How to Measure and Choose a New Toilet

Even though they’re sometimes messy and dirty, toilets are actually very low-maintenance and don’t need to be fixed or replaced as often as other bathroom appliances. Toilets only have limited problems – the water supply or flush valves may break or malfunction, or the wax ring securing your toilet to the floor might need replacement. A toilet is mostly a porcelain structure housing water and some pulleys mounted to the floor – it can’t malfunction badly unless the toilet itself cracks.

However, there are times when it’s necessary to replace the toilet even when it isn’t broken – such as when you’re remodeling the bathroom to a new visual style, or if you’re looking for newer toilet features such as powerful flushing and water-saving improvements.

Most people dread replacing the toilet, but it’s actually simple if you plan ahead and follow the correct steps ahead of time. But before you can proceed, you need to learn how to measure a toilet and understand the available options for buying a new toilet.

Toilet Measurements

Keeping the older toilet in place, precisely record the dimensions of the old toilet so that you know the new toilet you buy will fit in its place. When you begin measuring, begin with the rough-in measurement: taking down the length between the wall where the toilet is mounted to the base of the toilet where the bolts are located. For toilets with four bolts, use the two back bolts for recording. Standard toilets have a rough-in distance of 11-13 inches, and you use the rough-in distance as a reference when you’re shopping for your new toilet.

A toilet with a rough-in distance outside that range will not allow a standard toilet to fit in that space, so you will need a toilet with the specific rough-in measurement you came up with. Very small bathrooms will commonly utilize a toilet with a 10-inch rough-in space, since the room is limited.

If you’re working with a smaller bathroom, you should also measure the area around the toilet. Avoid the mistake of purchasing a toilet that matches your rough-in, but takes up too much space in another direction!

Toilet Options

Once you have the toilet measurements, review the different models and features that are available:

Toilets are manufactured in either one- or two-piece models.

  • One-piece toilets are fused between bowl and tank, and are a single unit of ceramic or porcelain. These types are more expensive than two-piece toilets, but appear more smooth and attractive.
  • Two-piece toilets offer a more budget-friendly option.

If you’re really looking to ride in style, consider the “intelligent” toilets that are breaking into the market – these have heat-controlled seats, or features that help you clean yourself.

Toilets are manufactured in several designs, based on their use and need:

  • Bowl shape – a toilet bowl’s shape will be either elongated, compact-elongated, or round-front. Your standard toilet for the residential home would be an elongated design, since it has the deepest seat and is comfortable. Compact-elongated toilets take up slightly less space, but still offer considerable comfort. However, if you’re looking for a tight fit and an affordable option, round-front toilets are the way to go.
  • Seat height – a toilet at standard height will be around 17 inches from the floor to the top of the seat. For older or disabled users, the 19-inch seat option is the most comfortable and easiest to sit on and stand from. You can even have a toilet with a custom-ordered height ranging from 15 to 28 inches over the floor.
  • Toilet trap – the plumbing trap is the passage under the toilet basin, which is curved and configured in such a way to prevent pungent gases from rising through the toilet and stinking the room. Your choice of toilet trap is mostly for aesthetic purposes – some toilets reveal the trap shape, others have porcelain encased over it. We suggest revealed traps for classic, traditional-style bathrooms, and a hidden trap for a modern-looking bathroom.
  • Flush-handle placement – flush handles can be designed in several locations; the left, the right side of the tank, or on top of the lid. Touchless toilets and electronic flushes allow the toilet to be flushed without ever laying a finger on it, keeping your hands cleaner.

A toilet’s flushing apparatus can function in several ways: single flush, dual flush, or touchless flush.

  • With a single-flush toilet, these provide consistent 1- to 1.6-gallon flushes, and newer toilets are coming out that require even less water (these toilets are the most common and therefore come in the widest variety of shapes and colors).
  • Dual flush toilets offers two options, either a light flush using 0.6 gallons of water for liquid waste or a more powerful 1.6 gallon flush for solid waste.
  • Touchless toilets operate on electronic sensory technology that enables flushing without physical contact, preventing the spread of bacteria and infection.

Purchasing a New Toilet

You’ll find yourself spending just about any amount of money for a toilet – the most economic, basic models run as low as $100, while some of the highest-caliber “intelligent” flushing machines can be tagged more than $5,000. It’s important once you purchase the toilet not to forget extraneous accessories, including closet bolts and a wax gasket.

There’s also a chance you might need to purchase a ballcock, the water supply valve in the tank (although most models already have it installed). The water supply valve and shutoff valve should also be replaced with the new toilet.

Almost all toilets are made of fragile vitreous china or porcelain – you’re going to be a real mess if you drop it and fracture it. However, a fracture to the porcelain body of the toilet is one of the only issues you should have to worry about, since the rest of the toilet operates on simple mechanics.

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