7 1/2 months ago when we moved into our house, none of the existing toilets worked. Due to the huge list of other ‘fixer upper’ projects and a lack of DIY experience, we chose to repair, instead of replace, the existing toilets and continue to use them for the time being. They weren’t great toilets and only kind of worked but it was a quick bandaid fix. This week after reviewing the numbers we decided it was time to replace the two main toilets (first floor and second floor).
Why Replace a Toilet?
We weighed several factors into our decision to replace the two toilets.
- Water Usage
- Ability to stay unclogged
- Unusual Smells
Water usage was a big deciding factor. City water costs ¢0.536/gal, sewer costs ¢0.384/gal for a combined cost of ¢0.92/gal. While less than a penny per gallon of water sounds cheap, it does add up quickly. According to the EPA, the average person flushes a toilet 4-6 times a day. Multiply that by the number of occupants in your household and you start to get an idea of how often that toilet is flushed. Going back to our example, it would be 8-12 times a day. Both toilets were older models that used 3.5 gpf (gallons per flush). That means around 28-42 gallons or ¢26-¢39 a day was spent just for flushing the toilet. Well that doesn’t sound to bad does it? Hmm, we have made some assumptions about these toilets that don’t hold up in real life. Firstly, we’ve assumed that they don’t leak. Morning Sickness has a peculiar way of getting you up close for those leak inspections. According to an in-the-know source, both toilets leak water. Secondly, we’ve assumed that they never clog and require a second, third, fourth, etc. flush. Yep, those toilets clog, so our 8-12 flushes a day isn’t exactly accurate.
Our downstairs half bath often smelled of sewer gas. I was fairly certain it was because of the toilet and the bandaid “fix” was to leave the door open so the room could air out. The most often cause of sewer gas is a dried out water trap, but that wasn’t the case with this toilet. The second most likely cause is a bad wax seal on the closet flange. To replace the wax seal, you have to remove the toilet, and while you have the toilet removed, you might as well install a new one.
Finally, there is the issue of comfort. All of the toilets in our house are round seats and fairly low to the ground. Our potty training niece loved the “Ruby Throne” because it was just her height and at 14 1/2 inches tall, it is one of the shortest toilets out there. I am average height for a man and let me tell you, that thing is uncomfortable. Nowadays there is a stronger preference towards chair height toilets and elongated bowls (where they can fit). Chair height or ADA compliant are a great option for older individuals because it is easier to get on and off the seat. We chose to replace the first floor half bath with another short round toilet, but the upstairs we went for an elongated and taller commode.
Shopping for a Toilet
So you’ve come to the conclusion that you want a new toilet. You also know if you want a round or elongated bowl, height of the seat, and if you’d like a 1.28 gpf or a 1.6 gpf (max allowed by law), but wait! Before you go to the home improvement store, measure the rough in dimension. What is the rough in dimension you ask? It is the distance from the back wall to the middle of the floor bolts that hold the toilet in place. Most toilets are a 12″ rough in.
For the downstairs toilet we found the Kohler Wellworth toilet. It is a 1.28 gpf, round bowl, 14 1/2″ height, 12″ rough, score 10 on flushing, and has a canister flush mechanism. I thought the last part was particularly nice. Most toilets use a flapper that you pull open in the tank (by pressing the handle) and water drains from the tank to the bowl. Kohler has switched over to canisters that lift up and let water flow in from all directions. Not only does this seem to deliver a better flush, it also makes the handle easier to actuate.
- Do you know how many Gpf your toilets use?
- Do you know the water and sewer rates for your area?
- Do the plungers in your house get used?
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I cover the removal and installation.