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Toilet Specifications

Or What to Look For in a Toilet

The government has passed laws restricting the amount of water that a toilet may use per flush. This limits the manufacturers slightly in their designs. However, they have managed to create toilets that are not only elegant, but also efficient and powerful.

Modern technology and the market system have given us a wide range of toilet types. Designs of toilets vary and the names are quite fanciful. There is a "Wellworth", a "Cimmaron", a "Santa Rosa", and a "Titan". Sounds like a sporty new coupe. Then there is the "Elite" toilet, and the "Genesis".

Toilet tanks may be attached, or detached. The tank may be raised high above the head. There may not even be a tank at all! There are advantages to having the tank raised higher, as this will usually result in greater water pressure to clear out the debris. Bowl dimensions also vary, allowing for round or elongated bowls. Dual-flush systems are also available. These use different amounts of water for liquids as opposed to solids.

There are other important aspects toilet design that affect performance. A major consideration when buying a toilet is tank size. In the U.S. the maximum tank size is now 1.6 gallons (in Canada and UK - 6 litres). Most toilets rely on a gravity flush system, where pushing a lever causes water to rush into the bowl. The build-up of water pushes water up and around a trap. The flow of water creates a siphoning effect which draws all of the contents of the bowl out, around the trap and down the drain. Some toilets are pressure-assisted. In this case, air is forced into the bowl creating a more thorough evacuation. In spite of its inherent advantage in creating sufficient force to deal with normal usage, the pressure-assisted system tends to require more maintenance and is far more noisy. When they first came out, 1.6 gallon toilets did not perform as well as the old 3 gallon tank models. But technology has made the new models work on a par with the older ones.

A number that you will often see associated with toilets is its MaP score. The MaP score is a measure of a toilet's Maximum Performance based on how well a toilet flushes "a combination of extruded soybean paste and wads of toilet paper"1. The MaP Score itself is the number of grams of waste that can reasonably be disposed of in two flushes. The average maximum stool size was determined by scientific experimentation to be about 250 grams. This, however, does not take into account little Suzy stuffing a whole role down the toilet hole. Which means you should look for a toilet with a MaP score clearly higher than 250. Some test as high as 1100.

Trap diameter and shape can also affect performance. Greater diameter allows larger objects to flow through, but by the same token, it requires more water to be effective. You want a bend in the trap, but too tight a bend can cause water flow problems. There are various types of levers to initiate the flushing action. The easiest to work with is the handle, but the push button may have the edge in the aesthetics department.

A prime consideration in looking at toilets is making sure it will it fit in the space provided. Bring a measuring tape. Know where your drain hole is located. You don't want to buy a new toilet, bring it home and find out it does not fit. Even so, most toilets are standard when it comes to where the drain hole is located. Some houses, especially built in the 1960s may have the drain pipe actually come out of the wall instead of the floor. In this case you may have difficulty finding a replacement, or you may have to re-plumb the drain pipe. Most toilets are built to fit a rough opening in the floor 12" from the wall.

Toilets seldom come with a seat. This should be purchased separately.

Next Page: The Tools Needed to Work on a Toilet

1. Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilet Models (PDF)

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