Like most household staples, a toilet isn’t something we really think much about until we have to buy one, and when we come to that conclusion it’s possible to get completely flummoxed by the choices we have at our disposal. As with most home necessities, the right toilet must nail the right balance between functionality and customizability – in other words, how well it can do what it’s intended to do, while still meeting some specific and personal requirements. These requirements can be anything from aesthetic considerations (are we going retro, modern or classic?) to convenience-related (how easy or difficult is the toilet to clean? How easy is it for a tall or short person to sit on?).
With all these considerations in mind, you’ll have to do a little homework so you’re aware of what features to look out for, and the pros and cons of the options available to you. In this post, we’ve rounded up what we think are the most important tips to remember when purchasing a new toilet.
Tank or tank-less?
The most common type of toilet you’ve likely seen around is the classic two-piece style of toilet. As the name suggests, the contraption comes in two parts – the tank and the toilet bowl or seat, assembled together to work as a single unit. As one of the most recurring styles of toilet, this often falls into more affordable price brackets, as well as being an easier option to assemble – since the unit comes in two pieces, these can be carried and attached separately, so you can singlehandedly transport a full toilet without help, if you need to.
A more complicated – and likely more expensive – style of two-piece toilets are high-tank toilets. These are almost vintage because of their now unique and outdated style – the tank is mounted high on the wall over the toilet seat, and is flushed by pulling down on a chain. Most of us have only seen such a unit in old movies or a family home dating back a long time, but more than practicality, this style of toilet is an aesthetic choice to give your home a more rustic, page-out-of-time feel. Because of its rarity, expect this style to cost more than our standard two-piece models for both installation and maintenance.
If there’s one problem we have with two-piece models, though, it’s the difficulty in cleaning. The assembly point between the tank and toilet seat comes with quite a lot of hard to reach crevices, where dirt can and does accumulate and cleaning becomes a time-consuming if not nightmarish chore to repeat weekly. A solution is to bypass the two-piece models altogether and opt for a one-piece unit – though heavier, the tank of this unit is already incorporated with the toilet seat, so it eliminates the necessity of assembly and is much easier to clean. Though costing a bit more than standard two-piece toilets, these units are convenient and diverse, with plenty of design choices and feature varieties available to suit your specific needs and preferences.
Finally, we come to the tank-less version of the toilet – ones you’ve likely seen in sleek hotel or restaurant bathrooms, a minimalistic unit mounted to the wall with the tank either inside the wall or altogether tank-less. These units instantly pull off a clean and contemporary effect, are easy on the eyes as well as easy to clean up, but do cost more, not only in terms of purchasing the unit but installing it, too. Since wall-mounting your toilet is reliant partly on the plumbing within your walls, you’re better off hiring a professional to scope out the best spot in your newly renovated or work-in-progress washroom for a wall-mounted unit.
Gravity-flow or pressure-assisted?
There are two common flush mechanisms to know about when it comes to purchasing toilets, with the most common one being the gravity-flow method. Working purely on the basis of gravity, this system works by emptying a tank of water into the toilet-bowl when the flush handle or button is pushed, ‘flushing’ out the toilet bowl. Because of the simplicity and intuitiveness of this mechanism, it’s pretty simple to make repairs and replacements yourself, with any parts you need easily accessible and available for purchase.
A slightly more complicated but considerably more efficient method is the pressure-assisted mechanism, which is gaining traction for quickly and efficiently cleaning out your toilet bowl, saving water and preventing clogs. With an additional tank within the outer tank, this method uses accumulated air pressure to create a powerful suction effect and push water more forcefully out, so the cleaning action is more thorough and quick. Because of the tank-within-a-tank design, these units also don’t sweat in humid weather.
Although fairly simple once you get the hang of it, a drawback of the pressure-assisted model is that its replacement and repair parts aren’t as widely available, so you might find yourself in a bit of a pinch if local suppliers don’t stock a damaged part. The additional pressure used to flush also makes these units much louder than their gravity-flow counterparts.
Flush button – one or two?
Flush mechanisms are typically activated by pushing down a handle or a button – with the latter the more pervasive and popular option nowadays. When it comes to buttons, though, you still have choices on your hands. Picking an option with two buttons gives you control over how much water you use – pushing a single button for a low-volume cycle while pushing both buttons at once makes for thorough and more forceful flushing.
Space, shape and size
Space considerations are a must when it comes to picking a toilet – you need something with enough clearance on all sides to not get in your way as you move around, be it to brush your teeth, take a shower or put up fresh towels. A compulsory step in picking a toilet is to measure how much space you have available for it, so you have an idea of size dimensions to narrow down your options and pre-emptively avoid getting something too big or clunky. For smaller or narrower bathrooms, elongated toilets are less recommended than standard round or compact shapes, since they can end up taking too much space.
Another aspect to consider is toilet height – while standard toilets measure up to 17 inches high, ‘comfort toilets’ are available a couple of inches higher for those who have difficult sitting and standing up, or are too tall to comfortably settle on a standard toilet. Remember, though, that since higher toilets can be problematic for kids or short individuals, it’s better to go standard if it’s for common use by the family, and comfort height for a specific bathroom of the house to be used by someone who’ll benefit from the extra inches.