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Choosing and Fitting... Toilets

One of the most important pieces in any bathroom, it will get a lot of ‘hammer’ over the years! There are 5 basic design types of toilet available; close coupled, low level, high level, back to the wall and wall hung versions. Almost all toilets are made to operate in a ‘wash down’ manner although there are a few limited syphonic versions available.

I tend to look at two things when I am choosing a toilet, the first is the toilet seat, particularly where it is a dedicated version specially made for that toilet pan. It is wise to remember it will not last forever and if it is not robustly constructed initially, when it needs replacing the toilet style may be discontinued and replacement seats can be difficult, or possibly impossible, to find.

Remember toilet seats and ‘cover’ vary in strength and the ‘cover’ part is not meant to be sat on in most types of WC seat. Some good quality ones are designed for use in this way, it pays to check with your retailer or merchant, should you need to sit on the cover part of the toilet seat, if there is this option is included or available with the toilet you are choosing.

The second important thing I look at in the choice of toilet is the ease of cleaning, have a look at the soil pipe end, too many ‘nooks and crannies’ will allow dust, (or worse), to lie on them and make it difficult to clean.

As with basins, some toilets are covered in a glaze which is easy to clean and this is a great advantage, even though as I mentioned in the basins section this is often much more expensive and you will have a more limited choice.

Toilets are continually improving and economical use of water is now being insisted upon by many Water Authorities. Presently a dual flush cistern, (good quality cisterns all operate this way, with a short flush for liquids and for ‘you know what’ a long flush), operates on a 3 or 6 litre flush, the standard being adopted is now 3 or 4litre. Check with your water authority or plumber.

When you are replacing an existing version look at the pipe connection at the rear of the WC, it can be an ‘S’ or ‘P’ trap, (the second is by far and away the most popular), the type can effect the distance needed from the wall to connect to the waste pipe. ‘P’ trap toilet pans have almost entirely replaced the other version and if necessary you may have to create a dummy wall, (to box the waste pipe in), to bring the toilet forward.

Back to the wall toilets are more stylish and particularly suit fitted bathroom furniture installations. They have their cistern, (usually a plastic hideaway version), fitted inside the WC unit. These units can be made to reflect a fitted furniture situation, giving extra storage space to hide all the clutter that everyone accumulates, shampoo’s, loo rolls or even toy ducks!  The other alternative is in a single or double unit situation, with the basin unit and WC unit close or joined together, (an extremely simple to install option). Units have the added advantage of covering pipe work beneath a fitted plinth below them.

The ultimate hygienic option is the wall hung toilet pan, however this requires a frame, (usually installed into a dummy wall), for the pan to hang from. The end result is striking and ideal for a wet room application, (it’s incredibly easy to clean under the unit). One point worth considering is some of the best designed wall hung and back to the wall WC pans have top access to remove the seat, ideal for cleaning and replacing if it were ever to get damaged!

One can still get designs in high level which look particularly beautiful when you want your bathroom to reflect an Edwardian or Victorian style. A high level suite will usually use a chain to operate the cistern flush, and good quality designer styles will have the extended length flush pipe in a chrome or gold finish. One advantage of this type of WC is the effectiveness of the flush due to the fall of the water.

If you want a basic ‘bog standard’, suite you can opt for the option of a low level WC, however unless it is refined in the same way as the high level WC’s mentioned above it will not be very appealing to the eye. It will work very efficiently but can detract from the value of a house when you sell it.

If you suffer from arthritis or mobility problems some toilets are available with an increased, or ‘Comfort’, height to make use easier. Also adaptive aids, like grab handles are now made which will still ensure your bathroom looks beautiful, whilst being simple and effective to use.

All toilets should have stop valves fitted where the mains water enters the cistern for ease of maintenance and an overflow for the water to go safely to, (usually outside but some installations have the water able to feed into the toilet pan).

In some houses the area you want to use the toilet in is not ideal, with either long runs of waste pipe needed to reach your soil stack and main drains. In this case you can use a ‘macerator’, (the best known brand is ‘Saniflo’), which fits on the back of many types of toilet pan. This mashes up the solids to enable them to be forced through a much smaller pipe and longer distances within a house.

When buying a new or replacement toilet always check it completely on delivery, before you or your plumber removes the old one or begins to fit the new WC. If it has been damaged in transit you would need time for a replacement and if it’s your only toilet the problem can become rather inconvenient! I personally would check everything when any new bathroom suite arrives as soon as possible after delivery, it can save a plumber arriving, finding a part is damaged or missing and charging you for calling back.

Published on in Choosing and Fitting, Toilets by Fran