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This article was originally published May 24, 2013

Choosing a toilet used to be a simple matter of finding a design that suited you. Today, though, you’ll need to choose among different mounting types, flushing methods, bowl shapes and other options. Each option has its pros and cons, and what’s right for you depends on your individual needs. Before you start browsing for a new toilet for your Southwest Florida home, get clear on your choices so you can select the model that’s best for you.

Measure for fit

Your first step in choosing a toilet is to find your current toilet’s rough-in measurement so you can find a model that fits your bathroom. The rough-in measurement is the distance from the wall to the middle of the toilet flange, which lines up with the center of the hold-down bolts. For a toilet with two bolts on each side, measure to the center of the back bolt. If you’re measuring from the lowest part of the wall, take the thickness of the baseboard or molding into account. Ideally, measure directly from the wall.

The standard distance is 12 inches, but most toilet designs can accommodate a distance of 11 to 13 inches. Any more or less than that, and you’ll need a toilet designed specifically for this distance. That will most likely be a 10- or 14-inch rough-in model. 

It’s also possible to install a toilet with a smaller rough-in than your current model. In this case, you’ll have a gap between the toilet and the wall.

The last thing you want is to end up with a toilet that fails to flush away waste thoroughly or constantly clogs. To make sure the model you choose won’t give you trouble, look for toilets that achieve high flushing performance. Maximum Performance Testing results provide one way to compare. This independent testing body evaluates toilets for their ability to flush waste thoroughly.

MaP maintains a database that’s searchable by manufacturer and model, by features such as mounting type and bowl shape and by performance ratings. With this database, you’ll be able to search for toilets that meet EPA WaterSense Certification standards, UNAR/ecoEnergy requirements and other standards.

Comparison tests conducted by Consumer Reports and tests by toilet manufacturers are also available. Few of these tests use substances that resemble what MaP calls real-world demands, so the results aren’t as reliable as MaP testing results.

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Choose your design

When choosing a toilet, you’ll need to decide if you want a one-piece, two-piece or wall-mount design. Two-piece toilets are the most common. These plumbing fixtures have a separate bowl and tank you can buy together or separately. Because there are so many on the market, opting for a two-piece toilet gives you a greater chance of finding one with the features you want.

One-piece toilets typically have the tank, bowl, lid and other parts combined in one unit. The greatest advantage of this type of fixture is fewer leaks. These fixtures are easier to clean, because there are few small crevices and joints. The sleek appearance and, often, the smaller size also appeal to some.

They are, however, typically more expensive than two-piece models. Because there are fewer parts to connect, installing a one-piece toilet may be faster than installing a two-piece model. On the other hand, one-piece toilets are often heavy, which can make installation harder.

Wall-mount toilets are the least common design and are significantly more expensive to purchase and install than floor-mounted models. They can work loose over time and may require adjusting.

Decide on bowl type

Toilet bowls are available in two shapes: elongated and round. Elongated bowls are around 2 or 3 inches longer in the front than round bowls. Round bowls never surpass 28 inches, while elongated bowls can be as large as 31 inches. Despite the fact that they take up more space, elongated bowls offer some advantages. Some individuals, including the elderly and those with physical impairments, may find the bigger seat more comfortable because it supports the thighs like a chair. These bowls also retain less soiling and hold back odors better. For some, the streamlined oval shape is more visually appealing than the traditional round shape.

In very small bathrooms, however, the extra inches may be inconvenient. Elongated bowls are often slightly more expensive than round bowls, too. What’s more, most toilet seats and covers are designed for round bowls. Seats and covers for elongated bowls are available, but they may be harder to find.

Decide on height

Standard toilets are around 15 inches from the seat to the floor. Although this height is comfortable for many, you may be better off choosing a toilet with a higher seat. Seats of 17 inches high are marketed as “comfort height” and are better suited for the elderly and those with physical impairments. In fact, this is the height the American Disabilities Act requires for public toilets.

Consider a dual-flush toilet

Toilets account for up to 30 percent of the water use in the average US home. If you’ve had bad experiences with water-conserving toilets, though, choosing a toilet designed to save water may not seem too appealing. Older models of water-saving toilets simply reduced the amount of water used, leaving you with no choice about how much too use. Newer models have changed that.

In 1995, Department of Energy standards limited new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush. Even so, 1.6 gallons may be more than needed to clean the bowl. A dual-flush toilet gives you a choice in the amount of water that you use. One flush releases .8 gallons of water, and the other flush releases 1.6 gallons. In the average household, dual-flush toilets reduce water use by 25 percent over older water-conserving models. In some homes, the reduction may be as much as 67 percent.

These models are often more expensive than single-flush models. They also tend to clean the bowl less thoroughly, even when the higher-volume flush is used.

Gravity versus pressure-assisted toilets

Traditionally designed toilets are known as gravity toilets. They store water in a tank that’s higher than the bowl. When the toilet is flushed, the water is released, allowing gravity to pull it down into the bowl.

Pressure-assisted toilets are a relatively new design. They look like traditional toilets, but inside the main tank is an inner tank where air holds water under pressure. When you flush the toilet, this water is forced out at high speed. The amount of pressure depends on your home’s water pressure.

On the up side, they use less water than gravity toilets and clean the bowl more thoroughly. On the down side, older models may be noisier, and both older and newer models are more expensive than traditional toilets. Because they’re less common, they can be hard to find parts for if something goes wrong. They’re gaining popularity, though, and currently make up around half of the new toilets purchased.

Look for rebates

Many water companies offer rebates on the purchase price of toilets and other plumbing fixtures that meet certain water-efficiency standards, such as the EPA’s WaterSense standards. When you’ve narrowed your choices, ask your water company about any rebates.

Choosing a toilet isn’t complex, but taking the time to learn about your options will help you find a model you’ll be happy with for years. If you’d like help choosing the right toilet, or you have other plumbing issues you’d like to discuss, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air. Wherever you are in the Sarasota or Bradenton area, we can help you keep your plumbing running smoothly and efficiently.