Home/Resource Center/Bathroom Resources/The Ultimate Guide to Toilets: Info that Won’t Go to Waste

The Ultimate Guide to Toilets: Info that Won’t Go to Waste

By the Vevano Home Team
October 7, 2020

Toilets have come a long way from their humble origins. The first flushable toilet emerged at the end of the 16th century, invented by English courtier Sir John Harrington, and it used several gallons of water for a single flush. Toilets are much more water efficient now, complete with many possible technological bells and whistles. With good care, a quality toilet can withstand 50 years of use, making them a worthwhile investment.

That being said, there are a lot of parts that go into a functioning toilet that also matches the aesthetic you’d like in your bathroom. In this guide, we go through everything you need to know when selecting a toilet to get the function and style for your ideal bathroom.

Type of Toilet

The type of toilet determines your toilet’s size, shape, design, and often the function as well.

Two-piece toilet: The most traditional type of floor-mounted toilet, as well as the most commonly found in the US. The two-piece toilet comes with a separate bowl and tank that are then assembled together with bolts. It’s that classic toilet that never goes out of style. Often found in modern or traditional styles of bathrooms. A variant of a two-piece toilet is the vintage high-tank toilet with the cistern mounted further up the wall than the bowl, often using gravity-fed water to flush.

  • Pros: More affordable, easier shipment due to parts/weight, easy to repair/replace with commonplace fixtures, ability to mix and match features, different options for height and style
  • Cons: Potentially more involved installation, breaks and leaks easier, can be tricky to clean around, toilet seat usually sold separately
  • Cost: $150-600 ($250-800 including installation)
Two-piece toilet

One-piece toilet: The one-piece toilet integrates bowl, tank, and trapway into one cohesive pedestal toilet design, rather than having separate parts that you put together like the two-piece toilet. Everything is self-contained in a one-piece toilet making it easy to clean with no nooks or crevices to gather grime. Sleek in design, the one-piece toilet is a great fixture for contemporary bathrooms.

  • Pros: Compact, durable, easy to clean, lower maintenance, quicker installation, usually designed for comfort height
  • Cons: Heavy and harder to handle than two-piece, more difficult to ship due to size/weight
  • Cost: $400-1,200 ($500-1,300 including installation)
One-piece toilet

Wall-hung toilets: More common in commercial than residential areas, wall-hung toilets, also known as wall-mount toilets, are a premium option for your bathroom. The toilet bowl floats above the floor and anchors into the wall, so they take up less space than other toilets with free foot space under the basin and the tank and plumbing installed inside the wall between two studs. Often very sleek in design and high-tech with a flush plate attached to the wall. To access the tank inside the wall, an access panel may be installed as well.

  • Pros: Adjustable height for comfort, easy to clean, compact, ADA compliant, quieter
  • Cons: Very expensive, intense reconstruction needed to install and repair
  • Cost: $800-2,500 including installation
Wall-hung toilet

Bidet toilet combo: A staple in other countries, the bidet was traditionally a separate basin from the toilet. If you’re not used to seeing bidets, they might appear like a strange toilet-height sink. Modern bidets spray a targeted stream of water to clean where necessary. Integrated bidet toilets streamline the clean-up into the same basin so you can stay put on your toilet. Another option is to install a bidet toilet seat attachment to your existing toilet to get the same result — use a measuring tape to make sure you get the right size and shape for your toilet bowl. Both integrated bidet toilets and bidet toilet seat attachments often have other features that can be controlled with a remote or touch panel, such as heated seats, dryer, water temperature control, air freshener, and more. Due to these features, bidet toilets and bidet seat attachments require electric support and usually a water hookup as well. It’s basically a wash fountain for your undercarriage added to your toilet — minimal (if any) toilet paper needed!

  • Pros: Full-service cleanup below incorporated into your toilet, often ADA friendly, thorough and gentle clean, very hygienic, eco-friendly
  • Cons: Involved installation, takes time to get the features set up for your preferences
  • Cost:As low as $20 for a hand-spray bidet attachment. $250-500 for standard bidet toilet seats, and up to $800 for more advanced seat attachments. $1,200 and up for bidet toilet combos.
Bidet Seat Attachment

Smart toilets If you want a premium, high-tech toilet, smart toilets are the way to go. There are virtually endless possibilities for features in intelligent toilets. A popular smart toilet brand is Toto, which offers toilets with heated seats, air purifiers, automatic lid open/close, and a built-in bidet function for a seamless porcelain throne experience. Other smart features include self-cleaning, air freshening, pre-misting, drying automatic/no-touch flushing, overflow protection, music, or even ambient lighting to help light your way in the middle of the night. All controlled through a remote or touch panel. Either battery operated or plugged into your electric wiring.

