The Best Toilets for the Money

Whether you call it the john, the throne, or any of dozen other names, the toilet is a pretty busy spot.  If you’re looking to freshen up the look of your bathroom, or maybe you’re even planning a complete reno, choosing the right new toilet can be tougher than it sounds, but can also make a huge difference in terms of comfort, water usage, and convenience.  It can also make as bold or as subtle a statement as you’d like in your redone restroom.

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The first thing to do is make sure you know what size toilet you need.  Get accurate measurements of the space, including the distance from the wall to the opening in the floor.  This is especially critical if your toilet is tucked away into a small space.  There is no greater hassle than removing your old commode only to find that the new one doesn’t quite fit into its allotted space.

There are two main types of toilets available:  gravity and pressure assisted.  In the gravity version, clean water is stored in a tank above and behind the bowl.  When we flush, gravity allows this water to flow down, sweeping away the waste water and refilling the bowl with fresh water.   Pressure-assisted toilets store water under pressure in a tank.  When we flush, gravity and this pressure combine to wash away waste with enough force to use much less water than a gravity-based model.  Pressure-assisted models tend to be a bit noisier because of the added pressure.

If you’re going from one tanked model to another, you shouldn’t have to make any plumbing changes.  If you want to convert to a tankless model, that’s another story.  As indicated by the name, tankless toilets do not store water.  Instead, they attach to your home’s water supply.  Flushing pulls water from this supply.  Tankless toilets tend to take up less space, but many homes do not have enough water pressure to make them viable, at least not without major plumbing work.

Toilets in all three of these varieties are available with a number of cosmetic and comfort features.  You can find models in enough colors that you’ll have no problem matching your decor if you want something other than standard white.  You can get elongated or round seats, with elongated being the more popular.  There are different seat heights to consider, too.  People who are taller than average or who have back or knee problems or other mobility issues might find the increasingly popular higher seats easier to use.  Most models come with a traditional rigid seat, but most are easily removeable if you prefer a padded seat.

One feature that is very popular, even mandatory, in other countries and making gains in America is dual-flush ability.  One button provides a full (normal) flush to remove solid waste; another button provides a water-saving half flush for liquid waste.

In keeping with our growing need for more convenience, toilet makers have added some great, if sometimes pricey, added features.  You can get models with built-in nightlights and seats that automatically lower when you flush.  Some seats have a slow-lower feature to keep seats from slamming.  If personal cleansing interests you, but you don’t have room for a bidet, there are even toilet models that also offer bidet functionality (including warm air drying, if you choose).  Be sure you know what, if any, plumbing modifications might be required for such a model.

Given our increasing awareness of the importance of stopping the spread of germs, some toilet makers are offering hands-free models.  Sensors or foot controls allow for hands-free flushing and/or seat raising and lowering.

Since nobody likes cleaning the toilet, some manufacturers offer self-cleaning models to help make this chore easier.  Most state that the self-cleaning feature is more of a touch-up cleaning than a thorough one, so be sure you read the fine print about this feature before shelling out extra dough for it.

While you may not be willing or able to shell out thousands (yes, thousands) for the most blinged-out models, with basic versions starting under $100, you should have no trouble finding the best look for your bathroom redo.

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