Oct 06

Bathrooms, part one of many

Here’s a quiz for you; how much does a toilet cost?  If you said $69 you’re right and if you said $1,000, you’re right too.  The bathroom probably has the widest variety of costs of any room in the house.  You can spend as little as $2,000 and as much as $50,000 redoing a small bathroom.   This blog was going to cover all the costs of renovating a bathroom, and then I was going to trim it down to only the design decisions.  Finally, I decided to just start with toilets and divide bathrooms into however many posts it takes to cover.  I know you love reading what I send out, but I doubt many of you want to read a 20-page blog about bathrooms.  So I’m starting with what may be your most basic decision; your toilet.

There are a huge number of choices in every category that go into finishing a bathroom and they all have a corresponding variety of costs.  Starting with toilets, you have to decide if you want a two-piece or a sleeker one piece.  Do you want the traditional tank or a power flush, where the interior of the tank is sealed, and as you flush the air pressure increases the flushing power?  Do you need what they call comfort height, a slightly taller toilet that means you don’t have to squat quite as low as a traditional one? Do you dream of one of the Japanese computerized toilets that shoot out warm water and air?  Two-piece toilets start at under $60 and cost up to about $500, one-piece toilets cost between $300 and $1,000, and the computerized toilets cost between $3,000 and $7,000. 

Before talking about what I like, here’s what I don’t like. My opinion is somewhat subjective and based on seeing real life toilet problems.  Three types of toilets I would avoid: the super cheap big box toilets, the power flush, and any toilet that has a lot of internal pipes.  The latter looks like there’s a snake sitting in the base.  The super cheap toilets use super cheap parts, so you can be pretty sure they’ll need repair within a couple of years.  The power flush toilets are very good, and can be a good option if you have kids.  I don’t like them because if you have a problem with them, the average homeowner can’t fix them.  You have to call a plumber because the interior, sealed tank hides all the parts.  Finally, the toilets that have internal pipes are easily clogged and are very difficult to clear.

I personally like one-piece toilets.  I think they look better.  Expect to pay somewhere between $400 and $600 for a nice one-piece. Functionally, there’s no difference between one and two piece; it’s only design and appearance.  The Kohler two-piece toilet you pay $300 for will work just as well as the $1,000 Toto.  The difference is purely esthetic.  

Of course, if you really love them, the do everything toilets are fun.  The seats heat up, they blow warm air on you, and will also shoot warm water.  Be prepared to spend extra for installation, however.  They require electric to be wired in to the toilet.  But if you’re spending $5,000 for a toilet, an extra $500 shouldn’t deter you.

The bottom line here is the same as I say about all your design decisions.  Spend money on what matters to you.  If you could care less about how your toilet looks, buy a good quality two-piece toilet for $200 to $400.  You may want a taller toilet, you may want a round rather than elongated bowl, or you may want the option to have a half flush for liquids.  Decide what’s important to you and direct your designer or contractor on what you like.  Don’t leave it up to them to tell you what you need.  Most of them are going to push for a fancier, more expensive choice. Let them enumerate all the choices you have to make. You’re the one who’s going to spend time living with this purchase.  Make it a comfortable decision, or you’ll spend lots of time sitting and thinking you should have made a different one.

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