Exposed plumbing in 1st class bathrooms

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robert s hauser

Former Member
All the pictures of the bathroom facilities I've seen on Titanic all show exposed rivets and pipes everywhere. Was that the case in all the first class areas, even the promenade suites? It just seems rather incongruous with all that luxury everywhere else. Why wouldn't they cover that up? It wouldn't have been that expensive. Rob H
Regarding the plumbing, in a lot of places it was exposed including First Class. It helps to know that back towards the turn of the century, in-house plumbing with running water wasn't all that common so a lot of period homes and public places which had it tended to show it off. A sort of "See how modern and up to date we are" kind of thing. If you ever go to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, you'll see a lot of exposed plumbing in the mansion itself.
Also, I don't think at that time they would think of placing the pipes behind the walls leading out, those systems were still new then.
I think it's just an example of how things start out as rather crude systems and later get more elegant. Elevators are an example. In the beginning, they were exposed metal cages, with noisy folding doors and visible cables and cages. Today they are built into the building and are unobtrusive.

In my opinion, it's also an example of White Star's cheapskate ways. The wonders of Titanic have been much exaggerated.
>>In my opinion, it's also an example of White Star's cheapskate ways. The wonders of Titanic have been much exaggerated.<<


And if you were to ask many business people (even Fortune 500) today, they'd say something on the order of, "Hey, listen, we have to cut corners any way we can. Overhead has to be maintained, and at all costs. It's all about money, money, money!..." It's funny, but I thought business was all about the customers. ;)

For me, I don't rely on the word of the business because they're looking out for themselves; I do my own checking and assessment to make sure things are up to par...

I digress. My apologies.
Well, if having exposed plumbing is cheapskate, I can tell you that it's becoming a lot more expensive. I have as a stock item a nice bathrooom sink arrangement made by Jaccuzzi that has a metal stand and the plumbing is exposed. There are also some things on offer by Kohler, American Standard and the like which I can obtain by special order, also features exposed plumbing, and it ain't cheap. (None is less then $150.00)

Seems that retro styles are rather pricey!
There are people today moving into office spaces in lofts converted from warehouses because they like to look of all those exposed pipes and heating/air conditioning ducts. It is considered an architectural art form. Even those old style bathtubs, the ones on raised legs with old style plumbing, are being sort after these days.
>>Seems that retro styles are rather pricey!<<

Special order! The reason is because it is not so popular and they have to do it specially! Most people still want practicality and convenience!

David Haisman

Former Member
Dave Gittens,

One may well refer to ship building construction as being ''cheapskate'' if they came from a ship building nation who's life blood depended on it.
Perhaps ''cheapskate'' can also be applied to many of todays buisnesses which may well be described as ''good money saving practices''
I was in Australia when Diana died and the coverage from their Channel 7 was probably the shabbiest you would have found anywhere in the world.
The 200 year old ''incredible sulk'' is still in full swing with that channel.

David H
>>Special order! The reason is because it is not so popular and they have to do it specially!<<

That's something of a half truth there, Jeremy. I have stock at my store where the plumbing is partly or entirely exposed and pricewise, it isn't all that bad. The higher prices as with most expensive things are tied to quality (You tend to have to pay more for better.) economy of scale in production (The *more* produced, the *lower* the unit price as production costs are spread out over a larger production run) and availabilty. Kohler and Jaccuzzi tend to be more on the high end whereas American Standard and Crane tend towards the midrange or lower end and as such tends to be cheaper.
Yeah, but the truth is nothing beats the authentic pieces! I remember seeing real century old bathroom fittings in Australia, still in operation! Art Nouveau and arts and crafts pieces are in a class of their own, but I must say certain Art Deco (at least there are some of these here) fittings are nice too!
I don't know if shipping lines were really trying to show off their plumbing, but it would certainly explain a lot. I don't know much about other ships, but as far Titanic and Olympic go, the only places where these pipes were concealed or minimised, were in the period suites, the public 'rooms', and the B amd C deck fancy corridors. All other 1st class (and other classes) simple cabins and all the bathrooms had the plumbing exposed, including even 1st class corridors.

Later on in Olympic's life this was changed (I think as late as 1928), when they finally installed ceiling panels in most of the cabins and corridors which hid those ugly overhead pipes.



Scott R. Andrews

Former Member

You bring up a very valid point here. With the exception of the period rooms and public rooms, the construction technique used in making the partitions onboard ships at this time didn't permit hiding much of anything, either plumbing or electrical.

In most places, the partitions were made up of a gridwork of stiles and rails, these having grooves milled into the edges to accept a panel in the middle. The partitions were only one thickness, each side forming the finished wall within adjoining rooms. In the case of bathrooms, some portions had full height steel partitions which were part of the ship's structure (web frames, etc.), but most had only a 12-inch high steel coaming riveted and caulked to the steel deck, with the balance of the room being formed from these stile, rail and panel partitions. (The coaming was necessary to contain overflows and slopped-over bath water as well a potential flooding from broken pipes or valves, and also to provide a boundary into which the floor was fitted -- ceramic or rubber tiles over several inches of portland cement in baths, lavatories and WC's.)

At any rate, what this points out is that most room divisions had no space in between to hide piping and wiring, as one might expect in a building ashore. Rather, as there was no need structurally to have studs between these kind of partitions, they were designed and built with saving weight in mind. Being "cheap skates" had nothing to do with the practice. In fact, it says a great deal to the contrary about the WSL's and H&W's concerns in making these cabins a cut above the rest of the industry that they undertook the expense to cover the interior side of the hull and box in around the sidelights with joinery in the ordinary outside cabins; this was considered to be rather extravagant by most builders and owners for ordinary accommodations in those days.

Another thing to take into consideration is that, at sea or on terra firma, plumbing installations of a century ago were far more about practicality and serviceability than they were about style. Take the case of the period and public rooms, where it would have been easier to hide things like electrical wiring and small bore plumbing; all walls and ceilings were covered and the partitions were two layers of paneling with furring in between the panels in addition to that which was bolted to the surrounding steelwork. In between panels, this provided a gap through which to run small stuff such as wiring and water pipes. Yet, the bulk of the plumbing for these rooms was still situated in the private baths between suites -- not in the staterooms proper -- and was still exposed, both where it came through the deck and ran along the walls and, when ever possible, where it ran along the deck head above.

Take the combined pride of those who designed or paid for this equipment, as well as with the natural caution and suspicion with which all of this new-fangled technology was regarded by those charged with its care. Then, add in the factors I describe above; in this I suspect you will have found the reasoning
behind the plumbing being left exposed where ever possible.

Scott Andrews

Aly Jones

Yeah i notice the pipes showing.There is a pic of Captain Smith looking down in to a life boat and you can see a large pipe on the ceiling of the deck roof,but then again Titanic was built in 1912. Before Titanic's time Ships never had roofs on there bridges at all!
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