By Holly Shadel
Every plumber wants to be sure that they complete each project to their client’s satisfaction. When it comes to toilets, callbacks, service calls for maintenance, and poor flush performance are among the many factors that can hurt a plumbing business’ bottom line and your reputation. There are three different types of toilet technology, and each can provide their installation challenges.
TRADITIONAL GRAVITY-FED TECHNOLOGY
When opening the lid of a toilet tank, you will probably find a gravity-fed technology system. The flush happens when a rubber flapper is lifted with a chain connected to the handle, allowing gravity to force fresh water from the tank into the bowl, pushing waste down the toilet trap and into the drain system. A fill valve then refills the tank for the next use.
Plumbers tend to choose flapper toilets because they are the most familiar to them and can be installed quickly, but a gravity-fed toilet isn’t always the best choice for the job. For example, commercial and medical facilities need something with a little more force than gravity alone to get the job done. Heavy, frequent use requires improved flush power that ensures a clean bowl every time. A pressure-assist toilet is suited to these applications.
As the name implies, pressure assist toilets use highly pressurized air to evacuate the bowl and push waste through the trap. These toilets use a specialized chamber within the tank that is used to create the air pressure. Toilets equipped with pressure assist technology are efficient at clearing away waste and preventing clogs, but they are quite a bit louder than the typical gravity-fed model. This technology also tends to use a higher volume of water, which can be effective but wasteful.
To not have to compromise a client’s ear drums for a good flush, there’s a third technology on the market that balances power and water conservation. Vacuum assist technology can provide both.
Developed in early 2009, vacuum-assisted toilets are a newer technology on the market. Upon flushing, the water exiting a specialized chamber within the tank creates a vacuum, depressurizing the trap way, allowing waste to be sucked through the trap. This allows vacuum-assist toilets to use less water. After the flush, a fill valve replenishes the water in the tank and when water fills the tank chamber, the air is pushed back into the air transfer tube. This pressurizes the trap way and primes the toilet for another flush. With absolutely no change in how a traditional toilet is used, a powerful flush is achieved while reducing the amount of water used, creating cost savings for home and property owners through the life of the toilet.
COMMON INSTALLATION CHALLENGES
Like every fixture, toilets come in all different kinds of styles, models, and materials which can have their own various installation best practices. You wouldn’t install a one-piece the same way you would install a two-piece, or a floor mounted toilet the same way you’d install a wall-mounted model. To help prepare you and your employees, we’ve collected a few of the more common challenges that arise when installing a toilet.
You’re using new technology
It’s 2022 and it seems there is some new technology every time a millennial takes a sip of coffee. Thankfully, things move a little bit slower in the plumbing industry, but that doesn’t mean that you or your employees won’t stumble upon something unfamiliar. The best way to avoid an installation mishap is to have the FAQs available and read the installation manual before being on site. Most manufacturers have both of these readily available on their website, so be sure to have them downloaded to your phones or a save the manufacturer’s website for reference if needed.
Tank part assembly
Some toilets come like IKEA furniture, and you have to put all of the components together as they come out of the box. The best way to avoid this challenge is to purchase a model with a preassembled tank so that you and your team just have to bolt it down and run a few tests before collecting your fee. However, if a preassembled tank isn’t an option, it doesn’t hurt to keep a few extra tank components on hand to use in a pinch or if the manufacturer forgets to include them in the packaging.
Faulty tank parts
Continuing on that theme – even pre-assembled tanks can be hazardous if they have a flapper. Nothing is worse than getting a full install done and running a test only to find that there’s a faulty flapper or fill valve. Always keep extra tank parts on hand and purchase a product with a warranty for free replacements.
A common challenge, especially in older homes, can be layers of flooring to cut through. This can cause the flange to sit much farther down than expected. A second flange or extra-long closet bolts can help close the gap if the existing flange sits lower than the finished flooring. Additionally, look for models with the same or a larger footprint than the toilet you’re replacing to cover any exposed layers or discoloured flooring.
Placing the new toilet
Getting the bolts to line up with the floor bolt holes at the foot of the toilet can be any plumber’s nightmare. If you hold off from installing the seat until after you bolt the toilet down, you can look through the holes where you’d secure the toilet seat and lid to line up the toilet and place it more easily and quickly.
A final tip: be sure that you check the toilet’s warranty. A toilet has an average lifespan of 20 years. Most toilets have warranties of at least a year, but like many warranties, they come with restrictions. Be sure that you find a toilet with a warranty of at least 10 years and that they cover most, if not all, of the functional pieces of the toilet.