4 Signs You Need a New Toilet

Written by Doug Bonderud
Updated February 6, 2013
Toilet seat
Don't wait for a catastrophe before replacing a failing toilet. Learn the signs for when it's time for a new one. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

If your toilet is damaged, leaky or otherwise not performing, it may be time for a replacement.

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Flush after flush after flush, your toilet goes through gallons of water each day, putting stress on rubber seals, copper pipes and its porcelain bowl. While toilets have a long lifespan, there are several key signs that indicate the time has come for a replacement. Here are four of the most common.

1) Your toilet is outdated

If you still have an avocado or coral-colored toilet from the 1960s, the time for replacement has come. Not only are these toilets prone to cracks and leaks thanks to their age, but they use far more water per flush than modern toilets. In addition, these toilets don't flush as efficiently as newer models, meaning they take longer to fill — and are noisier.

2) The toilet uses too much water

New toilets need to use less than a certain amount of water to pass inspection. Pre-1994 residential toilets used 3.4 gallons of water per flush, but this was lowered under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to a standard of 1.6 gallons, which spurred the development of low-flow toilets. Although this water volume is the minimum, high-efficiency toilets (HET) are also available on the market, which have improved flushing power but only use 1.3 gallons per flush.

If your old toilet uses too much water per flush, it can cost you a substantial amount in water bills over the course of a year.  You should be able to adjust the fill mechanism in your toilet to lower the level.  One old trick is to put a brick or a weighted, full water bottle in your toilet tank, but this is only a stop-gap measure and can damage the tank over time.

3) Your toilet wobbles or rocks

Even new, energy-efficient toilets can become a problem if they wobble or rock on the base. There are several common culprits, including loose mounting bolts on the toilet base, a degraded wax ring underneath the toilet or a rotten subfloor that is shifting under the toilet's weight. If the bolts can be tightened without cracking, the porcelain or the ring replaced without damage, it may be cost effective to keep your current toilet. A damaged subfloor, however, requires professional repair, and you'll want to consider new toilets that have lower weight to prevent the problem from recurring.

4) The toilet is damaged

If you have an older model toilet that's starting to show its age through chips and cracks or a newer version that has sustained serious damage due to a poor installation or a botched repair, you'll want to invest in a replacement. Even small cracks in a toilet can cause slow water leaks, which will not only lower the toilet's efficiency but result in damage to your bathroom over time. In the best case, you suffer only minor floor or wall damage. At worst, you may have to deal with mold.

Although an experienced do-it-yourselfer may be able to install a new toilet, most homeowners should hire a licensed plumber.  An botched installation can result in slow leakage under the flooring, which wastes water and eventually rots the subfloor.

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