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Is a home urinal in your future?

Urnial_2We're pretty stuck in our ways in this country when it comes to bathroom fixtures. Despite decades of marketing efforts by fixture manufactures, it still comes down to: Toilet? Yes. Bidet? No. Urinal? No.

Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part we accept the standard toilet and reject the rest. As an unenlightened female, I don't appreciate the allure of a home urinal. Apparently, though, such a fixture is a common male fantasy. So why should it not become reality?

L.A. Times columnist Joel Stein weighs the pros and cons of a home urinal in his essay titled: The impossible dream: Every home needs a urinal — doesn't it?

When he decided to put a urinal in his new bathroom, Stein writes, "My contractor, obviously, thought this was the best idea anyone had ever come up with, and immediately went shopping with me for a classy, retro porcelain model, the kind you can saunter up to in a tux and slap a highball on. But then my neighbor, Holly Purcell, a very successful real estate broker, informed me that I absolutely could not install a urinal of any kind if I ever hoped to resell my house. Noting my confusion, she slowly explained that urinals, to my shock, gross women out."

Agreeing with Stein, however, is Uncrate, which bills itself as a Web magazine for guys who love stuff. "We're men," Uncrate declares, "we're made to pee standing up. Install a home urinal and never again lift a toilet seat (or remember to put it back down, if you have a woman)."

Among Uncrate's favorite urinals is Kohler's Bardon Touchless with motion sensor, which lists for more than $1,000. Other home urinals are less than half or a quarter of that. You can find 29 urinals at Every Faucet, including a kid's model for stand-up potty training.

What do you think?

The impossible dream

Every home needs a urinal — doesn’t it?

By Joel Stein, Los Angeles Times

The vast majority of my dreams are completely impossible: owning Mars, traveling to the future, writing a book. So when — thanks to the magical economics of failed television pilot writing — I got to buy a house, and that house needed a new bathroom, I was about to realize one of my lifelong dreams: owning a home urinal.

My contractor, obviously, thought this was the best idea anyone had ever come up with, and immediately went shopping with me for a classy, retro porcelain model, the kind you can saunter up to in a tux and slap a highball on. But then my neighbor, Holly Purcell, a very successful real estate broker, informed me that I absolutely could not install a urinal of any kind if I ever hoped to resell my house. Noting my confusion, she slowly explained that urinals, to my shock, gross women out.

I spent the next few weeks asking women, many of whom I barely knew, what they thought about urinals. The results were not good. First of all, it’s got an unfortunate name. Toilets would still be kept outside if they were called crapinals. Also, my female friends said urinals conjured images of large, impersonal institutions such as prisons. They felt like the lidlessness was unsanitary. Basically, what I learned is that women have vastly overestimated the precision of peeing into a toilet bowl while standing up.

When I countered with the clear advantages of the urinal — toilet seat always down, decreased water use, saved time, ease of cleaning, the option to pour in ice and play the most fun game in the entire world — the truth came out. Urinals, these women eventually conceded, are simply too aggressively male. It is, they explained, like hanging a codpiece over the mantle. Which, of course, is now my new lifetime dream.

This seemed grossly unfair because there is so much woman stuff in a house. Such as, for instance, the house.

Looking for some sane, fair advice, I called Jeff Lewis, the OCD-wracked L.A. real estate speculator on Bravo’s reality show "Flipping Out." He too advised against my plan. "You don’t want to get too specific with your improvement. You narrow your market," he said. "A lot of women would have a problem with it. They’d rather have room for something else. Women love soaking tubs." I told him that there was room in my bathroom for both. He countered that women don’t love soaking in a tub near a vat of urine. It was becoming clear that I should never open a day spa.

Seeing my dream fade away, I did what any mature person does when faced with an uncomfortable reality: Search out someone who will tell you what you want to hear. But even Michael Carney, the director of Cal Poly Pomona’s Real Estate Research Council,said that the home urinal was on the same level of bad idea as a bathtub in the middle of the master bedroom or an above-ground hot tub. People who buy houses, it seems, hate urine and sex.

Finally, Gopal Ahluwalia of the National Assn. of Home Builders, who knows nothing about home urinals, told me to go ahead and do it. "Somebody might say they like it. People like variety. I don’t see anything wrong," he said.

Which was all I needed. Plus the Bravo real estate guy said that if I was going to stay in my house for 10 years, I should get a urinal and, when I sell the house, immediately rip it out, cap the pipe and plaster over it. Better yet, I found out that the 2006 New American Home — the model house shown at the International Builders Show — featured a bathroom with a urinal. Sure, the house was 10,023 square feet and the urinal was above the garage, but still, it was there.

So I was all set to go ahead and get my urinal, but then I developed this weird, postlapsarian shame about it all. And I’m more than a little grossed out by my wife, Cassandra, for not being grossed out by the home urinal in the first place. Still, if that’s the kind of woman she is, I’m thinking she’ll definitely go for the above-ground hot tub.

jstein@latimescolumnists.com


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