Choosing a toilet to install in your home is not something that should be taken lightly. When you shop you will have a bewildering array of toilets to choose from and to the untrained eye the only difference is the price tag or, perhaps and arbitrary store rating system that only includes what they sell. Unfortunately the choice is not that easy. With hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of models to choose from how can you make a choice? The performance level varies from toilets that can barely flush a sheet of paper to toilets that will gulp down anything you can put in them in a single flush. The reliability levels are just as wide ranging from toilets that work properly for about 5 years before needing a flapper replaced, which is normal unavoidable maintenance as chemicals used to keep the water safe to drink such chlorine and chloramines attack rubber over time, to toilets where you are indeed lucky if they work when first installed. The quality also varies widely with some manufacturers using zinc plated steel bolts through the bottom of the toilet tank to secure the tank to the bowl instead of brass bolts. How long will it take for the head of a steel bolt under water to rust away? In addition many toilet manufacturers have used proprietary parts over the years which when you leave the major US manufacturers can prove difficult to obtain and even some US based manufacturers have used proprietary parts then discontinued support. How can you make a good choice with all this to consider?
Some toilet buyer’s clutch a leading consumer magazine that in between its reviews of toasters, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, frozen pizza, and mini vans their expert staff has decided on the best toilets to buy as they shop. Unfortunately their top pick from a few years ago is now on it’s 4th redesign and has a class action lawsuit pending but yet was declared the best in their review again this year. Another one of their top picks was a frequent clogging toilet that cannot have a plunger used on it and requires a special technique to use a toilet auger that most plumbers would be unfamiliar with. Some of their other recent top picks are no longer made and had proprietary parts, which are now unavailable. With a track record like that it makes you wonder about their expert qualifications.
When you think about it a toilet is something the average person uses 4 or 5 times a day which makes it something that gets a lot of use in the 20 years or longer they typically are installed for. It is something that you need to have it work reliably and when parts wear out, the replacement parts need to be readily available and function properly for a long time.
One of the best references available to the toilet-shopping consumer is the MaP Report by Veritec Consulting Inc. and Koeller and Company. The MaP Report contains flush testing results for many popular toilets. The minimum test to be listed is 250 Grams of solids per flush (GmPF) and the maximum test is 1,000 GmPF. However, MaP Testing is not the only thing to consider, as all it tests is the flushing ability. Consideration of reliability of the components or whether proprietary parts are used is not considered. Their flush testing is second to none. Another factor in MaP Testing is that the reason they do not test above 1,000 GmPF is the overkill factor. Below in the WaterSense comments the line of 350 GmPF is used as a low-end cutoff. The need to go beyond 1,000 GmPF is not there and is simply running up the score quite often at the expense of bowl wash, which keeps the bowl clean and streak free. If a toilet is rated above 650 GmPF chances are very good that it will never be clogged.
Another guideline is to look for WaterSense Certification. The EPA maintains a list of toilets that are WaterSense Certified. To gain certification the toilet has to flush with a measured amount of water as the WaterSense Certification is also about conserving water and it must meet a minimum standard of flushing 350 Grams of solids per flush (GmPF). This minimum performance level actually covers the average fecal size of the male population to the 99.5 percentile. So WaterSense Certification is a good indicator that the flush performance is decent.
My selection of the best toilets is based on a combination of factors. As a plumber I see many sides of a toilet from installation, to repairs and maintenance, to performance and also comfort for the user. My knowledge base comes from seeing and working on the many makes and models in the course of my work and being an internet plumber being on numerous forums where a consensus of plumbers favorites has been fairly consistent with some of my choices. Simply said we have to guarantee our work and if the customer has complaints they cost us money both in the aspect of time lost were we are making repairs without charging vs. doing new work and charging, and in reputation. We want the sure bets! The brands and models of toilets, which we put in with very few or no problems at all are what we choose. In my criteria I looked for toilets that are well made and engineered, and can be relied on for a long period of time, while performing well with little or no chance of clogging. The comfort factor is an additional factor I chose to include. With a growing percentage of the population being older “Comfort height” or “ADA Height” makes getting on and off the toilet much easier for a growing number of the population. The taller toilet designs also tend to flush better in the flush testing than standard height toilets. Seeing as toilets are typically installed for periods of 20-years or more even if you are a fairly young homeowner you may wish to consider your future needs. The only downside to this is if you have young children the added height may be difficult for them and require a stool to be available for them. Truth be told the young children will rapidly grow through this stage. Pricing was not a big consideration as the difference between a $150 and a $350 toilet when divided by 20 years of service amounts to 2 or 3 cents per day and can be wiped out by a single service call by a plumber for problems caused by a lack of quality or, durability. The following three choices are all toilets that I would consider as good choices both for customers and in my own home.