  • Pros: Multi-functional, water efficient, eco-friendly, saves space, hygienic, ADA friendly
  • Cons: Expensive, pricey repairs, takes time to learn all the functions
  • Cost: $2,000-13,000

ADA toilets Toilets that are suitable for people with disabilities are at least 17-19 inches tall, as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Handicap toilets are required in most commercial buildings. Wall-mount or undercut bowls that allow clearance beneath the bowl are required for foot space and accessibility (25 inches deep, 9 inches beneath the bowl). ADA-compliant toilets also have easy-to-access flush mechanisms on the open side of the toilet and that flush with minimal pressure (5 pounds or less). Another key with ADA toilets is the distance from its surrounding area. Other necessary accessories for ADA toilets include bath/grab bars or a toilet safety frame.

  • Pros: Easier to sit on for those with disabilities or height, comfortable, extra space in the bowl
  • Cons: Too tall for child or small adult use, can take up more or less space depending on the model
  • Cost: $90-1,250

Toilet Dimensions

Toilet Height

The height of your toilet will impact how the toilet looks and how comfortable you are using it. Some may prefer a higher toilet to avoid bending down so low and potentially running into problems when getting up and down. Whereas children will likely prefer shorter toilets for their little legs to still reach the floor. On the other end, no one enjoys the tingly numb legs from sitting on a toilet too long, and a too-tall toilet can have that same effect.

One way to increase safety of your toilet is to have a raised seat to increase the height of the toilet.

Toilet heights are indicated from the rim of the toilet seat to the floor.

  • Standard Height: 15 inches
  • Comfort (Chair) Height: 16-18 inches
  • ADA Height: 17-19 inches
  • Child/Juvenile Height: 10-14 inches
Toilet Height

It’s also possible to install a custom height toilet, which can be especially helpful if you need a tall toilet. If you install a wall-hung toilet, you can select the exact height you wish your toilet to sit at for the ultimate comfort for those who will be using it.

To add extra height to your toilet, consider a raised toilet seat or a handicap toilet seat if needed.

Rough-in Size

Rough-in size is an important measurement to note when installing or replacing a toilet.

Rough-in measuring reflects the distance between the wall and the center of the toilet drainpipe. The standard rough-in size is about 12 inches, though older homes may have 10 to 14 inch rough-in sizes. An easy way to measure this dimension without moving your toilet is to look at the bolts that secure the toilet to the ground on the sides of your toilet. Measure from the center of the bolt to the wall, and do not include baseboards.

Design Your Toilet: Shape, Profile & Color

Now for the fun part… Design your toilet to fit your comfort and stylistic desires.

Bowl Shape

Toilet bowls come in the following shapes:

  • Compact - Circular or square in shape, but most often round front. Due to its smaller size, compact toilet bowls work best in smaller bathrooms and for children.
  • Elongated - Oval or rectangular, the elongated bowl shape is often more comfortable for adults for space and thigh support. It has about 2 inches in added length.
  • Compact Elongated - A hybrid toilet bowl shape that has an elongated bowl but takes up the same amount of floor space as the compact shape.

While your toilet shape may affect your comfort and experience on the toilet, toilet profiles are more about how your toilet looks and not so much about function.

Toilet Profiles

The profile of the toilet is how the base of the toilet appears, whether or not it reveals the trapway piping inside that connects to your plumbing. Due to this, toilet profiles are also referred to as trapway styles.

  • Visible - The shape and lines of the trapway in the body of the toilet is outlined in an “S” shape in the profile of the toilet. In this design, caps typically cover the bolts that attach the toilet to the floor.
  • Concealed - In the concealed profile, you don’t see the shape of the trapway inside. Instead there’s a flat surface at the base below the rounded toilet bowl for a more modern look. Continuing the more streamlined look, the bolts are topped with low-profile caps.
  • Skirted - The contemporary skirted profile bypasses the rounded bowl look and instead has a sleek straight line from the toilet bowl to the floor, hiding the trapway entirely. The bolts are not exposed with this cohesive and uniform profile style.

Toilet Color

The color of your toilet can set the mood and appearance of your bathroom. Ultimately, the best toilet for your bathroom and home should reflect your personal style.

  • White and off-white are popular shades for toilets as white can go with any style.
  • Cream or almond-color toilets offer a slight variation on the traditional white porcelain.
  • Black toilets create drama and add contemporary flair to your bathroom.
  • Other subdued shades of blue, yellow, gray, pink, brown or green can also be found.
  • If you have a two-piece toilet, you could even customize the colors or patterns between the toilet pieces.
Black Toilet
Tan Toilet

Flushing Tanks & Technology

In the last three decades, there’s been a push for more water efficient toilets. By law, toilets can only use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf) in America. High-efficiency toilets (HET) use even less at 1.28 gpf. If you want further water savings, ultra-high-efficiency toilets (UHET) use only 1 gpf!

