Monday, October 08, 2001

Ask A Stupid Question

Stall doors swing in to take up less space

By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Question: Why do toilet-stall doors open inward rather than outward? The stalls are small enough without having to struggle with a door before exiting.

        Answer: Seems to the Stupid desk that the greater immediacy would be upon arrival, but that's neither here nor there.

        Roger Bell, urban housing specialist for the City of Covington, abandoned his early theory about a monopolistic and dictatorial one-way-fits-all hinge manufacturer in favor of this:

        “For builders, bathrooms are not considered productive use of space,” he said. “They try to keep bathroom sizes to a minimum.”

        “It's all about saving space,” agrees William Langevin, director of Cincinnati's buildings and inspections department, “with a little safety issue in there, too.

        “It has been traditional as long as there have been rest-room stalls.”

        When stall doors swing inward, that leaves more clearance outside the stalls, around the sinks and baby-changing tables.

        On the safety front, inward-swinging doors make it less likely that passersby will “get bashed in the head by somebody blasting out of the stall,” Mr. Bell said.

        Doors to stalls accessible to the disabled open outward because the Americans with Disabilities Act requires “clear, unobstructed turn-around space” inside for a wheelchair.

        But the only other requirement is for privacy, Mr. Bell said. Doors for standard stalls can swing any way a builder wants them to. In fact, they don't have to be there.

        “They could be curtains.”

        If you have a question, send it to Ask a Stupid Question, Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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