toilet

Toilet Buying Guide from the Experts

Toilets have been in use for thousands of years, from the basic stone structures of ancient Rome to the music-playing, seat-warming, self-cleaning, high-tech squat boxes of Japan.

For the average homeowner, choosing a new toilet may be intimidating. Modern toilets have lots of features which don’t always equate to reassuring a homeowner of their number one concern: that what goes in always goes out.

Why We’re Asking:

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average toilet is expected to last the lifetime of the homeowner, which makes your next ivory throne purchase a pretty important investment. Our plumbing experts spend more time around toilets than anyone else. More importantly, they know what toilets are constantly failing and which ones never seem to need maintenance. We want to find out what advice they have for homeowners who need to choose a new commode.

So plumbing experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What Should Homeowners Consider When Buying a Toilet?

What should I consider when buying a toilet?
Efficiency? Flush capacity? Water usage?
Gravity fed or Pressure Assisted?
Seat height? Bowl shape? Do aesthetic or ergonomic features affect function?

We’re excited to have our first plumbing niche question. We look forward to hearing from all our plumbing experts, but also from our contractors, designers and green experts who might have something to add to the discussion.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Steve Labbe 07/03/12

    Kohler & Toto makes the best toilet in my experience.I love installing both units. I love the comfort height at 16″ which comes in elongated. 1.6 gallon flush is the way we keep our natural resources and I always promote this type of install.

    A trick I found when you have a large load to be flushed is to keep the handle held down and this will give you the little extra that you need to make sure you have a clean bowl. Happy flushing from your friend’s at Paradigm Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning.

    Steve Labbe President

  • Pablo Solomon 07/03/12

    Of course being a life long conservationist, I always suggest catching as much “gray” water as you can in your sinks, tubs and showers. Then saving it in a bucket and using that water to “boost” the flush in your toilet. It makes good use of the water that normally would go down the drain. You also can use rain water to flush toilets. I think it is practically a sin to use drinking quality water to flush toilets. Hopefully gray water systems for toilets will be the norm in future construction. That being said, get a toilet that is easy to clean, easy to fix and reliable. Also put a few extra dollars into a top quality cut off valve–nothing is more irritating than the valve leaking after you repair the toilet.
    On a side note, I have a friend who lived in Austin who was an herbalist. She won a battle with the Austin City Council to allow her to have what could best be described as an a hightech outhouse. For years she would come out to our ranch to harvest a plant called mullin which has large, soft, velvety leaves which the pioneers used for toilet paper. While I do not particularly advocate going that “green”, it shows that some people actually do.

  • Greg Chick 07/03/12

    Buying a Toilet needs to be based on most everything except name. Before buying a toilet, ask yourself several questions:

    1. Is this Toilet going under a “Banjo Top” (counter top that extends as a shelf over the tank).
    2. ADA Comfort height or not?.
    3. Door swing clearance for elongated bowl?
    4. Is the pressure low enough to require a pressure assist tank or not? (I chose min. 50psi for pressure tanks).
    5. Dual flush is a behavior issue, are users going to maximize?
    6. If side view of bowl is showing, do you want to use a skirted bowl?
    7. Are designer (expensive colors) used?
    8. Is water extremely hard? If so Toto Sana Gloss is an option.
    9. Is a standard 12″ rough-in needed or is an option needed for 10″?
    10. Is the footprint of the existing toilet into a carpet or tile where a scar will show?
    11. Do you want a good waste removal? If so the MAP testing ratings are online to read to get specs. 250 gr. waste removal is minimum allowed, but 600 gr. removal is my min. standard. Ratings go up to 1000 gr.

    Water sense by EPA has a fair line-up of toilets having a min. of 350 gr. waste removal, on up.
    Define what features are available that matter to you, then chose one that has it all! You can pay anywhere from $100 to $1000.

  • Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk 07/05/12

    ‘Good comments so far, but here’s a fun and different perspective involving high-tech and health care. Consider a Smart Toilet if your budget, or curiosity allows. Kohler, Panasonic and Toto offer models with different feature sets. I wrote about them last year in “Smart Toilets, a royal flush for Home Healthcare?” (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/04/smart-toilets-a-royal-flush-for-home-healthcare/) but sure would like a plumber’s perspective on them.

  • Dave Jones @ Roto Rooter 07/06/12

    Aside from the design considerations, functionality and code are still key. Pressurized toilets work very well and carry the water out like a commercial grade toilet. However, they are not as quiet as a conventional model.

    When considering a new fixture for your home such as a toilet, we recommend that you choose a fixture made by one of the major manufacturers, such as American Standard, Kohler or Eljer.

