Five Common Problems with Conventional Urinals and How to Fix Them

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The actual urinal fixture is designed to last for decades.  However, it is the mechanicals of a water-using urinal that tend to need attention.  The amount of attention they require can vary depending on such issues as use, model, manufacturer, location, or age of the fixture.

Some of these problems can be addressed in-house by building engineers.  In other situations, a plumber may need to be called in.  With that said, here are five common problems with conventional – water using - urinals:

Backed-up drain. When the water does not drain in a urinal, the problem can be simple or complicated.  Simple meaning maybe something is clogging the urinal internal drain; complicated meaning the plumbing drain line may need to be "snaked."  In some instances, the vent stack may also need to be cleaned.

covering the drain holes, and complicated meaning the plumbing may need to be "snaked" as well as the vent stack cleaned.  Vent stacks are designed to release sewer gasses.

If debris is noted over the drain, remove it.  Additionally, use a plunger to knock free any debris that may be lodged in the drain hole.

As to the pipes and vent stack, it is required to call a plumber.  Here's where things can get complicated, and many times we can make the situation worse if we are unsure exactly what we are doing.

Vent stacks are designed to release sewer gases, usually through the roof of a facility, and provide air supply, so the fixture operates correctly.

Low Flush Pressure. This typically is an easy repair that can be performed by building engineers.  Because these urinals use water, a flush valve is installed at the top of the urinal.  It may be manually or sensor controlled.  However, there should be a regulator that can be adjusted to release more water.

Too much flush pressure. Follow the same steps mentioned earlier but this time turn the regulator so that less water is released.  In both cases, over time and with use, the regulators may need to be adjusted. In some cases, the entire flush device may need to be replaced.

Urinal does not flush. This is a pervasive problem, but as common as it is, there can be a host of reasons for it.  Among the worse causes is an actual break in the piping leading to the urinal.  However, typically it is caused by a malfunction of some sort in the flushing mechanism, whether manual or automatic.

As you can see, most of these issues are related in one way or another to water, either water being directed into the urinal or drained from it.  It is because of this that many building owners and managers are switching to no-water urinals.  While conventional urinals have certainly served us well for more than a century, the ongoing maintenance and the related costs, especially in a large facility with scores of urinals, along with the millions of gallons they require for use, are all beginning to take their toll.