Help homeowners make an informed decision about the right toilet for their home
Toilet options have multiplied rapidly in the past several years.
Replacing a toilet may have seemed like an easy choice 20, even 10 years ago, but today homeowners have a multitude of options.
There have been changes in water consumption, installation styles, design aesthetics, color offering, flush types and more. Contractors can help homeowners make an informed decision about the right toilet for their home.
Toilet options have multiplied rapidly in the past several years. Contractors can now recommend models offering a wide variety of special features and improved options to better meet the specific requirements of their customers, including everything from hands-free flushing to self-cleaning to electronic smart toilets that offer heated seats, nightlights and bidet functionality.
“The technology behind the toilet flush also has advanced significantly in the past 20 years beyond the basic washdown design,” says James Walsh, vice president of chinaware and commercial products at LIXIL Americas. “Today, high-efficiency and ultra-high-efficiency toilets can deliver powerful flushing performance due to the technologies developed to remove waste more completely. One example is a siphon-jet bowl cleaning platform, which scrubs the bowl with pressurized water from the rim during each flush to remove every trace of paper and waste. Another example is a system that scours the bowl from top to bottom with a single, powerful jet of water. These advancements make it possible to deliver improved flushing performance while using significantly less water, which has become a high priority over the past 20 years.”
“Virtually all manufacturers make a toilet that can flush 1,000 g. Ten years ago it was rare for more than half the industry to be at 800 g or more,” notes Lovin Saini, senior product manager at Gerber. “The 1.28-gpf performance toilets now are nearly identical to 1.6-gpf; 10 years ago, 1.6 gpf was not always consistent and 1.28 was extremely inconsistent. Back then, more water equaled more power, but not anymore.”
There also are a number of style choices to choose from.
“In terms of overall styling, bath design trends are continuing to favor clean, contemporary styling,” Walsh says. “These minimalistic shapes provide a certain calming effect to their environment and offer an added benefit to the homeowner: their simple design lines are very easy to keep clean. However, it is important for the contractor to ask about the overall design look the homeowner wants in a specific bathroom, such as traditional, transitional or modern, as there are toilets to fit all style preferences.”
Saini has seen a dramatic shift to contemporary styles driven by newer, younger homeowners, Gen X, Y and particularly those that grew up during the internet and “HGTV” era. Cleaner lines, squares, rectangles and unique international design elements are very popular with these groups overall.
“As manufacturers improved their flush platforms they were able to fit them into more decorative designs over time to offer greater choice to consumers of high performance toilets in a variety of looks,” he notes. “Now, with the advances in fluid engineering and materials engineering, it is much easier to find 1.6-gpf, 1.28-gpf, 1.0-gpf and dual-flush toilets that fit in a variety of designs that the contractor can offer to homeowners interested in things such as water savings, design/décor, power, quicker installation times to reduce labor costs, etc.”
These trends shouldn’t be affecting the performance of the toilet so long as they are made with a reputable manufacturer. That said, Saini notes that with the advent of the internet there are a lot of smaller companies that can offer designs that consumers are interested in at low prices, but do not have the proven flush technologies for consistency and performance. When in doubt, check the warranty on the product as a leading indicator of quality.
Bidet seats and smart toilets also have seen an increase in recent years and Walsh believes this rising interest is tied to increasing demand for bathrooms as personal wellness centers.
“Bathroom upgrades and remodels that incorporate spa-like elements to enhance personal cleanliness and relaxation are increasing in popularity,” he says. “A simple change such as adding a bidet seat transforms the daily ritual of going to the bathroom into an opportunity for pampering and rejuvenation, an experience many homeowners at varying income levels are choosing to prioritize. The aging population also is driving demand for products that promote wellness; plus, a bidet toilet can provide hygienic cleansing for family members limited in bathing options due to temporary or permanent mobility factors.
“Toilets with automated technology — which save time and elbow grease while improving cleanliness — also are growing in use. Residential toilets that offer a hands-free flush or a self-cleaning system are both popular ways to incorporate advanced technologies that simplify everyday life for homeowners.”
The American market is a more recent adopter of this type of technology, but is quickly seeing the benefits a more hygienic and personal cleansing functionality has to offer, agrees Katie Stevens, toilet product manager for Kohler.
