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A toilet is a necessary fixtures in every home , but do you know the components that make up a toilet ? Understanding the different parts of a toilet and associated accessories can help you when it comes to maintenance and repair as well as when you’re looking to upgrade or or replace an old toilet.
A toilet has many components but they can all be broken down in three categories : exterior components, internal components and essential accessories.
The Exterior Components of a Toilet
The exterior components of the toilet are the items that you can see from the outside that make up the toilet fixture. These items are critical to know when you’re making a decision about purchasing a toilet and how it will all fit in the overall design and aesthetic of your bathroom.
There are three major exterior exterior components of a toilet and they can most often be bought as three separate pieces
- The Toilet Tank
- The Toilet Bowl
- The Toilet Seat
The toilet tank is the upper part of a two piece toilet. It sits above the sitting area and stores the water in its housing until it is needed. The role of the tank is not only to store the water but to house the internal components that aid in the flushing process.
In fact, the toilet tank houses all the internal components of the toilet: the flush valve, the fill valve, and the flush lever. It also comes equipped with a toilet tank lid that sits above it and can be easily remove to access these internal parts.
Although the toilet tank can be sold separately, it’s typically only compatible with a very limited number of toilet bowls. Our recommendation is to always buy the tank with its compatible blow unless you’re buying a replacement.
The toilet bowl is the bottom area of a two piece toilet. It houses the drainage system known as the trapway and serves also as a sitting area in conjunction with the toilet seat. The role of the toilet bowl is to receive the water and serve as a pathway for the waste to go through using its water trap system.
In the US, toilets bowl are available in two different shapes: an elongated bowl and round front bowl. Although most people prefer the elongated bowl for its comfort, the round front serves as smaller profile that can fit in tight spaces. On average, it’s typically 2″ shorter (front to back) than an elongated bowl from the same family.
In a two piece toilet, both the elongated and round front bowls are typically compatible with the same toilet tank of the same family. This is primarily the reason why these parts are sold separately.
It’s important to note that European style toilets are also quite common in the US and typically come with a rectangular shape bowl. This rectangular shaped bowl is unique to the brand and even the specific collection that it belongs to. In other words, european style bowl are not universal and can only be used toilet tanks and seats made for that specific bowl.
The Toilet Seat
A toilet seat is the part of a toilet that provides a comfortable surface for sitting. It is typically made of plastic or wood and is attached to the rim of the toilet bowl. The toilet seat is designed to be easily removed for cleaning and can be replaced if it becomes damaged or worn.
Toilet seats come both in Elongated and Round Front shapes to match the toilet bowl that it’s supposed to sit on.
Traditionally, painted wooden toilet seats were popular as they were perceived as more durable but over the past decade or so, plastic seats have become way more popular since they’re not as heavy, they don’t chip. However, the most important factor in the rise of the plastic toilet seats is that they are often equipped with a slow closing feature that prevents the lid from slamming.
How Exterior Components differ in a one piece toilet
So far, we have only referred to the external components of a two piece toilet. As you may already know, toilets are sold both in both one piece and two piece versions. The main difference between the one pice and the two piece is that the tank and the bowl are joined together as one item. They can’t be separated even by professionals since they are molded as one in the factory.
Although, the toilet seat is still a separate component in a one piece toilet, it is often included in the box by most manufacturers with some rare exceptions. Some manufacturers elect to exclude the toilet seats in their most affordable collection to save on cost.
The Internal Components of a Toilet
The internal components of a toilet are the service parts that can be found inside the toilet, most specifically the toilet tank. They include the following
- The Flush Lever
- The Flush Valve
- The Fill Valve
- Tank to Bowl Kit
All internal components are made by the toilet manufacturers but more than likely can be replaced by generic brands when needed.
The Flush Lever
The flush lever of a toilet is a handle that is used to activate the flushing mechanism of a toilet. It is typically located on the side of the toilet tank and is connected to the flushing mechanism inside the tank. When the lever is pressed, it activates the flush valve which in turns release a set amount of water from the tank into the toilet bowl, creating a strong flow of water that helps to flush waste out of the bowl.
The flush lever is also known as the Trip Lever and is made of two parts. The handle that you see from the outside, and the stem that can be made of either plastic or metal and is typically attached to a chain. When the handle is pressed, the stem pulls the flush valve open so the water can travel into the bowl.
