Preventing Vandalism

Preventing Vandalism

Combine tough products and smart design to get the best of restroom vandals.

Vandalism in public restrooms is no joke. Perpetrators might find it funny to deface walls, empty paper dispensers, or leave a sink clogged with the faucet running. But as any building owner or maintenance supervisor will attest, the clean-up, repair, safety and nuisance ramifications are anything but a laughing matter.

A recent article published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals estimated that the average cost for a vandalism incident — including staff time, materials, and equipment replacement or repair — is $400. That same article noted that it would not be unexpected for a typical high school to incur more than $15,000 in vandalism costs per year.

Those numbers are probably conservative. In British Columbia, the Vandalism Prevention Network tracks the cost of vandalism to public property and facilities within the province. Network researchers have identified school and parks districts where vandalism-related costs run into the hundreds of thousands each year, including one district that experienced $450,000 in annual vandalism costs.

Schools, office buildings, highway rest areas, public parks and recreation facilities are all potential targets for restroom vandalism. The ongoing challenge — and opportunity — for architects, contractors, building owners and facilities managers is to incorporate design features and products that help prevent or discourage vandalism before it happens. Here are some ideas for making restrooms more vandal-resistant — if not entirely vandal-proof.

Protecting against and preventing vandalism

Design Elements

  • Where feasible, locate sinks and faucets, as well as soap and paper towel dispensers, on the exterior wall, where public visibility has a way of discouraging troublemaking.
  • Consider whether single-stall instead of communal restrooms are a good option in the building's design or remodeling. Individual bathrooms that open directly onto public spaces tend not to be targeted for vandalism as much as larger communal restrooms.
  • Eliminate doors in favor of door-less (but still privacy-respecting) entrance and egress openings. Note, however, that in some schools officials are moving aggressively in the other direction to lock bathroom doors during class. If vandalism occurs, it's more traceable to students who asked for and received passes to visit the restroom.
  • Install a drain in the bathroom floor to help mitigate flooding and water damage in the event of a faucet left running or a toilet overflowing.
  • Place as much of the plumbing piping as possible behind the walls.
Design Elements

Product considerations

  • Use automatic soap dispensers that control timing and volume of soap dispensed. Or, consider foam dispensers, which tend to minimize the volume of slippery substance a troublemaker can literally get his or her hands on.
  • If opting for paper towel dispensers, look for systems in which the mounting piece is enclosed in an outer housing. Better yet, look for dispensers in which the mounting piece is separate from the casing, so walls are less likely to be damaged severely in a vandalism incident.
  • Choose faucets expressly designed and manufactured to resist vandalism. For example, Moen's Commercial Division makes a complete line of extra sturdy, Heavy-Duty faucets. Features include solid-cast brass bodies, a resilient Chrome finish, Torx® head screws that require a special tool for servicing, plus a recessed, shielded aerator that can only be serviced by authorized repair personnel.
  • Metering and hands-free faucets, other options provided by Moen, prevent continuous water flow when faucets are unattended. Metering faucets run only for a limited time after the handles are depressed. Hands-free faucets, such as Moen's Commercial M•Power™ faucets, operate only when motion sensors are activated. The same hands-free sensor operation is available in M•Power toilet flush valves.
Product considerations