Title:
Sanitary fixture proxy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides methods and devices for protecting sanitary fixtures such as bathtubs and sinks during new construction. The methods and devices generally include pre-installing a sanitary fixture proxy that allows plumbing hookups to be performed before the sanitary fixture is installed. By allowing the basic plumbing process to be performed before the fixture is in place, the number of fixtures damaged during construction is greatly reduced.



Inventors:
Roberts Jr., Kenny (Medina, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/513980
Publication Date:
05/11/2006
Filing Date:
06/25/2003
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/16; A47K3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070017019Joint seal for shower surroundJanuary, 2007Coluccio
20090188851STATIONARY POOL SKIMMING APPARATUSJuly, 2009Depinto et al.
20100037376CLOSET FLANGE SYSTEM FOR EXISTING INSTALLATIONFebruary, 2010Hughes
20050076432Back cleanApril, 2005Beggerly
20070250996Hinge assembly for toilet seatNovember, 2007Li
20080307570Toilet odor elimination deviceDecember, 2008Marks
20090241252Mobile inflatable bubble massage bathtubOctober, 2009Li
20080120770WATER-CONSERVING TOILET USING TIMER-CONTROLLED VALVEMay, 2008Murphy
20060090403Pro top canopy and coverMay, 2006Enos
20070044213Flushable urination assisting deviceMarch, 2007Hall
20090038064Removable toilet seat cover scale deviceFebruary, 2009Rigas



Primary Examiner:
PHILLIPS, CHARLES E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RUTAN & TUCKER, LLP (Irvine, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of protecting a sanitary fixture during home construction, comprising: providing a sanitary fixture proxy having at least one preinstalled pipe fitting; permanently installing the sanitary fixture proxy prior to installing the sanitary fixture; and installing the sanitary fixture over the sanitary fixture proxy.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of permanently installing the sanitary fixture proxy further comprises a step of plumbing the sanitary fixture proxy.

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising a step of plumbing the sanitary fixture by connecting to the sanitary fixture proxy.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the sanitary fixture is a bathtub.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the sanitary fixture is a sink.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the sanitary fixture proxy approximates a size and shape of the sanitary fixture.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of installing further comprises substantially enclosing the proxy with the fixture.

8. A method of protecting a sanitary fixture, comprising: installing a non-removable sanitary fixture proxy prior to installing a sanitary fixture.

9. A sanitary fixture assembly for use during home construction, comprising: a preinstalled sanitary fixture proxy having at least one preinstalled pipe fitting coupling the sanitary fixture proxy to a sanitary fixture.

10. The sanitary fixture assembly of claim 9, further comprising a silicone layer between substantially all contacting surfaces of the proxy and the fixture.

11. The sanitary fixture assembly of claim 9, wherein the proxy is at least partially comprised of a thermoplastic.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The field of the invention is sanitary fixtures.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

During the course of construction on houses it is common for the contractors to damage sanitary fixtures, particularly bathtubs. One reason why bathtubs get damaged is because they are typically installed early in the construction process and thereafter subjected to abuse by contractors. Plumbing is a relatively early step and in order for plumbing to be done, the fixtures need to be in place. Fixtures having porcelain, acrylic, and other surfaces are easily damaged by heavy tools being dropped on them, building materials and other equipment being stored in them, and waste material being dumped in them.

Many types of covers and liners have been employed to protect fixtures, albeit with a modicum of success. U.S. Pat. No. 2,119,210 to Hall (May 1938) teaches a bathtub cover in which part of the cover is removed after construction and part of the cover remains. A problem with this type of cover, however, is that it requires extra work on the part of contractors. First, the non-removable portion must be fastened to rough framing, and then some time later, the removable portion of the cover must be removed. Not only that, the seam between the removable and non-removable portions will have to be covered after the removable portion is removed.

