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Bathroom and Sainitary Specifications for a New Home

As a new home buyer, we sift through many brochures or websites, especially the ‘specifications’ section. We understand some of them at a cursory level, without a deeper sense of how it impacts our daily lives. The question is: are all these specifications standard across all builders? The answer is No. As a home buyer we must be equipped to understand, appreciate and clearly read between the lines when we read about the specifications.

We need to know where an item (fitting or fixture) stands in terms of the ‘grade’ and ‘quality’ it offers. We must have a clear understanding about its functionality and technical utility. After all, we are the ones that will interact with the elements in our house, just as much as we interact with those living inside the home.

Specifications that we normally read about pertain to items like sanitary, electrical, doors/windows, flooring, painting, amenities, door handles, chrome plated fittings, accessories. These are used in spaces like kitchen/toilet/bath and many other interior or exterior elements to make the apartment fit for human habitation.

There is a lot that’s happening on the technology front, and as a home buyer we must know about the latest offerings that make life convenient, comfortable and enjoyable. Essentially, we must develop a good appreictaion of what to choose or reject with whatever a builder is providing.

Builders showcase specifications to impress home buyer

We witness various brand names being cited in the specification section of the brochures or websites. Clearly, the builder wants to impress the home buyer.

We may have often observed descriptions in the specifications section such as: ‘Jaquar or equivalent chrome Plated (CP) fittings’, ‘Hindware of equivalent floor mounted EWC’, ‘Modular switches of Havells/Legrand/Anchor or equivalent make’ and so on.

By mentioning the ‘brand name’ and stating xyz brand or equivalent make’, the builder is telling us ‘what to expect’. This is education for us to learn the ‘preferred and contemporary brand’ that makes an apartment desirable for a given segment. Simply put, specifications section in websites/brochures help us know ‘what to look for’, and ‘how to go about comparing’ the varying specifications.

A home buyer must to learn to differentiate the ‘quality & grade of specs’ versus ‘pricing’.

The sweeter the specification, the higher will be the per square foot price of the apartment….and so is the aesthetics, sturdiness, utility, technicality, and overall performance! The price of an apartment is a result of all the elements of specifications put together. It’s the sum of all the parts that go into the specifications.

The specifications related elements alone make the apartment differentiated in terms of which segment they belong to. So, if the specs are ‘premium’ (high grade & quality), the ‘per square foot rate’ will also be higher!

A home buyer must build the ability to see how pricing is affected as the grade and quality of specifications get better. This ability to differentiate the various brands being offered in the name of ‘specifications’ and ‘amenities’ is the key to a superior post purchase experience.

In this article, we shall focus on some of these ‘sanitary/plumbing related’ terminologies and specifications, and their implications for a new home buyer.

‘High grade specifications’ vs. ‘Cost’

There is always a cost element when we choose a higher grade of material, fittings of fixtures. There is always a valid reason why some builders are more expensive or unreasonable compared others. This reasons is the extent to which the specifications are premium. Hence, we must know the cost element of specifications being offered that makes the sum of all specifications ‘premium’ or ‘luxury’. Within this segment, there are many possibilities and combinations of specifications a builder may offer.

Higher the ‘grade and quality’, the more superior would be the utility, technicality and the functional benefit!

As a home buyer, if we understand that there is something called ‘low to highergrade and quality that’s possible on each specification, the ability to differentiate, appreciate the price-differences, and conviction to take the right decision to select/buy an apartment becomes that much easier.

‘Bathroom’ (Sanitary) related specifications

So, let’s get started with the commonly encountered terminologies related to sanitary fittings. Understand what they mean, and learn what they do for us!

Ceramics- the basics

Ceramics are made up of mixtures of kaolin, clay, feldspar, quartz sand (earthen ingredients), powders and water, and are shaped in the desired form before putting them through the fired-up kiln at extreme temperatures. Ceramics are covered in waterproof and decorative paint-like materials known as ‘glazes’. The result is an extremely durable material called ‘ceramic’ that’s hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion resistant.

Whether it is glass, tiles, bricks, porcelain, cement, bricks, catalytic converters for cars, super conductor’s for computers, gas turbines in jet engines, electronic equipment and cooktops are all ceramic in some form. They are non-metallic inorganic solids. Most ceramics we encounters in the modern day is advanced engineering ceramics.

Properties of ceramics:

  • Rough and tumble materials that can handle lot of rough-handling and abuse under excruciating circumstances and situations…e.g. tiles in kitchen and bathrooms
  • Durable, Hard, resistant to scratches, super strong, good-looking year-after-year
  • Good insulators owing to their low electrical and thermal conductivity…i.e. they are shock-proof and safe
  • Do not react with other chemicals…i.e. chemically inert nature

Ceramics- quality and grade

Good quality and grade of ceramics help attract and retain customers, offers better functionality, gives a premium feel, and also improve the overall value and living experience of the home.

