What do I need to know about buying a toilet?

pschwartzNovember 11, 2013

We need 2 toilets, one oval and one round. Want to spend under $500 on each, don't need anything fancy...what are the main things that make toilets different and what makes an expensive toilet worth the extra $$?


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I've never had one but every time I research toilets Toto is the brand everyone recommends.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 5:43PM
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I'm not an expert, just an over analyzer.

If you head over to the Terry Love toilet forum, I bet you'd get a lot of info!

What I learned in my research:
- you need to know what size "rough in" you need. That is the distance from the wall to the center of the hole in the floor under the toilet. 12 in is standard, so either a 10 or 14 in will add to the cost
- any color that isn't white will add to the cost
- "oval" (elongated) is generally preferred, sometimes one type of bowl is more, but often not much
- you need to decide on ADA/ciar/comfort height or standard height, and sometimes that affects cost, but often not much. These terms mean different things to different companies, so always check your specs!
- some offer a special surface that resists build up, like Toto's Sanagloss, and that is often a little more, but many find it worth the expense
- skirted designs (where the bottom is fuller, but flat, vs skinny but you see the worm shape of the trap) is easier to clean, but adds $
- often dual flush or some Eco designations add cost
- flush design can vary and sometimes add to the cost

From what I've read, things like flush system, quality control, quality of finish and parts, and options differentiate a lot of toilets. I remember reading a comment about one low end brand that you might have to look at several toilets before getting one without a significant defect, though I can't remember which company that was. Some have glazed trapways. With the new water limitations, a good toilet is important as not all of them have adapted as well as you would like.

I ended up with a Toto Vespin, my first ever Toto. It's been great. I got the Sanagloss and it seems to work well. Before I thought to research things, we got a Kohler for our upstairs bath. It also functions well, though I now know they can be hard to get repair parts for because they are changed so often.

It seems that what you buy in some more expensive toilets is better functioning with the lower capacity tanks that are now in use, reliability, choice of features, and better quality control. You also pay for designer looks in some cases if you like some of the ultra modern or fancy models.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 12:40AM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Sit on one and flush it. Then do your research homework. If you still like it buy it. Whether it is 1.6 or 1.3 gpm won't matter if you don't want to sit on it. ;-)

Flushing sound was a big thing to us, but then we discovered that none of the newer ones were quiet as the 3.5 gal "water saver" swoosher we bought in 1978. The newer ones make more " gluck, gluck" noise, but for a shorter time span. Just so they do the job...reliably.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 1:29AM
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Babka, how do you test the flushing? Most of the toilets I've seen in showrooms aren't hooked up...

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Definitely consider the dual flush - you'll save a ton of water (which saves you $ in addition to making you feel good), and it doesn't have to cost more now. Our dual flush Toto was under $300 and handles all jobs way better than our standard single flush toilet. It has never clogged in over 3 years of use. Never thought I'd say this about a toilet, but...we love it! :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 2:41AM
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Thanks jm_seattle. Can you let me know which Toto model you have?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 10:26AM
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Ours is the Toto Aquia II.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:20PM
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I think one of the main things you need to consider these days when buying a toilet is definitely water usage, one that's more expensive but saves you water could end up cheaper in the long run.

Of course, comfort is also a major factor, nothing worse than a horribly uncomfortable toilet seat!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 10:01AM
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A plumber friend of mine recommended a Kohler. I bought the tallest one they had and there hasn't been any issues with it in 8 years.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 12:40AM
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We bought a taller elongated bowl Kohler for our front bathroom. We knew we wanted the elongated bowl and all Home Depot had in stock was the taller version. If you are petite, a taller toilet may not feel comfortable to you.

Also, if you get a taller toilet and your cabinet height is lower, it may look weird.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 6:40PM
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I researched toilets extensively about 10 years ago when I had to replace one. I knew nothing about the new low flush, and they don't all work (esp. then...they were still new).

As another poster recommended above, I recommend reading the Terry Love site. I picked up a lot of information there.

There are also toilet ratings on flushing, done by some plumbing organization or government. I found two of those on the internet. That gives some objective information on how successfully different brands and models flush.

After all my research, I ended up with a Toto. I got the Sanagloss (you MUST get the Sanagloss!). I forget which model I got, but its flushing ability was rated highly consistently everywhere I saw. It might be the Drake. It had a larger flushing valve than the normal toilet, and wider trap than normal, AND a fully glazed trap.

I was apprehensive, but it works like a dream. I then got a second one just like it for my other bathroom.

They have both performed without a hitch for all these years. I haven't had to replace the flush valve yet (but I should check on that).

I got the soft close top. I thought it might be a wasted expense, but it turns out I love them, and they still work properly.

I have small bathrooms, so I got round toilets. Most people get elongated, but round saves a couple of inches. The round shape is also easier to keep clean (think about it).

