You’ve got a broken drain pipe or blocked sewer lurking beneath your bathroom floor. Many of us would rather not think about it, but there are times we might have to learn to live without a functioning bathroom. For some, culture and affluence play a part, but in most western cultures the two main reasons are:
- Bathroom renovations, and
- Blocked or broken sewer & drainage pipes
Here are ten ways to survive life without a bathroom (just!).
Surviving bathroom renovations
If you’re renovating, there are often ways to juggle bathrooms (i.e .work on one bathroom whilst using the other if you are lucky enough to have more than one). Or to factor costs for spending a week in a motel around the corner into the overall renovation price.
If you only have the one bathroom, however, or if you’ve already blown your budget on a fancy porcelain vanity, we’re here to help. Ten of the best strategies people have come up with to help them get by without a bathroom. See which ones appeal to you and get prepared for some interesting times ahead.
Unexpected pipe repairs
When it comes to that dreaded moment when you suspect (or are told) that you’ve got a broken drain pipe or blocked sewer lurking somewhere beneath the perfectly lovely bathroom floor you only installed a year earlier, the luxury of planning ahead can go out the window. Often there’s little time to do extensive research or spend hours reading reviews on websites, so having a strategy in mind as part of your home maintenance plan can help you make the decision that’s right for you.
Keeping your bathroom pipes functioning
Sometimes pipes fail without obvious warning, but that’s rare. Try to set some aside each month to think about ongoing maintenance of your hidden pipes and stay alert to the early signs of trouble before major breakdowns occur.
Some pipe problems are also very difficult to anticipate or avoid, such as when the roots of your neighbour’s prized fig tree find their way into your sewer. In this case, you have few options other than to get the roots cleaned out, the pipes relined (or new pipes laid) and hope the neighbour will help with costs and remove the tree.
But there are also some simple housekeeping tricks that can keep your bathroom pipes functioning to the best of their ability well into the future (see our article, ‘Simple ways to keep your bathroom pipes working properly’).
Signs of a blocked drain
Recurrent toilet blockages, slow draining wash basins or baths, low water pressure, a knocking sound in your water pipes, increasing mould growing on the walls and unpleasant odours can all be indicators of blocked or broken drains. If the pipes are underground a CCTV camera inspection is really the best way to determine what is going on, so this should be your first step.
If that inspection turns up cracked or broken pipes under the slab, it can seem like the end of the world – but this is actually a very common problem and as technology continues to advance, more and more convenient repair alternatives are being developed.
Pipe repair solutions
There are basically two different methods of repairing broken or damaged drainage pipes under the slab in your bathroom. These are:
- relining the pipe with advanced composite resins (no dig plumbing)
- traditional pipe repairs (where everything is dug up and replaced).
In our article, Help! My plumber wants to dig up my bathroom these two alternatives are explained and strategies for managing your choice are provided.
If you decide that the old way of digging up and repairing or replacing pipes is for you, and you’re willing to face the torture of living without a bathroom for a period of time, then our survival tips gleaned from those daring adventurers who have gone before might help. Of course, we’re all different, we all have different ideas of ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ behaviour and we’re all living in different circumstances, so whilst some of these ideas may seem abhorrent to you, they might be just the ticket for someone else.
The ten best strategies for living without a bathroom
Strip bath in the kitchen sink
Some people claim you can keep perfectly clean having an old-fashioned strip wash using a bucket of warm, soapy water in the kitchen sink every day. Even if your hot water’s off, you can just add boiled water from a jug. If your kitchen is exposed to the outside world, you may want to pop a sheet up and if it’s cold, have a heater handy – but just think of the savings you’ll make on your water bill!
Set up a camp shower and toilet
Get into the real spirit of adventure, and set yourself up with a camping shower and composting toilet in the garden. There’s a tent around the shower for privacy and if you only have cold water access in the yard you can get a ‘solar water heater’, which is essentially a large black bag which holds and heats the water over the course of the day. If it’s cloudy or your garden is shady, you might have to revert to the kettle again.
Join a gym
There are gyms everywhere these days, and many are offering week-long or even monthly trials to try to get you to embrace regular gym-loving life. It’s the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. You get to experience the benefits of warm showers, clean toilets and maybe even a spa and sauna, while they get to show you how wonderfully fit and healthy they can help you become. If it doesn’t work out, nothing lost – but at least you will have retained your friendships and dignity whilst your pipes were being repaired.
Family, friends and neighbours
Okay well this one is obvious – but you don’t have to feel bad about it. If they’re neighbours or friends and they’re wine drinkers buy a few cases of their favourite and every time you turn up to use their bathroom hand over a bottle. If not wine then choccies, flowers or movie passes. They’ll have the lights on and the door open ready and waiting once they get the routine. If it’s family, you may not need to stoop to such levels of bribery and seduction, but be prepared to do the same in return for them some day.
Public swimming pools, leisure centres or sports facilities
You may have to pay an entrance fee to some of these places, but not all, and if they’re public facilities the fee is usually quite small. Just take your towel and toiletries and enjoy all the place has to offer.
We’ve all been caught short and had to use a service station toilet without actually buying petrol. I used to feel guilty – until I thought about all the times I’ve bought petrol and haven’t needed to use the amenities. I’m sure that even if this was a planned strategy and you had to use the local servo’s rest room for the week whilst your blocked sewer pipes were being repaired, you’d still be able to use my above rationale. Hopefully they’re right next door and have friendly staff, who might take pity on your plight and turn a blind eye to the fact that you’re arriving there without even a car.
Your own office
With the push toward active transport (walking, cycling to work etc.) many workplaces now include a shower cubicle as standard in their amenities rooms. In fact why not go out at lunchtime for a jog or yoga session and then shower afterwards? Not only will you avoid missing showers while your sewer pipes are fixed, you’ll be slimmer and healthier.
Portable shower head and plastic sand pit
Hardware stores often sell portable plastic shower heads which can be attached to your kitchen sink, making hair-washing much easier. If you want to use if for a quick sloosh-over and/or shave, you could buy one of those large clam-shell plastic sand pits they sell in toy stores. Afterwards you could just bucket the used water out into the kitchen sink.
Caravan parks or budget hotels
Many caravan parks are happy to offer showers for travellers for a small fee. The amenities blocks are often gym style, rather than your own private boudoir but it gets the job done.
Obviously this one is only useful if you live or work somewhere near an airport, but if you do, they often have great showering facilities which they are happy to rent out to anyone for a fee. Parking can be expensive at airports, however, so you would have to factor in how you would get there and any transport or parking costs.
Deciding on the pipe repair strategy that will work best for you
While these ideas are better than nothing, there’s no doubt they will take some effort and will still fall well short of the convenience of having a functioning bathroom at your disposal. And apart from just keeping lots of buckets handy (and securely placed) they don’t provide a particularly attractive option in terms of what you’re supposed to do when you jump out of bed in the morning and you need the toilet NOW, or when it’s 2 am and raining outside or if you don’t have access to a garden. There are also costs involved with most of them and of course the undeniable inconvenience.
If you’re facing a few days or weeks without your bathroom, think carefully about what other options you have. If you’re renovating, is it really not possible to factor a week’s accommodation at the B&B around the corner into the equation, or if it’s a leaking or broken sewer, have you considered pipe relining?
If concrete and tile cutting and replacement is required, as well as labour and parts, the cost of digging up your pipes and replacing them is often around the same as the no dig pipe repair options like relining – and they come with virtually none of the stress and inconvenience of digging and replacing.
From there, only you can decide on just how adventurous you’re wanting to be!
To get a no-obligation quote on relining your damaged pipes, get in touch with us via our contact page.