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How to know when it’s time to replace, or just repair, a toilet

Expert advice from JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre

Most of us don’t give much thought to the fixtures in our home until an issue arises. It’s only then that we try to think back to when we bought the item and wonder if the time has finally come that we need to replace it.

Take your toilet, for example. What is the average lifespan?

You might be surprised to learn that a typical toilet will last between 10 and 15 years. Before you hit that point, of course, you may find occasional repairs are needed. If you’ve already had to call a plumber a couple of times, you may be better off shopping for a new one.

The following are great reasons to replace your existing toilet with a brand new one, say the staff at JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre in Guelph.

Your toilet is malfunctioning or is broken

Repairs are one thing, but if you’re experiencing issues frequently it’s probably time to just replace your toilet outright. If you constantly have clogging or flushing problems, especially if they recur after a recent repair, a new toilet is likely needed. Make sure you don’t have a cracked bowl or tank either; these can cause leaks or damage the structure of your toilet over time. Other warning signs to be on the lookout for include when the tank won’t stop running or if you notice that it is leaking.

Try to pay attention to how frequently repairs are needed. If you feel caught in a loop of endless repair jobs, that’s probably an indication that your toilet has seen better days. Minor fixes are one thing, but a toilet shouldn’t require a lot of ongoing upkeep just to stay in working order.

You are renovating your bathroom

If you are redoing your bathroom it doesn’t make sense to hold on to an old fixture. You might as well install a brand-new toilet and take advantage of the latest technology. Updating is the perfect time to replace older fixtures, not just so that your décor all matches but for the peace of mind of knowing that everything is new and in working order. If you’ve just moved into a home and the bathroom is an older space, this is also the perfect time to remodel everything, including the toilet.

You want to keep water costs low

One of the first signs that your toilet is older or damaged could be a spike in your water bill. That’s because a broken toilet uses more water when flushing to ensure that waste goes down the drain. If you install a new, efficient toilet in its place, it will help to lower these costs.

Another great way to save money on your water bill is to install a water-saving toilet. An added benefit? It also reduces your impact on the environment.

Once you’ve determined that you do indeed need to purchase a brand-new toilet, take the following factors into consideration. It will make your shopping excursion that much easier.


Toilet bowls come in two different shapes: round and elongated. Round bowls are ideal for smaller bathrooms as they’re more compact. Elongated bowls, however, are slightly more comfortable to use. They are two inches longer than the shorter, round kind and offer more support for your thighs.


You’ll also want to consider certain elements of style. Think about the colour, tank type and profile, for instance. All of these will be a matter of personal preference. What will look best in your space?


Did you realize that toilets come in two different heights? Standard height is 14 to 15 inches from the ground; it is ideal for average-height adults and children. Comfort height is 16 inches or more; it’s the smarter choice for taller and older adults, as well as anyone who may have leg or back issues.

Where it will be used 

A good rule of thumb is to choose a durable, standard toilet for any small powder rooms that are used frequently. For a personal or an ensuite bathroom, however, feel free to choose a specialised or more stylized toilet.

Special plumbing requirements

This is the part many of us overlook. Make sure your toilet will be easy to install and will align properly. Before you shop, this means you need to know the existing pipe sizes and dimensions of your space, to ensure that they’ll fit the new toilet’s plumbing.

Staff at JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre also recommend that you determine the length of the water line and be sure to leave enough space to install a shut-off valve. This will let you shut off the water to this specific toilet in the event that an issue arises, rather than having to turn off the water for the entire house.

You’ll also need to determine whether or not drain and vent lines need to be installed.

Lastly, make sure any work you’re doing stays within local guidelines. They definitely recommend that you verify any building and plumbing code requirements in your area first.

Do you know the length of your rough-in? That matters too. A rough-in is the distance from the wall to the centre of the toilet’s drainpipe. You’ll want to get this right, as it’s essential to ensure that your new toilet will actually fit into your space.

One of the advantages to replacing an older toilet, rather than simply doing repairs, is that you can enjoy some of the newer features that are offered, which may not have existed when you first bought your toilet years ago. With newer models you can choose the type of flush—single-flush, dual-flush or touchless. Others let you save water and lower your water bill.


For more information about replacing a toilet, visit JL's Home Hardware Building Centre or call 519-822-8230.