Deciding between Prefab Restrooms and Site-Built Restrooms
How do you know when it’s right to buy a prefab restroom?
Prefabricated restrooms will almost always be easier and more consistent to estimate with fewer costs, less waste, less site, and community disturbance, and lower energy costs.
Perhaps the most fundamental question in planning for a restroom building is choosing whether to go with prefabricated restrooms or site-built. Making the right choice could save you time, money and result in a better solution for your needs. Today we’re going to explain the differences between these two options so that you can better use them to your advantage.
What are prefabricated restrooms and how are they different from site-built?
Site-built is what you typically think of when you envision construction- a private contractor will hire local labor and construct the building themselves on location. A prefabricated restroom is built in a factory by specialists who are very experienced in building specific kinds of buildings.
When is a site-built restroom likely to cost less than a prefab restroom?
Contractors tend to feel the effects of the free market more than anyone. If in a given area at a given time, there is a low demand for construction work, the contractors are more likely to agree to work at lower prices, and vice versa. For example, the housing crisis of 2008 caused the home construction market to flatline. This made contractors hungry for work and construction became famously cheap for several years.
But it doesn’t just take a rare national catastrophe for this kind of effect to occur. Even in good times, there might be pockets in the country where demand for construction is low relative to the supply. Some areas also have the benefit of low labor costs allowing contractors to do the work at lower costs even if demand is relatively high. If you are in one of those areas, the odds of you getting a better deal for site-built is considerable.
Site-built restrooms may also have a cost advantage if they are too large to send on one truck. There is the cost of the extra shipments and also the cost of the on-site labor needed for stitching the sections of the restroom together.
When is a prefabricated restroom likely to cost less than a site-built restroom?
As mentioned above, the status of the construction market in your area can have a major impact on on-site building costs. If you are in an area with very high consumer demand for new construction, contractors will often take advantage of this by steeply raising their prices to take advantage of the demand. If construction costs in your area are high, there is a good chance that factory-built will save you money, even when factoring shipping and site prep.
But let’s say that market forces aren’t factors in your case. Might prefab still be the lower cost? Quite possibly. Here are some reasons why:
- Prefabricated restrooms have less material waste as the process in a factory is more polished and exacting. Factories can also easily store extra material for use in future jobs.
- Is your desired building in a remote location? Remote areas may not have a construction crew close by and this can mean travel time will lead to bloated on-site construction costs. Prefabricated restrooms avoid this disadvantage since they are made off-site.
- Modular manufacturers have stock plans ready to go. And in the event of a custom job, they have restroom design specialists on staff that can more quickly develop your restroom floorplan. Both of these scenarios are likely to save money over a contractor who has to hire for or sub-contract this work.
Regardless of cost, factory built will almost always be easier and more consistent to estimate. Factories use a steady workforce, a steady supply chain, and a relatively steady demand that isn’t overly impacted by local market forces.
Which option takes less time and effort?
Prefabricated restrooms made from stock plans tend to have a shorter lead time. In cases where an architect is involved, a prefabricated restroom manufacturer can advise the architect resulting in a quicker turnaround.
Certain times of the year may not be ideal for site-built construction. The realities of blizzards, harsh cold, and stifling heat can slow down or seriously delay a restroom built on-site. Prefabricated restrooms are built indoors and can be constructed during any season without delays or slowdown.
Are time and money always the primary considerations?
Not for everyone. Some restrooms are built with lofty goals in mind. Sometimes, the restroom itself is a work of art that enhances the appeal of the area. These kinds of restrooms might even win a Best Restroom Award.
Cases like these play by different rules. Budgeting isn’t as tight and deadlines are tentative. These exceptional restrooms tend to be site-built, although some designs are compatible with prefabricated construction for the structure. In this scenario, the artistic finishes might be added on-site.
Is it possible for a restroom to be BOTH prefab and site-built?
In some cases it makes sense to have the majority of the restroom prefabricated, then have the rest finished on-site. This can be a good option for a custom roof, using locally sourced siding material (i.e. salvaged cedar siding from an old building), adding a porch or pavilion to the front of the building, or constructing a hallway that connects a prefab building to an existing building.
Besides time, money, and quality, are there other considerations?
Site disturbance. Construction work can be noisy, oftentimes messy, and generally interfere with the function of the area. If you need a flush restroom in a delicate environment where the ground cannot be disturbed (i.e. a park that was once a landfill), then there are prefab options (that Green Flush specializes in) which can provide a flush restroom experience with zero ground disturbance.
Environment. An article called The Potential of Prefab looked at this issue and found that prefab buildings were better for the environment than on-site construction. Among the reasons: less waste, less site, and community disturbance, and lower energy costs among others.
Track Record. In the same way that you might have a good or bad experience with a given business, you will experience a wide variety of outcomes with different contractors and prefabricators. Some will give better quality than others. Some will be less of a hassle than others. While the industry itself is varied, builders themselves tend to be consistent (either consistently good or consistently bad).
If you have a good experience with a builder it is worth remembering it. Given the unpredictable nature of the construction business, we recommend that you factor a company’s track record when weighing offers. In our experience, it is better to take the sure bet, even if it isn’t the cheapest option.
Neither modular or on-site construction is inherently superior to the other. The goal is to figure out which option offers more advantages for the location and project objectives. Talking to contractors and prefabricators is free of charge and can quickly provide insights into which is option is better. Hopefully, this article has not only been informative but also shown Green Flush’s willingness to help people plan for their restrooms – without obligation. You can phone us at (360) 718-7595.
You can also inquire through our contact page about Green Flush Prefabricated Restrooms.