Relocating To Pittsburgh? Find Out About The “Pittsburgh Potty”

In polite company, it’s called a “Pittsburgh Potty.” Down at the local pub they may use a more colorful term. But a Pittsburgh Potty by any name refers to the same thing: A lone toilet in the basement – no walls, no vanity. Just a toilet.

Highly rated real estate agent Eric Nichols gets the question all the time from clients relocating to the Steel City. If the house is more than 80 years old, chances are good it’ll have a Pittsburgh Potty. “Oftentimes, it’s sitting out in the middle of everything,” Nichols says. “That comes from the days when Pittsburgh was a steel town and a mining town. Workers would come home totally filthy. They would clean up downstairs and not bring the filth upstairs.”

Rick Sebak, award-winning producer for Pittsburgh PBS affiliate WQED, devoted one segment of his “Underground Pittsburgh” series to the potties. He’s heard reports of them in other cities, such as Baltimore. “But they don’t have the alliteration of Pittsburgh Potty,” he says. “You have to be in a place where everybody has a basement. Everybody here has a basement.”

Old Pittsburgh basements (and we have one sighting as far east as Johnstown, Pa.) have one other quirk: “You almost always find a hand-cranked pencil sharpener attached to the basement steps,” Nichols says. “It’s like an unwritten rule. It’s just the place they put the pencil sharpener.”

Pittsburgh real estate buyers relocating from other areas of the county are always surprised to find out about these Pittsburgh homes quirks.  If you are looking to relocate to The Burgh, contact our team at RE/MAX Marketplace 724-949-0040.

Eric Nichols and Kathy Haggerty co-owners of RE/MAX Marketplace 1000 Park Place Drive, Washington Pa 15301.  Visit us at

Broker / Agent / Co-Owner at RE/MAX Marketplace 1000 Park Place Drive, Washington Pa 15301. We are a RE/MAX real estate agent team with many years of experience in the Pittsburgh and Washington Pa markets.

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