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Display of a variety of materials
  |  May 20, 2023 

What are Bathroom Stalls Made of?


Author:

Mark Nielson
Owner, Ironwood Mfg

This article is an overview of the materials used to make commercial restroom toilet partitions, including summaries of their strengths and weaknesses.

Summary

The major points of this article are summarized in the table below.

MaterialStrengthsWeaknesses
Plastic Laminateo Pattern Selection
o Finish Selection
o Custom Print
o Water / Steam
Compact Laminate (Phenolic)o Pattern Selection
o Durability
o Moisture Resistance
o Cost
o Black Edge (see “HeH” solution)
Wood Veneero Aesthetics
o Stain to Match
o Cost
o Water / Steam
o Durability
Powder Coated Steelo Cost
o Lead Time
o Pattern Selection
o Durability
o Moisture
Stainless Steelo Aesthetics
o Fire Rating
o Cost
o Pattern Selection
o Durability
Solid Plastico   Durability
o   Moisture Resistance
o Cost
o Pattern Selection
o Dimensional Stability
Glasso Aesthetics
o Moisture Resistance
o Cost
o Durability
o Installation
Solid Surfaceo Pattern Selection
o Moisture Resistance
o Repairability
o Cost
o Installation
o Dimensional Stability
Stone / Quartzo Aesthetics
o Durability
o Moisture Resistance
o Cost
o Installation

More details are provided below.

If you need to go into even more depth on a particular material, look for upcoming per-material articles in this blog.

Plastic Laminate Toilet Partitions 

Plastic laminate partitions are made by bonding a layer of high-pressure laminate (HPL) to a substrate material, such as particle board.  

Strengths: 

  • Wide range of designs, colors, and finishes from many manufacturers, including Wilsonart, Formica, and more. 
  • Can be painted when factory colors do not meet the requirements. 
  • Custom prints are an option (see Wilsonart’s “By You” as an example). 
  • Lead time is typically low. 
  • Resists scratches and stains. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Prolonged exposure to water or steam can cause delamination and warping. 
  • Not appropriate in locations where vandalism or abuse are likely. 

Compact Laminate (Phenolic) Toilet Partitions 

Compact laminate (also known as phenolic) partitions are made from layers of resin-coated paper that have been compressed under high pressure and heat.  

Strengths: 

  • Wide range of designs and colors from many manufacturers, including Wilsonart, Formica, and more. 
  • Customizable prints (see Wilsonart’s Virtual Design Library (“VDL”) as an example). 
  • Overall durability, including impact resistance. 
  • Resists scratches and stains.  
  • Suitable for moist and high-humidity environments 

Weaknesses: 

  • More expensive than plastic laminate or powder coated metal. 
  • Limited finish options. 
  • Black edges can be undesirable. 
  • The Ironwood “HeH” option solves this with color-coordinated edge banding. 

Wood Veneer Toilet Partitions 

Wood veneer partitions are made by bonding a layer of wood to a substrate material, such as particle board. 

Strengths: 

  • Real wood has a unique beauty. 
  • Can be stained to match specific design requirements. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Expensive compared to other common materials. 
  • Not only is the raw material more expensive, but more finishing is required. 
  • Prolonged exposure to water or steam can cause delamination, discoloration, and warping. 
  • Must be cleaned regularly to maintain their appearance and integrity. 
  • Not appropriate for hard-use environments. 
  • A painted finish is not recommended on real wood veneer. 
  • When paint is called for, we recommend painting grain textured plastic laminate. 

Powder Coated Steel Toilet Partitions 

These partitions are made with powdered coated steel wrapped around a honeycomb core. 

Strengths: 

  • Powder coated steel partitions are typically the least expensive stall option. 
  • Many configurations can be stocked, giving short lead times. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Few color and pattern options compared to laminates or wood veneer. 
  • Susceptible to scratches and dents which can quickly affect their appearance.  
  • Susceptible to rust in moist or high-humidity environments. 