A flushing rating system, called maximum performance testing (MaP), classifies toilets based on their flushing capabilities, or how much solid waste a toilet can handle. The rating takes into account the toilet’s ability to remove waste and reduce/resist clogging. The higher the rating, the better the flush. A rating between 600g-1000g, which removes about 35 grams of waste in a single flush, is considered Great Flushing Performance in MaP.

Toilets with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense® label rate high in both water efficiency and flushing effectiveness, as they meet strict flushing performance guidelines established by the WaterSense® program. WaterSense® toilets are eco-friendly, high-efficiency toilets that use only 1.28 gallons of water per flush. That’s nearly 60 percent less water per flush than most other toilets, which can save American households up to $100 per year on their water and sewage bill. That’s money not going down the toilet!

Flush Type

These are the different flushing technologies available for your toilet:

Gravity-feed toilet: The most common and simplest toilet flush type, which uses the force of gravity on water weight from the tank to flush and siphon waste through the trapway. Known as having a quiet flush with minimal parts, so repairs and maintenance are simple and minimal compared to the pressure-assisted toilet.

Pressure-assisted toilet: Here’s your power flush option for a higher price tag. Using pressurized air forces water and waste down harder, farther, and faster for a more efficient and powerful flush. It makes a little more noise, but fewer clogs happen in pressure-assisted toilets. A good choice for a high-use toilet, though maintenance might be costly if needed.

Dual-flush toilet: A newer type of toilet that’s gaining popularity for its water-saving efficiency. A hybrid of the gravity-feed and pressure-assisted toilet, there are two flushing options: a half flush for liquid waste (~1.1 gallons of water) or a full flush (~1.6 gallons of water) for the heavier matter. The half flush utilizes the gravity-feed flushing mechanism, whereas the pressure-assisted flush handles the more heavy duty full flush.

Double-cyclone toilet: A newer technology, double-cyclone toiletry uses minimal water for a powerful and efficient flush via two “cyclone” nozzles to usher the water and waste down the piping, as opposed to the little holes in the rim water is usually pushed through in other models.

Waterless toilet: These self-contained toilets don’t use water or plumbing, so the waste is kept within a receptacle inside the toilet for places or situations where water or plumbing isn’t available. Good for camping, worksites, tiny homes, and other portable locations.

How Do You Want to Flush?

Do you want a single handle, a dual-flush button, or touch-free toilet?

Single-flush - There is one set flush for every job with this kind of flushing mechanism. Every press of the flush lever releases the same size and pressure of a flush. As the most common flush type, they have the most design options available.

Double-flush - The double-flush toilet comes with two flush settings and one flush lever. By pressing the flush lever gently, you activate the “half” flush for light waste loads, while pressing the lever more firmly down activates the more powerful full flush for solid waste. This option is more expensive and a little harder to maintain than the single-flush option, though it is more water efficient.

Touchless - Touchless flush toilets are optimal for sanitary purposes. Based on sensors to know when you’re on and off the toilet, the touchless flush automatically activates when you’re done on the toilet, particularly in commercial or public restrooms. Residential touchless options often use a motion sensor on top of the tank for you to wave your hand over for touchless flushing. Touchless flushing mechanisms are usually battery operated and can be easily installed on either single or double flush toilets.

Toilet Parts

A breakdown of the different parts and features of the porcelain throne.

Bowls

In America, you can typically find toilet bowls in the following shapes: compact (circle/square), elongated (oval/rectangle), or compact elongated (hybrid of the two).

The best size and shape of toilet seat is ultimately up to personal preference and comfort. To change up a standard-sized bowl, you could attach a wider toilet seat for more comfortable seating.

Bowl Width & Length

Toilet bowl size (and the corresponding toilet seat) will ultimately impact both space and comfort for sitting. It also impacts how much floor space you may have as well as what accessories or equipment is available to your specific toilet. More common measurements of toilet bowls and seats will be able to find better aligned replacements.

Most toilet bowls come between 14 and 14.5 inches wide, though a rare few are made up to 16.5 inches. In terms of length, compact-sized bowls are typically 2 inches shorter than elongated options. From the front of the toilet to the bolts that attach the seat to the toilet, compact-sized bowls are normally 16-17 inches long, whereas elongated bowls are between 18-19 inches.

Toilet Bowl
Toilet Bowl

Seats

To cap off your toilet bowl rim, you need a toilet seat.

Not all toilets are sold with toilet seats, so you may need to buy a toilet seat separately. Many two-piece toilets do not come with toilet seats, but some one-piece toilets do. Even if a toilet seat is included, they are more often than not removable and thus replaceable.

