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Toilet Buying Guide

So you're looking to buy a new toilet? It may seem like a simple purchase – and basically it is – but there are some important things to think about before you go shopping.

Toilet Rough-In Measurements and Standards

Make sure the new toilet will fit your space. To do this, measure the rough-in size. This is the distance between the wall behind the toilet and the center of the drainpipe or the bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. It’s best to perform this measurement before you remove the old toilet.

Measure from the wall behind the toilet to the center of one of the closet bolts (that hold the toilet down). If the toilet has four closet bolts, measure to the center of one of the rear ones. Measure from the center of the mounting holes to the back of the new toilet you're considering. Compare these two measurements. If the base of the new toilet is shorter than the distance between the rear bolt holes and the wall, it should fit. In small bathrooms where space is tight, also measure from the sides of the flange bolts to the sidewalls or other objects to assure side-to-side clearance.

The standard rough-in is 12-in, though you may encounter 10-in and 14-in rough-ins in older homes. You should find the rough-in measurement in the new toilet’s product information.

Toilet Models: One Piece or Two?

Wall Mount Toilet

Toilets are made in one or two-piece models. Most toilets are two-piece, meaning that the bowl is bolted to the tank. Two-piece toilets are generally less expensive than one-piece. Both function comparably, though a one-piece toilet may be easier to clean. If they’re not included, make sure you purchase all of the installation parts required: toilet seat, wax ring with sleeve, closet bolts and bolt caps.

Wall mount or wall-hung toilets are another style option that is becoming increasingly popular in modern homes. If this sounds interesting, remember that these units require modifications to the plumbing/waste system and additional bracing in the wall. 

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Toilet Bowls

Toilet Bowls

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. As with rough-in standards, make sure your space will accommodate an elongated bowl before you buy.

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 (16-in to 19-in) for comfort and accessibility. Taller bowls are also ADA-compliant.

Other bowl features to note:

Sanitary Bar: Found on two-piece models, the sanitary bar blocks liquid from collecting under the tank at the back of the bowl.

Trapway: The snakelike tubing on the sides of your toilet through which water flows. A larger trapway diameter (ex. 2 3/8-in) reduces the chance of clogging and overflow.

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Toilet Tanks and Flushing Systems

Toilet Flushing System

Almost all toilets have a similar tank capacity. When choosing a tank, you'll have flush valve size and flush lever positioning to consider, as well as the flushing system.

The flush valve, which is located at the center of the tank, is activated by the flush lever and releases the water held in the tank. The larger the flush valve, the higher the rate of water flow. Flush levers are positioned either on the side, front or top of the tank.

The pressure-assisted and gravity-flush systems are the two standard flushing systems available:

Pressure-Assisted Flush System: Pressurized air forces water into the bowl when flushed, reducing the chance for clogs. This system is noisy, expensive and may require costly maintenance.

Gravity-Flush System: The most common and simplest system, it uses the water weight to generate flushing pressure. The pressure forces everything from the tank into the bowl and through the S-shaped trapway. A siphoning action completes the flush. This flushing system is quieter and requires less maintenance than a pressure-assisted flushing system.

Additional toilet technology includes:

Dual Flush: This is a relatively new system for saving water without sacrificing efficiency. There are two flushing options for a full or partial flush (ex. 1.6 gallon flush and 1.1 gallons per flush).

Waterless Toilets: Where water or plumbing is not available or when portability is required, a self-contained waterless unit is an option.

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Toilet Seats

Toilet Seat

Most toilets come in separate pieces and don't include the seat. Choose a seat that complements the color of the toilet and the décor of your bathroom. Think about the following items when choosing your seat:

  • The seat shape depends upon the shape of bowl: round or elongated.
  • Seats are available in real wood, molded wood composition, cushioned vinyl, plastic or polypropylene.
  • Slow-close toilet seats are quiet and safe (no more slamming).

The ultimate toilet seat offers such amenities as warm water stream, heated surface, warm air drying and deodorizer. Additional water and electrical hook-ups are required for this luxury item.

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Toilets and Water Usage

By federal law, new toilets can’t use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf). High-efficiency toilets (HET) use even less.

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.

Urinals and Bidets

Other sanitary devices are available to equip your bathroom:

Urinals: This is a water-efficient, wall-mounted unit. Most urinals are found in commercial or retail settings.

Bidets: It provides a convenient facility for personal cleansing. A bidet is becoming an added fixture in many new construction and remodeling projects. It's usually placed beside the toilet. Some toilets offer an integrated bidet and dryer.

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