Updated: Oct 12, 2016
- What is a dual flush toilet?
- Benefits of a two piece toilet
- How much do toilets cost? Which should I buy?
Ahhh, the joys of indoor plumbing. Do your business, and with one simple flush, it disappears. At least it should, unless you end up with a clogged toilet. Clogs were less common 25 years ago. Really old toilets used to use 7 gallons of water per flush. Into the 60's and 70's, 5.5 gallon toilets became the standard, shrinking even further to 3.5 gallons in the 1980s.
Then, in 1995, our wise federal government passed a law declaring toilets should use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush - so nice they are looking out for our well-being. Of course people still got illegal imports from Canada or elsewhere, but for the most part, we are all stuck with these feeble-flush toilets. Toilet manufacturers have been busily creating new designs with power assisted flushing and larger flush valves.
The video below shows how to replace or install a new toilet (from The Home Depot):
How a Toilet Works
How does a toilet flush? Good question. There is no electricity, no apparent mechanical apparatus. Believe it or not, the toilet flushes mainly through siphon power. As the toilet bowl fills with water, it overflows into the exit pipe, and as more and more water escapes, it creates a vacuum that essentially sucks out the remaining water behind it, just like siphoning gas through a hose.
Most people don't know it, but you can flush a toilet just by dumping a bucket of water into the bowl. The sudden extra water, whether flowing in from the tank behind or from a bucket, cause the overflow into the exit pipe, making the toilet flush. The other moving parts in the toilet are located inside the water tank, usually behind the seat. A water inlet pipe from the wall feeds into the tank, refilling the tank after each flush.
The flushing handle pulls up the flap or stopper that plugs the bottom of the tank, much like in a bathtub, releasing the water into the bowl causing the flush. The flapper then resettles on the bottom of the tank, plugging the outlet, and the water level rises again in the tank. A simple float mechanism is connected to the water inlet, so that as the water level rises, the float closed the intake valve and shuts off the incoming water. Ready to flush again.
Buying a New Toilet:
American Standard is one of the biggest names in plumbing and bathroom products. Their Champion line of toilets has made a name for itself in recent years as the "no-clog" toilet. The Champ toilet works well because of its design. Instead of the standard flap stopper, American Standard devised a flush tower, which lifts straight up and forces water quickly into the bowl for a powerful, instant flush. This unique design is shown on their website, draining toilet bowls filled with 20 golf balls, a dozen bunched-up rags, and just about anything "else" you want it to handle.
The Champion toilet also has the largest outlet, at 2 3/8", allowing more to escape unimpeded. It uses the standard 1.6 gallons per flush as other toilets, but the power of its flush and the large volume trapway quite literally results in no clogs. Having personally used one of these toilets for the past 2 years in a busy household, I can attest to its performance and the plunger has been banished to "non-champ" bathrooms. The Crane Sure Flush Toilet is another popular model. It also uses a 3 inch flapperless flush valve and a glazed 2 1/8" trapway to eliminate clogging.
The Crane toilets get generally good user reviews and feedback. They run just under $200 at Lowes. Jacuzzi makes the Perfecta line of toilets with a similar 3 inch flush valve, as an alternative to the American Standard line, but our vote is still for the Champ. We suggest checking out the American Standard Champion 4 which receives the top marks from consumers and plumbing experts.
We looked online for independent reviews of toilets and found several posted on Amazon from actual owners. Consumer Reports just did a toilet review and they tested 25 toilets - both single and dual flush models. Their tests involved the ability to remove solid waste and liquid waste, how quiet the toilet was when flushed, and if the bowl itself was easy to clean. Most of the toilets tested use 1.6 gallons per flush but a few low flow models like the Kohler Cimarron K3609 were included (it uses just 1.28 gallons per flush). American Standard topped their list and Kohler was a close 2nd. The Gerber model scored high enough to take the dual flush category.
To check out how to use fix a clogged toilet - click the image below to go to video.
2 Piece vs Single Piece Toilet:
You can buy a new toilet at all of the home improvement stores or plumbing stores out there. If you know what you want already, consider buying a best-selling toilet brand from Amazon.com and have it delivered to your home. Home Depot and Lowes are the two biggest, and they both carry all the major toilet brands.
The most popular toilets are made by Toto, American Standard, Kohler, ELjer, Crane, Gerber, Porcher, and Duravit. Home Depot carries Kohler, Glacier Bay, American Standard, Bemis, Pegasus, but their main focus is on Kohler and American Standard toilets. The Kohler Santa Rosa model with elongated seat goes for $279, while a more basic Kohler Memoirs Toilet Tank is just $149. The American Standard Doral/Oakmont Champion Toilet Tank is just $172.
You can visit the websites of all the major toilet makers as well if you want to read the marketing spin they put on their toilets. You'll find designed toilets for $700 that flush no better than $150 toilets. The cheapest toilets you can find are about $100 - but given the expense related to installing and removing a toilet, it is worth spending a little more up front for a toilet that will last you 10 or 20 years instead of 4 years.
Other decisions involve basic toilet design, from height of seat to elongated or normal shaped bowls, to large separate tanks to integrated water tanks. Then of course there are color options and such. However, when buying a toilet, our check list goes like this: flushing power (that's what you want most of all), durability, design/look, cost. Of course you will start with some budget in mind, but don't scrimp over $40 and end up with a toilet that needs to be plunged every other day.
Toilet Repairs - Installing a Toilet:
A toilet is not a super complicated device, so repairs and installation can be handled by a non professional if you know what you are doing. However, toilets involved sewer gases and water, so you want to make sure you do it right. A plumber will probably charge you about $200-$300 to remove an old toilet and install a new one (not including the cost of the new toilet). Removing an old toilet involves disconnecting it from the water source, draining it, unbolting it from the floor, and removing the wax seal from underneath.
Installing a new toilet is the reverse procedure, and the whole process takes about 60-90 minutes. Toiletology.com has some articles on basic toilet repair, like replacing a toilet handle, changing a toilet seat, etc. Lowes.com even has a section on their site about do it yourself toilet repairs, with diagrams of how a toilet works, and quick fixes for various problems. For basic toilet bowl cleaners - GO HERE.
More videos and resources are here on our Toilet Resource Page.
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