When shopping for a toilet there are many things to consider beyond looks and price. I’ve created this guide to help you master the basics.
MEASURE BEFORE YOU BUY:
• If you’re buying a new toilet, you need to know the “rough-in” measurement of the old one. For the vast majority of toilets, the waste pipe is centered about 12 in. from the wall. But with a few models, that measurement is 10 in. or 14 in.
To find out the size of your toilet rough-in, simply measure from the wall behind the toilet to the bolt caps of your current toilet. Don’t include baseboards in your measurements.
• If there’s a door near the toilet, also measure how far the bowl protrudes from the wall. If you replace a standard round bowl with an “elongated” model, make sure the door won’t swing into the toilet (or the knees of someone on it!).
If your toilet sits beneath a vanity countertop extension (banjo top) you will also need to know the height available for the new toilet.
• Toilet bowls are available in round and elongated (oval) shapes. Elongated bowls are usually two inches longer than round bowls and offer additional comfort. Round bowls are generally less expensive and work well in small spaces.
• The bowl height is generally 14-in to 15-in high measured from floor level (without the seat). Taller bowls are available that are the height of a standard chair (17-in to 19-in) for accessibility and comfort. These taller, ADA-compliant, bowls have been rebranded as “comfort” height toilets.
ONE- VS. TWO-PIECE:
• About four out of five toilets sold are two-piece models, with a separate tank that bolts onto the bowl. One-piece toilets are easier to clean (fewer nooks and crannies), but they’re also more expensive and can be harder to install than a two-piece unit (they’re a lot heavier than a separate bowl and tank).
• If ease of cleaning is a major concern of yours, look for a skirted (concealed trapway) model or a wall-hung toilet.
While wall-hung toilets are well suited for small bathrooms (they save at least a foot of space) they do require modifications to the plumbing/waste system and wall framing.
If you are not updating your bathroom flooring, you will probably want to ensure the base of the replacement will cover the existing toilet footprint as much as possible.
All new toilets are required to use a mere 1.6 gallons of water to flush, however; High-efficiency (HE) and dual-action toilets allow you to use even less water.
Toilets with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label rate high in both water efficiency and flushing effectiveness. They meet strict flushing performance guidelines established by the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) WaterSense program. WaterSense-labeled toilets use at least 20% less water than standard 1.6-gallon toilets.
Dual-flush toilets, those that have a full-flush mode for solids and a reduced-flush mode for liquids, must use 1.6 gpf and .8 gpf respectively (the combined average flush rate for these toilets is 1.28 gpf).
Replacing your toilet with a more efficient one could save thousands of gallons of water annually—between 14,000 and 25,000 gallons for a family of four.
Most toilets fall into two basic types: pressure assisted or gravity feed.
• Pressure-Assisted Flush System: Pressurized air forces water into the bowl when flushed, reducing the chance for clogs. A pressure-assisted toilet is an especially good choice for large families. But before buying this type, be sure that your home has at least 25 pounds per square inch of water pressure, the minimum required for a pressure-assisted toilet to work properly. This system is noisy, generally more expensive and finding parts and making repairs may be more of a headache with this system.
• Gravity flushing comes in two types: siphonic, which uses the flow of water and the s-shape of the trapway to create a siphoning action or vacuum or in the trapway of the toilet bowl, which then pulls the waste out after the water, and washdown, which uses the force of gravity to send all of the water through the rim and pushes waste out. The descriptions for gravity flushing toilets can get confusing with terms like Siphon Jet or Dual Jet. Overall, the newer gravity flushing technology delivers complete 3.5-gallon performance in a quiet 1.6-gallon package.
Note, newer gravity models that perform comparably to pressure-assist units typically cost as much, while lower-priced models may not be up to the job.
Don’t forget to factor in the location of the flushing handle or button when selecting a toilet. Some may be awkward to push or difficult for small children to reach.
• If you aren’t buying a one piece toilet, odds are you will need to purchase a seat separately. Slow-close lids that eliminate slams and quick disconnect for easy cleaning are top features to consider.
• Touchless flushing technology is a new feature available today. Some companies offer kits for retrofitting standard toilets.
• Also check to see if you qualify for a utility rebate (Such as this one in Madison) for switching to a WaterSense model. The savings may make a more expensive toilet more attractive to your budget.
Despite leaving out waterless toilets and tankless toilets with flushometers, I’ve covered a lot of information for you to consider before your purchase. As with shopping for anything, read reviews about the fixture, its warranty and any repair issues that might be known on discussion boards.