The toilet is the most heavily depended-upon plumbing fixture in the home. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it the most essential fixture. Because its performance is usually so reliable, it’s easy to assume that your toilet will last forever. However, like everything else, toilets have a finite useful life – and it’s to your great advantage to recognize the warning signs that indicate it’s time for a new one in order to prevent a very unpleasant surprise.
While our team of state-certified master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing can handle any plumbing emergency (or plumergencies, as we call them), we prefer to help people keep their pipes and fixtures in good repair to avoid unnecessary expense – not to mention unsanitary messes and water damage!
The Toilet is the Workhorse of the House
Not to be crude, but residential toilets get a heavy-duty workout on a daily basis. According to statistics, the average person flushes the toilet five times a day – although this seems like an underestimate. While most homes have more than one toilet, the use that each fixture gets takes its toll over time. Toilets can last up to 50 years under typical conditions, but the main factors in determining how long a toilet will last is how many people use it and how often it is flushed. A large household can expect to replace at least one toilet far sooner than the half-century mark.
Also take into account changing lifestyle patterns. As working from home becomes – and perhaps remains – more prevalent, adults are no longer out of the house for eight hours a day. Same for schoolchildren who are learning remotely. Greater demand results in greater wear-and-tear on a toilet.
When to Put the Workhorse Out to Pasture
Detecting when a toilet nears the end of its useful life can be difficult. Being a relatively uncomplicated fixture, basic repairs and part replacements may be successfully performed even by people with very rudimentary DIY skills. Many feel confident in their ability to replace a worn-out flapper valve – the most common cause of a toilet tank that fills spontaneously – or replacing the “guts” – which includes the flapper valve and the fill valve.
In most cases, these fixes will solve the problem, and your toilet will continue to perform dependably for the next few years. But look out for signs that it’s time to put the workhorse out to pasture! We acknowledge our colleagues at Talmich Plumbing and Heating for the following helpful information.
There are cracks in the tank – A puddle that forms around the toilet’s base can indicate cracks in the tank. You can start with your own inspection. Examine both the inside and outside of the tank. The location of the crack determines whether a repair will suffice. If it’s below the water line, you may need a toilet tank replacement. At that point, most homeowners replace the entire toilet, as it is more cost-effective. Keep in mind that tank cracks aren’t always visible – especially if it’s a hairline crack. If you can’t find a visible crack, call a plumber to perform a thorough inspection.
The toilet leaks – Unlike the pooling water that tips you off to a cracked tank, toilet leaks aren’t easy to detect. A leak may go unnoticed for several months. While you may not see the water itself, look for a sudden increase in your water bill. As our blog post – “Is Your Toilet Causing Your Water Bill to Overflow?” – covers, an undetected leak can run up your water bill and damage the surrounding floor and/or subfloor – as well as waste a valuable resource. Depending upon the source of the leak, the water may also be contaminated, creating a health hazard. Again, replacing the toilet is the more cost-effective remedy.
The toilet clogs frequently – Assuming that young members of your household aren’t flushing toys (or worse, Orbeez water beads) down the toilet, making frequent use of the plunger is another trouble sign. Before blaming the toilet, however, be sure you’re not flushing items that shouldn’t be flushed – such as baby wipes, tissues, paper towels, cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, etc.
Our blog post – “It’s 4 0’Clog! Here Are The Top 4 Causes of Clogged Toilets” – covers other possible causes of toilet clogs. Tree leaves, sticks and animal nests can block your plumbing vents and prevent them from funneling air into your plumbing system, resulting in toilet clogs and low-pressure flushing. Tree roots are another factor, as they can block or reduce water flow, cause overflow of sewer contents or damage pipes. Blocked sewer lines are also a possible cause – as well as a major health concern, since they contain bacteria and many other toxic substances.
In addition, first-generation models of low-flush toilets tend to clog, as they have too little water pressure to clear waste into the drains. Ultimately, the only way to determine the cause of frequent clogs is to call a plumber.
The toilet requires repair frequently – As mentioned earlier, your toilet is not a complicated fixture, but it still consists of several parts. Most toilets don’t need every part replaced at the same time. However, you should consider the cost of parts and your time. If you’re spending at least one weekend a month performing some DIY task – or frequently calling a plumber – replacement is more cost-effective, and will give you a trouble-free fixture that you can rely on for many years.
Your toilet is old and not water-efficient – Although toilets have a near-human lifespan, consider replacing an old model that doesn’t use water efficiently. According to the Energy Policy Act of 1992, toilets installed after 1994 are required to have a flush volume of 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). Many older toilets still in use today have flush volumes of 3.5 gpf and up to 5.0 gpf. If saving money and water are important to you, replacing your old, water-guzzling water closet is recommended. Look for an EPA WaterSense-labelled toilet, which can save you more than $110 every year in water costs – adding up to $2,200 over the life of the toilet. Which leads to our next section.
What to Look for in a New Toilet
One major advantage of being able to recognize a worn-out toilet is the luxury of time in shopping for a new model. If you don’t have to replace your toilet in an emergency situation, you can decide the style and features that best suit your bathroom – and your personal preferences for comfort. Atlanta real estate agent Rosanne Dorfman provides the following list of what to look for in a new toilet.
Consider water use – Different toilet models come with different flush options. As previously mentioned, today’s standard toilets use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush. Low-flush toilets may use as little as 1.28 gallons. Although often more expensive to install and maintain than traditional toilet fixtures, low-flush models can also save you a significant amount of money over time. As the bathroom is the most-frequently used room in the home, and the toilet the biggest water user, choosing a new toilet with care will pay off in the long run.
One-piece or two-piece – If the toilet and tank are fused together without any joints, the toilet is known as a one-piece (or single-piece) toilet. If the toilet and tank are separate and joined using fittings, it is known as a two-piece (or coupled) toilet. Because a one-piece model is easier to clean, it’s recommended for families with young children. It’s also more sleek and stylish, making it a good choice for those upgrading their bathroom during remodeling. For this reason, it’s also somewhat more expensive than the traditional two-piece model.
Measure the size before you buy – The hole over which the toilet will be mounted and the distance from the wall to the center of the hole is called the “rough-in.” This distance is 10, 12 or 14 inches. Take the rough-in measurement before you head out to buy a new toilet to ensure it will fit.
DIY or Hire a Plumber?
Some people have hands-on experience in remodeling and renovating homes, and may feel comfortable and confident in their ability to replace a toilet. However, this is not a job for those who feel inspired by home renovation TV shows or YouTube videos. Most plumbing repairs and replacements need to be performed by a professional. Even if you have DIY experience, you may encounter unanticipated problems that could result in damage or uncover a situation requiring more extensive repair than you’d expected.
When you need a reliable and professional plumber, look no further than Adams and Son Plumbing. We respond quickly and efficiently, preventing further damage and future repairs. Plus, we are one of the few companies that send a state-certified master plumber every time. View our full list of services, or contact us to request an appointment. We look forward to serving you!