The toilet is more than the centerpiece of a bathroom.
A toilet is one of the core reasons we have bathrooms in the first place so buying the right WC is not something to take lightly.
Luckily, if you consider the right questions and drill down on your specific requirements, buying one needn’t be taxing.
What To Consider When Buying a Toilet
Fail to plan and plan to fail.
Bear this maxim in mind before rushing in headlong and buying the first toilet that catches your eye.
Take your time before you even think about any other elements to focus on the size of your bathroom and where the toilet will be placed. This will affect other aspects of your buying decision.
Measure Up Your Bathroom and Positioning
First up, you need to measure up to account for the rough-in component.
All you need to do is measure up from the middle of your drain to the baseboard on the bathroom wall. It’s easiest to start the tape at the baseboard rather than trying to center the position over the drain.
Using the wall as your center, measure out to the middle of your drain.
Most homes have a 12-inch rough-in.
With some bathrooms, you’ll find a 2-inch variation on this measurement. Older homes can have 10-inch or 14-inch rough-ins.
If the toilet you’re looking at doesn’t mesh with the measurement you obtain, you should either factor in the expense of repositioning your drainpipe or choose an alternative model.
Determining this measurement in advance can save you a huge headache after purchase.
It’s also key to measure up the length, width and height of the area where you’ll be placing the new toilet.
A word about positioning, too…
You should allow for a clearance of at least 15 inches all around the toilet. Get this measurement by coming out 15 inches from the toilet’s centerline. If you’ve got a little more space at your disposal, shoot for clearance of 18 inches.
One-Piece or Two-Piece?
The choice between a one-piece toilet or a two-piece often hinges on space restrictions.
A one-piece is far more compact so works well in apartments and smaller bathrooms. Two pieces are larger
How do these styles vary?
- One-Piece Toilet: The more expensive option off the bat, you’ll nevertheless save a great deal of time when it comes to cleaning. The sleek design means one-piece toilets take up far less space. If anything goes wrong, though, you’ll likely need a complete replacement since repairs are problematic. Installing a one-piece is straightforward and you don’t need to be a DIY expert. The final key benefit of a one-piece is exceptional durability
- Two-Piece Toilet: The first snag with a two-piece toilet is installation. Unless you’re highly accomplished with your hands, factor a plumber into your start-up costs. The bulkier design means this style of toilet occupies a much larger footprint. While you’ll pay less upfront, you won’t get the same expected lifespan from a two-piece so overall value isn’t improved. Cleaning and maintenance are more awkward. The aesthetics of two-piece toilets polarize opinion
Shape of Bowl
With the overall type of toilet decided, it’s time to think about the bowl.
An elongated bowl gives you a reasonably compact set-up while also allowing for a little more space when you’re seated.
A round bowl is even more of a space-saver but you’ll also sacrifice those ergonomics. These bowls work effectively in smaller bathrooms.
With relatively little to choose between various bowl shapes, what’s more important is how the glaze of the bowl is treated…
If you want to minimize debris sticking onto the bowl, look for a ceramic treated with a specialized glaze to mitigate this.
With far fewer particles clogged on, flushing will be improved and clean-up streamlined.
Type of Seat
While it might seem inexcusable, a vast array of toilets don’t come with the seat included.
It’s essential to match the type of seat to the kind of bowl you have. The toilet bowl dimensions will be clearly displayed so make sure you take these measurements into account.
Wooden seats are bulky and heavy but they’re remarkably rugged. Wooden seats are ideal if you’ve got kids in the house prone to slamming that seat down.
Plastic seats give you adequate support in a more lightweight form. Increasingly, you can find other materials like polypropylene.
Look for various features like integrated bidets – more on those sprays below – heating or slow-closing hinges. You should ask yourself if you really need these extras rather than paying more for something you won’t really use or appreciate.
Arguably more important than the type of seat is the height…
You’ll encounter a surprising range of heights when you’re looking at toilets.
