Is there really much to think about other than looks when selecting a toilet for a bathroom remodel? Surprisingly, yes. When it comes to choosing a commode, size, height and how well it functions should play into your decision.
THE PERFECT FIT
There are thousands of toilets on the market, but a rough-in distance, which measures the distance from the finished wall to the center of the sewer drain for the toilet, will narrow the field. The standard rough-in is 12 inches, and the widest selection of toilets is available in this size. If a bathroom remodel makes use of an existing rough-in that is another size, 10 or 14 inches for example, choices can be more limited.
Most people find elongated toilet bowls to be more comfortable, but in a small bathroom, a round bowl can save space. Elongated toilet bowls measure up to 31″ from the wall, while round fixtures max out at 28″. Because round bowls are less expensive than elongated bowls, they save a few dollars, too.
Comfort also comes into play with toilet heights. Many manufacturers now offer toilets that measure a few inches taller than standard 14″ fixtures. “For taller people … it’s more comfortable,” says Suzie Williford, National Kitchen & Bath Association vice president and manager of luxury products at Kiva Kitchen & Bath in Houston, Texas. Taller toilets are also an integral part of universal design, which makes a bathroom accessible to all users regardless of mobility, because they make sitting down and standing up easier.
There are several toilet types available. A two-piece toilet, in which the tank bolts on top of the bowl, is typically a bit more affordable. A one-piece toilet, with an integral tank and bowl, can cost more, but these units are easier to clean because they have no seam. Wall-mounted toilets add drama to a bathroom, and cleaning under them is a breeze. However, this higher-end fixture can be more expensive to install because it requires a thicker wall to mount the toilet and house the tank, and future maintenance could require reopening the wall.
Once you’ve settled on the size, shape and style, find a toilet that flushes efficiently. “You can have the most beautiful toilet in the whole wide world, but if it doesn’t flush, it’s ugly,” Williford says.
Before 1994, typical toilets used 3.5 gallons of water per flush. Then Congress, in an effort to conserve resources, reduced the amount of water newly manufactured toilets could flush to 1.6 gallons per flush. Unfortunately, the first generation of low-flow toilets couldn’t get the job done, and that’s a stigma these commodes are still trying to shake more than a decade later. Manufacturers have since introduced low-flow toilets that work well, using either a gravity or power-assisted flush.
But, as with any product, some toilets function better than others. To find a toilet with effective flushing technology, visit a showroom and talk with a salesperson. “A person in the showroom does not want to sell you a toilet that does not work because they know you’re going to call them — and you’re going to call them all the time,” Williford says.
For homeowners interested in conserving even more water and reducing water bills, many manufacturers offer toilets with dual-flush technology. These units typically feature a split plunger-style flush mechanism on top of the tank. Pushing one button releases .08 gallons of water and pushing both doubles the flow to 1.6 gallons. Over the life of the toilet, a four-person family can save more than $2,100.
Bidets, fixtures that look similar to toilets but are actually used for personal hygiene, are typical in European bathrooms, but aren’t as common in the United States. Max Isley, owner of Hampton Kitchens in Raleigh, N.C., estimates that less than 20 percent of his clients choose to include a bidet in a bathroom remodel, and most do simply because the fixture is fashionable and helps with resale. Bidets can also be useful for anyone who has mobility problems and finds it difficult to get into a bathtub or stand in the shower.
Of course, if there’s no room in a remodel for a bidet, toilet seats that provide a bidet function are available. Other upgrades include soft-closing toilet seats, which ensure the seat always is closed after use and prevent lids from slamming. Heated toilet seats are another option that can be added without busting a bathroom budget. “None of these things are necessary; they just make life a little bit nicer,” Williford says. And after all, isn’t that is what a bathroom remodel is all about?