The Flush Valve
The flush valve is a mechanism that releases water from inside of the toilet tank and into the toilet bowl when activated. It’s mounted directly on the drain opening inside the toilet tank that allows water to pass through onto the bowl.
It consists of two parts: the overflow tube and the flapper. The flapper opens up when the flush lever is pressed down to let water inside the bowl. The flapper is usually attached to the flush lever through a metal chain.
The overflow tube removes excess water by allowing it to back into the bowl. It is also the pathway to refill the toilet bowl after a flush.
The Fill Valve
The fill valve is a mechanism that controls the amount of water inside the toilet tank. It has an adjustable float arm attached to it that has two functions
- It opens up the seal of the fill valve to allow water to flow back in from the water supply line
- It controls the amount of water that refills the tank. This can usually be adjusted to a certain extent.
The Tank to Bowl Kit (2 piece toilets only)
A tank-to-bowl kit is a set of components that are used to connect the toilet tank to the bowl. The kit typically includes a gasket, bolts, washers, and nuts, which are used to secure the tank to the bowl and prevent leaks.
This kit needs to be removed whenever one is servicing the toilet since the tank needs to removed and drained whenever the internal components need to be inspected or replaced.
Installation Accessories needed for Toilet Installation
The final piece of the puzzle of a toilet are the accessories that allow the water to function. These include both supply and installation accessories. All these essential accessories are universal parts and don’t need to be purchased from the same brand.
A toilet wax ring is a circular piece of wax that is used to create a watertight seal between the base of the toilet and the sewer drain in the floor. The wax ring sits between the toilet and the toilet flange. Its purpose is to prevent sewer gases from entering the home and to keep water from leaking out of the base of the toilet.
The wax ring is compressed between the toilet and the floor when the toilet is secured in place, creating a tight seal that prevents water from seeping out.
If there is any evidence of water leakage around the base of your toilet, it probably means that you need a new wax ring. Another time you might need to replace your wax ring is if you are taking your toilet out and putting it back in again.
Closet Bolts a.k.a. “Johnny Bolts”
A closet bolt is a type of bolt that is used to secure a toilet to the floor. The bolts consist of a threaded shaft that is inserted through a hole in the base of the toilet and into the floor. The shaft is held in place by a nut that is tightened onto the threaded portion of the bolt, securing the toilet to the floor.
Closet bolts are typically located on the side of tof a toilet bowl base and are covered by the bolt caps that protect the nuts and bolts and make for a cleaner look.
If your toilet is wobbly or if you need to replace the wax ring, you may need to remove the johnny bolts in order to remove the toilet from the floor. In this case, you will need to have new bolts on hand to secure the toilet after it has been replaced.
Bolt caps are simply a set of plastic caps that are used to cover the johnny bolts. They are usually color matched to blend in with the toilet and give the whole unit a more finished look.
While they are not necessary for the proper functioning of a toilet, they do help to give the unit a cleaner look and also protect the nuts and bolts from getting damaged by dirt, water, or other debris.
Toilet Stop or Valve
A toilet stop is the valve that connects to the supply pipe coming in to feed fresh potable water to the toilet tank and also serves as an on/off switch. It is usually left on until the toilet tank needs to be serviced.
In order to service the toilet, one of the first steps is to turn the water stop off. This is not only convenient for the installer but is also typically required to be there by local code.
The toilet stop that is attached to a pipe coming off the wall is called an “Angle Stop”, while the pipe that connects to a pipe coming from the floor is called a “Straight stop”.
For higher end bathrooms, it’s best to have them match the finish of the decorative hardware of the bathroom. Companies like Newport Brass and Jaclo offer these stops in a variety of finishes. It’s also important that these decorative stops need to have a matching pipe sleeve to cover the exposed copper or pex pipe.
Toilet Supply / Flexible Hose
The toilet supply is the piece that connects to the toilet stops and feeds water to the tank. Typically, it’s a stainless steel metal hose that is flexible and can be manipulated to fit a variety of distances from the pipe to the tank. It comes in a variety of sizes but the most common is 12″.
For more decorative options, you can use a more rigid toilet supply that comes in a variety of finish to match your decor. These rigid supplies can be cut down to fit your needs. So if you’re not sure, it’s recommended that you purchase the longest one which tends to be around 20″.
Although they are more rigid than the flexible hose, they can still be manipulated by hand and twisted up to fit the installer’s needs.
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