Another type of removable protective cover is described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,460,167 to Benjamin (August 1969). The '167 patent describes a cover made of a, presumably light, flexible sheet of plastic. Because the cover overlays the tub, there remains, however, the possibility that the tub will still be damaged. U.S. Pat. No. 2,642,580 to Gibb (June 1953) addresses that problem by teaching a heavy protective cover constructed of plywood or sheet metal pieces connected by hinges. While this type of cover may have provided improved protection to a tub, tubs could still get damaged, and moreover, such covers are heavy, cumbersome to install and remove, and problematic to dispose of.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,970,733, 5,009,059, and 5,037,363, all to Cocciadiferro et al. in the early 90's, address methods and devices for protecting the finish on a sanitary fixture. These patents involve installing a removable protective covering over substantially all the finished surfaces of a sanitary fixture, prior to delivering the fixture to the installation site. Again, damage to a tub remains possible and additional damage may be caused by the cover itself rubbing on the tub during transportation.

While most tub covers involve removable liners that are placed over a tub, the tub cover described in U.S. Pat. No. 2,419,801 to Uphues (April 1947) is an ornamental enclosure that is not removed once a tub is installed. Instead, the tub is placed within the ornamental enclosure and the enclosure provides at least some degree of protection. This solution, however, has its problems too. First, there is additional cost and effort associated with providing an ornamental enclosure. Second, the tub enclosure of the '801 patent is likely to inhibit the process of plumbing the tub.

There is a need for methods and devices that can make it cost effective to replace or modify existing systems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides methods and devices for protecting sanitary fixtures such as bathtubs and sinks during new construction. The methods and devices generally include pre-installing a sanitary fixture proxy that allows plumbing hookups to be performed before the sanitary fixture is installed. By allowing the basic plumbing process to be performed without the fixture in place, the number of fixtures damaged during construction is greatly reduced.

Other aspects include an installed sanitary fixture assembly comprising a pre-installed sanitary fixture proxy having at least one pre-installed pipe fitting coupling the sanitary fixture proxy with a sanitary fixture.

Various objects, features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of the invention, along with the accompanying drawings in which like numerals represent like components.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a sanitary fixture proxy.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a sanitary fixture proxy having legs.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of an installed sanitary fixture assembly.

FIG. 4a is a cross sectional view of a proxy/fixture fitting.

FIG. 4b is a cross sectional view of a proxy/fixture fitting.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring first to FIG. 1, a tub proxy 100 is comprised of an upper deck 110, an apron 120, a drain fitting 150, hot 130 and cold 140 fittings, and a recessed bathing area 160.

A sanitary fixture proxy (sometimes referred to herein as just the “proxy”) is a functional stand-in or a replacement for a sanitary fixture (sometimes referred to herein as just the “fixture”) during construction (i.e. new construction). Although depicted in the figures as a proxy for a bathtub, a proxy can be used for a sink, a toilet, a bidet, or any other fixture that can be easily damaged during construction. A proxy performs certain functions of the fixture that it temporarily replaces. For example, a proxy receives pipes for hot and cold water and receives a drain pipe. A proxy also simulates the associated fixture's position with relation to the walls and floors. A contractor is therefore able to finish walls and flooring without the need to have the fixture in place. Though a proxy is temporary replacement, a proxy is permanently installed. Permanently installed means that the proxy is not removed when the fixture is installed. Moreover, in order to remove the proxy, the fixture would have to be removed and the proxy would have to be decoupled from the plumbing.

The body of the tub proxy 100 consists of an upper deck 110, an apron 120, and a recessed bathing area 160, all of which are constructed of a polished thermoplastic or acrylic. An advantageous proxy is formed from a mold in most cases, however, it should be recognized that a proxy may be made of non-molded materials including materials that are not susceptible to holding water (e.g. plywood).

The upper deck 110 provides support for a similarly situated upper deck of the fixture. In FIG. 1, the upper deck 110 has two fittings 130 and 140 which are configured to receive pipes carrying hot and cold water. The fittings 130 and 140 are preferably threaded on two sides thereby enabling further coupling to fittings on the fixture. In a preferred class of embodiments, hot and cold water pipes extend out from the walls and are connected to the fittings of the proxy. Additional pipes or extensions (e.g. flexible pipes or tubing) are used to connect the fittings of the proxy with the fittings of the fixture. As there are sanitary fixtures having one spout for both hot and cold water to flow into the recessed bathing area, the hot and cold water can be combined (e.g. by using a “T” fitting) before connecting to the fixture.

