The (Unspeakable) Bathroom Fixture

Eljer water saving Titan toilet (1.6 gal.).

Water closets and their featured fixture – the toilet – don’t get a lot of attention when advice is handed out on picking out products for the bath.

Although Americans are a bit shy about discussing this topic, there are some valuable tips that will help you purchase a toilet that you’e happy with for years to come and locate it in a new or remodeled bath.

Private Setting or Not?

Many of the opulent master baths profiled in magazines and on television in the last 15 years have included separate water closets – essentially a tiny room that houses the toilet.

This does afford complete privacy and when combined with a dedicated ventilation fan separates this bathroom function from all others.

However, WCs add to the budget and require extra space. Not enough of either of these? A WC certainly isn’t necessary since most master baths are typically used exclusively by a single person or a couple and are very private spaces on their own.

A less involved design feature to afford some privacy is a half-height wall, but this too is a matter of preference for the homeowners using the bath. If you’re remodeling, you may want to consider leaving the toilet where it is currently located and shifting other fixtures around it, since moving the drain, waste, and vent system for a toilet (like a bathtub) can be very expensive for very little change.

Choosing a Toilet

Toilets are not all the same. They range in price from under $200 to well over $1000. A lot of the difference is style, but not all. One important distinction is whether the toilet is one-piece or two-piece.

Single-piece toilets are sleeker in styling, leave fewer nooks and crannies to collect dust and grime, and don’t have the bolted connections that can leak over time like two-piece toilets. However, they are a good deal more expensive; before spending the money make sure you look at different manufacturers (and their different lines) of two-piece toilets given the effort that has gone into styling these toilets in recent years.

Toilets also come in different bowl shapes: round and elongated. The latter shape is more comfortable for most folks, but it does project out further into a tight bathroom. The biggest space conflict is often the swing of the shower-door enclosure – something you often don’t think of until installation time.

Toilets also differ in height. Higher toilets (around 17 inches) are required by the American Disabilities Act in public places for users with disabilities; they are often referred to as ADA-compliant. They also are very convenient with older and taller homeowners and have been gaining in popularity in general.

How Well Does It Work?

For many years, selecting a toilet had little to do with performance. These toilets used between 3.5 gallons and 7 gallons of water – not a challenge except to water supply and dealing with public waste processing. This all changed in the late 1980’s as states began to limit toilets -water usage. The 1992 National Plumbing Standards Act limited all new and replacement toilets in the country to 1.6 gallons per flush by 1994.

The first generation of these new low-flush toilets were not always effective – to say the least. Many required a double flush for solid waste, and their toilet bowls didn’t keep themselves very clean. Soon, assisted-flush toilets were added by some manufacturers to help with the poor hydraulic designs. These flushed much better, but were more expensive and loud.

Although second-generation, gravity-fed low-flush toilets are much better, it still important to determine how well a brand’s toilets perform with other consumers – both in flushing and in bowl cleanliness. The Internet has consumer ratings by a number of different organizations.

Some of the factors require an engineering degree to understand, but a hard, fast flush makes best use of the 1.6 gallons of water. This gets a siphon started to finish the flush through a large diameter, fully-glazed trap way. A large water surface area in the bowl and an effective stream of water from the rim will keep the toilet cleaner.

Bottom Line

When shopping for a toilet, you don’t have to pay a lot of money for an efficient, good-looking toilet. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Determine whether you want a sleek one-piece design or the more standard (and less expensive) two-piece.
  • Decide on a brand based on flushing performance and styling.
  • If it’s a replacement toilet, make sure that the toilet is made to accommodate your existing rough-in measurements (the distance from the finished wall to the center of the closet bend–the 4-in waste pipe in the floor) and that its footprint will cover the area that your previous toilet occupied.
  • Check to see if the manufacturer makes an ADA-compliant toilet if that’s something you need or want.
  • Finally, choose white or a color and ask about availability; many colors will require some wait and are considerably more expensive.