Cottage Q&A: Is there a max number of toilets allowed in a cottage?

A ceramic toilet against a grey-green wall By New Africa/Shutterstock

Is there a maximum number of toilets that you can put in a cottage?—Flush With Excitement

No. In theory, you could fill your cottage with as many working toilets as you like. A toilet for every room! But that would be weird. And it would require a fairly extensive plumbing system. Along with building-permit requirements and the size of your current septic system, “what restricts you is the Plumbing Code,” says Paul Preston, the chief building inspector for the Sunshine Coast Regional District Building Department in Sechelt, B.C.

Getting a cottage inspection

We assume that you’re asking not because you collect toilets the way some people collect mugs with sayings on them, but because your place needs another bathroom. This is usually doable, says Sandy Bos, the septic inspector for the Township of Muskoka Lakes and an Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association board member. (He, by the way, has seen a cottage with 11 toilets.) One new throne is not likely to affect the burden on your septic system or the load velocity on your pipes. But adding another bathroom and expanding the cabin, that could be a different story—at least in the eyes of the building department.

“We look at whether you’re increasing the square footage or adding bedrooms,” says Preston. A bigger cottage usually means more people; more people means more demands on the septic system. Compare a two-bedroom cottage with five bathrooms to a 10-bedroom place with one bathroom. “You can see how the load changes,” says Preston.

Nevertheless, adding any fixtures to the cottage—not just toilets—impacts your water system, and no building department or local health office will let you rejig your plumbing without the proper permits and inspections. “All you have to do is add a sink, and we’ll be asking to see your system,” says Bos. Installing an alternative toilet is another option—but you’ll still need to look into permit requirements and bylaws. Call your building department before you do anything else.

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This article was originally published in our Winter 2014 issue.

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