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Select a toilet that meets your needs

Learn about the components of a toilet and the selection criteria that will inform your decision. Even though there are many different kinds of toilets, most of them function according to the same principle. Water, held in a storage tank, drains to the toilet bowl when the flush lever is activated. Water flows into the drain through to the sewer.

This guide gives an overview of the features and components to review before buying a residential toilet.

Toilet models

The traditional toilet is composed of a bowl and a tank. The foremost models are one-piece, two-piece and wall-mount toilets.

The one-piece toilet - 1 - has its bowl and tank moulded together as one device, minimizing the risk of leakage and making cleaning easier. It is easier to install than a two-piece toilet and is more urban-looking with its sleek design.

The two-piece - 2 - is the most common toilet model, where the bowl and tank are separated. Generally more economical and less expensive than the one-piece model, it suits all budgets. Because it is the most popular model, replacement parts are easier to find.

The wall-mount toilet is installed to a closet carrier support in the wall. The wall carrier holds the tank, and its height is adjustable. A small bathroom equipped with a wall-mount toilet will seem much larger, since it takes up 10” less than a conventional toilet. Because it is enclosed in the wall, it is much quieter. Also, washing the floor and cleaning the toilet bowl is much easier. Ideal for someone with reduced mobility. This model is, on the other hand, more expensive to buy and install.

One-Piece toilet
-1-
Two-Piece toilet
-2-

Toilet: terminology, parts and features

Even though we use it everyday, most of us are unfamiliar with a toilet's components and their function. Let's take a look at each one of them.

1. Tank

Toilets come with lined (insulated) or unlined tanks. The lining helps prevent the condensation, or “sweating,” that can form on the outside of the tank during hot, humid summer months due to the presence of cold water in the tank. A lined tank may not be necessary if your home is air-conditioned, your indoor air is relatively dry and your municipal or well water is not too cold.

Certain models don't use all the water in the tank when the toilet flushes. This reduces the thermal shock, therefore preventing condensation without the need for insulation.

2. Bowl

Two kinds of toilet bowls are available. The traditional round-shaped bowl takes up less space, and is therefore recommended when you want to maximize space in the bathroom. The elongated bowl was developed to provide increased comfort with its larger seating. The choice comes down to personal preference.

A standard-height bowl varies between 14" (365mm) and 16 ¼"(413mm) which is adequate for average-size people. Comfort-height bowls are slightly higher than regular bowls, and at between 16" (406mm) and 17" (432mm) they are ideal for very tall people or people with reduced mobility. With a wall-mount toilet, you can install the seat at the height you choose.

3. Flush Lever

The flush lever can be situated on top, on one side, on the front of the tank, or even built into the wall in the case of wall-mounted toilets. Allow for adequate space if you choose a lever on top of the tank.

Contactless flush sensor kits are also available on the market. Waving your hand in front of the sensor activates the flushing system without having to touch the toilet. This helps prevent the spread of germs.

Flushing System and Performance
  • More and more models are equipped with a flushing system that can reduce your water consumption. Standard toilets use approximately 3.5 gallons (13.2 litres) of water per flush, whereas newer toilets do the same job with 1.6 gallons (6 litres) of water.
  • Dual-flush toilets allow you to choose the volume of water you use per flush. By choosing the appropriate lever, or button, you can choose a 1.6 gallon (6 litres) flush for solid waste or a 0.8 gallon (3 litres) flush for liquid waste, thus reducing considerably the consumption of drinkable water.

4. Flapper

Flappers (or flush valves) on nearly all toilets are either 2” (50 mm) or 3” (75 mm) in diameter. Generally speaking, a 3” (75-mm) flapper will allow water to discharge from the tank to the bowl much faster, resulting in better performance. While a 75-mm (3-in.) flapper is not a guarantee of more flushing power, nearly all high-performance toilets produced by major manufacturers are now equipped with a flapper of that size.

5. Water supply line

Generally 3/8 inches in diameter, flexible and coated with stainless steel, the supply line brings clean water to the tank.

6. Shut-off valve

The shut-off valve lets you cut the water supply to the toilet only if necessary. It is convenient when repairing or replacing the toilet as you don't need to shut off the water to the entire house.

7. Wax seal

The wax seal (or wax ring) provides a waterproof barrier between the bottom of the toilet and the flange. It is available with or without a plastic sleeve.

