Last Updated: September 17, 2020
So, you’re building a new house, or renovating an old one, and you’re excited. New floors! Knocking down walls! Outdoor decks!
You’re probably not excited about the toilet. Even people remodeling their bathrooms much prefer to think about mosaic tiles and jacuzzi tubs. Yet we spend a lot of time on our toilets, and how easy or hard they are to use can noticeably impact our quality of life.
Remodeling can be a great time to switch out an old, uncomfortable toilet for one that could make bathroom visits far more pleasant. There are innumerable options to consider when picking a new toilet, from construction to flushing method to color (yes, they don’t all come in white!), but in this article, we’re going to focus on one of the biggest choices: the shape of the bowl.
Toilet Bowl Shapes
Barring left-field options — like the square toilets that are a real thing for some reason — you’ve got two choices for the shape of your toilet bowl: round and elongated.
From the seat hinges to the far edge, round toilet bowls are usually about 16.5 inches in length. Elongated toilet bowls are usually 18.5 inches long and about the same width as round bowls. That’s the whole difference, and everything else stems from it.
The shape of your toilet bowl impacts the following things:
The shape of your toilet bowl does not impact the following things (more on this below):
Round Toilets In-Depth
Round toilets have been the bowl of choice for most of the time average folks have had access to toilets in their home. Manufacturers settled on the shape more through consensus than rigorous research, and their choices are only recently being questioned.
Round toilet bowls certainly have some advantages other than inertia. Their smaller circular shape is much easier to fit into a wide variety of bathrooms. Most building codes require toilets to leave a minimum of 21 inches of space between the bowl and the opposite wall; this number jumps to 48 inches in public restrooms that must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you’re just a couple inches short, a round bowl can save your life.
Round toilets also tend to be cheaper than their elongated counterparts. On average, a round toilet costs $50 less than an elongated toilet of the same style. It’s not a huge difference, but home improvement budgets can be tight.
Finally, round toilets are easier for children under five years of age to use. Kids tend to sit too far forward on elongated seats, which results in mess getting on the slope of the bowl above the waterline.
Elongated Toilets In-Depth
As much as anything related to toilets can be considered trendy, elongated toilets have taken the world by storm. The design is surging in popularity, which means manufacturers are servicing them with more interesting extras. Try and look for washlets, smart seat heaters, or touchless flush systems installed on new round toilets – they’re hard to find.
The big argument for elongated toilets is comfort. The longer shape is a more natural fit for the human rear end. While you have to perch on a round toilet, you can relax a little into an elongated seat, which makes it way easier to do your business.
This is especially noticeable for people who weigh over 250 pounds or have mobility issues. The exception, however, is if the elongated bowl takes up too much space and makes the toilet too hard to reach.
There are other small perks to an elongated bowl. The seats don’t overhang quite as far, making it easier to get in with a brush to clean. Dropping waste into them also leads to less splash-back, sparing you from getting your legs damp.
Things Bowl Shape Doesn’t Change
While the choice of toilet bowl shape is important, some claims made about round and elongated bowls aren’t true. Like in any two-sided debate, people can get invested in their favorite bowl shape, leading them to exaggerate sometimes.
A common misconception is that the shape of the toilet’s bowl impacts how much force the toilet can flush with. It’s true that an elongated bowl might slightly increase power in a double-cyclone toilet, which flushes with two streams of water around the sides of the bowl. However, this hasn’t been proven by testing, and the difference is small even if it’s real.
Same thing with claims that some bowls save water. The toilet’s flushing mechanic has much more impact on how much water it uses than the shape of the bowl ever could.
Both types of bowl also install in exactly the same way — bowl shape has no impact on how easy that is. Ditto with how much they smell, which is mostly determined by the trapway.
Which toilet bowl shape should you buy, other than “not square” (seriously, you’ll regret it)?
If you have a smaller bathroom and need to save space, if you’re on a budget, or if you have a child in the house who’s just been potty-trained, get a round bowl.
If you have a bigger bathroom and more to spend, if you want a more modern toilet with special features, or if anybody in your home has mobility problems, get an elongated bowl.
One final note before you buy: if you’re making the choice based on comfort, don’t overlook the height of the seat. It has just as much impact on ease of use as the bowl shape, if not more so. Shorter seats are better for kids, while taller seats are easier on taller people, older folks, and those with limited mobility.
Featured Image Credit: Happy_Nati, Shutterstock