Back in the roaring twenties, trailblazing decorator Elsie de Wolfe called it the “unspeakable” that designers couldn’t find a way to disguise one of the most essential household appliances: the toilet. Elsie even mused that it might be best for society to return to the outhouse — keep the unspeakable hors the home.
Today, not many of us would agree with that. In fact, our affection for indoor plumbing has inspired us to make our bathrooms showpieces. But the actual toilet? When shopping for this unsung hero, few of us spend enough time or money to make the right choice. According to the World Toilet Organization (WTO) the average person uses the toilet six – eight times a day; multiply that by the number of people in your house and your toilet is working overtime and then some. It’s just not enough to head to your local big box retailer and pick up the bargain of the week – keep these three important factors in mind when buying a toilet.
Style and features
Since its invention in the 31st Century BC, the flush toilet has evolved dramatically. Today, some models constitute works of art, with price tags to match. The Toto NeoRest ($5,000) is one such toilet: looks to kill and a laundry list of features to merit the price point. The Kohler Numi ($6,000) is equipped with a touch screen that allows you to program (among other things) a foot warmer, music and lighting, all paired with a futuristic design styled for ultimate comfort.
Of course, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to get a toilet that makes a statement. Choose a toilet that will best express your design concept, be it traditional, modern or contemporary. Next, decide on any special features you may want. As we’ve seen, toilet technology offers a full range of bells and whistles, from heated seats to built-in washing devices. Some even analyze basal body temperature, hormone balance and urine for blood sugar levels (like this Daiwa House Intelligent Toilet)! If water conservation is as the top of your list, Canadian company Hennessy & Hinchcliffe invented the technology for a high-efficiency toilet that flushes with only three litres of water ($198). The important thing is to decide what you want before you shop: approach your toilet acquisition like you did your faucet, vanity, tile and paint colours.
Get the right size
Thought all toilets were the same? There are actually subtle variations in a toilet’s height and length that can impact comfort and suitability. Length: standard is 24.5"; the longer version, known as an elongated toilet, can reach up to 30.5". The elongated toilet can provide more comfort — but make sure you can afford the extra depth, otherwise those extra inches can turn into a porcelain pain. Height: standard is 14". Compare that to a typical (non-toilet) seat height of 18" and, believe it or not, those extra 4" can feel like a mile if you are very tall or have even mild mobility issues. A higher toilet, often called “comfort height” can be 16 – 17" high. Choose the height of your toilet based the occupants of your home. For instance, elderly people often find the comfort height more manageable, but young children benefit from a standard height toilet.
In response to the initial disappointment associated with low-flush toilets in the 1990s, Canadian engineer Bill Gauley created MaP (Maximum Performance) a voluntary, industry-recognized test to measure the performance of toilets on the market. Each toilet is tested and given a score ranging from 250 – 1000 representing the number of grams of solid waste that toilet can clear with a single flush. A score of 250 is the bare minimum you're looking for, get up closer to 1000 and you're in Ferrari territory, with power potential you'll probably never need.
How to use MaP? Two ways: Make a list of toilets you’re interested in and get their scores on the MaP site. Better yet, pick a toilet from “MaP PREMIUM”, a list of 85 toilets that flush with no more than four litres (most low-flush toilets use six) and have a MaP score of 600 or more. Just like you wouldn't buy a car with a crummy engine, pick a toilet that can do the job so you can enjoy years of carefree ownership.
Investing some time and extra money to get the right toilet — one that looks great and performs as it should — is pretty much the opposite of unspeakable: it’s worth talking about.