Ways to judge and identify a high grade and quality ceramic fixture is as follows:

  • Overall shape and appearance needs to be beautiful, high on functionality and comfortable to use
  • The glaze in ceramic matters! Good brand use high quality branded glaze and provide thick layer of glaze in their products. The firing process determines the quality of glaze. The better the product is glazed, higher is the grade of ceramic
  • Water permeability and texture of ceramic is important. Modern technologies with branded companies allows for ceramic to be resistant to cracking, and not being permeable to water or other chemicals. Good ceramics do not react and become dull over a long period of time
  • Check the sound by fine tapping the ceramic product. A high grade and quality ceramic produces crisp sound. If there is hoarse sound, it may be prone to cracking or already cracked
  • Check for deformity in the product, be it a washbasin or a western commode. The product needs to be smooth all around and symmetrical. Any deformity is indicative of a poor quality ceramic

Sometimes, there are elements that we cannot check as a home buyer, hence, it is desirable to go with branded companies that are obviously feel premium when we simply look and touch them.

Look and feel factor along with a relatively higher priced specifications is something we need to enquire with the builder. This is because, even branded companies sometimes make different product lines for different market-segments. The range may cater to lowest to highest price market segment with varying specifications. A wash basin may be catering to mass-market, medium-range, luxury, and ultra-luxury segments.

As a home buyer, it is important to know what level of ‘grade & quality’ belonging to which ‘market segment’ we are getting as part of the promised specifications. The determinants again are the price we are paying for the apartment, and what the builder explicitly confirms/commits on offering in exchange.

Hence, a bit of deep-dive and enquiring of the specifics of specifications becomes imperative. This applies to all sanitary fittings, fixtures, piping and other elements of plumbing.

Wash basins

Bathroom needs to be the most relaxing place in the house, and a bathroom becomes beautiful with a functional and aesthetic wash basin that’s high on durability in terms of sturdiness and good-looks year-after-year!

A good wash basin complements the thematic and design elements of your bathroom.

Some of the wash basins options builders provide are:

  • Counter top– This is one that should be high on both durability and aesthetics. These are also known as ‘self-rimming basins’ or ‘drop-ins’, and fit into many counter tops. Mostly, we find these wash basins in spas, hotels or resorts, as they are heavy-duty owing to the rim, and can take the onslaught of very brash usage. There are over-counter and under-counter variants available in this segment of wash basins
  • Pedestal- These are either a single unit wash basins, or with two units, one comprising the wash-basin which is mounted on a detached pedestal. The single one’s are more premium, and are comparatively more expensive besides complementing modern themes of an apartment/home. There are half-pedestal and full-pedestal variants also available in this segment
  • Wall mount- These are mounted on the walls of the bathroom with the help of ‘screws’, and give the flexibility of height and position of the mount depending upon the users. One needs to be careful in not choosing very heavy ones, so that the screws can take the load of these wall mounts. These are the cheapest options in the market, and preferred by many for their straightforward utility
  • Above counter- These are meant for those discerning users, who look for innovation, aesthetics, and a luxury experience. It’s the mark of a modern bathroom, and the wash basin kept on top of a console or unit looks very stunning due to the mesmerizing focal point it renders. These are used commonly in urban settings, and one has to be careful to have the countertop much lower so that the above counter wash basin is placed at an accessible height

The builder may offer you any of these wash basins depending on the extent of pricing, and the segment they offering is meant for.

Besides, going for branded companies gives a wide array of choice even to the builder to choose from, depending upon how much the home buyer is paying for added durability and aesthetics.

The washbasins on any of the reputed brand can range from Rs 1000 to Rs 25000 or even more.

High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Jaquar, Hindware, Parryware, Cera, Parryware, Kohler, Grotto, Duravit, Toto, RAK, Tessa, Eros among others

WCs (Water Closets)

This is also known as a ‘flushing toilet’, and is used to dispose-off human waste (urine and feces) through a drainage pipe. The flush toilets are designed for users to ‘sit’ akin to sitting on a chair, and are also known as ‘Western toilets’. These western water closets are positioned at the height of a chair to accommodate people of all heights. The waste is disposed in an efficient manner to the sewage system of a house/apartment, so as to separate the humans from their waste.

In India, the traditionally used commodes are ‘squat’ toilets where the unit is embedded on the floor level.