Stainless Steel Toilet Partitions 

These partitions are made with stainless steel sheets wrapped around a honeycomb core. 

Strengths: 

  • Gives commercial bathrooms a sleek, modern aesthetic. 
  • Steel partitions are fire rated class A. 

Weaknesses: 

  • More expensive than other options like plastic laminate or powder coated steel. 
  • The color and pattern options are very limited. 
  • Prone to visible scratches and fingerprints, which can increase maintenance requirements. 

Solid Plastic (High Density Polyethylene or HDPE) Toilet Partitions 

Solid plastic partitions are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). 

Strengths: 

  • Impact-resistant and therefore suitable for high-traffic, hard-use environments. 
  • Suitable for moist environments, such as showers or outdoor restrooms. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Few color and pattern options compared to laminates or wood veneer. 
  • Limited aesthetic appeal. 
  • Less dimensional stability than most other materials. 
  • Stiffening supports are usually employed to mitigate this. 
  • The standard door and panel height of 55” is less private than the 58” standard height for most other materials. 

Glass Toilet Partitions 

Glass partitions are made from tempered or laminated safety glass. 

Strengths: 

  • A sophisticated and contemporary look in commercial restrooms. 
  • Natural light and visual openness. 
  • While fragile in some ways, glass partitions are resistant to scratches. 
  • Suitable for moist and high-humidity environments, including showers. 
  • As a non-porous material, glass is resistant to stains and cleans easily. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Glass partitions are more expensive than most other materials. 
  • Tempered glass is used for safety and durability, but it is still prone to breakage and is not suitable for high-traffic areas. 
  • Installation requires more experience than other materials. 
  • Some users are uncomfortable that glass partitions are not as private as other materials. 

Solid Surface Toilet Partitions

Solid surface partitions are made from a blend of acrylic, polyester, and mineral fillers. 

Strengths: 

  • A variety of colors and simple patterns from manufacturers such as Corian, Wilsonart, and more. 
  • Suitable for moist and high-humidity environments, including showers. 
  • Field repairs can be nearly invisible (depending on pattern and color) 
  • As a non-porous material, solid surface is resistant to stains and cleans easily. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Among the most expensive options for commercial bathroom partition materials. 
  • Solid surface partitions are heavy and must be drilled carefully, making installation more challenging. 
  • Dark colors tend to “haze” over time. We do not recommend using dark solid surface colors in toilet partitions. 
  • Thin components suffer from poor dimensional stability. 
  • We recommend minimum 1” thick components. 

Stone (Quartz) Toilet Partitions 

Stone partitions are made from engineered quartz, which is manufactured from ground natural quartz, polymer resins, pigments, and other materials. 

Strengths: 

  • Stone has a unique aesthetic. 
  • Resists impacts and scratches. 
  • Suitable for moist and high-humidity environments, including showers. 

Weaknesses: 

  • Expensive compared to other common materials. 
  • Note that both sides of the stone must be finished in partition applications. 
  • Considerably heavier than other materials. This can increase shipping costs, complicate installation, and require additional structural support. 

Note that natural stone is not well-suited for bathroom stalls. For more details about this, see our article, “Incredibly Beautiful Materials (That May Not Work Well in Bathrooms)“. 

Unconventional Bathroom Partition Materials 

Public restroom partitions can be constructed from a myriad of other materials not covered in this article. In this regard, your only limit is really your imagination and your pocketbook. If you are exploring partitions made from non-standard materials, we would be happy to consult with you on the feasibility and probable costs of your ideas. You can call us at 360.568.1823 x 105 or email us at specs@ironwood-mfg.com

Which Toilet Partition Material is Best for Your Application? 

There certainly are a lot of options for bathroom partition materials! Choosing the best fit for your project depends on many things, including design requirements, durability, moisture, budget, lead time, and user comfort. With over 50 years of experience in this industry, Ironwood Manufacturing is happy to partner with you to help find the ideal product for your application. 

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