilation – public restrooms get more use

Public restrooms CAN get far more use than a residential bathroom. This creates more bad odors that can quickly build up. While many public restrooms have ceiling fans, many also only have windows. The extra space above and below the door allows far more airflow to get in and around a bathroom stall. 

3. It puts pressure on people to not spend too long

Although most people won’t admit it, many spend far too long on the toilet. They will check their phone and get caught up in a conversation or replying to something on social media. They could have completely finished using the toilet but lost track of time.

When you can tell that people can see that someone is in a bathroom stall, it creates a bit of social pressure to not take so long. Reducing the queue to use the bathroom.

4. It deters vandalism and undesirable behavior

A small percentage of the population engages in anti-social behavior such as vandalism, smoking cigarettes in non-smoking areas, or illegal activities. 

When someone is doing something undesirable like these, the space above and below a toilet means chances are they will get caught.

And someone will notify security. Therefore, it deters people from engaging in these behaviors.

5. They are easier to clean

Public restrooms are used more often, and therefore, they need to be cleaned more regularly. One of the advantages of bathroom stalls with gaps above and below the door is it’s easier to see if there’s a spill, so you should avoid a particular stall. 

A cleaner can also mop the floor without needing to open the door, which saves time. Because the door is shorter, it’s also easier to wipe down.

6. If someone faints they can be seen

Although not common, a person with a medical emergency will be helped sooner. Some public restrooms are also located where people can get quite intoxicated, such as at a bar. When this happens, people can often vomit or pass out. 

Therefore, it’s very handy to see if someone needs medical attention in a toilet. Whereas, when the door is full-sized, it would generally take a person longer to get discovered.

7. They are cheaper to build

A door that has gaps above and below the shower stall does not need to be as precisely measured or made. On the other hand, a full-length door needs to be the exact right size; otherwise, it won’t fit. 

The smaller door that is used for public restrooms also means that it’s made from less materials. Therefore, the price of each bathroom stall and installing the public restroom overall is cheaper.

Why Do Public Toilets Have Split Seats

Some public toilets have split seats, where there is no toilet seat in the center. These are not used in residential or office toilets, so it can be a bit confusing why this is. Here’s why some public toilets have split seats.

As a general rule, they are cheaper to manufacture, and it was believed they are more hygienic. Recent studies have found that they don’t have any effect on reducing bacteria. Therefore, the main reason is that they are cheaper to manufacture.

Vandalism and theft are much more likely in public restrooms. Because of this fact being able to replace a toilet seat as cheaply as possible is ideal. And appears to be the main reason that split toilet seats are found in public restrooms.

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical (IAPMO) officials is responsible for providing guidelines for what toilet seats should be used in public restrooms. It is reported online by a few sources that they used to recommend split toilet seats for public restrooms. However, currently, there is no info in their guidelines regarding using them. 

Why Do Some Public Toilets Not Have Lids

Most public toilets you come across will have lids. However, in some regions and suburbs, you can come across public toilets that have no lids at all. This is why some public toilets don’t have lids.

Overall, it’s because vandalism is more common in public toilets, and public toilets are generally used much more often. Therefore, the chances a public toilet will break or get damaged by vandalism is more likely. As a result, the toilet lid would need to be replaced very often.

It’s generally accepted that public toilets won’t be clean. The reason is that so many people use them, and it’s different from a toilet in someone’s home, where there will be consequences if they leave a mess. 

It is slightly more hygienic to lower a toilet lid before flushing a toilet. And is a main reason why toilets have lids. But, because public toilets are often very unclean, it’s less of an issue to have a toilet seat to stop bacteria. 

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