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Toilet Information

Choices To Consider When Buying A Toilet:

Color
White is predominant, but most manufacturers offer a variety of hues. Before buying a color, make sure you're ready to live with that color. Also consider resale value. Some people might not like your choice of color.


Style
Do you want to convey a look that's contemporary, traditional, casual or formal? Styles usually don't affect the operation of the toilet so it won't matter what style that you pick.


Gravity or pressure
Gravity-fed toilets work the old-fashioned (and most reliable) way. Upon flushing, water goes from the tank into the bowl (by means of reliable gravity). When enough water builds up, the weight forces everything through the S-shaped trap way, at which point a siphoning action takes over and finishes the job.
Pressure-assist tanks are completely sealed and rest inside the toilet housing. When the tanks fill with water, the trapped air gets compressed. The pressure-assist results in a more efficient flush. A more efficient flush means that the water surface in the bowl can be larger. And a larger water surface means less frequent cleaning. The potential drawbacks are that pressure-assisted tanks are louder and sometimes tougher to repair than conventional gravity models.


One-piece or two-piece
Most toilets have separate tanks and bowls, making them two-piece, but many higher-priced toilets are one-piece, and generally more stylish. This is a style preference. One piece toilets tend to cost significantly more.


Roughing
The distance from the finished wall to the center line (point where the bolt connects to the floor) for most toilets is 12 inches. With older installations (or mistakes made during construction), this distance may vary from 10 to 14 inches. Also, some foreign toilets might not have 12" so be careful.


With a seat or without a seat
Most two-piece toilets do not come with a seat. Some one-piece toilets do. If you buy a toilet without a seat, be careful that the toilet that you purchase does not need a unique shaped design. If it does it could present a problem in the future when you need a new seat. Also you should consider the material used to make the seat. Today the (pressed) wood seats that are manufactured are generally well made if manufactured in the U.S. The main toilet seat manufacturers in the U.S. are Church Seat, Bemis, Beneke, Sperzel, Centoco and Olsonite. We don't recommend most foreign toilet seats except for a few manufacturers in Europe such as Pressalit. Wood seats don't tend to "wiggle" much and should last 5 - 20 years (depends on usage and cleaning methods). If you drop the seat's lid (cover) a lot, the paint will wear off. Plastic seats come in many grades and thickness levels. The lower priced ones tend to "wiggle" and move around while you are sitting on them. We suggest that "if" you are going to buy a plastic seat that you pay extra and get a thick seat. The paint won't wear off and a good quality, thick plastic toilet seat can't be beat. They are more expensive but worth the price.


Round bowl or elongated bowl
Most bowls in residential installations are round; in commercial installations they are usually elongated. Many residential toilet bowls are made in elongated versions as well; you just have to ask for them. With an elongated bowl, you get an additional two inches in front. That means a larger target area and less drip on the bowl. To determine if your toilet bowl/seat is round or elongated, see the description in the diagram.

Installing A Replacement Toilet Is Usually Fairly Easy:

Turn off the water at the supply (under the toilet, usually).
Flush the tank to remove all water from the tank.
Disconnect the supply from the tank.
Remove bolt caps or bolt covers from where the toilet bolts to the bathroom floor.
Remove bolts from the floor flange. When you lift the toilet up, you'll see a metal or plastic flange. If the toilet has been there for a long time the bolts may not pull out of the flange easily. In this case you may have to use a small hacksaw to cut the bolt below the nut.
Put newspaper or an old towel on the floor so you can place the old toilet on it. Lift the toilet off the flange.
Take the new bowl (assuming this is a two-piece toilet) and turn it upside down. Position the wax ring on the horn of the outlet. Install new solid brass flange bolts, mount them and position them on the centerline on either side of the outlet.
Push the bowl down over the bolts and seal the outlet. The wax will squeeze down and seal.
Put the new bolts, washers and bolt caps on. You may have to trim the bolt with a hacksaw.
Once the bolts are secure, mount the tank.
Make sure the gasket between the tank and toilet is in place. Then position the tank on the bowl. Run bolts through the tank and secure. Don't over tighten (the tank can crack).
Hook up the water supply line.
Connect the supply to the line on the bottom of the tank.
Turn on the water.
Let the tank fill.
Flush once or twice to make sure the water control is properly adjusted.
Put the tank lid on.
Enjoy.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Toilet:

There are a number of things that can go wrong with your toilet, including:

Warped or irregular tank lever
Over time tank levers can bend, crack or stick which impedes the rise and fall of the flapper over the flush valve. This causes each flush to be either too short, resulting in an incomplete flush, or too long, resulting in too much water being used. Sometimes a faulty lever can hold the flapper in the open position, which causes the water in the tank to constantly drain and refill.