Drain 150 is also a dual sided coupling that connects on one end to a pipe that drains to a sewer of septic tank and on the other end to a pipe that connects to the drain of the sanitary fixture. Such connections should be substantially water tight and may utilize various o-rings, gaskets, and other sealing methods and devices.

The shape of a proxy is preferred to approximate that of the fixture for which it is the proxy. In other words, the proxy of a tub is shaped like the tub, the proxy of a sink is shaped like a sink, and so on. This is so because a proxy that closely approximates its associated fixture is contemplated to provide relatively more support than another shape. The approximation of the fixture, however, is not a requirement, and a proxy's shape and size can therefore have little or no resemblance to its associated fixture. A proxy is generally sized and dimensioned to be substantially enclosed or completely covered by a fixture so that none of the proxy is visible once the fixture is in place.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a raised proxy 200 has legs 210 that support the body of the proxy 260 above the ground 270. Legs 210 may be constructed of any appropriate material so long as they are sufficient to support the weight of the proxy. It should be noted that the legs are not expected to support the sanitary fixture and the weight of water in the fixture as the sanitary fixture has its own support. In addition to supporting the proxy, the legs 210 aid in the easy installation of a proxy, especially the drain pipe 240 which is connected to the drain fitting 250. Water source fittings 220 and 230 are also depicted for reference.

FIG. 3 shows a cross sectional view of a sanitary fixture assembly consisting essentially of a tub proxy 310 and a tub 320. Hot and cold water assemblies 334 and 344, respectively, and drain assembly 350 are also depicted. Spacers 360 are rubber bushings that substantially prevent direct contact of proxy and the fixture. Spacers 360 are used to separate surfaces of a proxy and a fixture. Of course, other types of spacers and other materials may be suitable. The spacers also aid in the coupling of the fixture to the proxy by providing additional work space. Other configurations which do not utilize spacers are also contemplated as will be seen in FIG. 4b and described below.

The proxy is preinstalled before installing the sanitary fixture. Preinstalled as used herein means installation before the actual fixture is installed. Thus, a preinstalled proxy means that the proxy is put in place and connected to plumbing before the fixture, and a preinstalled pipe fitting means that the pipe fitting is in place before the fixture is installed. The order of installation is important because protection of a fixture is dependent upon installation of a proxy in the early stages of construction and subsequent installation of a fixture after the possibility of damage has been minimized.

In FIG. 4a, a cross sectional view of a proxy/fixture coupling is displayed. The coupling is exemplary of either a water source coupling or a drain coupling. The proxy 410 has a fitting 412 that connects to a pipe 420 on one end and to an extender 430 on the other end. Extender 430 thereafter connects to fitting 442 which is part of the sanitary fixture. In the configuration of FIG. 4a, a spacer 445 is used so that extender 430 can be utilized. Fittings can be either compression type or threaded, however, threaded fittings are preferred because removal and replacement is generally easier with threaded fittings. In FIG. 4b an alternative configuration of a proxy/fixture coupling is displayed. In this figure, a pipe 450 is connected to a fitting 452 in the proxy and a fitting 454 in the fixture connects directly to the fitting in the proxy. There is no extender and therefore no need for spacers, however, advantageous embodiments have a silicone layer between the proxy and the fixture.

Thus, specific embodiments and applications of a sanitary fixture proxy have been disclosed. It should be apparent, however, to those skilled in the art that many more modifications besides those already described are possible without departing from the inventive concepts herein. The inventive subject matter, therefore, is not to be restricted except in the spirit of the appended claims. Moreover, in interpreting both the specification and the claims, all terms should be interpreted in the broadest possible manner consistent with the context. In particular, the terms “comprises” and “comprising” should be interpreted as referring to elements, components, or steps in a non-exclusive manner, indicating that the referenced elements, components, or steps may be present, or utilized, or combined with other elements, components, or steps that are not expressly referenced.