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DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
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FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
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HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
KITCHEN & BATH DESIGN GUIDE
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
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LEAK TYPES, Water Supply/Drain Pipe
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OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
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SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
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SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TANK TYPES: WATER, OIL, EXPANSION, ALL
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
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This article describes the different types and models of toilets: historical or old toilet types, wooden high wall-tank toilets, conventional reservoir tank toilets, low-flush toilets, water saving toilets, back-flush toilets, up-flush toilets, and even chemical toilets. Here we explain how to diagnose and repair problems with toilets, leaks, flushes, odors, noises, running and wasted water. Our page top photo shows ugly staining in a toilet bowl - strong evidence that this toilet has been running, wasting water, possibly flooding the septic system, and sometimes giving bad flush performance as well. This TOILET REPAIR GUIDE article series discusses the cause, diagnosis, and repair of toilet problems (water closet problems) such as a toilet that does not flush well, clogged toilets, slow-filling toilets, running toilets, loose wobbly toilets, and odors at leaky toilets.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Following this section of brief definitions of toilet parts & terms, these terms & key parts of toilets are illustrated and discussed in detail in the article below and/or in links or references we provide there.
Back-flush toilet: a back-flush toilet (illustrated and explained in the article below) is designed to flush horizontally out of the lower back of the bowl into a waste pipe that is mounted in the wall behind the unit. In comparison, a standard bottom-flush toilet is connected to a waste pipe in the floor below the unit. A traditional back-flush toilet is designed to work by gravity alone. Also see Up-Flush toilets, Toilets using a Sewage Ejector Pump, and Electric or pump operated toilets in these definitions.
Bowl shapes of toilets: there are two basic toilet bowl profiles or shapes, round (which are not necessarily exactly round - illustrated at below left where a Church toilet seat is installed), and elongated or more of a flattened oval design (below right). Watch out when buying a replacement toilet seat, to be sure you select the proper seat profile (round or elongated) to fit your toilet, or you'll be making an extra trip back to the store.
Float, toilet tank: the toilet tank float assembly activates the toilet fill valve as water level in the toilet tank or cistern drops during and at the end of a toilet flush. Illustrated above at concentric float toilet fill valves, the float for that device is a cylinder that moves down or up on a vertical shaft as tank (cistern) water level in the cistern falls or rises, to open or close the fill valve itself.
A ball cock toilet fill valve is opened by movement of a float arm rod attached to a round float ball (illustrated at left) that drops as water level in the cistern falls during a flush, and the ball cock valve is closed as the float rises, lifting the rod to which it is attached as the water level in the toilet tank rises to the fill line.
In our photo (above left) a white plastic ball cock fill valve is shown in lieu of the older traditional brass and bronze ball cock valve illustrated earlier on this page.
Toilet tank float adjustment: adjust the float lever angle so that combined with the ball cock shutoff adjustment the assembly stops water flow into the water tank when water reaches the fill line marked on the tank. If you do not see a fill line marked in the toilet cistern, set the fill level at least 1/4" below the top of the overflow tube. Also be sure that the float ball moves freely in the toilet tank. If the float ball rubs on the tank sides or end it is likely to jam and the toilet may not fill properly, or the toilet may run continuously.
Flush Valve: the toilet flush valve sends water out of the toilet tank or cistern (conventional flush valves) or directly from the building water supply without a toilet tank or cistern (flushometer valves) into the toilet bowl below to flush waste into the building drain system. The two most common toilet flush valves used on toilets that make use of a tank or cistern are the flapper type toilet flush valve (illustrated just below) and the tank ball type toilet flush valve (illustrated further below).
Flushometer or flush-o-meter valves & toilets: these tankless toilets are flushed using building water pressure and a vacuum-breaker valve control. See FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS for details about these valves and how they are adjusted or repaired. Also see Toilet Types, Flush Methods for a discussion of variations in toilet flush mechanisms & methods.
