How to Choose the Right Toilet

What to know, from size and energy-efficiency to extra features

A wall-hung toilet in Sweeten homeowners Sonya and Aaron’s Brooklyn bathroom

While a toilet may not be the very first thing you think about when imagining your dream bathroom, it is definitely a decision that requires some thought. Ahead, Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with general contractors outlines how to choose the best toilet for your bathroom renovation, highlighting sizes, styles, and features (including self-cleaning bowls).

Determine the Toilet Size

If you’re replacing an existing toilet, you will need to find a model that matches the rough-in—the distance from the wall to the center of the flange, the bolts that secure it to the floor. Twelve inches are standard, but you can find 10- and 14-inch models. The next measurement to consider is height. While standard bowls provide a rim from 14 to 15 inches high, “comfort height” is also available, which sits 17 to 19 inches above the floor, to make getting on and off easier.

Choose Your Style

Bowl Shape
Consider the bowl shape: A round bowl is classic. It also takes up less space than an elongated version, so it’s good for a small bath or water closet. However, the elongated bowl provides greater room to sit and thus tends to be more comfortable.

If you seek a contemporary style, look at toilets with a concealed or skirted trapway, to hides the contours of the base. Besides the sleek appearance, this version is easier to clean since there are fewer curves where dirt can collect.

One-piece or two?

Sounds like a bathing suit, but there are practical as well as stylistic reasons. A one-piece toilet takes up less space, is faster to install, and easier to clean since there is no seam to trap grime. However, all other features being the same, a two-piece is cheaper, plus its tank can be removed if you need to replace it or repair a pipe, whereas damage to a one-piece can mean the entire toilet would have to be replaced.

You can find wall models with the tank concealed in the wall which speeds maintenance since you don’t have to clean around the base. However, be aware that a wall-hung toilet requires breaking into the wall to hide the flushing mechanism which is an added cost to the budget. Also, access for repair is more complicated since the tank is not exposed.

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bathroom with rustic vanity and contemporary toilet and honeycomb or hexagon wall tiles and off white wall paint after renovation
A one-piece toilet in Sweeten homeowner Erica’s bathroom

Fashion colors

As with appliances, you won’t find all styles in all colors, but you will find a nice range to choose from—including the hue of the moment, gray—if you want to go beyond white. A color will cost more, however, since whatever you choose won’t be manufactured in the same quantities as white or even black. And since white remains the most popular color for baths, you’ll enjoy plenty of options there, from cool to warm to ivory to bisque, to match your decor.

Don’t Forget About Flush Performance

Flushing mechanisms
There are two choices: gravity feed and pressure-assisted:

  • Just as the term indicates, gravity feed uses gravity to send water through the rim of the toilet to force waste through the outlet pipe.
  • Pressure-assisted employs compressed air or a small pump. Gravity feed tends to be quieter, while pressure-assisted claims to require less water to operate along with greater effectiveness removing solid waste. You can find some pressure-assisted models that use electricity to boost function, but keep in mind if there is a power outage, the toilet won’t operate.

Water conservation

Two decades ago, the U.S. Department of Energy set a requirement for all newly manufactured toilets, restricting them to a maximum use of 1.6 gallons per flush. (Since then, the state of California has set a lower standard—1.28 gallons per flush.) Manufacturers met this requirement and, in fact, now some go as low as 0.9 gallons. As you shop, look for the WaterSense certification from the EPA, which indicates that the toilet uses no more than the standard 1.28 gallons.

Other Toilet Features to Consider

Dual-flush options
You want worry-free performance from your toilet, but even with the EPA restrictions, you’re aware of the ongoing need to conserve water, right? With dual flush, just as the term indicates, two buttons offer either the option of a partial flush for liquid waste or a complete flush for solid.

Touchless flush
Motion sensors are no longer just for faucets and towel dispensers in a public washroom. The same type of touchless technology can now activate the flushing of your toilet with just the wave of a hand. Super convenient and ideal for hygienic considerations.

Bidet or a combo?
If a bath doesn’t have room to add a bidet—which takes up at least the width of another toilet—manufacturers now offer a toilet/bidet combo in some of their models. This added feature translates to as much as 10x the cost of a standard toilet, but think of all the money you’ll save on toilet paper. Expect to find controls that offer different settings for water temperature, spray, and pressure, and also a drying mechanism.

bidet toiletA toilet with a bidet seat in Sweeten homeowner Alice’s Pleasantville, New York renovation

Self-cleaning bowl
While maintenance hasn’t been completely eliminated, some toilets come with ceramic glazes that include antimicrobial ions to reduce germs. You can also find models that integrate self-cleaning systems that do some of the scrubbing labor for you (and eliminate those messy toilet brushes!), with a combination of nozzles to reduce daily waste buildup, as well as a cleaning cycle, which is to say a system of sprays that— at the press of a button—interact with a cleaning solution emitted from a cartridge concealed in the tank.

And more little extras
It wasn’t so long ago that the news in toilets was the soft-close seat. Now you can have a toilet that opens the lid for you, too. Some turn the toilet into a miniature spa experience with more innovations, including soft LED lights for nighttime use, venting systems, and heated seats. If these features don’t come with your new toilet, you can find kits at box stores to retrofit.

If you’re planning on redesigning your bathroom, consider what kind of storage you’ll need. Here are clever bathroom storage ideas that are more than average!

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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