Everything you need to know to buy a toilet besides the flush

When purchasing a toilet or water closet the question that is foremost on your mind is "will it flush the wastes away the first time or will I have to learn how to use the dreaded plunger?" For you ladies with a guy handy, the latter amounts to a very loud "honey, the toilet is clogged again!".  

The power of the toilet flush is important, but also pay special attention to the types of toilets and their sizes. By types, we mean whether the toilet is skirted or not. By sizes we mean whether they are one piece, two piece and whether the are mounted on the floor or wall. While you need the above information, the second most critical measurement is the rough-in size and the position of the water supply. If you don't know these then you can litterally be driven crazy in a typical bathroom remodel. Here's why.

When people remodel bathrooms, they are usually focusing on the required toilet rough-in to pass a plumbing inspection. That's usally means have 15 inches of space on each side of the centerline of the toilet. An often overlooked measurement is the rough-in of the toilet.

The most common rough-in size is 12 inches. That measurement is from the finished wall to the nuts that are used to tighten the toilet to the floor and connect it to the waste pipe. The nuts are usually covered with covers. The other two rough-in sizes are 10 inch and 14 inch.

 Rough in size of typical toilets

Given the importance of the rough-in size, you would think that the toilet manufacturers would put that information right on the box in bold letters with a sketch telling you the rough-in size and how to measure it. Unfortunately this is not the case. You will have to look at the specification sheet and squint mightily to read the fine print. If you doubt us, visit some of the moe popular manufacturers' websites like Kohler, American Standard or Toto. Some consumers find out how important the rough-in size is after getting the toilet home and realizing that it doesn’t fit.

Bathroom Remodeling 

When replacing a toilet or remodeling your bathroom, the first thing you need to do is to write down the rough-in size of the toile that you are going to buy. If you are building a new bathroom, make sure your plumber knows exact what kind of toilets you will put in. Be very specific- brand, model number and make it part of the construction plans. Your plumber or general contractor should be noting this and installing the rough-in plumbing to accomodate the toilets specified.

The rough-in is key here, but so is the location of the water supply. For example, if you are going to buy a fancy toilet with a skirt, you find the installation instructions call for the water supply to be between 7" and 8" to the left or right of center line of the toilet. If it is any closer, the water supply pipe will probably hit the toilet and prevent you from installing it. Tip: Make sure that your plumber also considers the thickness of the finished wall. For example, you may be installing 1/2" durock, 1/4" tile and 1/4 inch mortar. So the plumber should center the waste pipe 13 inches away from the wooden stud or plate. Constrcution is seldom precise here and trusses and other issues like HVAC ducts can force your plumber to move the toilet a couple of inches this way or that way. That could affect the rough-size considerably so make sure your contractor and you pay attention to that.

Water supply for skirted toilet -s 6-8 inches

Common Rough-in Size of Toilets

Toilet manufacturers make plenty of toilets with a 12 inch rough-in. If your rough-in size is 10 inches or 14 inches you still can find a toilet, but there are fewer options and generally the toilets that are good are pricey and the cheaper ones don't perform well. Yes, some manufacturers like TOTO make some of their toilets with an adjustable flanges that can be be used to fit a toilet that needs a 10 inch or 14 inch rough. Again be specific and make sure that your general contractor and plumber knows the specificiations before hand.

Key things to look for in a toilet

Besides the rough, you want the toilet to flush wastes away the first time. In the old days, many toilets had tanks mounted above the toilet and the volume of water was about 3.5 gallons per flush (GPF). These toilets generally did the job, but when you flushed the toilet, the whole house and sometimes the neighborhood probably knew about it. Brings back memories doesn't it?

As our great society realized just how precious fresh water was, the government and the industry started to design toilets that would use less water per flush. These are called High Efficiency toilets. The first step introduced 1.6 GPF toilets. Many of you worried about the ability of these toilets to do the job that your old trusty 3.5 GPF toilet did. As a result many people just would not part with their 3.5 GPF toilets and would go to great length to maintain them rather than buy a high efficiency toilet. Recently, we have seen water wise and 1.28 GPF toilets on the market.

There's nothing wrong with a 1.6 GPF toilet of some of the new 1.28 GPF models. The caveat is do they work and really save water. If you have to flush a 1.6 GPF or 1.28 GPF toilet several times that really defeats the whole purpose of a high efficiency toilet. So if we have to buy 1.6 GPF or 1.28 GPF model make sure it can do the job.

Would I buy a 1.28 GPF toilet? Yes, but not for a bathroom being used by kids or a bunch of adults. For a guest bathroom or baseement bathroom with little or sporadic use, a 1.28 GPF toilet should be fine.

Toto Toilets are one of the more reliable toilets. They test their toilets and have designed a 3 inch valve instead of a standard 2 inch valve. So when you flush a toilet with a 3 inch valve, more water and a stronger flush should remove the wastes the first time.

Toilet Reviews

There's a great deal of information out there on toilets. Much of it is hype. We found two sources of information to be very useful in narrowing down the choices. The first is Terry Love's Plumbing website. There is a treasure trove of information on toilets. The forums are pretty graphic about toilets that perform well and don't. Terry Love's Toilet Report is a must read if only to narrow the field down and identify the best toilet for the money. Each toilet rated also has user comments. These are important but pay attention to the date of the comments.

We also feel that user comments from people who bought toilets were invaluable. There is no better place for that then the Buyer comments on Amazon.com. We were all set to buy a Toto toilet model that had a 10 inch rough, but passed on it after reading some very critical views on Amazon about staining. Who needs that.

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, check out Amercian Standard's Toilet Buying Guide. Good luck with your project.