Gravity flush toilet: (sketch at left) the conventional and most common water-operated toilet world-wide is flushed by water that flows (from a reservoir tank) into the toilet bowl by gravity; the reservoir tank must be above and is typically attached to or part of the toilet assembly, though early flush toilets (illustrated below) placed the flush tank much higher on the wall in an effort to obtain a more cleansing flush for early bowl designs.
When the toilet is "flushed" using its handle, a flush control valve (see "tank ball in our sketch above) opens to send water from the reservoir into the toilet bowl to flush it clean.
At the end of the toilet flush, a ball cock valve or equivalent (#1 & assembly "C" in our sketch at above-left) refills the toilet tank from the building cold water supply (the fat blue arrow in our sketch).
Hatbox toilet: a tankless toilet design by Kohler (illustrated below) that uses an electric pump to deliver flush water and adequate water velocity
Overflow tube, toilet: the overflow tube (item #8 in our sketch at left), is found on virtually all modern toilet flush control valve assemblies. This tube prevents a malfunctioning toilet tank refill assembly from flooding the building. (Unfortunately if the toilet drain is clogged and the toilet overflows you'll have a different sort of flood - see TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY.)
During toilet tank re-fill, if the tank over-fills, the overflow tube (blue #7 in sketch at left) will excess water from the toilet reservoir tank down the overflow tube (#8) into the toilet bowl. This is a critical function since otherwise if the toilet fill-valve malfunctions water entering the toilet tank will fill the tank to overflowing and leak into the building. But if your toilet is "running" the problem may be just that - the fill valve is sending water continuously into the tank where it enters the overflow tube.
A second feature of most toilet fill valve assemblies and overflow tubes is that some water will be diverted from the fill valve into the overflow tube during the toilet tank fill-cycle - see the small curved blue tube marked #7 in our sketch above). This makes sure there is enough water in the toilet bowl before its next use.
Pressure-assist flush toilet: the toilet is flushed by water that is given a velocity boost by a pressure system using a pump,compressed, air, or other means. Typically pressure-assist toilet designs are found on water-saving low-flush-volume toilets.
Sewage Ejector Pumps combine an in-floor reservoir to receive waste from toilets (and often gray water as well), and a sewage grinder pump to lift wastewater to a building drain line that is higher than the plumbing fixtures served by the pump. Ejector pumps are often found in basement bathrooms in buildings whose sewer line exit above the height of the basement floor.
Siphon flush valve: an alternative to the tank ball and flapper valve toilet flush mechanism used in the U.K. and in toilets in some other locales, toilet siphon flush valves are operated by a button that forces water up from the reservoir cistern (toilet tank) into the siphon that in turn sends water into the toilet bowl to complete the flush.
Siphon flush valve controls on toilets eliminate the problem of running toilets caused by leakage at the tank ball or flapper valve.
As you can see from our photo of an early toilet advertisement by Thomas Crapper & Cos. (from a wallpaper reproduction), the siphon flush valve is not a new idea, and has long been sold as a method of preventing water wastage and running toilets.
Toilet rim heights: the height of the rim of the toilet bowl above the finished floor. To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards (16.5" to 18" above the floor) or ANSI 117.1a 2003 Safe Harbor standard (17" to 19" above the floor).
"Standard" toilets are a bit shorter, typically 14" to 16" above the floor surface. Add-on toilet rim height lifters are available that convert a standard toilet to ADA standards height. Note: ADA also requires grab bars and accessibility space for accessible bathrooms. See Bathroom Design, Accessible for details.
Water-Saving toilets: use a lower total volume of water to flush or clean the toilet bowl, typically between 1.1 gallons per flush (gpf) and 1.6 gallons per flush. Synonyms: low water toilet, low water consumption toilet, low-flush toilet, high-efficiency toilet.
Water suppy valve, toilets: see Ball Cock Valve or toilet fill valve above.