The typical flush toilet comprises of a vitreous ceramic bowl type design (the pan) which is attached to the sewage drain. After use, the bowl is emptied by flushing and cleaning it with a swift flow of water into the bowl which pushes the waste (gets sucked) into the drainage pipe seamlessly. The bowl becomes clean for re-use. The ‘water tank’ and ‘valves’ are used by the user by pressing a button or lever. This allows the water to flow out of the rim of the bowl cleaning the entire bowl and also pushing down the waste.

Technology advancements have made the process of flushing very efficient, where 3-6 litres of water is pushed into the bowl, and the tank is replenished quickly for reuse.

Types of Water closets: The three types that are encountered, based on ‘technology’ i.e. how they are operated, i.e. i) flush toilet, ii) high-tech toilet, and iii) vacuum toilet.

The simpler classification in a western WC as available in India is the ‘Wall mounted WC’ and the ‘Floor mounted WC’.

  • Wall mounted WC-
    1. Elegant, neat & expensive
    2. Space saving
    3. Easy to clean (especially floor)
  • Floor mounted WC-
    1. Affordable
    2. Easy installation
    3. Low maintenance

WCs are further also classified based on the shape, size, installation, functionality and technology. These classifications are: i) one-piece WC, ii) two-piece WC, and iii) Upflush WC, iv) small-compact WC, v) corner or triangle WC, vi) flushing WC, vii) wall-mounted WC, viii) square shaped WC, ix) elongated WC, x) round bowl WC, xi) tankless WC, xii) composting WC, xiii) portable WC, xiv) pressure assisted WC, touchless WC, xv) pull chain WC, xvi) water-saving WC, xvii) dual flush WC, xviii) comfort height WC, xix) luxury or smart WC (expensive)
All these classifications indicate the variety of Water Closets available in the market at varying price points, and catering to a variety of customer segments.

High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Jaquar, Hindware, Parryware, Cera, Parryware, Kohler, Grotto, Duravit, Toto, RAK, Tessa, Eros among others

Chrome plated fittings

Chrome Plated fittings lend a beautiful shine to the gadgets like showers, taps, valves and other accessories in the bath or kitchen. Chrome plating provides the much increased resistance to corrosion besides preventing galling, and adding strength to the surface hardness. Over and above, chrome plating eases the maintenance process along with giving the accessories a stunning decorative edge.

  • Due to Chrome Plating, metals like brass get resistance to wear and tear, thereby increasing the lifespan of the object
  • Chrome plating can be applied to a wide range of metals like brass, steel, copper and many more
  • Chrome plating can be done on objects of irregular shapes, containing tiny apertures or holes
  • Chrome plating sticks…it is simply too good for adherence to the object
  • It gives a stunning appearance, and goes on to give a glass-like finish

It is for the above reasons, the builders use the CP fittings to describe all the bathroom accessories used in bathrooms and kitchen, even if they are not chrome plated.

Bath fittings can be many things:

  1. Faucets (taps)
  2. Kitchen sinks
  3. Showers
  4. Shower trays
  5. Shower spaces and cabins
  6. Tumbler holders
  7. Soap dish
  8. Soap holder
  9. Robe hook
  10. Towel rings/bars
  11. Glass shelf

Each of these come in a range of grade and quality. Higher the grade, better the functionality, appearance and durability!

High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Jaquar, Hindware, Parryware, Cera, Parryware, Kohler, Grotto, Duravit, Toto, RAK, Tessa, Eros among others

PVC, UPVC and CPVC pipes

These are important elements of plumbing to give inflow of water as well as outflow (exit) of all liquid water from bathroom and kitchen.

PVC

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a very strong and hard polymer material which can be heated and molded to make pipes. Since PVC pipes are strong and very hard, they do not bend easily. Hence, plasticizers are added to PVC to get the rigidity down. PVC is a preferred piping material considering its rust proof texture and immense durability. PVC, however, is not considered suitable for incoming water flow. On the other hand, they deliver excellent performance in toilets and drain pipes.

PVC pipes are maintenance-free, and give a lifetime of service. They do not degrade to damage the environment, plus suffer much fewer breakages or leakages leaks. This is why PVC is widely used in pipeline systems for water, waste and drainage. They can perform for hundreds of years as buried pipes, and do not suffer build-up, pitting, scaling or corrosion. With smooth internal surfaces, the task of pumping is equally easy to accomplish.

UPVC

UPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride) on the other hand is simply the same PVC which is unplasticized i.e. no plasticizer is included. This makes them very hard, tough and rigid…almost as rigid as an iron pipe. UPVC pipes are clearly much less bendable. This makes them difficult to work with although they are extremely durable, fire-resistant, can handle high-temperatures, and are recyclable. This is why UPVC is weather resistant, and are used for window frames, panelling bedsides pipes. UPVC is used extensively and primarily for windows and doors considering their weather resistant properties, durability and immaculate looks.