Standard toilets seats are roughly 15 inches from the floor.
Comfort height seats usually sit between 17 and 19 inches high. This keeps the seat compliant with ADA guidelines.
This style of comfort height seat gives you a seated position similar to a standard chair.
If you need to make provision for anyone struggling with mobility, consider a comfort height seat – also known as a right height seat – and make things easy for them in the restroom.
Flushing System and Water Efficiency
When you’re looking at the flush mechanism, you’ll come across toilets that are WaterSense certified.
Many of these toilets will use 1.28 gallons per flush (GPF) or less with no noticeable dip in performance. The current federal standard is 1.6 gallons per flush.
“The WaterSense label is used on toilets that are independently certified to meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency. Only water-saving toilets that complete the certification process can earn the WaterSense label.” – United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
You can also find toilets with a single and double flush.
With double flushes, you activate one button or lever for liquid waste using around half the volume of water. You use the full flush for more stubborn, solid waste.
Beyond these basics, the mechanism itself plays a significant role in both performance and efficiency. Reading plenty of honest user reviews can help you here.
Standard-issue throughout Asia, bidet sprays are becoming growingly popular in the US.
You’ll feel cleaner while also saving on the expense and environmental impact of using too much toilet tissue. Your toilet should be less prone to clogging as well with less paper being flushed down.
Look for bidet sprays with self-cleaning tips to keep hygiene uppermost.
Bidet can come integrated into the seat or you can get add-on sprays coming in at a very keen price-point without compromising sanitary benefits. These generally attach between the rim and seat of your toilet.
The better bidets have heating elements so you get refreshingly warm water.
Appearance and Design
Since the toilet will appear front and center in your bathroom, it goes unsaid you should think about how it looks.
While aesthetics should not be your primary driver, you shouldn’t overlook this element either.
White toilets are the most common by far. If you’re thinking of selling your house any time soon, a white toilet holds the best resale value.
Colored toilets, when used judiciously, can make a striking statement. Black toilets against white walls can look great or you can get more creative and blend a colored toilet into the background rather than using monochromatic contrast.
The most important thing is never to let form dominate over function. After all, the toilet is in place to perform one crucial job and that’s more critical than its appearance.
With those core elements taken care of, take a few final pointers into account before launching into your buying decision…
- How easy is the toilet to clean?
- What kind of maintenance is required?
- How is the manufacturer’s reputation for customer care?
- Fully investigate ease of installation and expected costs
- Consider what extra features will really add value
Once you’ve pondered all of these factors and thought about budget, you’ll be confronted with still more options…
We’ll briefly highlight the 9 major categories of toilet you’ll encounter to round out.
Different Types of Toilet
- Comfort Height Toilet
- Composting Toilet
- Corner Toilet
- Elongated Toilet
- Portable Toilet
- Pressure-Assisted Toilet
- Square Toilet
- Wall-Hung Toilet
- Water-Efficient Toilet
Comfort Height Toilet
Where a regular height toilet seat rises 14 to 15 inches above the floor, a comfort height seat sits from 17 to 19 inches high.
As the name makes abundantly clear, these seats normally feel comfier. You might also see these seats described as right-height.
Think about your needs and others likely to be using the toilet since there’s no right or wrong answer, simply the right solution for you.
Composting toilets offer an eco-friendly solution to waste management.
While it might seem unpalatable turning human waste into compost, these toilets are generally used in ecotourism resorts, homes located off-grid and they’re also commonplace in developing nations.
Micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi turn human waste into compost under controlled aerobic conditions.
With no water used for flushing, these toilets are sometimes referred to as dry toilets. Instead of water, carbon additives like coconut coir or peat moss are added after use. The air pockets promote composting while the carbon reduces odor.
Unlike flush toilets, a composting toilet doesn’t need to be hooked up to a sewer system or septic tank so they plug a particular gap neatly.
If you live in an apartment or you’ve got a smaller, cramped bathroom, installing a corner toilet is a smart move.
