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Notes on Buying a New Toilet

How old is your current toilet? If it’s more than 20 years old, it might be time to get a new one. Even if your current model seems to be working fine, there are several reasons that you might want to start looking at new designs. There have been many technical advances in the last 20 years, including toilets that use less water, perform better and are more comfortable. Prior to 1994, standard toilets used from 3.5 to 5 gallons of water per flush (GPF).

After the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (which became law in ‘94), all toilet designs had to conform to a maximum flush volume of 1.6 gallons. The first toilets to adhere to this new design policy did not flush well; often compelling users to flush multiple times to complete the job. But advances in technology, including larger tank outlet holes, eventually got the design back to its previous performance level. There are also high-efficiency toilets (HET) that use 1.28 gpfs or less – earning the EPA’s WaterSense label. When looking for a new toilet, consider these essential points:


  • Rough-In – Before shopping for a new toilet, you’ll want to figure out the rough-in dimension of your current unit. This is the distance from the front flange bolts (the capped bolts that hold the toilet to the floor) to the wall directly behind the toilet. In the U.S., most rough-in dimensions are 10, 12, or 14 inches – with the most common being 12 inches.
  • Bowl Height – This is the distance from the floor to the top of the bowl rim (not the seat). A common height is around 15 inches, but higher bowls are easier for adults and the elderly to use. Bowl heights of 16 – 18 inches are becoming increasingly popular. If your current toilet height has become uncomfortable, consider shopping for a taller design.
  • Footprint – The footprint is the area of the floor that is covered by the toilet base. If you decide to install a smaller toilet, you will need to patch the area of floor that remains uncovered. This might cause a problem if you have tile or stone on the bathroom floor.
  • Wall Print – Similar to the footprint, this is the area of wall that is covered by your toilet tank. If you purchase a new toilet with a smaller tank, be prepared to paint the back wall if that area has not been finished.

Design Options:

  • Two Piece/One Piece – There are two different toilet designs that are commonly used in U.S. homes. Two piece toilets are more popular as they are generally less expensive and have a larger tank. One piece toilets start at around $100 and are heavier than their two-piece counterparts. But people find them more aesthetically pleasing and they are easier to clean.
  • Bowl Shape – There are two common bowl shapes (with a few variations). The more familiar is the round-front bowl, which works well in smaller bathrooms. The elongated-front bowl is longer and has longer rim dimensions. These designs are more ergonomic and more comfortable than the smaller bowls. Be mindful of your current bowl size and its immediate area before buying a new design, an elongated bowl might not fit the space.
  • Flush Performance – This aspect of a toilet should be a top priority. Make sure that you check for certain features to guarantee a strong flush. Find a toilet design that has a 3 inch flush valve and a trapway that is fully glazed and is at least 2 inches in diameter.
  • HET Toilets – Save hundreds of gallons of water a year with an HET design. High efficiency toilets use 1.28 gallons or less per flush and perform just as well as their less efficient counterparts. They will help you save money on utilities and are good for the environment, so there are no drawbacks. Some states such as California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas have strict guidelines and only allow HET toilets to be installed.
  • Rebates for High Efficiency Models – Certain HET units that earn the EPA’s WaterSense designation can save 4,000 gallons of water per person annually. There are some water utilities that offer rebates if these units are installed. Check your local state utility site for more information on rebate eligibility.

When you decide on the right toilet for your bathroom, make Universal your first call for professional installation. Our experts can ensure quick and efficient installation – and can help with all repair and maintenance needs. Call us at (713) 364-0226 to schedule an appointment.