Guide to Buying a Toilet

Know What You're Looking For

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Replacing a toilet is not a very frequent household project, so buying a toilet is not something that needs to be done very often. While it may seem straightforward there are a few important things to consider before buying a toilet. Once you have determined that you need to replace a toilet be prepared with measurements and feature requirements before you buy.

Drain Location

The first thing to do before buying a toilet is to measurement from wall to the center of the bolts at the base of the existing toilet. This will give you the rough-in measurement for your drain location. In most instances, the measurement should be 12”, which is the standard rough-in distance. Most toilets sold at home stores can fit a drain that is about 1” difference of the standard rough-in. If your measurement is between 11 and 13” you should be okay with the standard toilet. But if the distance from the wall to the center of the bolts is 10” or 14”, you will need to get a toilet specific to that rough-in distance. A 10” or 14” rough toilet should be available for purchase at most plumbing supply houses or through special order at home improvement stores.


Older homes—particularly Victorian-era homes—typically have a non-typical rough-in distance. If you have an older home, be prepared to have to purchase a toilet specific to the rough-in measurement for your drain.


Before selecting any features it is a good idea to start with a price because whatever you choose it needs to fit your budget. There can be a huge price difference in toilets based on the number of features they offer. For around $150 you should be able to buy a really nice name-brand toilet. Features like elongated and comfort height may cost you a bit more.

Bowl Shape

There are two types of bowl shapes, elongated and round front. Elongated toilets usually come with more options and they offer a bigger seat. They also take up more space, so if you have limited space then a round front toilet may be your only option. Most elongated toilets take up about 2” more in the front than the round front toilet, so it is a good idea to get measurements before you buy one.

Toilet Design

There are 3 basic toilet designs: one piece, two pieces, or wall mount. One piece toilets are generally more expensive but offer a sleeker look and are easier to clean because they have fewer crevices. Two piece toilets are the most common and the most competitive in price. They also offer the most options when purchasing a toilet. Wall mount toilets are not common and will usually only be used when replacing a wall mounted toilet because they require a different rough-in altogether. They are generally quite a bit more expensive, but you get the built in bonus making them the only toilets you can sweep under.

Toilet Height

The words “comfort height” have become a popular marketing label for new toilets. What this refers to is basically the same as the required handicap height. The American Disabilities Act requires public toilets to be a minimum of 17” from the floor to the top of the seat. Comfort height toilets are becoming more and more common because they are actually really comfortable and much easier to get off of. Standard height toilets are around 15” total from the ground to the top of the seat. The standard size is still great for the majority of people, it really is just a matter of preference.

One Flush or Two

It used to be that you had to flush the low flush toilet twice to get the job done, but toilet designs have improved significantly. Now low flush can be a great option. Another option is a dual flush toilet which includes a great new water saving feature. The big flush uses 1.6 gallons and the partial flush can use as low as .8 gallons. Dual flush toilets have two buttons to choose from when flushing. They make it easy to save the most water conveniently.

Tip: Check with your local water company before buying a toilet. Many water companies offer a rebate program that can save you money if you get a toilet that meets the water efficiency criteria. This is always worth checking into before you buy a toilet so you can make sure you get the right toilet to qualify for the rebate.