Toto Drake II Model CST454CEFG Toilet
The Toto Drake II Model CST454CEFG is a two-piece, elongated bowl toilet that meets the ADA Height Requirements. The Toto CST454CEFG comes in with a rock solid 800 GmPF rating in the MaP Testing and has a number of desirable features. These features include a Double Cyclone Flush which Toto has designed to offer a superior bowl wash and a SanaGloss finish which is so smooth that it acts almost like a Teflon finish and virtually nothing can stick to it. The Drake II has a large diameter flush valve which quickly delivers the water to the bowl for a “Slammin Flush” that you almost have to try several times to see it happen. The Drake II has a 2 1/8” trapway that has been computer designed so there are no restriction points and it has been fully glazed to provide a smooth passage for the waste. Toto is the largest manufacturer in the world and in the 90’s in an era of first generation water saving 1.6 Gallon Per Flush (GPF) toilets that were performing very badly stunned the other manufacturers and sent their designers back to the drawing boards to design a toilet that flushed as good as a Toto. Today they are a leader in the design of the new WaterSense Certified 1.28 GPF Toilets, which the Drake II is one. Toto parts are widely available and there are aftermarket manufacturers making many of the components, which are even available at Lowe’s. Although Toto is a worldwide corporation they maintain a manufacturing plant in Georgia where many of their products are manufactured. Toto toilets are a choice of many plumbers. Toto Toilets are sold through Toto Dealers and are not available at big box home centers, they are also sold on line. Be careful when purchasing that the model number matches on your order.
Gerber Avalanche Model HE-21-818 Toilet
The Gerber Avalanche Model HE-21-818 is a two-piece, elongated bowl toilet that meets the ADA Height Requirements. The Avalanche also is WaterSense Certified flushing with just 1.28 GPF and has a 3” flush valve with a glazed trapway The usual replacement parts for the Gerber Avalanche are commonly available including the Fluidmaster 400A fill valve which is available everywhere. The Avalanche has a MaP Test that comes in at 800 GmPF and has a decent bowl wash as well. The Gerber Avalanche is a choice of many plumbers and has a good reputation. Gerber Toilets are available through Gerber Dealers as well as On-Line. Again be careful that the model number matches on your order.
Niagara Ecologic Model N2225E Flapperless Toilet
The Niagara Ecologic Model N2225E is a two-piece, elongated bowl that meets the ADA height requirements. This toilet design is one that that is quite unique and has yet to become a choice of the plumbers. When the Niagara Flapperless design was first introduced several years ago I myself was a skeptic. The design was a radical departure from the typical toilet design with its Flapperless Flushing System where there is essentially a bucket within the tank that fills to the prescribed level then is dumped to provide the flush when you push the handle. At first look the radical design change and the proprietary parts scared me but several years later I’m recognizing that the design is simple with very little to go wrong and virtually the only part that will require eventual replacement is the fill valve which is manufactured by Fluidmaster guaranteeing its availability should production of the Niagara Flapperless cease. Also unique is the mounting of the tank to the bowl where it adjusts to any rough in dimension from 10 to 12” by sliding to the desired dimension. The Niagara Flapperless Toilets are sold at Home Depot under the house brands of Pegasus and Glacier Bay in several models making them quite common but what is really selling me on the design is the total lack of service calls on them. The Niagara Ecologic Model N2225E has a MaP Test score of 800 GmPF making it a solid performer with the designs non-existent service record making this a sleeper design that is highly likely to remain under the radar as far as being noticed by plumbers. In this case the plumber not recognizing it is a good sign that the Niagara Ecologic Model N2225E is a good toilet for you.
These three toilets are all well designed and are solid performers that offer an additional 20% in water savings over the 1.6 GPF toilets while offering a powerful flush that that should never clog in normal operation. The future for these toilets is assured with readily available parts and in the case of the Niagara Flapperless a maintenance free design that is currently flying under the radar of service plumbers by the fact that they never see them.