Renovating Basics: Buying a New Toilet

Buying a new toilet may seem totally daunting — one piece or two? round or elongated? what is a rough-in? — but with a little education you can skip ahead to the fun part, like looking at all the different designs, styles and colors. Here's a quick little guide to get you started with the basics…

What's a "rough-in"?
The first thing you'll want do before you go toilet shopping is to measure from the wall to the center of the bolts at the base of the existing toilet. This measurement is called the rough-in. When you're shopping around for toilets you'll see that the standard "rough in" is 12 inches. If you're measurement is anywhere between 11 and 13 inches, you should be OK with a 12 inch. Toilets with 10 and 14 inch rough-ins are also available for odd sized spaces.

Pin it button big
Shown Left: Kohler Adair One Piece Toilet; Right: Kohler Bancroft 2 Piece Toilet
One Piece or Two? You'll find two piece toilets in most standard apartment and home bathrooms. A two piece toilet is just that — one tank and one bowl which attach with bolts. A one piece toilet, as the name suggests, is all contained as one unit. There are a few advantages to a one piece toilet. Aesthetically, having one complete unit means fewer lines and the design is often smoother and more modern. There are also no worries about the two pieces separating or leaking. One piece units, however, are quite heavy. If you're going to be lugging a toilet up one or more flights of stairs, you may want to consider a two piece.

How Low Can You Go?
As I mentioned in a previous post, comfort height toilets sit a little higher than a standard toilet. At a height that's similar to a chair, one mustn't squat quite so low. (They don't call it comfort for nothing!) This is great for anyone with back, knee or hip issues and it will also keep you ADA compliant.

Pin it button big
Can You Float? Floating toilets, which hide the tank and plumbing in the wall, give a fantastically clean and modern look. With fewer exposed parts and a bowl that's suspended over the floor, a floating toilet is also easier to clean. Of course, if you already have a standard toilet with a drain located in the floor, it won't be quite as easy to switch out to a wall mounted unit. But if you are doing a gut rehab or replacing an existing wall mounted toilet, proper installation is of vital importance. As you might expect from something you're going to sit on, floating toilets must be anchored in the wall — they are commonly installed between two studs in the wall. If not properly installed, the toilet may pull away from the wall and cause leaking.

Round or Elongated?:
There are two basic shapes for toilets bowls — round and elongated. Elongated bowls are often considered more comfortable but round toilets can save on space. If you're working in cramped quarters, you may want to consider a round bowl. Or at least measure both shapes out in your bathroom before making a decision. And then there are square shaped toilets. I don't get those. Who has a square butt?

Have you replaced a toilet recently? What's your advice to a novice toilet shopper? Leave you tips, advice and lessons learned in the comments below.

(Images: 1. Laure Joliet / Matt's Eclectic Luxury House Tour. All others: As credited above.)

38 Comments