Cracked fill valve
If the fill valve has a crack then the water from the supply connector can flow unchecked into the tank and then down the drain through the overflow pipe. If the crack gets worse the fill valve can break away, creating a massive discharge into and out of the tank resulting in flooding and water damage to the property.


Warped, shrunken or misaligned flapper
This is the most common toilet tank problem. If the flapper can't create a tight seal with the flush valve, water will leak down the drain causing the tank water to constantly refill. Jiggling the handle, which can temporarily realign the flapper, is a symptom of a faulty flapper that doesn't fully close. When installing your flapper, you want the flapper chain's S-hook in the hole closest to the handle with very little slack in the chain itself. By doing so, when the toilet is flushed, the chain will fall behind the flapper where it won't snag and cause problems such as keeping the flapper from closing properly. Check to make sure that the flapper has enough clearance to close, i.e. not hitting the float ball when the water level drops.


Faulty seal beneath the flush valve
The flush valve (not to be confused with the fill valve) is the part which allows the tank water to exit the tank and flow into the bowl to flush the toilet. Over time the rubber seal between the flush valve and the tank interior can harden and crack allowing water to drain out of the tank through the tank drain opening. If you have a two-piece toilet, the water may also trickle down the outside of the toilet bowl to the floor.


Failing tank to bowl gasket
A tank to bowl gasket is used to connect and seal the tank to the bowl on two-piece toilets. This gasket is attached to the underside of the tank and fits over and/or around the bottom of the flush valve. As this gasket gets older and begins to deteriorate, or harden, it can cause water to leak out between the tank and the bowl when the toilet is flushed. A leak from this seal can be difficult to find where it is originating from because all bowls are unintentionally made slightly different due to how porcelain is manufactured. One bowl may have a low side towards the front of the bowl inlet hole, and another bowl may have a low side towards the back of the bowl inlet hole, or another one may have the low side on one of the sides of the bowl inlet hole. Water will naturally flow to the lowest point.


Faulty tank to bowl washers
Two-piece toilets use bolts and washers to attach the tank to the bowl. Over time the rubber washers between the bolts and the tank interior can harden and crack, or just deteriorate. This will cause water to drain out the tank through the bolt hole openings and trickle down the toilet bowl to the floor.


Pervasive corrosion from in-tank cleaners containing bleach
In-tank cleaners that release bleach in the tank water can expose parts to elevated chlorine levels that may damage them. High chlorine levels can warp, weaken or corrode the materials used in the toilet parts, which can result in inefficient flushes, wasteful leaks, or major flooding and property loss.


Faulty supply connector seal
Over time water supply connectors can kink, corrode or crease allowing weak areas to leak or rupture. Also, washers in old connectors can harden or shrink causing the seal to be insecure.


Defective wax ring/bowl-to-floor gasket and bolts
A defective wax ring can allow water to leak from the drain pipe and seep from the toilet base where it may rot the floor flange creating water damage to flooring materials. Loose bolts allow the toilet to rock which can break the seal.

How long your toilet parts last depends on a number of variables. Water quality is one of the major factors. If your water source is heavily chlorinated then many parts won't last long. Or if you have a lot of sand or grit or have a low pH or "aggressive" water source then parts simply won't last as long as the 'average' length of time. Also the quality of the parts matters. The replaceable parts such as flappers and washers/seals generally will last at least 4 to 5 years on "average." If you use a bowl cleaner some flappers won't even last one year. If your flapper has black "goo" on it then it is either due to age or quality of your water and if it feels soft then it's best to change it.