“Some of the biggest changes in the past decade or so lean toward the cleanliness area,” she says. “Now that consumers can find the shape, height, water use and color they desire, there is room to think about the cleanliness of the toilets. Toilet germs are the worst kind of germs; skirted and concealed toilets minimize the areas where dirt, dust and germs can collect as they have flat surfaces along the trapway that allow the user to easily wipe the area clean.”
Looking at factors
There are number of questions a contractor can ask to narrow down the options and simplify the process of selecting the right toilet for each bathroom: How will the bathroom be used? Is it a powder room that will receive heavy use from the family and guests alike? Are older adults or people with limited mobility living in the home or frequent guests? Would any special features such as a self-cleaning system be a worthwhile investment for a busy family?
“Many toilet features can offer an improved quality of life to homeowners,” Walsh notes. “A contractor can help improve the safety and comfort of all users by recommending a taller, ADA-compliant toilet to homeowners who are interested in aging in place or simply have regular guests or family members with mobility issues. We also find that homeowners in general prefer the comfortable ease-of-use that comes with Right Height toilets (17.5-inch vs. 15-inch standard height).”
Other things to think about are the type of toilet: one-piece, two-piece or wall hung; and what type of bowl a homeowner prefers: elongated, compact elongated or round. Then there also is the water savings.
“Toilets are the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30% of a family’s average water consumption,” Walsh adds. “By switching from a 3.5-gpf toilet to an EPA WaterSense-certified 1.28-gpf toilet, a family of four can save up to 16,206 gallons of water annually without sacrificing performance. It is likely the demand for water-efficient toilets will continue to grow as more areas of the country enact water restrictions in response to drought conditions. Even in areas unaffected by water regulations, more homeowners are looking for high-performance water-conserving toilets as confidence in the flushing power of low-flow toilets continue to grow among consumers.”
Contractors also need to teach the consumer that while the internet is a powerful tool, not every toilet matches up 1:1 in terms of price, performance ratings and features listed. Most online sales sites only measure the visible parts of toilet function (MaP Scores, gpf, etc.).
“Contractors should teach their customers the importance of durable, long-lasting engineering built into their products of choice,” Saini notes. “For example, in addition to flushing power/MaP Score, emphasize drain-line carry and how it’s important to know clogs don’t just happen in the toilet, they also happen in the drain line and only a select few toilets drive enough power to clear the drain line consistently to prevent future plumbing system problems.”
Other important factors include: bowl cleaning as it helps prevent double flushing to remove stains and paper and water waste, the thickness of the metal handles to prevent breakage and keep the toilet operating, premium flappers and fill valves for leak prevention, and if an installation requires any holes to be drilled into the floor or not.
“Some have more obvious affects — water consumption can be reduced with a high- efficiency toilet, space can be saved with a slimmer profile toilet, etc.,” Stevens adds. “Other things such as the type of bowl or the height of the toilet are things homeowners should experience to best understand. I encourage them to visit a local showroom with their contractor to see some of these toilets in person.”
Warranties and other programs
Contractors should mention the different warranty options manufacturers offer and know how to work with them. They should discuss and demonstrate which brands they carry and the warranties provided with each and then compare them to products sold on the internet or in retail centers, which typically are 1-year warranties. It also is recommended that contractors encourage homeowners to save their receipts and register their new products on the manufacturers’ website.
“We offer trade-focused customer-service support to help troubleshoot any questions. We have very active field sales representatives who can help provide direction and training on our newest launches and we always like to hear feedback from contractors to help make our products better,” Stevens says. “Additionally, Kohler offers a 180-day satisfaction guarantee for its toilets, helping contractors ensure their clients are completely satisfied with the entire process, including the product itself.”
There also are many manufacturers that offer reward programs.
American Standard, DXV and GROHE offer a Plumber Rewards program that allows contractors to earn rewards by purchasing qualifying products. The contractor will receive cash back on a reloadable Plumber Rewards Prepaid MasterCard. The more they buy, the more they earn.
Gerber has a Plumber/Contractor Rewards program which allows plumbers to gain points for every product they install. The points earned never expire, so whether a plumber chooses to redeem within a short period of time or earn over a longer period of time — to earn a TV, for example — it is up to them.
The bathroom industry as a whole is an ever-advancing field and one that offers a great deal of opportunity in terms of new technologies and advanced engineering. Check out our related feature on how smart products are affecting the bathroom here.