Comfort Height Toilets: What To Know Before You Buy

If we fast forward through history, we'll learn that humankind has used holes in the ground, chamber pots, outhouses, and standard toilets for years, per Family Handyman. The latest addition, however, are comfort height toilets. Usually, we don't talk a lot about toilets unless we're potty training a child; if the toilet isn't backed up and it's available when we need it, we're happy. But, if you have to replace your toilet, a plumber may ask you if you want a comfort height toilet. This has nothing to do with your age!

A comfort height toilet is actually the name used by Kohler, a major manufacturer of plumbing products. Of course, marketing being what it is, two other major manufacturers have different names. American Standard calls it the "chair height" and TOTO refers to it as a "universal height" toilet. What does all of this have to do with comfort?

Think about getting out of a low-slung sports car where you're practically sitting on the ground. Cool? Okay, yes. Comfortable? Not so much. When average height people sit on something that's at a comfortable height, their feet are flat on the floor and their knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. This makes it easier to sit down and get up without a struggle. Dining room chairs, as an example, are typically 17 to 19 inches to the top of the seat. Bearing that in mind, here's what you should know about a comfort height toilet before you buy one. 

What's the difference between a comfort height toilet vs. a standard toilet?

A standard height toilet measures 15 to 16 inches from the floor to the top of the seat. A comfort height toilet, like those chairs, measures 17 to 19 inches high. So if you are 4 feet, 11 inches tall, a standard toilet height is a good fit. Young children, on the other hand, will need a stepstool whether they are using a standard height or a comfort height toilet. 

The Cleveland Clinic references a CDC report that says the average height among all North American women, age 20 and up, is 5 foot 4 inches tall. This makes a comfort height toilet more of a comfortable sitting height for most people in the U.S. and Canada. 

A comfort height seat is one of the requirements that makes a toilet compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It's also much easier to use a comfort height toilet if you have chronic knee or hip pain ... less bending to reach the seat. Other than seat height, there are no differences in appearance between a standard height and comfort height toilet except cost; comfort height toilets are slightly less expensive than standard toilets. However, there are many other options that you need to know about before you buy a comfort height toilet.

What's better? A round or elongated bowl?

From a consumer standpoint, toilets are fairly uncomplicated with two primary parts: the bowl and the tank. Additionally, comfort height toilet bowls are offered in two different shapes: round and elongated bowls. What are the pros and cons of each shape? For one, round bowls are generally 2 inches shorter at the front. If you have a very tight space for your toilet, you may need to consider a round bowl. A toilet typically needs at least 21 inches in front of it to pass most building codes, according to Fixr. Some towns and municipalities may require more room, so always check your local building codes. If you are considering an elongated bowl, you'll also want to check that the longer front end will not interfere with any doors, drawers, or other objects in the room, cautions Signature Hardware

Elongated bowls are considered more comfortable, and more "hygienic," according to Sustainable Solutions, in that the larger surface area of the bowl makes is easier for men and children to use with less mess. The longer bowl size is also a requirement for ADA use, and is generally easier to use for those with mobility issues. ADA-compliant bathrooms also need at least 48 inches in front of the toilet. Now that you've considered the bowl size for your comfort height toilet, there are other factors to consider before you buy.

Should your comfort height toilet be one piece or two?

Do you want to buy a one-piece or two-piece comfort height toilet? This refers to whether you buy a toilet where the bowl and tank form one, unseamed piece, or whether the tank is a separate piece from the bowl. What are the advantages of a one-piece comfort height toilet? Traditionally, most one-piece toilets take up slightly less space due to the way they are designed, per Plumbers Stock. The toilet tank and bowl are molded together so they don't need as much room, front to back. A one-piece installation is also easier since the plumber is only dealing with one piece. They are sleek and seamless which makes them easier to clean, more durable, and less likely to leak. The downside is that they are heavy because everything is contained in one piece. This can make it more difficult to move, and shipping costs may be considerably higher. Also, in the unlikely situation where a one-piece toilet cracks, you would have to replace the entire toilet.

A two-piece comfort height toilet is lighter and easier to maneuver because the two pieces can be uncoupled, but will need to be bolted together. If you're paying a plumber, that may mean a difference in labor time and cost. Although they cost less than a one piece, two-piece comfort height toilets are more difficult to clean and more likely to leak because of the seams.

What should you know about brand, materials, and cost?

The largest manufacturers of comfort height toilets are TOTO, American Standard, Kohler, Delta, Swiss Madison, and Woodbridge, according to almost every internet post on "the best comfort height toilets," but each review has them in slightly different order. Here are two, from Bob Vila and Good Housekeeping.

Kohler sells comfort height toilets ranging in price from $250 to $300, but there are many other companies that make excellent comfort height toilets as well. Big box stores often have their own brands, in addition to carrying the major brands. Talk with your plumber for their recommendations. According to information on Fixr, the cost to hire a plumber for the installation is about $200 to $250 depending on what part of the country you're in. 

Today, most toilets are made of porcelain, which is made from a refined clay and fired at a high temperature in a kiln. This results in a denser, more durable, and less porous material than regular ceramic. It also gives it a high-gloss finish and makes it easier to clean. Additionally, the most popular colors for comfort height toilets are white or off-white. It is considered to look clean and hygienic ... something we all want in our bathroom fixtures. It's also a plus when it comes to resale as they are neutral colors. So before you buy a comfort height toilet, review these features and pros and cons to find out which will work best for you.