drain pain

Despite their good looks and water efficiency, the newest toilets on the market are not without issues. Some products, for example, might be using too little water.

“There is a limitation on how low we can go,” Kirkpatrick says, adding that more research on the matter is needed. “At 0.8 gallons, the drain line could be affected. We’re not sure if 0.8 gallons is enough to take waste out of an old house. There could be roots in the line and the slope of the pipe could be less than ideal.”

Inventor of the dual-flush, Caroma offers wall-faced or wall-hung toilets whose tank and flushing mechanism are hidden inside the wall.

Inventor of the dual-flush, Caroma offers wall-faced or wall-hung toilets whose tank and flushing mechanism are hidden inside the wall.

Credit: Courtesy Caroma

This fear might be justified. San Francisco’s push for low-flow toilets has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, creating the smell of rotten eggs. This could become a problem in other areas as well since many industry officials believe more states soon will follow California in mandating high-efficiency toilets.

Another issue that’s come to light is the small water area in low-flow toilets. As Duravit’s Schroeder explains, traditional toilets in the U.S. have a restricted flap and a large water area. But low-flow toilets, he says, typically use a wash-down system and have an unrestricted flap but a smaller water area, which could lead to markings in the bowl.

“I’m not a fan of dual-flush units with a low water spot,” custom builder Risinger says. “They soil easily and the additional savings of a lower flush isn’t worth the additional cleaning flushes.”

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture’s Ray says he has not yet found the perfect toilet, but he does have advice for getting the best out of your spec. He opts for wall-hung units, which are easier to clean and “provide for unobstructed floor surface for mopping,” he explains. And he often selects toilets that offer pressure assistance—“desired for that thorough bowl cleaning.”

“We [make] the initial toilet recommendation to the client based on the design of the space, the client’s preferences and sensibilities,” says Rob Whitten, principal of Portland, Maine–based Whitten Architects. But the firm also seeks the advice of plumbing contractors. “They know which models have performance problems and which manufacturers stand behind their product with parts and service,” Whitten says. “No owner (or architect) wants a toilet with problems regardless of its appearance.”