Refactor the World! – Grant Neumann – 1100

Refactor The World! Gold


In the dorms at Fairmount Towers the bathroom doors can only be locked from the outside. Which means if you are in the bathroom it is impossible to prevent people from intruding on you. This results in either awkward encounters with your suite mates and the inconvenience of knocking before entering every time you must relieve yourself. The easy fix would be to replace the doorknob on the bathroom doors to allow the door to be locked from both sides, however this fix would be against the housing regulations at the towers.  



Room side of door (has push pin lock)


Bathroom side of door (as you can see there is no way to lock the door from this side)



Design a device that does not impede the movement of the door in any way. My design would also be able to notify the person in the room that the bathroom is occupied through a visual. 


My Solution:

I designed a device that would push a piece of paper under the bathroom door from the inside to notify those in the room that the bathroom was occupied. I came up with this idea from the way that porta potties are locked and notify those outside that it is occupied. I came up with a device that connected a lever to a paper that would curl under the door and protrude into the room approximately 3 inches. 


Materials Used:

  • 1 metal hanger
  • 1 piece of printer paper
  • Masking tape
  • Duct tape



Process for Building:

I straightened the metal hanger but kept an L bend at one end that protruded approximately 2 inches.  A square piece of duct tape was approximately 3 by 3 inches. Then the piece of paper was folded twice to make a 3 by 4 inch square. I taped the edges of the paper with masking tape to keep the paper from catching on the ground. I rolled the paper to give it a natural curve so that it would bend under the lip of the door more easily. After doing this I taped the paper to the duct tape square. Then I used masking tape to attach the metal hanger vertically down the middle of the door so that the L bend was at the same height as the door know which makes it easier for the user to access the L bend after closing the door. I also taped a cardboard square to allow the L bend to rest on when the device is not being used. This keeps the paper from dragging along the ground.


Walk into the bathroom and push the lever down to slide paper under door.



Unoccupied bathroom


Occupied bathroom        


My room mate and I have used this for the past week and found it to be very convenient.  In no way has it obstructed the use of the door. 


I believe that when the door was originally installed in the dorms the contractors were given the guidelines to only let the door be locked from the outside so they therefore just chose a door knob with a lock only on the outside. There are very little circumstances in which a door to a bathroom is restricted to only being locked from the outside so therefore this problem has not been looked into. 

September 29th, 2013 17:45

Sweet dorm hack!

You mention that a good solution would be allowing the door to be locked from both sides – but what if you forgot to unlock the door before you left? Your suitemate would be angry!

This problem exists with your implemented solution as well, although its less of a problem because it doesn’t physically prevent someone from opening the door.

The nice thing about porta-potties and airplane bathrooms is that the indicator is automatically de-activated when you open the door. Of course, implementing something like that on your dorm might be more complicated since you have two doors instead of just one. Thoughts?

September 29th, 2013 19:04

Thanks for your thoughts!

Hmm…that is true. That would become an issue. Ideally the lock would have some sort of deadbolt lock that would disengage when the doorknob was turned from the inside but would keep the door from locking people out of the bathroom if nobody is in the bathroom. And yes I agree an indicator that automatically de-activated when the door opened would be an improvement. I could change that paper so that is would dig into the carpet more when it was pushed under the door that way the door would have trouble opening if you forgot to pull the lever back up. However I believe this would result in the destruction of the piece of paper. So I would need to look into finding a materiel that is pliable so it can bend under the door, rigid so that it can dig into the carpet, and durable so that it could hold up to the pressure of someone trying to open the door from the inside who forgot to put the lever back up.

It is tough to come up with an ideal solution because I can’t do anything to alter the current form of the door or how it is locked.

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