Choosing The Right Toilet

Toilets are toilets, right? Everybody needs to use one about every day, so as long as they do what they were designed for, what is all the fuss about choosing one over another? A toilet by any other name would smell – the same, wouldn’t it?

How often do people get to choose their toilets, anyway? Generally, we buy a house, and it’s got a toilet in one of the rooms, or maybe more. But there do arise times when you may want to renovate a bathroom, and you consider the possibility of replacing the fixtures, include the toilet. You may even be building your dream house, and though it has been designed to include a toilet or two, there is a great opportunity to have a say concerning which toilet is installed. And of course, it is possible that you have cracked your toilet, or your elderly mother has moved into your home, or your family has gotten too big for one little toilet.

OK, so maybe the need to choose a new toilet is not so rare an occurrence. And if you have that choice before you today, there is a good bit to know before venturing out to your neighborhood home improvement center.

It might seem to you that even though there are differences in appearance between different toilets, they all seem pretty much the same. Are there important differences that don’t meet the casual observer’s eye? Is it fine simply to pick the one that you think best matches the decor of your bathroom? It may be, but it’s wise to narrow the list down a little before letting the decision rest on that factor alone. So, what are all the considerations that should be made in forming an educated opinion?

For most people, price is an important factor. Many assume that as the price of an item increases, its quality improves. In the world of toilets, this is far from certain. Low price toilets can potentially perform as well as some very expensive ones. And the features we will look into here will show you how.

The first distinction to be made is on the basis of the three major types of toilets. Numerous examples can be found of each of these types that function comparably:

Gravity-fed toilets – these are those with a tank mounted above the bowl (one-piece or two), and when the handle is pressed, the water rushes in from the rim or the siphon-jet (the small hole under the water in front of the drain), or both. This rush of water “pushes” the bowl contents into the drain.

Vacuum toilets – these suck the air from behind the trap, creating a vacuum which the bowl’s contents rushes to fill. This “pulls” the waste into the drain. Vacuum-assisted models combines the two methods, for a simultaneous “push” and “pull”.

Gravity toilets have a smaller water surface deeper in the bowl. This can mean that they get dirtier than the vacuum type.

Pressure-assisted toilets – these are quite distinct in appearance and in sound. Pressurized water is released from a sealed mechanism located in the tank to overwhelm the bowl’s contents and send it scurrying into the drain. The process is rather loud, and the mechanism requires a larger tank. These require a minimum household water pressure, so if you are considering one of these, check with the manufacturer or sales representative. Additionally, there are no user-serviceable parts in this toilet, so if that is an issue, scratch this one off your list.

Another clear distinction between toilets is their shape. The so-called “standard” shape is fairly round, while the other common shape is an elongated circle. This distinction is primarily according to taste, but there are some who maintain that the round bowl is suited to a better “vortex” for flushing –the swirling action of the water within the bowl that helps accomplish a more complete flush.

But the characteristics of the toilet which make a measurable difference are the diameter of the flush valve (the hole through which water leaves the tank) and the trap size (diameter of the trap, through which water leaves the bowl) A larger flush valve delivers water faster and more forcefully, and a larger trap can move a greater amount of waste without clogging. These numbers are not mutually exclusive – you can look for a toilet with large diameters of both of these openings. This is a more important consideration for homes built during or before the 1950′s, because the commonly used 4-inch cast iron waste pipe has a rough inner surface and requires either a large amount of water or fast-moving water to wash the waste completely out of the soil pipe.

Some might long for the days when we could flush 5 gallons of water into our toilets and walk away knowing that whatever we just put in there is long gone. Some recall the bad and inefficient products that hit the market when the current 1.6 gallon per flush standard first became Federal law. But what has not made much press is that innovation has stepped into the void and confusion, and the products we have today are as efficient and successful with 1.6 gallons (and some with even less) as our old ones were with 5 gallons.

You can buy toilets with concealed mechanisms (located behind a wall), toilets which hang from the wall, or floor-standing models, all using any of the three flushing methods. All manufacturers offer models which provide greater accessibility for handicapped persons as well. The major consideration which may limit any of your options is the space you have available for installation. Make sure you know the square footage of usable space and, especially, the rough-in measurement. This is the distance from the wall (ignoring the baseboard) to the center of the drain.

Lastly, the color of your toilet can add substantially to its cost. A typical manufacturer adds 60% – 70% to the cost of a white toilet to produce a colored toilet.

When you have narrowed your list considerably and are ready to go out shopping, be sure to check with Consumer Reports. They have an excellent buying guide that is worth your review.

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