How to Choose the Right Toilet

Style, seat height, flushing options, color choice and more will factor into your decision

By Yanic Simard / Courtesy of

Although the humble toilet isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a visually stunning bathroom, it’s still an important element with just as many varieties to choose from as other plumbing fixtures. Choosing well the first time (and resisting the temptation to cut corners) will avoid regrets and possibly more expense down the road. Read on for a handy breakdown of key features you should consider before settling on the right fixture for you.

One Piece vs. Two

Two-piece toilets, consisting of a separate tank and seat base, are the more common option. The pieces are made to fit together, but they’ll always have some sort of seam, which can become a trouble spot for cleaning.

Two-piece toilets have the advantage of being easier to transport and carry, which can be important for DIYers, especially if the toilet needs to be carried up stairs.

One-piece toilets tend to be a little more high-end and expensive, although prices and quality vary widely, as with two-piece toilets. This style is seamless, providing a modern look and one less place for soil and germs to hide.


It’s worth noting that one-piece toilets can come in relatively traditional-looking styles as well, so if installation isn’t an issue and it fits your budget, a one-piece is generally the more recommended choice regardless of your decor type. However, for some people the classic charm of the two-piece style is worth the extra cleaning effort. 

Both styles have their advantages, so it largely comes down to personal preference.

High-Tank Toilets

Taking the two-piece look to the extreme, retro chain-pull toilets with tanks set higher on the wall give a certain old-world charm to a room. A well-made high-tank toilet will function just as well as a “close-coupled” (standard) option, so the choice comes down to look more than mechanics in most situations, although these toilets can be a little more expensive.

If you want your toilet to be noticeable and charming instead of minimalist and hidden away, this is an option to consider.

In-Wall Toilets

With in-wall toilets, the tank is not visible because it’s installed inside the wall. These toilets definitely require more of an investment than standard options, especially since they tend to require more construction effort, but the clean profile is popular for achieving a luxe look.

I can say from personal experience that sometimes you can’t know whether an in-wall toilet is an option until the wall has been opened to reveal the plumbing arrangement, so keep this in mind before plunging into a retrofit, as you may have to adapt your plans accordingly.

Gravity vs. Pressure-Assisted

Another behind-the-scenes, or at least inside-the-wall, thing to consider is whether your toilet’s flushing mechanism will be gravity-based or pressure-assisted. 

Pressure-assisted toilets enhance the natural water flow caused by gravity for a stronger flush that leaves a cleaner bowl. Again, the composition of your wall, position of the toilet relative to the main water supply and other factors will affect whether you can install a pressure-assisted system, so you may want to have the wall opened before making your purchase.

Seat Height

The standard height for a toilet seat is 17 inches, one inch lower than the standard height for a chair seat. However, most manufacturers also produce at least some of their models in a “comfort” height, which is typically 19 inches.

From a medical perspective, lower toilet seats are recommended for typical users. However, for those who have trouble getting into and out of a sitting position (such as the elderly, or even simply the very tall), the comfort-height seat may be easier to use. If you don’t find standard toilets to be an issue, ignore the comfort option and worry more about the distance your toilet sits from the wall.

Concealed vs. Integrated Base Style

The base of the toilet is another area to consider, not just for style reasons, but for maintenance as well. The more complex the base of your toilet, the more nooks and crannies to attract soil and possibly mold. This can be avoided with thorough cleaning, so if you like the classic look and don’t mind a little upkeep, this is typically the less expensive option.

The more integrated and seamless the base, the easier the surface will be to wipe down and the more modern the look will be. A simple shape like this softly rounded toilet will work in ultramodern or more lively contemporary bathrooms without drawing attention, so if you can spend a little more, this can be a nice upgrade.


Rarely is it practical to move a toilet if you aren’t designing your bathroom from scratch (i.e., during a new build). If possible, keep in mind that a toilet should be a minimum of 15 inches from nearby objects (such as showers, walls and vanities), measured from the centerline of the toilet. For more comfort, 18 or more inches is recommended.

If you can’t relocate, try to avoid adding obstacles such as towel bars, and consider using a small vanity. Also, an elongated toilet seat (longer and narrower than a standard rounded seat) may give you a little extra leg room.

Push-Button vs. Lever

Push-button toilets are popular for giving a room more of a modern spa feel, even if the rest of the house is more or less traditional.

Lever toilets are usually less expensive, and the look is more classic, so both options can make sense.

Toilets with two flush option buttons reduce the amount of water used during the majority of flushes, which over time can more than make up for the additional upfront cost.


Clean, white porcelain is by far the most common toilet choice. However, most manufacturers offer a range of colors in at least some of their products.

Typically, pure white is the best bet for resale value, as it will never go out of style. However, it should be noted that “plain white” porcelain fixtures from different companies might not match one another. If your toilet sits next to a tub or porcelain-topped vanity, it might be best to source the items from the same company, or request a sample of one finish to compare with another when you’re out shopping. Noticeably different tones can look mismatched, which can make a bathroom appear older or subtly messy.

Choosing a color toilet can create beautiful statement effects, especially in a simple neutral-on-neutral palette. Consider going with a black lid on a white toilet or go bold with an entirely black toilet. Just make sure to pick up the black accent with other objects so the toilet doesn’t aggressively stand out.

On the other hand, color can sometimes be the right choice so the toilet doesn’tstand out. When using a dark wall material such as earthy stone tiles, a gray or beige toilet will be somewhat camouflaged. 

Keep in mind, however, that finding a future buyer or renter who enjoys your choice as much as you do might be difficult, no matter how carefully designed the space may be.