You use it every day, but seldom give it a second thought. But as far as important fixtures in your home go, your toilet is right at the top of the list. The purpose of this article is to show you what to look for when choosing a new toilet, how technology has improved this all-important fixture over the years and how to install a new one of your very own. Note: This article is concerned only with residential toilets.
You don't have to wait until your toilet is on the fritz to replace it, and you don't need to hire a plumber or handyman to do it. With a few easy-to-use tools and a capable team of two, you'll soon enjoy your new toilet, an investment you'll appreciate for years to come.
Choosing your toilet
When it comes to toilets, there are a few questions you'll want to ask when you begin searching.
- One-piece or two?
- What is comfort height?
- Gravity-fed vs. pressure-assisted flush
- Will my toilet fit?
One-piece or two?
The term "one-piece" may be a bit misleading, since even these fixtures are actually six to 10 individual pieces sculpted into one seamless unit. The result is a sleek, hand-crafted toilet with no crevices between the tank and bowl to collect dirt and odors.
Meanwhile, two-piece toilets require a separate tank and bowl which are bolted together upon installation.
What is comfort height?
Just what it sounds like, actually. Comfort height toilets put the height of a toilet (seat included) at the same height as a standard chair for maximum comfort and ease when sitting down or standing up.
Gravity-fed vs. pressure-assisted flush
There are two basic types of toilet flushing systems, and both types save water by using 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
Gravity-fed flush toilets use the force of gravity and a siphon "pull-through" action to empty the bowl.
Pressure-assisted flush toilets harness pressure from the water supply in the home to create a powerful push-through" flush. All waste is removed quickly in about four seconds. Pressure-assisted toilets are slightly louder and there is no condensation or "sweating" on the outer tank side.
Will my toilet fit?
Toilets come in varying sizes, so check the width, depth and height of your available space. Most toilets bolt to the floor 12 inches from the wall (rough-in measurement, as described above), but some manufacturers make 10-inch and 14-inch models. Be sure to measure first.
Also, be sure to specify that your toilet is round or elongated when it comes to fitting your seat.
Toilet Talk 101
While toilet technology and flushing efficiency have made vast strides in the last decade, the inner workings of your latrine remain pretty much the same. With that said, let's take a look at what makes your unit work (without actually looking inside to see how it works):
This is the water-containing receptor where you do…ahem, your business. Bowls can be placed into two general categories: Round-front and elongated. While round-front bowls are compact and designed to fit in smaller spaces, elongated toilets have extra room in the front for added comfort.
The tank is the fixture reservoir for flushing water. On a conventional toilet, the ballcock (or float valve), flush valve and trip lever are installed in the tank. A tank lid closes the top tank opening.
These activate the flushing of the toilet. Tank levers can be found on either the left or right side of the tank, or on the top.
Measurement of the rough-in is critical to installing the correct size toilet-but it's quite predictable. The rough-in dimensions are the distance from a finished wall or floor to the center of the waste or supply opening or mounting holes. Nearly every two-piece toilet is a 12-inch rough, and most flush valve toilets are 10-inch rough. (See image here)
It's possible to color coordinate your bathroom with various seats and tank levers (also referred to as flush levers). Various finishes, themes and materials can match the rest of your bathroom décor. Flush levers are quite specific, offered in right, left or top mounting.
The most significant advance in recent years when it comes to flush toilets is clearly the amount of water used. As recent as the early 1990s, toilets typically used 3.0 gallons per flush (gpf). In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill which forced standard 3.0 gpf toilets to reduce their use to 1.6, nearly a 50 percent reduction in water usage. New engineering has made the best use of the 1.6 gallons allotted.
In addition, the plumbing industry has adopted a program called WaterSense . Much like the lighting industry's ENERGY STAR program, WaterSense is committed to designing products which use less energy and water, helping to save you money as well as the environment. Currently the WaterSense program uses 1.28 gpf as a standard for toilets, which may soon become the industry standard if history repeats itself and WaterSense takes off like ENERGY STAR did.
Brands like American Standard, Kohler and Toto have developed innovative ways to move water quickly out of the tank, using "jets" to propel the waste out to wider trap holes in the tank so water could exit quickly.
As technology continues to improve, so will your water and money savings. For example, a 1.4 gpf setting option offers eco-friendly water savings of up to 2,000 gallons per year, based on usage of 10,000 gallons per year using a 1.6 gpf toilet.
Installing your toilet
- Removing the old toilet
- Installing the bowl
- Installing the tank
- Completing the installation
As with anything you'll be installing (especially that has to do with plumbing), please be sure to follow any safety instructions that are included with the toilet. Always refer to the manufacturer-issued instructions, as well.
To install your new toilet, you'll need access to the following tools:
You may also need a replacement wax seal and a hacksaw, depending on the brand of toilet you've chosen.
Removing the old toilet
Locate, turn off and disconnect the water supply. Flush the old toilet one last time and remove any residual water in the tank with a sponge.
Remove the T-bolts that secure the toilet to the floor, and rock the bowl back and forth to loosen the wax seal. After you've removed the toilet, use a putty knife to remove the old wax seal. Wipe away any wax left on the floor with a wet sponge.
Installing the bowl
With your new toilet resting on its side, place the new wax seal on the bottom of the bowl. Align the bowl outlet with the flange. Apply weight and press down on the bowl to set the wax seal. To reduce the risk of external leakage, do not move the bowl once the wax seal has touched the flange. This may break the seal.
Place the bolts on the T-bolts in the upright position. Add a washer and thread a nut onto the bolt and tighten with a wrench. As always, be careful not to over-tighten. If it's necessary, shorten the bolt with a hacksaw. Then snap the plastic caps onto the cap bases on both sides of the toilet.
Installing the tank
Slide the retaining bolts into the bracket on the bottom of the tank. Press the gasket onto the tank outlet. Position the tank on the bowl by centering the gasket on the bowl inlet.
Assemble the washers and nuts onto the bottom of the tank bolts. Alternately tighten the nuts so that the tank is level and the mounting bracket tabs make contact with the bowl. Use a level to determine when the tank is horizontal.
Completing the installation
Connect the water supply to the tank. Open the water supply valve and check for leaks. After installing the toilet seat, place the tank cover on the tank.