Waterless toilets: any of a variety of toilet designs that do not rely on water to dispose of waste, including chemical toilets, composting toilets, outhouses, waterless toilets and other alternative toilet designs that are discussed separately at TOILET ALTERNATIVES. Also see Toilet Types, Design Choices where we describe the different toilet flush designs: gravity, power-assisted, and vacuum assisted flushing toilets.
Wax ring for toilets: a large wax seal placed between the bottom of the toilet and the upper surface of the flange or top edge of the waste drain pipe to which the toilet is connected. A wax ring is illustrated above at our discussion of Toilet Flange. Also see the toilet odor or toilet leak troubleshooting tips at Leaky Toilet Seals - Odors.
Chamber pots (dating from Roman times and Garderobes (5th to 15th century toilets that simply dumped waste to the outdoors) and privies and outhouses, toilet designs that date to the 1500s or earlier, see OUTHOUSES & LATRINES are omitted from this review of modern toilets. Here we also exclude squat toilets that are in wide use in both Europe and Asia.
By the 1880's, in London Thomas Crapper & Co's sanitary specialties included the elastic valve water closet illustrated at left, and the toilet cistern "water waste preventer" siphon toilet flush assembly design illustrated in the article above. The elastic valve closet advertisement at left (photo from a bathroom wallpaper reproduction) does not show the cistern or water reservoir tank.
By 1890 the elastic valve closet had been sophisticated and simplified in appearance to appear with a toilet tank or cistern mounted still higher on the building wall as we illustrate in our historic photograph (below left).
Mounting the cistern high on the wall gave additional water pressure that helped flush the toilet bowl clean. Subsequent toilet bowl designs have included many experiments & methods to improve toilet bowl cleaning, removal of solid waste without clogging, and to reduce "marking" - fecal stains on the toilet bowl surface that otherwise require a toilet brush and frequent cleaning.
Contemporary Toilet Shapes, Sizes, Types, Designs
Contemporary gravity-flush toilets use a tank attached to the toilet bowl itself, relying on improved flush valve controls to provide the water flow rate into the bowl to empty it and clean the bowl sides. We illustrate several types below.
Below we illustrate a 1970's low profile toilet, a recent Canterbury™ one-piece toilet produced by Eljer (below center)that molds the toilet bowl and tank out of a single piece of material, and at below right we illustrate a contemporary Crane two piece 1.6 gallon flush toilet.
Among many modern designs for water saving toilets are shown below are the Glacier Bay top flush control dual flush two piece toilet (below-left) installed by the authors, a 1990's water saving toilet that uses a plastic reservoir baffle inside the toilet tank (below center) also installed by the author, and at below right is an Eljer Titan™ 1.6 gpf one piece toilet.
Top Flush Dual-Flush Control Toilets
Top-flush control toilets include both standard (typically a single rod is pulled or lifted - illustrated above) and water saving models (typically a pair of buttons giving different flush volumes) illustrated below. Dual-flush water saving toilets typically deliver 1.1 gallons to flush liquid waste or 1.6 gallons to flush solids.
The manufacturer gives a clue about which button provides more water (for solids), in this case by the number of raised bumps on the buttons of this dual flush water-saving model. Below we give views of the dual flush mechanism for this toilet. The top buttons push vertical rods (we' ve flipped the toilet tank upside down) shown below-left. The individual rods push on different segments of the flush valve (below right) to send a smaller or larger of water into the bowl below.
Our photo, below, shows a low-profile toilet design that has been popular in some communities since the 1970's.
The water volume used in each toilet flush varies quite a bit, and flush volume will vary by flush type for dual flush toilets. Also the nominal flush volume for toilets may not accurately describe an individual toilet unit depending on how the toilet fill valve has been adjusted.
A back-flush toilet that does use a reservoir tank is also produced for special situations such as a location that prohibits installing a drain line in the floor below the toilet. At below left we illustrate a back-flush toilet installed in a Two Harbors Minnesota home.