Bad odours or humidity around the base of the toilet are signs that the wax ring needs to be replaced.

8. Base

The base is the part of the toilet that sits on the floor. Made of porcelain, it serves both a practical and esthetic function. Adapted to the toilet's style, it is generally smooth and easy to clean.

Wall-mounted toilets do not have a base.

9. Seat

Installed on the bowl, the toilet seat can easily be replaced if needed. Equipped with a lid, it is usually made of white plastic, but coloured seats are also available. They can be made of other materials such as wood and can be padded for more comfort.

Soft-close seats are also available on the market, as well as seats equipped with other gadgets such as night lights.

Then can have a round or elongated shape just like bowls. When replacing your toilet seat, make sure to choose the appropriate shape.

10. Float ball

The float ball plays a crucial role as it regulates the water level in the tank.

The float ball is made of 3 parts: a stem that connects the flushing system to the float ball which connects to a valve. After the user flushes, the float ball rises as the tank fills. Once the right water level is reached, the valve closes the opening and stops the water.

When water is continuously leaking in the bowl, it usually means there is something wrong with the float ball or one of its components.

How it works

Aside from the role of each component, the way a toilet works is quite simple.

Water supply and operation

Most toilets work on the principles of gravity: water is stored in the tank at a higher level than the water in the bowl. When the flush lever is activated, water flows by gravity from the tank to the bowl. Water is then pulled from the bowl into the drain by a siphon effect, then down the drain to the sewer.

With pressure-assisted models, the water is stored in a canister inside the toilet tank, where it is kept at the same pressure as the water that is supplied to the toilet. When the toilet is flushed, the pressurized water forces a power flush action through the bowl.

Gravity-fed toilets and pressure-assisted toilets provide relatively equivalent flushing power, which means deciding between the two models becomes a question of personal preference rather than performance.

Trap diameter - siphonic vs. wash-down

Most toilet models are siphonic, meaning they use the natural siphon created by the flushing water in the toilet trap to pull waste from the bowl. The smaller the toilet trap, the easier it is to create the necessary suction. But smaller traps can also make it more difficult for the waste to pass through.

Wash-down toilets, on the other hand, use the water entering the bowl to help push the waste through the trap. Because they don't need to rely only on a siphon, wash-down toilets can have a considerably larger trap diameter. But, because of the way they work, they also tend to have a much smaller water surface area in the toilet bowl. As a result, wash-down toilets generally tend to clog less often than siphonic toilets, but they may also require more frequent cleaning.

MaP testing

MaP testing represents the number of grams of solid waste that a toilet can completely eliminate in a single flush.

Strong competitiveness to improve toilet efficiency has resulted in hundreds of highly efficient models on the market. In 2003, the average MaP score for all tested toilets was 336 grams (12 oz), while in March 2017, the average score of 2,500 different models had more than doubled to reach 882 grams (31 oz).

Grinder or macerator toilets

Many physical impediments can complicate the installation of a toilet. When it is too expensive or impossible to use standard plumbing, you can always install a grinder or macerator toilet. The difference is in the diameter of the drainage pipe needed for the macerator toilet. Macerator technology means that pipes are much smaller in diameter and above ground piping can be installed. Macerators can be installed anywhere, without modification to existing structures.

Installation

Installing a one-piece or a two-piece toilet is very easy, especially if you are replacing an existing toilet with a new one without altering water supply lines or drain pipes.

If you are doing the installation yourself, you will need a flat screwdriver, adjustable wrench, hacksaw, caulking knife, sealer to protect against mould, and tape.

Wall-mount models are more difficult to install, since they need to be installed to a closet carrier support inside the wall. The wall carrier supports the tank, so the wall must be solid and have sufficient clearance for the installation of the tank and flushing system.

If you do not want to install the toilet yourself, you can always have it done by professionals.

Pro tip


Watersense

For an environment-friendly choice, look for the WaterSense label.
WaterSense-labelled toilets use at least 20% less water than traditional models and have a positive impact on the environment.

Accessories

Models are sold with or without a toilet seat. They come in a variety of materials (wood, plastic, and vinyl) shapes and colours.

Slow-closing seats are available, a noise-relieving alternative to conventional seats.

You can also opt for an antibacterial toilet seat to help fight the spread of bacteria in the bathroom (an antibacterial treatment is applied to the seat when it is made).

Suggested products

See all toilets