Party Potties

Ensure your portable toilet provision is spot on with Jon Stebbings’ advice on specifying party loos.

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An absolute essential in any outdoor event’s infrastructure is the provision of toilets. There are two main types of portable toilets for events: Tardis-style units, known as such in the industry for their resemblance to Doctor Who’s time-machine, and trailer-mounted units. Tardis units are the most basic portable toilet featuring a single re-circulating chemical action. They are a ‘budget box,’ ideal for smaller functions. However, your guests may hold ill-conceived ideas about them as they are likely to have found one in a less than ideal condition somewhere.

The other, far more glamorous option is the trailer-mounted system that can either be plugged into a water supply, use a vacuum flush (which can also refresh the air in the trailer), or be a recirculating chemical system like the Tardis unit. This type of portable toilet is much larger and contains a combination of cubicles, handbasins and urinals. Trailers range between 10 and 25 feet in length, with units being supplied in many configurations of cubicles, cubicles with handbasins and urinals. They will need power, although if mains supply is not available a generator can usually be hired as part of the package.

'Tardis' style units
‘Tardis’ style units

Generally speaking, trailer-mounted toilets start with 1+1 units – one cubicle with a handbasin for women and one for men. Larger trailer-mounted units can accommodate three ladies’ cubicles and 10 urinals, or three cubicles for ladies with three cubicles and two urinals for gentlemen. It is also possible to incorporate baby change and disabled facilities. The configurations really are endless as is the scope for decoration and optional extras such as internal and external finishes, attendants, toiletries, music and even DVD players.

There is, as one might expect, a wide difference in the quality of trailer-mounted units. The most basic units are to be found at festivals and less grand events, while the more top-end units are supplied to weddings and other up-market gatherings such as corporate events and as VIP facilities at festivals.

Calculating Toilets

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Site Event

Public events, such as music festivals and county shows, have guidelines for calculating the number of toilets required published in the Purple Guide (a set of instructions for health, safety and welfare at public events written by the Events Industry Forum). For a private, more intimate affair, however, you may want to be a little more generous. For example, where the Purple Guide recommends one toilet per 100 people, wedding guests will probably be happier with one cubicle per 10-25 people to avoid queueing. So, if you have a mixed group of wedding guests numbering 100, you might want to go for a trailer offering two female cubicles, one male cubicle and two urinals.

Trailer-mounted units supplied with hot handwash basins can be non-mains connected as they come with fresh water supplied, which is heated either from the on-site power supply or by a generator. Portable toilet units should always be delivered to an event in a scrupulously clean condition, with the supplier operating to stringent Health and Safety and British Standard regulations.

Portable toilet hire should cost around £200 for the supply of both a ladies’ and a gentlemen’s Tardis portable toilet, with prices for the hire of a trailer-mounted unit ranging from £500 to £1,000+ depending on the specification and whether it has been provided by a local hire company or a larger regional/national supplier, in which case transportation charges will need to be taken into account.

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Top 10 Tips

  1. Decide how many guests will be attending the event to determine the number of units required. If in doubt, ask your supplier; most have ‘toilet calculators’.
  1. Remember that the caterers and ancillary event staff will need to use the loos too so add these to your calculations. For larger parties where staff numbers are greater it is important to supply them with their own facilities.
  1. Ensure a level site. This is an essential requirement for obvious reasons that would be both indelicate and unnecessary to mention!
  1. Check if the location of the venue has a power supply. If not, use a system that can be run from a generator and add this to the hire package. It is worth noting that Tardis-style units do not need power although you will need to light them somehow if they are to be used at night.
  1. Check if the venue’s location has a fresh water supply as this will inform your decision on which type of system you can use.
  1. Decide if disabled and/or baby changing units are necessary.
  1. Decide if an attendant is required to clean and maintain the loos. Attendants can often be supplied by the hire company for an extra charge.
  1. Determine whether an interim service will be required. For more than one event at the same venue, such as when a wedding is taking place on the Saturday with a further reception on the Sunday, it may well be necessary to empty and replenish the units for the next day.
  1. Decide which type of loos are required. As explained above, different portable toilets are more appropriate for different events and demographics.
  1. Think inventively. Many suppliers now offer ‘themed’ units which add a talking point and some fun, or you can get creative yourself with accessories and luxury toiletries. Alternatively, go uber-luxury and really make a feature of party toilets by positioning them inside a dedicated marquee to which you can add pendant lights, carpet, a dressing table area and full length mirrors!

About the Author

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John Stebbings is passionate about helping people to find the very best private dining experiences at venues throughout the UK. When he isn’t assisting PAs in locating the perfect venues for their events his interests include keeping his Parson Jack Russell terrier out of mischief whilst on walks, eating with friends and family, feigning knowledge of wine, listening to music and discouraging slugs from his vegetable garden in the summer months.

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