Our second back-flush toilet photo (below right) shows a reservoir-tank back-flush toilet located in a basement in the Hudson Valley of New York. In this basement the sewer line ran just a few inches above the basement floor. The plumber mounted a back-flush toilet on a short concrete pedestal, raising it just enough to flush into the nearby sewer line found in the wall behind the toilet.
Our toilet photographs below illustrate a tankless, electric-flush toilet produced by Kohler. As you can see (below-left) the toilet may be a little unfamiliar to new visitors at the New Hampshire inn where this unit was installed.
Pressure-assisted flush toilets may use water pressure from the water mains to improve the flush cleansing of the bowl, or they may use a pump or an air bladder system that is in turn operated by water pressure. By providing a more aggressive and higher velocity flush than a gravity flush toilet a pressure-assist system generally uses less water, ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 gallons.
Kohler Purist Hatbox Toilets
For a newcomer, flushing this Kohler hatbox toilet could be a bit of a mystery. Searching for a flush lever or button finally leads to a round silver button located on the right side (if the user is seated) of the unit (photo, below right).
Pushing the flush button on the older unit that we tested produced an aggressive and roaring "flush" along with a bit of pump noise. Other literature describes these toilets as "quiet". Our photo at below left gives a clue about how this toilet was powered.
Newer versions of the electric flush toilet made by Kohler include a reservoir tank and an electric pump that moves water from the reservoir through the bowl and toilet trap. This design offers a toilet that provides a low profile but nonetheless a very powerful flush in a compact design.
The Kohler hatbox toilet installation we examined had been in place for some time; this product is still available at a typical retail price of $2,725.
Flushometer Water Type & Waterless Urinals
A conventional flushometer valve water operated urinal is illustrated at below left. At right is a dry or waterless urinal.
Bathroom fixtures including toilets located in buildings whose sewer line exits high on the basement wall need a means to raise the graywater (sinks, tubs, showers, laundry) as well as blackwater or sewage from a toilet up to a height sufficient to drain into the sewer line and leave the building.
A residential sewage ejector pump is the most common solution to this need. The sewage ejector pump combines a small reservoir tank, a sewage grinder pump, and piping to grind and then pump sewage and wastewater from (usually) below floor level (such as in a basement) up to an elevated sewer line that then leaves the building.
Our photo (left) shows a typical basement installation of a sewage ejector pump. The toilet connected to this pump is not shown, but was located mounted on the floor nearby. A drain from the basement toilet was routed below the floor slab over to the black plastic holding tank shown in our photo. The white valve in the photo center, above the sewage pump's tank top, is a check valve to prevent wastewater from flowing backwards into the pump from above.
In a plumbing system using a sewage ejector pump, typically all of the plumbing fixtures (sink, tub, shower, laundry sink, clothes washer) drain under the building floor by gravity into the sewage ejector pump reservoir.
When the wastewater level in the ejector pump reservoir reaches a sufficient level, a float turns on the pump, forcing the wastewater past a check valve, upwards to the building sewer piping.
Depending on the arrangement of building piping, we sometimes find sewage ejector pumps that are located with the top of the unit a bit above floor level - possibly reducing the available storage volume between pump operation cycles.
Watch out: in the event of an electrical power failure, sewage grinders or sewage ejector pumps won't be working unless you have a backup electrical power source. So don't count on continued use of plumbing fixtures connected to one of these devices when there is no electricity.
Graywater ejector pumps: Also, don't confuse a sewage ejector pump with a graywater pump or lift pump that is sometimes found installed to move graywater from a basement laundry up to the building sewer drain.
For more detail about types of septic system pumps see SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS.
With more than 1000 brands of toilets manufactured and distributed around the world, this list would be endless. Here we list common or popular toilet manufacturers or brands. Contact Us to suggest changes or additions to this toilet brand list.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about buying, installing, repairing, & maintaining all types of toilets