People have given me a strange look the last couple of days when I tell them that I gave my wife a Toilet for Mother’s Day. I don’t get it, I really can’t imagine a more romantic gift. But all kidding aside, this is exactly what she wanted. Our master bathroom continues to be the area of our house that is most in need of renovation, and having a nice toilet makes the room just a little bit more tolerable. Since the old toilet was recently broken, replacing it quickly became a priority.
Sure, blogging about Toilets is a bit of a poopy thing to do, but here at See Debt Run we share life as we experience it. If you haven’t purchased a toilet in the past few years, you might be in for a bit of a surprise when you get to the hardware Store. Toilets probably cost more than you think, and there are a staggering number of options that you need to sort through.
Where to Buy a Toilet
You really have three good options when it comes to purchasing a toilet: a local plumbing supply specialty store (especially if you are looking high-end), a big hardware box store (Home Depot, Lowe’s), or you can hire a plumber and have them get the toilet for you. Since we are on “Mission Frugality” right now, we chose the box store option.
What Features Should I Look For?
There have been some interesting recent trends in toilet technology (I truly love that sentence).
- Height: If the toilet is going to be used primarily by adults, you probably want to go ahead and purchase a “Right Height” or “Comfort Height”. Different brands call it different names, but basically you should look for a model with a floor to rim measurement of at least 16 inches. This popular option will help you sit upright, and is generally much more comfortable for adults.
- Elongated vs. Round: I will try to keep this “G” rated, but if you are a gentlemen, sitting on an elongated seat will provide you with much more room up front. The classic “round” seats can be tight quarters at times, and the elongated versions are much more comfortable. Before purchasing an elongated toilet however, you should make sure that there is enough room in your bathroom. The overall bowl will be a bit larger, and you will need to make sure that you have clearance from any swinging doors, and acceptable legroom in front of the toilet.
- Flushing Options: You will see a bunch of different options here, with gimmicks like “dual-flush” and “zero-stopper design.” Most of these don’t add much value, but some high-end toilets also offer a “pressure flush option,” which is very powerful but also extremely loud. With all toilets, you will see a “flush power rating” next to the display, and it would be wise to pick a toilet towards the high end of the scale, to make sure that it can clear anything that you drop in there. I would recommend that you choose a toilet with the traditional flange tank, to make sure that it uses the traditional “swirling” motion during flushing, which helps clear the bowl.
- Glaze: This one was pretty huge for us, as some newer toilets offer a special anti-microbial glaze that will prevent any mildew or or bacteria from bonding to the sides, and thus prevent staining and keep stinky smells from gathering. This means less scrubbage and cleaning. Rock on!
Brand Name vs Generic Store Brand
At the box stores, you will generally be limited to toilets by Kohler, American Standard, and a store brand like “Glacier Bay”. The store brands can be a bit of a gamble, as the box stores sometimes change their providers, and quality can vary wildly. I spent a good amount of time reading through some plumbing forums before making our purchase, and they claim that the failure rates on the generic brands can be frighteningly high. It can also be difficult to find replacement parts for these brands. The Kohlers and the American Standards perform much better, have fewer problems, and have readily available replacement parts.
The forums also mentioned that high-end toilets, like those made by “Toto”, have by far the best performance and require the least maintenance. The cost is much higher for these toilets of course, but you do get what you pay for.
How Much Do Toilets Cost?
For the generic store brands, most toilets cost around $100 at the box stores. You can get them a little bit cheaper if you watch for sale prices, but this amount is pretty standard. To bump up to Kohler or American Standard, you are looking at $180-$250, depending on what options you go for. To bump up further to the Toto or similar, you are looking at $350 and up. All and all, I can honestly say that these prices were much higher than I was expecting.
Can I Install a Toilet Myself?
In the famous words of Steve Jobs, “You Can Do It.. Don’t Be Afraid.” Installing a toilet is one of the easiest DIY tasks around, you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle it. I know, I know. Poop is gross. But installing a toilet really isn’t that bad. The only gross part of the whole process, is removing your existing toilet, which only takes a few minutes. The installation process itself is mostly just tightening a few bolts, and doesn’t require any plumbing skills. The most important part involves putting a wax ring on the bottom of the toilet and slowly lowering it over the opening in your bathroom floor. You have to be careful here, to make sure that you don’t move the toilet after pushing down on the wax ring, as this will form a watertight seal, and keep water from escaping from underneath your bowl.
If you aren’t comfortable installing at toilet, call a professional. However, I am not a big DIY guy, and have installed multiple toilets in my day without issue. I should note that a two-piece toilet can weigh around 100 pounds (total), so you might need a friend to help you carry it into the bathroom.
After some careful deliberations, we decided to go with the:
American Standard CADET® 3 FloWise® RIGHT HEIGHT ELONGATED COMPLETE TOILET
The price was lower than some options, so it didn’t completely bust our budget, and this toilet has everything that we were looking for. It has the right height, the elongated seat, the anti-microbial glaze, and is generally very well-reviewed. It is comfortable to sit on, very quiet, and seems to have a powerful flush.
The only downside to this toilet is the seat itself, which feels like it is cheap flimsy plastic. I am told that this is pretty standard for the price point, but it is still annoying when you are spending around $200. The model that we purchased actually has a “no slam” lid which slowly lowers itself (making it impossible for the kids to slam it down) but even with that– we will probably replace it with a ceramic seat at some point in the future.