At the time I bought mine, there were some seriously deficient low flows on the market. Some brands just took their prior engineering and lessened the water in the tank. That doesn't work. Low flow toilets require a different kind of engineering than high flow, since high flow relies on the sheer force of a lot of water pushing things through. Toto, from Japan, had been making low flow toilets for years and had its own engineering. Since then, though, other brands have changed their engineering, so it's likely that most will work fine these days.

All models of a brand don't perform equally well. So look for performance from not just a brand, but also a model. For instance, Toto has several kinds of engineering in its toilets. Some work better than others. A lot goes into whether a toilet performs well.

Two piece vs one piece: My research showed that two piece toilets typically perform a little better than one piece. I don't remember now why that is. It's not always true, but that's a generality. Also, it's easier to work on a two piece than a one piece. If the plumber has to replace a tank or take it outside to replace the innards, it's easier to take just a tank rather than uninstall a whole toilet.

Appearance. I hope you're luckier than I was. I wasn't fond of the modern look of the Totos. I have an older, traditional house. Toto has one or two prettier models, but the research showed they didn't perform quite as well as the model I ended up getting. So I got the one that performed the best. Don't get me wrong; it looks nice. It's just too modern for my taste. Be prepared to have to decide between a style you love vs high performance.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 8:42PM
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Ditto on looking at the Terry Love site! Just be careful if you are reading while eating or drinking!

We recently installed an Icera Cadence 2. I am planning to write a long review on it in a few more weeks. Overall, we like it and it is reasonably priced tho we had to wait several weeks for it and it is only available from showroom.

Highly recommend if you have vertically challenged types using the toilet to have them test the seat height in bare feet in addition to shoes on. I am on the shorter side and find that to comfortably use the Cadence I use a stool to make things happen easier.

Look around price wise as well. We found a variety of pricing available depending on location. Also if you are in CA, make sure your new toilet is one of the 1.3 gallon ones because I believe the standard is changing to that soon.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 3:48PM
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bpollen: "Two piece vs one piece: My research showed that two piece toilets typically perform a little better than one piece. I don't remember now why that is. "

Gravity. The water in two-piece toilets' tank generally has a longer fall.

"There are also toilet ratings on flushing, done by some plumbing organization or government. I found two of those on the internet. That gives some objective information on how successfully different brands and models flush."

It is called the MaP (for Maximum Performance") test. The test is a modification of an internal design tool created by Toto. The procedure was discovered by some municipal governments in the Pacific Northwest (both sides of the U.S./Canadiian border) snd Silicon Valley, and found its way into some municipal codes, whence it got wider visibility and spread. The test is very specific and limited, testing the efficacy of toilets to flush synthetic turds, made from thin plastic tubes (essentially, condoms) filled with a specific brand of miso (soybean) paste to a specific weight and length. The rating is determined by how many of those reliably will go through the toilet without clogging in a single flush.

Like any such test, it is incomplete: for instance, it does not take into account that some real-life waste includes turds much longer than the standard test turds, or much harder and inflexible than the standard test turds; the fact that the test needs to specify a specific brand of miso suggests that there could be a different result with a different brand of miso. The test also does not take into account "streaking" or "skid marks" in the bowl. And, like any test, it can be "taught to" or designed to; when a maker optimizes for one test only, it usually can achieve that goal, but may well ignore or actually degrade other factors in doing so.

Moreover, a consumer's single minded focus on the MaP number can give anomalous results. The average single use load for a toilet has less than a half kilogram of solids in it. Any modern toilet will usually dispose of that load fairly easily; any MaP350 or above toilet almost certainly will. A MaP 1000 toilet will not necessarily flush a 500 gram load any better than a 500 MaP toilet will. And, once you get above ~600 MaP, any higher numbers are fatuous and do not represent any real life flushing performance advantage, while other factors (such as streaking or size of water spot) may become relatively more important.

Here is a link that might be useful: MaP testing for the obsessed

This post was edited by herring_maven on Sun, Dec 15, 13 at 11:12

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 7:00AM
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The last part of that post is informative--
basically you are saying that spending extra to buy a toilet w/rating above 600 is overkill--
you won't really benefit from the superior rating (performance?) since most of the time you won't be flushing anything that needs the extra flushing power--

sort of like getting superior screen quality on flatscreen when you get crappy cable --

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 11:37AM
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A one piece like this will be easier to clean than a two piece, and so I got a Toto one piece. Make sure to check the bottom part to consider whether it will collect dust, dirt, etc. I have been very happy with its performance, and it is much easier to clean the outside than my previous toilet. However, the inside is somewhat more difficult to clean, but still easy enough.

If there are too many folds or crevices on the outside of the toilet, it will be more of a pain to clean, and I think this is a very important consideration. If you have a maid to clean your toilets, this will not matter, however.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 1:50PM
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