To change the flapper with most toilets: turn off the water supply and flush the toilet. Reach in and unhook the ears of the flapper and unhook the chain from the trip lever. Install an identical flapper to the original that came from the factory. Do expect to get your hands dirty from the old flapper. Simply reinstall the new one in reverse order. Note that should you have very old brass pipes inside of your toilet, be careful not to be rough on them. They can easily break and end up leaking. After you have replaced your flapper, and the toilet tank bowl has refilled, the water fill valve should not leak (be going on and off in cycles). If it does, then we recommend putting some food coloring into your tank. This can help diagnose the problem. The colored water should not be going into the bowl (unless you flush the toilet of course). If the food color does go into the bowl, then possibly the flapper is not the correct one, the surface where the toilet flapper sits, has eroded (feel below where the flapper touched the toilet and see if you can feel erosion/grove) or you may only need to add some slack to the chain.

Fixing A Clog:

The first thing you should try is a plunger. A plunger is pumped up and down in the toilet bowl and then removed. This creates a vacuum below the clog and the returning water will sometimes remove the clog. The best action isn't the pushing action but the pulling action. Put the toilet plunger into the bowl, do a series of small strokes until it is pushed in all the way and sealed real well. Then pull up real hard (stand out of the way as this is also an easy way to get "you know what" on you). If that doesn't work try short, quick strokes with the emphasis on pulling. If the plunger doesn't take care of your clog the next thing to try is a snake, or toilet auger. Place the snake inside the toilet bowl with the auger tight against the tube and the end in the bowl outlet. Turn the snake's handle as you push it down into the pipes as far as it will go and then pull it back up. Repeat this action until the clog is removed. If that doesn't work it's time to take the toilet up.

Leaking:

Leaking toilets are the most common cause of high water bills. Toilet leaks can waste as much as four to five gallons of water per minute and cost you up to $100 extra on your monthly water bill. We highly recommend that you fix your leaking toilet as soon as possible.

There are many signs that your toilet is leaking. These include:

Jiggling the handle to make your toilet stop running.
Sounds coming from your toilet when it's not being used.
Holding the handle down in order to allow the tank to empty.
Water is running over the top of the overflow.
Water trickling down the sides of the bowl after the toilet has been flushed
Water dripping out of the refill tube into the overflow pipe.
Your toilet turns the water on for about 15 seconds without you touching the handle.

If you notice your toilet is leaking the first thing you need to determine is the cause. Dry all around the toilet tank as well as the floor below. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet, make sure there are no "in tank" bowl cleaners that color the water (you must have clear water in the tank and in the bowl for this test to work). After the flapper/tank ball drops and the tank water refills, add several drops of food coloring into the tank until the water is a dark color (we like the color blue but other colors will work). Then wait for an hour or so. Look if any of the color has seeped through the tank (crack) or around a fitting, etc. If any color appears in the toilet bowl then you have a leak. If you do not see any of the coloring anywhere, then flush the toilet (best to have a flashlight on). If you still do not see any coloring (except in the bowl) then there is a good possibility that your tank is sweating. The sweating can be diminished a lot by a sweat stopper. It also could be that your flush valve ("ball cock") is shooting water up against the tank lid, and then some of the water drips down along the side of the toilet tank. Replace or repair the ball cock (flush valve) in that case. Do NOT seal around the tank lid and the tank with silicone, etc., as with most tanks and lids there needs to be some air space going into the tank.

The most common causes of leaks are a faulty flush valve or an improperly adjusted or broken refill (ball cock) valve. There is another test you can do to find out which part is the cause of your leak. First draw a pencil line on the back wall of the inside of the tank at the water line. Turn the water supply off and wait 20-30 minutes without using the toilet. If the water level remains at the pencil mark then your leak is most likely being caused by your refill valve. To fix this you simply have to reset the water to a lower level by using the fill valve's adjustment clip or in the case of a float ball-type valve simply bend the arm slightly downward. However, if the water level falls below your pencil mark then your leak is most likely caused by a faulty flush valve. To replace your flush valve you will need to cut a new overflow pipe to match the height of the old pipe. Install the valve by tightening the lock nut 1/2 turn beyond hand tight and then slide the gasket onto the threaded end of the valve. Connect the flapper chain to the flush lever, attach the refill tube to the overflow pipe and finally reconnect the tank to the bowl.

Sweating?

The high humidity on a hot day and the cold water that fills up the toilet tank causes the tank to "sweat", the water on the tank is actually condensation. The solution for this problem is to isolate the cold water in the tank by either insulating the tank with a styrofoam insulation kit, or replace the tank with a lined tank (some manufacturers with some toilet models sell them, but these are very costly and don't prevent condensation any more than the styrofoam insulation kits).