This is a great way to add flair to your toilet, so the key things that your toilet seat should coordinate with are the size and shape of your toilet bowl (whether compact, elongated, or compact elongated), as well as the color of the toilet and/or stylistic scheme you’re working with in your bathroom.

Make sure the measurements match from the toilet bowl to the seat for proper placement.

Toilet Seat
Toilet Seat

One popular feature of modern toilet seats is the SoftClose function to prevent the lid and seat from slamming against the toilet. Slamming toilet seats down can damage the toilet seat, rim, and bowl, can pinch or harm your hands, and just makes a lot of noise. SoftClose increases the safety of the toilet (necessary with small children) and reduces noise when the toilet seat comes down. No bangs necessary!

For a handicap-accessible toilet, a lifted seat or a handicap toilet seat with handles can be helpful.

Other premium toilet seat features, like those from Toto, include heated seats, air neutralizers, and bidet attachments, which usually require extra water and electrical hookups.

Toilet seats are most commonly made with plastic or urea resin, though bidet seats are almost always made with polypropylene (PP). Other materials used to make toilet seats include cushioned vinyl, wood or wood composite.

Tanks

Bathroom toilet tanks contain the water for the flushing action and also house the toilet tank parts that contribute to flushing and filling back up the tank. Nearly all toilet tanks come equipped with the same water capacity.

On top of picking a flushing system (as mentioned in Flushing Tanks and Technology above), you’ll want to select a flush valve size and a flush lever positioning that works for you and your toilet tank. From the tank, the flush valve allows the water into the bowl.

Toilet Tank
Toilet Tank

If you opt for the luxurious wall-hung toilet, then the tank is installed within the wall, between two wall studs for stable storage, for a seamless design and optimization of space in the bathroom.

If there’s something wrong with the toilet, most likely the problem will be found and fixed in the tank, whether that’s a worn out or leaky flush valve (or flapper), a cracked or worn out washer, or an issue with the fill valve, which refills the tank after a flush.

Flush Lever

The flush lever is what activates the flush valve within the tank to release the water in order to clean the bowl.

The flush handle or buttons can typically be found on the sides of the tank for pedestal toilets, if not on the top or the front of the tank. Most dual-flush toilets have flush buttons on the top of the tank.

As for wall-hung toilets, many have a button on the wall to trigger the flushing action. You can also opt for remote-controlled flush with a remote or touch-screen control pad.

The trigger to the flush, flush levers can come in many different styles and finishes, from trip levers, push button or push plate, or selections on remotes or touch panels. With the variety of flush levers available, you can really choose one that fits the style and function you’d like for your toilet.

Toilet Lever
Push Button Trip Lever
Toilet Lever

Other Toilet Features

Valves

The different valves within your toilet may also need replacing or updating from time to time with use and wear. These will need to be in working order for a working toilet.

The flush valve is what allows water from the tank to the toilet bowl. It comes in 2, 3, or 4 inches, and a dual-flush valve is also available. The bigger the flush valve, the more water can flow through. The flapper is what seals off the valve and lifts to let water through.

The fill valve is what refills the water tank after flushing. The height of the fill valve stem is what you’ll want to take note of as you’ll want it to fit inside your toilet tank. A ballcock used to serve this same purpose, but it’s no longer manufactured so it’s worth updating to a modern fill valve.

With some modern kits, you can get a comprehensive set with the flush valve, fill valve and tube, and the flapper included.

Flange

The toilet flange is the part of the toilet that secures it to the floor and the drainpipe. Also known as a closet flange, it’s often made with rubber, metal or PVC (a synthetic plastic).

Glazes

Adding an antimicrobial glaze essentially makes your toilet a self-cleaning one! Adding a smooth antimicrobial glaze to your toilet helps to kill 99 percent of germs and bacteria that may try to grow.

To smooth out the ride down the trapway into the plumbing, a trapway glaze can also be added to prevent waste from clogging up.

Toilet Accessories

Toilets have a direct and simple job, however, there are a few accessories that can smooth the process even further.

  • Grab bar - For easy lowering and lifting from the toilet seat (ADA).
  • Toilet paper holder - Available as built-in to the wall or a freestanding toilet paper stand.
  • Toilet brush & plunger - To help clean and clear the toilet bowl drain.
  • Over-the-toilet cabinet - To optimize space and add shelving to your bathroom.
  • Toilet seat cover - To add personality and a dose of cushion for your toilet.

Through the various types, styles, measurements, and other possible characteristics, toilets still serve a core purpose, and you ultimately want a toilet that meets that basic need while fitting your desired aesthetic. We hope this guide is helpful in order to find the perfect toilet for your bathroom.