CPVC

CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) is a thermoplastic polymer which is produced by the chlorination of PVC polymer. This chlorination exercise adds more flexibility and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures to CPVC. Chlorination of PVC is done using ‘free radical chlorination’ reaction using UV energy, which can decompose the chlorine gas into something called ‘radicals’. These radicals, in turn, go on to react with PVC causing the replacement of a portion of ‘hydrogen atoms’ with ‘chlorine atoms’. CPVC can withstand temperatures up to t 90 degree centigrade. Further, CPVC is bendable, can be welded, and is fire retardant in nature (slows and/or stops fire from spreading). It is also resistant to many corrosive chemicals (acids, basesalcohols etc.) But it is not resistant to chlorinated hydrocarbons. CPVC pipes can carry high-temperature liquids.

Drinking water transmission: CPVC is suitable for drinking water transmission whereas UPVC is not preferred as much. Hence, CPVC finds its use in kitchen and UPVC is more suited for bathroom, and for carrying other liquids.

UPVC Pipe are used in the water supply schemes, as ventilation pipes for disposing the corrosive gases, in sewer systems, for electrical conduits, for irrigation sprinkling pipes and carrying crude oil lines.

Being extremely resistant to chemicals, abrasion and corrosion, they can bear extreme pressures, and do NOT break down even in extreme conditions. UPVC pipes can conveniently be buried under concrete slabs since they don’t react with cement. With an internal smooth surface, they are extremely durable since they do not cause friction, in turn prevent internal rusting of pipes. In a nutshell, they are cost-effective, durable and low on maintenance. Owing to their low thermal conductivity, UPVC pipes are energy efficient. Their flame-retarding properties make them fit for cabling, since they simply do not support any form of combustion. Being antimicrobial, they are also considered suitable for carrying drinking water, and can be easily installed outside the building since they can withstand temperatures up to 60 degree centigrade, and are UV- resistant to handle intense sunlight.

HDPE

HDPE pipe (high-density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic pipe used for transfer of liquid/fluid/gas and are often used for replacing older/ageing concrete/steel main pipelines. The thermoplastic HDPE (high-density polyethylene) exhibits a very high level of impermeability and extremely strong molecular bond. This makes the HDPE pipes suitable for high pressure pipelines.

As per Wikipedia, HDPE pipes are used globally for water mains, gas mains, sewer mains, slurry transfer lines, rural irrigation, fire system supply lines, electrical and communications conduit, and storm water and drainage pipes.

HDPE pipes are tough, resistant to chemicals of polyethylene, corrosion resistant, light-weighted, Resistant to bacterial & chemical build-up, cost-effective and durable for fluid and gas piping systems. HDPE pipes are known to have higher life expectancy compared to other piping be it steel, iron or copper. Its durability, leak free joints, resistance to corrosion, and cost-effectiveness have stood the test of time decades all over the world.

To summarize-

  • HDPE can handle extreme weather conditions and seasonal stresses like heat and cold resulting in a Low temperature impact
  • HDPE can withstand extreme heat sunlight (UV) for over 20 years, which is far more compared to PVC, which may last for less than 5 years
  • HDPE is far more resilient to salts, sand/dust, and corrosion causing agents/materials

The pipes must conform to the standards prescribed by the Bureau of India Standards.

High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Astral, Finolex, Jain Irrigation, Responsive, Ajay pipes, Shenco Valves, Captain pipes, Kankai pipes, Sudhakar, Dutron, Supreme, Prince pipes, Miraj pipes, Poly Technik among others

Conclusion

The range in sanitary fittings is diverse, and the home buyer needs to get an understanding of what kind of grade and quality is being offered by the builder. A reputed brand alone is not enough, since all the reputed brands cater to a diverse range of market (customer) segments, be it ‘low income group’ seeking base version of fittings and fixtures, as well as the ‘ultra-luxury high income segment’, which seeks the very best the world can offer in terms of aesthetics, functionality and durability.

On the other hand, we have pipes and piping systems, be it drinking water, general household washing & use related, or sewage related that needs to be exited out of the house. These plumbing and piping systems simply need to offer long lasting durability decades after decades. No one can afford to have a compromise in this area since once the pipes are covered-up with concrete, or deeply embedded inside the building, it is a very expensive affair to get replace or repair them.

The key message is that decent quality and grade on sanitary and plumbing fittings and fixtures need to be carefully chosen by the builder.

As a home buyer, we must be able to choose decent quality and grade on sanitary/plumbing specifications in order to succeed in buying the right home with the desirable specifications!

Awareness and knowledge about them alone can lead us to seeking what’s desirable, and in making the right choices!

To quote Michael Kitson: Awareness is a key ingredient in success. If you have it, teach it, if you lack it, seek it.     

 

 

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