    Another thing to consider is that some jurisdictions that are having a problems with pure water sources are requiring that all toilets and faucets be switched to low flow. So, if your city has water restrictions for lawn watering, drought conditions or a low water table, then they may require the switching of toilets to stay up to code for resale.

  • David Parker, ER Plumbing Services 07/06/12

    Here at ER Plumbing Services of Charlotte NC, we’re big fans of Toto cyclone toilets because they are low flush toilets that use gravity and a dual-nozzle water propulsion system. It’s an efficient toilet that works well and will save you money on your water bill.

    If your toilets are not low flush, you are using between 3-7 gallons of water per flush. Low flush toilets use 1.6 (or less) gallons of water per flush. Low flush toilets save the average household 25 gallons of water per day.

    We have found that high quality low flush toilets perform as well as traditional toilets, and they pay for themselves since the installation will lower your water bill significantly. Low flush toilets are better for the world and better for your home. Our vote goes to low flush toilets!

  • Robert Hanson @ Rooter Man of WA 07/06/12

    As a service plumber I see toilets everyday and let me tell you they have progressed so much in the last couple of years it’s sick. There are so many choices for customers to choose from. When looking for a toilet what are you doing first?…You are looking for something that will look good in your bathroom. Is your bathroom modern? Is it an old Victorian house? Is the house a rental? If the toilet is used for a rental I would suggest installing a toilet with a larger throat or trap. There are toilets available that cost a little more up front $200.00-$300.00 at the box stores, but with the larger trap they will not plug up as much as a standard toilet

  • Jason Crook from PHAG interiors 07/06/12

    While I’m far from a plumbing expert, we do a large number of bathroom renovations and, in my experience; this is truly an area of large variance in personal preference!

    From a designer’s perspective, we’ve seen a trend toward “themed” bathrooms and powder rooms in recent years. If this appeals to you, one thing to consider is that most hand-crafted or designer toilet seats/lids are made to fit “standard” fixtures, so sticking with the basic toilet size and shape may actually allow you more room to incorporate the toilet into fun and clever design themes in the future.

  • Nancy Dalton 07/06/12

    As a kitchen and bathroom designer I look closely at the plumbing I specify for my clients. Toilets really need to work or they’ll drive you crazy. I think manufacturers have taken really impressive steps to improve the function and styles available.
    I have a few must haves on my list for a great toilet:
    • A concealed trapway for a sleek look and easy cleaning
    • A 3” flush valve with a proven engineered flush
    • “Right height” 16 ½” rim height; easier to get on and off
    • Elongated seat if the space is available in the room; it’s just better.

    I’ve used quite a few Toto toilets, but in the last few years I really believe American Standard has some terrific toilets and great values. The Cadet 3, flowise with concealed trapway, right height and elongated with a 5 year warranty is a great value in the 300-400.00 range. For a super sleek one piece toilet, the Boulevard with siphonic dual flush in the 600-700.00 range and ten year warranty would be perfect for a master bath. These toilets also are part of the EPA Watersense program, have everclean surfaces and other great features.

    The Toto heated seats and cleaning features or Kohler’s hat box toilet are right for some clients that have very specific requirements. These are always fun to see at home shows but the criteria and the styles I’ve listed usually satisfy my client’s needs.

  • Sam @ ServiceMaster by Best 07/07/12

    I have often cleaned up after 3 types of messes related to toilets, the fresh water tank cracks for some reason, the flushing mechanism fails and the supply line ruptures. We at cleaned up many disasters due to the above mentioned challenges. The toilet debate will continue, however to every plumber I would recommend using metal braided supply lines and save your clients from calling me. :)

  • Paul Welsh @ Progressive Services 07/09/12

    Being a plumber for over thirty years I know there are all kinds of choices out there for the consumer to choose from colors and styles plus many different accessories! When I was considering the water closet for my home I had two criteria I had to meet, one my wife had to like the look and second is it a water saver. We ended up choosing the Mansfield. A feature we didn’t realize we had until it was put to use was if you flush the lever regular you get the 1.6 gallon flush but if you hold the lever you get a 2.5 gallon flush. Just that little extra! Good luck!

  • Matt Morse @ Precision Plumbing 07/09/12

    When considering a new toilet purchase I always make a pressure assist toilet a top option. I have found this style flushing the best and most reliable of all the toilets on the market. Most manufacturers have a model in their line up but I have always used the Gerber brand.

    If an traditional gravity flush is the preferred style then I recommend either a Toto or a Gerber for best performance. Toilet height is another feature to consider, the 16″ ADA height has become a preferred more comfortable choice. The last thing to consider is to upgrade your toilet seat to a plastic high quality slow close seat that won’t slam shut. Be warned though, if you buy one of these seats you will soon replace the others in your home as soon as you get used to the seat closing quietly.

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