Toilet selection no longer an easy task

Once upon a time, this was a topic banned from polite conversation. But because of the myriad choices manufacturers present us with, discuss it we must.

We’re talking about toilets here.

Still with us? Here are some things to consider if you’re buying a new one.

Need to know: How well does it flush? Flushability is determined by how successfully the design works within federal standards mandating a reduction in the number of gallons of water needed. The law reduced the amount to 1.6 gallons from 3 or 7 gallons, but the first versions of the low-flow toilets did not do the job as designed. Needing to flush a low-flow more than once defeats the purpose of the law.

Be sure to ask: What alternatives are available? For example, a dual-flush toilet offers a 1-gallon-or-less flush for liquid waste, 1.6 gallons for solid waste. Most newer models replace the rubber flapper, which is prone to degrading, with a silicon gasket and calibrated plunger. Their bowls and trapways have been redesigned to work better.

There’s still debate over whether the “wash-down” flush, which relies on gravity and a wide trapway, or the “siphonic,” which uses suction and a narrow passage, works best, but all you want to know is whether one flush will do it. Some single-flush, low-flow toilets use pressurized air to force water into the bowl. Pressure-assisted toilets are noisier than gravity-flush models, and some must be plugged into an electrical outlet.

Good advice: Low-flow toilets with larger trapways work better. (Trapways can be found on both sides of the toilet; they look like tubes).

One piece or two? In two-piece toilets, bowl and tank are separate entities; one-piece models combine them. A one-piece toilet is easier to clean because there’s no crevice between the tank and the bowl. Some toilets come with sanitary bars that prevent liquid from collecting under the tank at the back of the bowl.

Size (and shape) matters: Toilets are available in several different dimensions, depending on the amount of clearance to the wall behind the toilet needed to connect the water line. Twelve inches is the most common.

Round toilets are smaller and save space. Elongated, or oval, toilets provide a larger seating area, but they’re 2 inches longer, so be sure your space can accommodate an oval.

Older buyers may prefer a bowl that is between 14 and 17 inches above the floor, for more comfortable use.

What will it cost: There are a lot of cheap toilets available, and you get what you pay for. Some toilets will last 30 years or more, but the experts put the average at 10 to 15 years. The fixture itself will last much longer than its parts, which need regular replacement.

Depending on how it flushes — vacuum, pressure-assist, gravity, and single- or dual-flush — a typical home toilet can run $150 to $400.

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