Other options include:

Installing a tempering valve with a hot and cold water source. The trick is to add water to your tank at close to the temperature of the room.

Having air conditioning helps a lot since it tends to dry out the air.

Run warm water to a toilet. We do not recommend this. It is a waste of resources as well as there will be a potential to crack the porcelain. The temperature required has to be higher than the dew point inside the house. The more humid it is, the higher the temperature that dew or condensation will form.

Put one fuzzy tank cover on to act as an insulator.

Install a new toilet tank which already has a foam liner.

Install a new 1.6 gpf toilet. These are less likely to sweat as they only use a small part of the water in the tank and usually warm up before the next flush.

Install a dehumidifier in the house.

Toilet Troubleshooting
Symptom Possible Causes Suggested Solutions
The water in the tank is constantly running. The float ball or rod is catching.

The float ball is not rising high enough resulting in the valve not being properly shut off.

The tank ball is not seating properly.

The ball cock valve is not shutting off properly.
If the ball is touching the back tank wall slightly move the ball or rod by bending it slowly.

If there is scum or corrosion on the lip of the valve, scrape it away.

If the tank ball appears worn, replace it.

If the ball is not falling straight, adjust the lift wires.

Replace the washers.

Replace the toilet.
The toilet is not flushing properly The drain is clogged.

There is not enough water in the tank.

The tank ball is closing the valve too soon.

There is leakage where the tank joins the bowl.

There is condensation.
Remove the blockage in the drain with a wire hanger and mirror if necessary.

Raise the water level in the tank by bending the float rod.

Move the guide up so that the tank ball can rise to a higher level.

Tighten the spud nuts or replace the spud washer.

Reduce condensation by bringing hot water to the tank, install a tank cover, drip catcher or insulation kit.
The tank whines The ball cock is broken or not performing properly.

There is a restricted water supply.
Replace the washers or the ball cock unit.

Check that there is no corrosion or scum on the valve.

Make sure the cutoff is fully open.


Most Frequently Asked Questions

questions about toilets "What is a Washlet?"
answers about toilets A Washlet is a toilet seat with warm water, bidet style washing. It is a replacement toilet seat, and can be installed on a new or existing toilet, the same as any regular toilet seat. A Washlet will typically have additional functions and features, depending on the model and price range.

questions about toilets "Can I install my toilet flange to be flush with the floor?"
answers about toilets With most of today's toilets it is best to install your toilet flange to sit on top of the finished floor. In other words, most toilet flanges are 1/4 - 1/2" thick and the bottom of the flange itself should sit on top of your tile, linoleum, etc. which makes the actual top of the flange sit about 1/4"-1/2" above the finished floor.

questions about toilets "Any tricks to setting a toilet on top of a tile floor?"
answers about toilets Set the toilet in the usual manner. Then just grout around the base of the toilet (between the toilet and the floor tiles). Wash the joints and let them get hard. That grout will support the toilet and keep it from trying to rock when someone sits on it, and the grout looks much nicer and will generally last longer than standard caulking.

questions about toilets "Can I use a wax ring for my wall-hung toilet?"
answers about toilets Some people do. We absolutely do NOT recommend it because wax does not have "memory." Over time all walls will flex (somewhat) and when that happens, gravity will allow a space - which will allow leaks. We believe that wax gaskets are great for regular toilets but not for wall-hung toilets.

questions about toilets "What about felt gaskets with wax, for my wall hung toilet?"
answers about toilets It might be somewhat better than an all wax gasket, but since the felt does not take up all of the space, it also will leak once the wall has flexed/moved. Either the wall will flex, the closet (toilet) carrier will flex or the bolts will loosen somewhat. In all cases you need a quality gasket/sponge that bounces back and fills the void.

questions about toilets "On my regular toilet I've replaced the 'bad' wax gaskets a few times and my toilet still leaks!!??"
answers about toilets Generally wax doesn't "go bad" on a standard floor-mounted toilet, as its function is not to prevent leaks. Wax on a floor-mounted toilet is there to prevent odors. If you are experiencing a leak coming from underneath the floor-mounted toilet, you probably have a partial (or full blown) toilet stoppage down the drain line (or the toilet is cracked in the bowl). Also, make sure the leak isn't coming from above and dribbling down the back of the toilet, as this is a "typical" undetected problem. If you aren't sure where the leak is coming, from try putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank and waiting a few hours.

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