The city of Elkhart is an oasis of people amidst the sparsely populated countryside of north-central Indiana. Known for its railroad museum and nicknamed the “RV Capital of the World,” Elkhart embodies the rustic charm of the American Midwest.
An Elkhart mainstay since 1947 has been Mid-City Supply Co., a family-owned distributor that deals primarily in plumbing, HVAC and refrigeration supplies. Besides Elkhart, the company has seven other locations scattered throughout Indiana and Michigan.
Growth has been a constant for Mid-City Supply throughout its history. The company currently boasts around 100 employees. When the main branch in Elkhart outgrew office space, something had to be done.
“We looked at various places to put new office space, including the front of the building and the warehouse. We finally settled on putting it upstairs near some existing training classrooms,” recalls Dan New, vice president of operations and the third generation of family management at Mid-City. Naturally, the new office space needed new restrooms to save employees the hassle of running up and down stairs. The decision of which plumbing system to install was rendered relatively quickly, New notes. “We did not want to drill through the concrete floor to install the plumbing,” he says. “As a result we turned to a solution that we have been stocking at our supply house for the better part of 10 years.”
That solution is an above-floor plumbing option from Saniflo. Above-floor plumbing systems eliminate the need to break through a concrete floor to install drainage below. A macerator or a grinder located behind the toilet reduces the waste into a slurry and pumps it through small-diameter tubing straight to the drain line. Above-floor plumbing systems, which can also handle drainage from sinks, tubs and showers, can be used to create restroom and bath facilities in garages, basements, attics, warehouses — anywhere conventional plumbing might prove difficult and therefore costly to install.
Ryan Hendershott, a licensed plumber with Schreiner & Sons and the installing contractor on the Mid-City job, says the restroom application was well-suited to an above-floor installation. “In this case, short of choosing a different location for the restrooms altogether, above-floor plumbing was the least-complicated solution due to the concrete being there.”
New chose the Sanibest Pro heavy-duty grinding system for both the men’s and women’s restrooms. The system’s 1-hp grinder can pump up to 25 ft. vertically when installed below the sewer line; or nearly 150 ft. horizontally to the sewer stack. It is specifically engineered to handle the accidental flushing of larger sanitary articles and other items a conventional plumbing system might struggle to handle.
“Working in a commercial setting, we wanted to ensure anything we flushed, intentionally or unintentionally, got taken care of,” New says.
Beginning in August 2015, the Elkhart installation came on the heels of another above-floor plumbing project in Mid-City’s new Kalamazoo branch last spring. “We were confident in our decision to choose this plumbing solution after our experience in Kalamazoo,” New notes.
To minimize the level of flushing noise in Elkhart, Hendershott installed the grinder unit behind the wall. He also installed the elbows for the pump’s ejection line at a 45-degree angle and used 3/4-in. pipe. “The smaller the pipe’s diameter the less noise it will tend to make,” Hendershott explains.
Located on the building’s second floor, the unit pumps the waste slightly upward before gravity takes over and moves it to the drain line. A below-floor installation would have been significantly more labor-intensive and expensive, not to mention messy. According to New, by choosing the above-floor option, Mid-City Supply cut installation time by 12 hours.
Overall, the Elkhart installations went smoothly and without any major complications. It took roughly five hours per restroom to complete the job “There were no hiccups, especially with the Kalamazoo installation under our belts,” New says. “A successful installation really comes down to two things: the type of application and the plumber’s experience. We had a fairly straightforward application and an experienced plumber so there were no issues.”
The bathrooms were finished in October 2015.
“Above-floor plumbing certainly is a niche category,” New says. “Some plumbers still are hesitant to switch to this style of plumbing, preferring conventional methods they are more comfortable with. Nevertheless, above-floor plumbing certainly has proven itself to be simple, reliable and cost-effective many times over.”
This article was originally titled “Taking care of business” in the March 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.