Everything You Need To Know About Toilets
Whether you are working on a new build or renovating your bathroom, choosing the right toilet can be overwhelming. It can be hard to know where to start!
Here's our full guide to toilets, including styles, common issues, and tips and tricks when buying.
When talking about toilets, there are a few key terms you need to know.
Pan – the porcelain bowl part of the toilet where you "do your business".
Cistern – Water tank at the top or in the wall that holds water used for the flush. Toilet cisterns have a few simple parts that work together to control the flow of water into and out of the toilet. All cisterns also have a flush button or lever located either on or near it.
Seat – The oval plastic flap that you sit onto. Usually comes with a cover for when the toilet isn't in use and can be in moved up or down. They also come in a variety of colours, sizes (child or adult) and shapes (oval, D-shaped, elongated etc).
From left to right: The toilet pan, cistern and seat. These all come in a wide variety of styles.
Inlet and Outlet Valves - These valves are housed in the cistern and control the flow of water. The outlet valve (also known as the flushing mechanism) is controlled by the flush button, and when pressed, releases water from the cistern into the pan. The inlet valve refills the cistern after a flush.
From left: Inlet valve and a dual flush outlet valve
Flush Button or Lever - A push button or a lever that, when pressed or pulled, releases the water from the cistern into the toilet bowl. They come in a range of styles and designs. Most modern toilets are dual flush, letting you control how much water you use when flushing.
Examples of dual flush buttons for a concealed cistern toilet suite
Trap – the pipe from your toilet to your sewer pipe. Has a bend in it to ‘trap’ smells. The main types traps are the S-trap (which goes through the floor), a P-trap (goes through the rear wall) or a skew trap (goes through the wall on the side of the toilet). Trap connections are cast into the design of the toilet.
From left: S-trap, P-trap and skew trap configurations
Water inlet - An inlet that connects your toilet to your house water supply. The water can enter directly into the back of the cistern (known as a top or back inlet), or on the bottom of the cistern (known as a bottom inlet), with a short flexible hose connecting the water supply and the toilet.
From left: A bottom inlet cistern and a top inlet cistern
Set-out - The distance between the centre of the waste pipe and the wall (for an S-trap) or floor (for a P-trap). Set-out measurements can vary depending on the current toilet installed, so when looking for a new toilet, be sure to check that its set-out will match your existing plumbing if renovating.
In Australia, there are four main categories of toilet suites based on the way they are installed.
Link / Connector toilet suite
The cistern and pan are installed separately, with a pipe connecting the two. The pipe is often covered by a connecting plate. These toilets are very common in older style houses and is a budget-friendly choice.
Close Coupled Suite
Where the cistern sits on top of the pan as part of the one unit. It is popular as it is easy to retrofit, and looks neat and modern.
Back to Wall Suite
Also known as wall facing. The back of the pan sits flush against the wall, meaning there are no gaps between the toilet and the wall at all. This is a solid unit and creates a bold look in your bathroom. Due to no gaps between the toilet and the wall, it is easier to clean.
The cistern is installed in the wall or behind a cabinet/cavity, and only the buttons and pan can be seen. These can come in back to wall or wall hung varieties.
Care / Accessible Toilet Suites
There are also a range of toilets that are for people with accessibility issues or have special needs.
Varieties of accessible toilet suites
These toilets have special features such as:
- higher pan for easier transfer from wheelchairs,
- armrests or backrests for additional support,
- raised flush buttons with braille,
- blue seats to assist with low vision
For installation, these toilets also have regulations for heights and distance from walls. This is to make sure the toilet is as accessible as possible.
My toilet keeps running
After a flush, your toilet stops running water once the toilet bowl flushes through. If your toilet runs nonstop, this could be due to a damaged or faulty inlet or outlet valve, or the washers in the valves themselves are worn. Depending on your cistern type, it can be cheaper to replace the entire cistern rather than just replacing the valves.
My toilet is blocked
If you toilet is blocked, you may be able to remove the blockage with a plunger. If the blockage is further down the drain than the toilet, you will likely need a plumber and their specialised equipment to fix the issue. The most common cause of blockages is because something other than human waste or toilet paper has been flushed. Also tree roots entering in the drain is a common cause of blockages.
There is a leak around the base of the toilet
There is a rubber seal (the pan collar) that connects the outlet on the toilet (pan) to the PVC drain. Pan collars can wear out with age and are often the cause of leaks around the base of the toilet or between the toilet and the back wall. There is also another rubber seal (the pan cone) that connects the cistern to the pan on older style toilets that can also perish and leak over time.
My toilet is smelly
Plumbing traps protect your home by ensuring that smelly gases don’t make their way back up. The water creates a seal that prevents gas from passing back into your bathroom. If your toilet trap doesn’t have water in it, it can start to cause smells.
Tips when buying a new toilet
Choosing a toilet may seem like a simple task, but if you don’t pay attention to what you are buying, you may be in the returns line at the place of purchase before you know it!
For existing bathrooms, you need to check the exact location of the toilet waste and water pipes (height/depth etc) the size of these pipes and in some cases what they are made of (eg PVC or steel etc). If you want to change the plumbing to suit the toilet you really want, talk to a plumber to help you assess if the extra cost is worth it.
If you’re building a bathroom from scratch, then you can choose any style of toilet you want, and tailor your plumbing to suit it.
"It's important for the customer to choose quality brands when choosing a toilet," says Ben from Bespoke Bathrooms Melbourne, a respected and well known bathroom renovator in Melbourne's Northern suburbs. Some of the quality brands that Ben and other builders and plumbers recommend include:
According to federal government regulations, if you’re building a new home, you will need to install a WELS 4 STAR rated toilet. If you’re doing a minor renovation or replacing an existing toilet, you can use a 3 or 4 STAR suite.
How Expert Plumbing can help you
Our team of experienced plumbers can ensure your toilet works as it should. We can:
- unblock a blocked toilet
- fix a leaking toilet
- repair a running toilet
- replace cisterns
- replace valves
- install replacement flush mechanisms
- install new toilets for renovations
Call Expert Plumbing today for all your toilet questions or issues. We’d love to help!