Sometimes, it’s not that a regular toilet won’t physically fit in, simply that it would dominate and crowd out a smaller space.
Corner toilets come with a strange triangular tank so make sure first of all that this design meets with your approval.
They’ll come with comfort height seats – see above – and the space-saving factor makes them increasingly common in city centers where real estate is at a premium and studios seem to be getting smaller.
While the design usually precluded double flushes, some come with the ability to press the single lever lightly to activate a more economic flush.
The elongated toilet is a relatively recent innovation with a self-explanatory name.
The shape of these toilets makes them more comfortable for larger adults.
The size also tends to translate to increased power on the flushing front. This is due to the larger surface area of water and the extra space for tech to be crammed in.
If you’re toilet training your kids, most elongated toilets allow you to slip an extra seat over the top.
Do you spend a lot of time camping or on the trail?
If so, maybe you don’t have an RV or camper van and you’re looking for a portable toilet to make your life easier and prevent dashing behind the bushes.
Luckily, there are plenty of portable toilets to fix this problem.
These toilets are also commonplace in developing nations and work well from the campsite to the construction site to boats or music festivals.
These camping toilets or cassette toilets are designed to be emptied out into sanitary stations and they’ll use some form of chemical in place of water.
Once you’re done, the crude but simple flush removes the waste from view and you’re all set to carry on with your day.
This style of toilet uses a highly efficient pressurized design to use much less water per flush.
You can hope to use up to 40% less water than with a regular gravity-fed model.
Bowls are elongated – see above – giving a greater surface area for waste containment.
With this style of toilet, you should have no need at all for a plunger. That said, the degree of pressure varies substantially from model to model and depending on brand.
You’ll frequently get dual nozzles that work powerfully together to remove all waste, however stubborn, with no effort on your part.
If you’ve got a squared-off sink and bathtubs, you can continue this geometry with a matching square toilet.
This style suits minimalist bathrooms more than traditional design schemes but this is fairly subjective. All that counts is whether you like the square look or not.
Beyond aesthetics, square toilets can be deceptively comfortable. They predictably come with square seats and, while you might not imagine it to be the case, this style actually gives you a little more room.
If you want your toilet to make more of a statement than many of the samey models glutting the market, this small but popular sub-niche is well worth investigating.
A wall-hung toilet is not cheap so if you’re hunting for a WC on a budget, these are not for you.
These tankless toilets keep all the plumbing and working parts hidden from sight so they make a wonderful addition to a minimalist loft where clean lines are a fundamental design component.
The tank sits in the wall housed in a stainless steel or cast-iron cradle. The bowl floats above the floor and it’s anchored to the carrier through the drywall.
If you’re looking to install one of these wall-hung toilets, you’ll need to think about more than the stiff sticker price. Expect fairly invasive and extensive reconstruction to get going. This is far from a simple DIY job.
If you’re looking for a real conversation piece in your bathroom, there’s little substitute for a wall-hung toilet but expect to dig deep for the privilege.
Water-conserving toilets come in many shapes and sizes but they’ll have as standard the dual-flush mechanism we outlined above.
This allows you to reduce the amount of water used per flush when you’re dealing with lighter waste.
Water-efficient toilets have poor reputation that’s ill-deserved. Originally, toilets used a staggering 7 gallons of water per flush. Back in 1994, a mandated 1.6-gallon flush came into practice but this is where the problem arose…
Manufacturers accommodated this to fall in line with EPA regulations but made no real changes to the way in which waste was propelled. This is where the bad reputation for low-flow toilets came about.
This situation has long been remedied so if you’re looking for an eco-friendly water-conserving toilet, you’re in safe hands in 2019 with all the major toilet brands.
What To Do Next
Check out our comprehensive capsule reviews of all the best toilets on the market.
We break down the toilets by brand and by type so you can search whichever way suits you best.
Take your time, take the above advice on board and there’s no reason not to get the best toilet without too much time or trouble. How much you spend is entirely down to you!