The right toilet could save you $110 a year

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Flush after flush after flush, your toilet goes through gallons of water each day, putting stress on rubber seals, copper pipes and its porcelain bowl. While toilets have a long lifespan, there will come a time when it's time for replacement.

"Your options are really endless," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "Toilets have become very sophisticated over the years. You can find a very basic toilet for a few hundred dollars all the way up to thousands of dollars for the state of the art toilet.

Angie's List asked highly rated plumbers and contractors about buying and installing a toilet.

Factors to consider when buying a toilet:

Homeowners can choose between a one-piece or two-piece toilet, in which the bowl and tank are separate from each other Experts say the solid construction of a one-piece model makes it easier to clean and less prone to leaks, but also makes it up to 50 percent more expensive.

  • Height of toilet: The standard height ranges from 15 to 17 inches. What's known as "comfort height" ranges from 17 to 19 inches.
  • Bowl size: Another design change to consider is the round versus the elongated bowl. Before buying, it's important to know how much space you have to work with. If you have a small bathroom, an elongated toilet may not work for you.
  • Waterflow capacity?
  1. Low-flow or low-flush: The Energy Policy Act in 1992 required all new toilets to be low-flow or low-flush, restricting their water usage to 1.6 gallons per flush instead of what used to be the average of 3.5 gallons per flush.
  2. Dual-flush: Homeowners may also purchase a dual-flush toilet where you select either 1.6 gallons of water to flush solid waste or about half that for liquid waste removal

Although an experienced do-it-yourselfer may be able to install a new toilet, most homeowners should hire a licensed plumber. A botched installation can result in slow leakage under the flooring, which wastes water and eventually rots the subfloor. In addition, porcelain can be extremely heavy and easy to chip or crack.

"Installing a toilet in of itself, is not a real complicated job, but you have to keep in mind that a toilet can be rather heavy, especially the porcelain, so you are going to need some extra hands to help you put it into place," said Hicks.

Common DIY mistakes include:

  • Resetting a toilet on a damaged flange.
  • Inadequate or incorrect caulking.
  • Improper compression of the wax seal.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a plumber

  • Check requirements: Most states require plumbers to be licensed. Municipalities may also have their own plumbing license requirements. Do not confuse a plumbing license with a business license. All businesses must have a business license in the jurisdiction where they operate, but this does not certify that the contractor can legally work as a plumber so ask to see both the business license and plumbing license before making a decision.
  • Comparison shop: Get at least three written estimates from three different plumbers.
  • Installation costs: The average price to install a traditional, homeowner-supplied toilet ranges from $125-$260. The price can fluctuate depending on several factors including whether you want the plumber to haul away the old toilet, whether the toilet has special features and if important plumbing components are in good condition.
  • Installation process: A plumber usually requires an hour or two to install a toilet. The process generally includes:
  1. Turning off and disconnecting the water
  2. Repairing the shut-off valve if it's not working properly.
  3. Draining the old toilet, removing it and inspecting the flange to see if repairs are needed.
  4. Setting the new toilet, connecting the water and testing to make sure the toilet works properly.

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