One of the most important plumbing fixtures to have in the home is a toilet, but not just any toilet: You need a toilet that actually works, so if your toilet has been acting up lately or you are sick of making so many small repairs, it may be time for an upgrade. Given that most homes are built and sold with toilets already installed, there are many people who don't know how to buy a toilet. They aren't sure what to look for, how to plan the layout of the bathroom, or even how to take measurements to ensure that the toilet will fit.
This guide is designed to help you discover what you need to know to select a toilet that suits your needs, matches your bathroom's aesthetic, and fits in the allotted space. Make the most of your investment and learn a little more about the throne you’ll be sitting on.
Before Buying a New Toilet
Purchasing and installing a new toilet takes time and money, so before buying a new toilet, it's recommended to inspect the old toilet to determine whether it can be repaired or otherwise improved. If the toilet cannot be repaired or if you have repaired it one too many times and are just looking for an upgrade, then it's time to select a new toilet. Make sure that the new toilet doesn't just have good water efficiency, but that the flushing power is also strong enough to deal with waste in a single flush. Otherwise, the cost savings you would expect from a low-flow toilet may be wasted with repeat flushes.
Buying Considerations for a Toilet
Toilets can take up a significant amount of space in a small bathroom, so planning the layout is a necessary step. The easiest and most common method is to simply install the new toilet in the same position as the old toilet. The drainage lines are already in place, the floor is cut, and there is at least enough space for a standard toilet. However, if you are renovating the bathroom or installing a new bathroom in the home, then you may not have a toilet position picked out.
Carefully consider the size of the room and if there are any obstructions, limitations, or other objects that you need to worry about, like a shower, bath, or sink. Choose a location that is out of the way, open, and accessible, so you don't feel cramped when you use the toilet. To be comfortable, a toilet should be at least 15 inches from any object around it, like a bath, a wall, or a vanity.
While you are looking at the layout of the room, the size of the toilet is also important to keep in mind. You can measure the existing toilet to get a good idea of the current size that is installed, but you don't need to choose a toilet that is the exact same size as long as it fits comfortably in the space. Next, measure from the wall behind the toilet to the center of the bolts at the base of the toilet.
Toilets are manufactured for "rough-in dimensions and are offered in 3 sizes: 10 inches, 12 inches, or 14 inches. When you measure from the finished wall to the center of the toilet bolts at the floor level, that will determine the rough-in size toilet you would need to purchase. When you determine the rough-in measurement, keep in mind that the objective is to keep the toilet tank as close to the wall as possible; most toilet tank covers have a lip in the back that will take up 1/4 inch to half an inch of space. You don't want the tank right up against the wall because the cover won't fit properly on the tank.
If the rough-in measurement is less than 11 inches, then you may need to re-plumb the drain pipe or look for a toilet that is designed for a smaller rough-in space. Also, it's important to note that toilet bowls can come in elongated, compact-elongated, and round-front options. Round-front toilets are the smaller choice, while elongated bowls will take up the most space.
Standard toilets have a seat height of about 17 inches above the floor, while a chair-height toilet will sit a bit higher at about 19 inches. However, for anyone with mobility issues, you may want to consider a "comfort height" toilet.
Toilet manufacturers have developed several different flush styles, including single-flush, dual-flush, and touchless-flush toilets.
- Single-flush toilets are standard for most homes. They flush once, emptying the entire tank to flush the contents of the toilet bowl into the drain. These toilets come in a wide range of designs, shapes, and colors due to their popularity.
- Dual-flush toilets are designed to help reduce water use. This is achieved with a two-stage lever or button mechanism. Press one button or lever for a light flush that uses a small amount of water to flush liquid waste, or use a full flush to deal with solid waste.
- Touchless-flush toilets typically fall into the single-flush category, though they are distinguished by the battery-powered electronic sensor that initiates the flush when you wave your hand in front of the sensor without needing to touch the toilet. These are mostly for commercial applications, however, and are rarely installed in residential applications.
Types of Toilets
Over the years, toilets have gradually become more convenient with a wide variety of options, including size, flush style, bowl types, and even different types of toilets, including one-piece, two-piece, high-tank, in-wall, and integrated base toilets.
One-piece toilets have a tank and bowl that are integrated into one unit. This reduces the size of the toilet, and the design eliminates a part on the toilet that is vulnerable to leaks. However, one-piece toilets are typically more expensive than two-piece toilets.
Two-piece toilets are the standard option that most homes have. It consists of a toilet bowl and a toilet tank. The two pieces of the toilet are secured with bolts and a gasket seals the passage of water from the tank to the bowl. This style is the most affordable option.
High-tank toilets function in essentially the same way as a two-piece toilet, except that the toilet tank is installed high up on a wall, instead of secured directly to the bowl. These toilets are usually more expensive than a two-piece toilet due to the retro design appeal, including a chain-pull flush mechanism.
In-wall toilets give your bathroom a sleek, minimal profile. Whether the tank is actually in the wall or the toilet is tankless, the big bulky part is hidden inside the wall. This enables you to save some space, especially in small or narrow bathrooms. These toilets are more expensive and installing them is best left to professionals, which also increases the price. If the sleek, modern, and minimalist look is what you're looking for, this will suit your decor.
Integrated bases come on both two-piece and one-piece toilets. An integrated base means that the bottom of the toilet is a full, flush piece, not full of nooks and crannies like typical two-piece toilets. An integrated base adds a little to the cost of your toilet, but it's a nice upgrade for two reasons: It's easier to clean, and the smooth, rounded style looks nice in most bathrooms, but especially the modern ones.
Due to the extensive variety of toilet types, sizes, and features, the cost of a new toilet can range significantly from just $100 for a standard, round-front, single-flush, two-piece toilet to more than $5,000 for toilets that incorporate bidets, heated seats, smart settings, and even television screens to help keep you entertained while you sit. While $5,000 may be too much for most people, this wide range of price options is good news. It means that no matter what your budget is, you can find a new toilet within your price range.
Just keep in mind that if you do not possess the skills, knowledge, or experience require to replace a toilet, you will need to have a professional complete the work, which will add to the overall cost of this upgrade. Plumbing rates can range from $45 to $200 per hour.
How often should you replace your toilet?
Toilets are hardy devices that can last for up to 50 years if they're well-maintained and gently used. However, with daily use, you can expect a toilet to last about 20 to 30 years before it needs to be replaced. Just keep in mind that some parts within the toilet, like the flush valve or washers, may need repair or replacement before the 20-year mark.
Is it cheaper to repair or buy a new toilet?
It depends on what is wrong with the current toilet. Some repairs are inexpensive and easy to complete for most DIYers, like replacing the chain on the flush valve, but if the toilet continues having problems, the costs can add up. The price of a new toilet can also range significantly from just $100 to more than $5,000, so keep that in mind when you are weighing the costs of repairs or a full toilet replacement.
What do you do with an old toilet?
Old toilets may be disposed of through curbside garbage collection depending on the municipality or town. Alternatively, you can take a toilet to the local recycling center, rent a dumpster, or pay a private garbage collection service to pick up the toilet. If it is in good condition and you just felt like an upgrade, maybe consider donating it to a second-hand store like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.