Mention the word bidet, and you’re likely to get a giggle or two. Widely accepted and used in Europe as a regular and integral part of everyday hygiene, the bidet is still something of a stranger in American homes. In fact, after that initial giggle you’ll often find that many people are not at all familiar with what they do, how they work, or why anyone would want one. It’s a strange thing indeed, given the high level of personal hygiene in this country.
So, giggle away here. Bidets are basically like big sit-down sinks with a little fountain in the middle. They are used for washing after a person is done using the toilet. Bidets are used by both men and women, as well as children. In addition to their cleansing benefits, bidets are very useful in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions, such as hemorrhoids.
A bidet consists of a bowl, hot and cold water controls, a stopper that allows water to be held in the bowl if desired, a vertical sprayer and sometimes a horizontal sprayer as well. You sit on a bidet facing “backward” – that is, in the opposite direction from how you would sit on a toilet. The seating gives you convenient access to the rear-mounted hot and cold-water valves and the drain stopper mechanism. The faucets control the temperature and volume of the water coming out of the spray head. In units with an additional horizontal sprayer, the controls for switching between the spray heads are typically located alongside the faucets.
For convenience in both plumbing installation and actual usage, bidets are most commonly installed directly adjacent to the toilet. They are roughly the same size as the lower (bowl) portion of a toilet, and require as little as nine square feet of floor space.
When selecting a bidet, you’ll find a wide range of colors and styles. Virtually every manufacturer designs and markets their bidets to match their line of toilets, allowing for a coordinated look in the bathroom.
Besides choosing the general style of the unit itself, there are typically a couple of different options for the type of sprayers. All bidets are equipped with a vertical sprayer located in the bottom of the bowl and designed to spray directly upward. Horizontal sprayers – either fixed or movable – are available in different configurations, and are typically located at the rear of the bowl. As with sink faucets, you will also find a wide array of handle styles, materials and finishes to suit any taste and compliment any style of bathroom décor.
Bidets are roughed-in in much the same way as a pedestal sink, utilizing a drainpipe, a trap and hot and cold water supplies. The drain line can come out horizontally through the wall, which simplifies installation but leaves the line and the attached trap exposed, or both the drain and the trap can be installed below the floor. With either installation, the vertical portion of the drain, which extends up from the trap is concealed by the bidet itself. Complete rough-in instructions are provided with the unit, and since rough-in dimensions can vary between manufacturers, it’s important to get this information prior to beginning any rough plumbing.
After completion of the finished wall and flooring surfaces, the bidet itself is installed by attaching the faucet to the bowl, connecting the drain line and water lines, and then bolting the unit to the floor.
Bidets are available through plumbing supply retailers and larger home centers, either in stock or by special order.
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