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Wed, March 20

Ask the Contractor: Toilets more complex than many think

Q: Our toilet is giving us fits. Not only do we have recurring clogs, it looks like there are cracks in the porcelain and it is a water hog. My wife said to go buy a new toilet and having visited several local stores, I am more confused than ever. What is the best type of toilet to purchase?

Mark and Martha, Prescott

A: Nearly 2,000 times per year, the average toilet receives a flushing. Even though one might think that one size fits all with toilets, that is not the case. There are countless styles with different heights and designs. There are one-piece toilets, two-piece toilets. The bowl shape varies and, of course, the height: standard vs. comfort height and flushing types are an option.

Toilets are a universal fixture in any home and over the past few years, toilet manufacturers have progressed to designing toilets that are more water-efficient and easier to clean. Today’s toilets can be considered super toilets. There is a toilet on the market made by Toto Drake that reduces bacteria and debris buildup because of the ion-barrier glaze the bowl is made from. This toilet supposedly does an exceptional job of cleaning the bowl with every flush.

One-piece toilets integrate the tank and bowl, which offers a more space-saving design. Two-piece toilets are the traditional toilet with a separate tank and bowl. There are different bowl shapes, from elongated to round, and then a more compact elongated bowl.

Comfort Height toilets are taller than the traditional toilet and these toilets make it much easier for sitting and standing. The traditional toilet sits at or below 17 inches in height. Anything above that is considered comfort height and can go to 19 inches.

One of the most important considerations when purchasing a toilet would be the low-flush or low-flow option. If you do not have a low-flush toilet, now is the time to change. Look for the EPA WaterSense label on the toilet. Toilets are rated according to their ability to remove waste per Maximum Performance (MaP) testing, which rates on the number of grams of waste evacuated in a single flush. The minimum standard is 350 grams and any toilet with a rating over 500 is considered to be very good.

With low-flush options there are different standards. Most of today’s toilets are gravity-flushing toilets. The water flows into the bowl and then forces the waste through the trap with gravity. There are pressure-flushing toilets and using compressed air at the tank top, the flushing speed is greatly increased and uses less water. There are also the dual-flush toilets. These fixtures have two buttons on the tank that allow you to choose a full tank flush of water or a half tank, depending if you are flushing solid or liquids.

Toilets use about 25 to 30 percent of a household’s indoor water and installing a high efficiency toilet can certainly save money. Comparison shop for a toilet, find the model you like and the features you want and then you should be on the way for ease and comfort.

What is MaP? MaP is the major driving force in the improvement of toilet flush performance in North America and was developed in 2003 due to many complaints from the 1990s new low-flow toilets. In 2003, the average MaP score of all tested toilets was 336 grams (12 ounces), and today toilets have MaP ratings of 799 and higher (28 ounces). The competitive pressure to improve fixture performance from the early years together with MaP as the driving force to measure performance, has resulted in many hundreds of high-performance new improved and modern toilets. MaP is a maximum performance scale that rates toilet efficiency and flush performance, plus gives detailed information on individual toilet characteristics. MaP offers consumers the test results from closely replicating real world demands put upon a toilet. If you are interested in reviewing toilets and test results, you can research the testing on

Doesn’t a higher-priced toilet mean it is a better toilet? When shopping for a toilet, don’t assume that a high price tag assures top performance. Among single and dual-flush toilets, many top overall scorers are priced about midway in the group. Toilets are flushing away about 30 percent of all residential water in U.S. homes, so it’s not surprising that water conservation remains a major issue. The best toilets add impressive solid-waste performance and capable bowl cleaning while resisting soiling, odor and drain-line clogs.

What are important tips to review before a toilet is purchased?

ROUGH-IN: If you are dealing with new construction and you want to install a toilet different than what the builder is installing, it is important to know the rough-in dimension of your toilet. That is the distance from the flange bolts to the wall behind the toilet. The dimension is 10, 12 or 14 inches. Most common is 12 inches.

BOWL HEIGHT: The distance from the floor to the top of the rim of the bowl (not including the toilet seat). Standard height is 14 to 15 inches. Comfort heights, Easy height, Highboy, ADA are between 16 to 17 and in some cases 18 inches. You must decide whether or not you want a toilet with a taller bowl.

ONE-PIECE vs. TWO-PIECE: Two-piece bowls are the most common. They are typically less expensive and usually have a taller tank. One-piece bowls are often easier to clean and provide a smoother and sleeker look.

FOOTPRINT: If you are replacing an existing toilet with a large footprint (base covers a large floor area) you will need to patch or repair the floor if you install a toilet with a smaller footprint. Footprint dimensions of most new toilets can be found on the manufacturer’s website.

WALL-PRINT: If you are replacing an older toilet with a large tank and if you installer a smaller tank model, make sure the wall is finished behind the toilet. Many toilets today have smaller tanks than the older models.

BOWL SHAPE: Selecting the bowl design is another important factor. Bowls are typically designed with either a smaller, round-front bowl or a longer, elongated-front bowl. The round-front bowl is ideal for compact bath areas. Elongated bowls have a longer rim dimension. They are more comfortable for adult uses. It is important to measure the dimensions of the existing bowl and consider the size of the toilet space in your bath before replacing a round-front model with an elongated model. Make sure all doors and drawers can be opened.

FLUSHING OPTION: And then remember there are flushing options. Dual-Flush toilets are a powerful way to save water and money. Dual-flush offers the option to use only the water you need. Water-efficient toilets are single-flush at 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), dual-flush toilets (1.6 gpf/0.8 gpf) and pressure-assist toilets (1 gpf). Single-flush toilets using 1.6 gallons per flush are now required by law in most new home construction and bathroom remodels. As the name implies, dual-flush toilets provide two flushing options. Solids are flushed with 1.6 gallons of water. Liquids are flushed by about half that volume — 0.8 to 0.9 gpf. Most manufacturers offer at least one dual-flush toilet.

FLUSH HANDLE LOCATION: Toilets have flush handles in various locations. It is important to consider if the flush handle location is important to you.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.


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