Comfort height – a big deal

Lecico’s Adam Lay discusses what comfort height means and why it’s something to consider when planning a bathroom refurbishment

Comfort height is a buzzword that anyone shopping for a new toilet will probably hear, be it in a showroom or in a traditional plumbers’ merchants. But what does comfort height mean, and what is the fuss all about?

In short, comfort height is a taller seating position, designed to be a more comfortable seating position for the user. The concept was born from commercial and speciality sanitaryware products, but now comes with a modern domestic twist. Comfort height toilets are not bound by any legal restrictions and can be designed with a wider audience in mind than the original raised height DocM (Document M of the Building Regulations) products designed for wheelchair users. When the modern toilet was designed in 1778 (by Joseph Bramah – not Thomas Crapper) the average height of a man was 5’6”. Today’s modern man stands at around 5’10”, yet this increase in height has not been matched by changes to toilets, which have remained around the same height for the last 250 years. Due mainly to legislation surrounding accessible WCs and in particular DocM, the manufacturing of toilets with an increased height has grown significantly. These products have now started to make their way into domestic life and are far more comfortable to use. They also provide benefits for an aging and taller population, providing relief on the user’s knees and back. Looking after your knees is increasingly important within the plumbing trade, where there is a real focus on knee health – the use of knee pads being heavily advised and promoted. What was once an afterthought is now being viewed as a preventable issue, so simple things like using comfort height toilets can only be a good thing.

This new generation of raised height WCs have taken the traditionally commercial designs and modernised them, making comfort height a viable option for a modern family bathroom or washroom. As demand for comfort height grows, manufactures are responding and adding products to their collections. Looking around bathroom showrooms today you’ll see this increased presence of comfort height products which, when paired with stylish basins or furniture, are at first glance indistinguishable. An average toilet pan is 400 mm high, a dimension that hasn’t changed in over 250 years. Comfort height toilets add an additional height of around 40 to 50 mm, which makes a far more comfortable seating position of around 475 mm to 500 mm (including the toilet seat). Such a small increase may seem like it would not make much difference – it’s only when you try one of the new comfort height toilets that you appreciate what a difference that 4 cm can make for users of all ages. The increase in height is also subtle enough to not draw attention, and only when you actually experience the difference will it become obvious, and hopefully more comfortable to use. As our population ages, there is an increased need for homes and commercial premises to ensure their facilities can safely accommodate the needs of all of the occupants or users. DocM has increased the awareness of raised height products, but the more rigid layout this calls for is often more than is required in a domestic setting and for users who have only a slight reduction in mobility. In an era of multi-generational living, choosing a comfort height product makes more and more sense. They enable a bathroom layout to be future-proof, and as the additional height is not a real problem for young and agile users, the drawbacks are minimal.

In addition to comfort height toilets, new products are being invented and introduced into the market that also help mobility and ensure the lifespan of a new bathroom. Support rails are one such example, now finished in modern and attractive designs so this practical support can be an attractive addition. These newer design-led rails are following comfort height in a move away from the clinical look and feel of DocM and reflecting current design trends. Similarly, the growth in popularity of shower seats represents a move towards forward planning within bathrooms, with people designing homes to last as they require increasing levels of support to retain independence.

Adam Lay is marketing manager at Lecico