The 5 Signs of a Bad Toilet: How Long Do They Last?


do toilets go bad_

If you’ve had your toilet for a long time, or it came with the house when you bought it, then you may be wondering whether it is still good to use. Or maybe you’ve been having issues with your toilet recently and are wondering if it’s time for an upgrade.

How do you know when it is time to replace it or if you should keep repairing it? 

On average a porcelain toilet lasts about 50 years when cared for properly. Some parts of the flush mechanism like a flapper or a fill valve generally need to be replaced every 5 years due to wear and tear. Poor maintenance, hard water, or physical damage caused to the porcelain bowl will significantly reduce the lifespan of the toilet.

There are a number of factors involved in the decision. This guide will give you some warning signs that your toilet lifespan has come to an end.

How long does a toilet last?

The life expectancy of a toilet depends on two things: whether the porcelain will wear out and how long the flush mechanism lasts. With proper cleaning and timely replacement of the parts, it may last a lifetime.

Do toilets wear out?

Porcelain is a very durable non-porous material which makes it highly sanitary. But without proper cleaning, the bacteria will eventually build up and eat away the finish layer of the toilet. This will make the toilet vulnerable to bacteria and eventually stains and small cracks will start to appear.

flush mechanism diagram

The moving parts of a toilet are less durable because they are in constant use. Depending on the initial quality of the parts and the intensity of their usage parts like tank lever, flapper, and fill valve will eventually break down. It is recommended to replace the flapper and fill valve every five years.

What factors reduce toilet lifespan?

There are two main factors that affect the lifespan of your toilet – how often it is used and the water quality in your area. Hard water will form mineral deposits in the toilet tank over time causing damage to the flush mechanism parts.

While it is hard to control how often the toilet is used you can take steps to prevent hard water from affecting your toilet. 

An efficient but expensive solution is to invest in a water softener. 

A lot of us find it much easier to just use drop-in tablets. But it turns out that drop-in tablets containing bleach cause damage to the flush system

A much better way to protect your toilet from the buildup is to once in a while clean the tank with citric acid. The video below will show you the process:

When to replace a toilet?

It’s time to replace your toilet if it gets clogged frequently, constantly needs repairs, doesn’t get clean anymore, or was purchased before 1994. Visible cracks in the porcelain are also a sign it’s time for a new toilet.

It’s normal for you to deal with an occasional clog or small repairs. Most of them you can tackle yourself. At some point, you may realize that you are investing a lot of your time and money into fixing the toilet problems. If you are seeing the following signs then forget about repairs and look at upgrading your commode.

Frequent clogs

Most of the time you can tackle a clogged toilet on your own using an auger or a power plunger

But if you have had the plumber over to fix your clogged toilet more than once and it still gets clogged, then it may very well be your toilet. It could be simply that the flush is not powerful enough or it could be your inner plumbing system.

You can actually use an industrial endoscope for plumbing to go way deep inside and take a look at what is happening there. If you don’t see any blockages or mineral buildup on the pipes, then it could be a sign that your toilet is the problem.  

The issue may be that your low flush toilet can’t handle the job. It is designed to save water but in some cases may not provide enough flush power. 

The solution is to upgrade to a power-assist toilet. They have an inner chamber inside the tank that allows air pressure to force the water out like a jet and clear your bowl in a fraction of a second. Where a gravity toilet, aka a standard toilet with standing water in the tank, has about 12 psi per flush, a power assist toilet has at least 30 psi. They can be loud, but the noise only lasts a second. This type of toilet is also water efficient as they use around 1.5 to 1.7 gallons of water per flush. 

One of the most popular of these toilets is the Kohler K-3493-0 Highline Classic Pressure Lite.

Does a toilet go bad? 5 signs it's time to replace it

Weak flush

Some toilets just can never quite flush completely and you have to flush two or three times to get things moving. Often, there is a partial clog that once removed takes care of the problem. Other times the kit in the tank is worn and the parts don’t open or close completely.

If you have done everything you can to improve the flush strength, then it is likely your toilet just isn’t efficient enough. 

In this case, you really should be looking at upgrading to a more modern toilet. 

When you have hard water that has built up on the pipes, then getting rid of it might not be an option and you’ll need a new toilet. And probably a hard water filter to keep the minerals from building up, too.

The toilet is cracked

No repair is going to solve this problem. A cracked toilet is bound for the garbage heap. Take advantage and look at modern, efficient toilets that save water and require less maintenance.

Cracks and deep gouges can harbor bacteria and lead to an unhealthy situation as well as a toilet that never gets clean. Which leads to the next sign.

It’s hard to keep the toilet clean

If your toilet is old, the porcelain may be harboring bacteria. Scratches and porous spots will attract and allow bacteria to grow. It will be a never-ending battle to keep the toilet clean.

These germs can then spread to other areas and that is not a good thing to deal with. It can even be quite smelly if you have a bacteria problem that won’t seem to go away.

The toilet wastes water

Old toilets are notoriously inefficient when it comes to water usage. If your toilet was built before 1994 when efficiency standards were put forth that require a toilet to be low flush, then chances are it uses a couple of gallons with each flush.

Now imagine if you have to flush a couple of times to get things moving and you have a real water hog.

What you need is a modern low-flow toilet. Or even better – a dual flush toilet.

Around the world, you’ll find a dual flush toilet in just about every house. They are great at conserving water as you use the lighter flush for number 1 and the higher powered flush for number 2. In both cases, it is considered a low-flow toilet.

A very good example of one of these toilets is the Swiss Madison SM-1T112 Dual Flush One Piece Toilet.

Bottom line

It seems like a toilet would last forever but there comes a point when it makes more sense to replace it with a new,  more modern model.

As always, if you have any questions, drop a comment below and I will be happy to help you.

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FAQ About Replacing Your Toilet

Most frequent questions and answers

The toilet itself is very durable and won’t go bad. The porcelain part of the toilet, if intact can last over 50 years. The inside of the tank has moving parts and it is recommended to replace the lever and flapper every 5 years. The handle of the toilet is also prone to breakage but can be replaced cheaply without the need to buy a new toilet. Replace your toilet ASAP if you find cracks in the porcelain. It can lead to bacterial infestation or serious leaks.

Also, watch out for frequent clogs and weak flush. These don’t mean your toilet went bad but can mean that it is inefficient and needs to be upgraded for a more modern unit.

Likewise, if the toilet you own was built before 1994 or is at the point when you can’t get it clean it’s time to think about a new one. New toilets that came out after 1994 adhere to a strict water conservation policy. They have to flush using a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water. 

A toilet that has significant mineral buildup can be really hard to clean. If you moved into a house where the toilet wasn’t cleaned well for years, consider replacing it. You can still use it but it is not very sanitary.

It costs from $250 to $480 to replace the toilet. This range includes the charge to take your old toilet away. Price varies depending on the plumbing conditions in your bathroom as well as some of the features your new toilet has. The average price paid for a toilet replacement is $370. 

Purchasing a new toilet will cost you anywhere between $90 for a very basic model and up to $1500 for a luxury unit. The average price for a low-flow toilet is $510.

It takes between 1.5 to 4 hours to replace a toilet if you are hiring a professional plumber. The time depends on the type of toilet you are installing. The one-piece toilet replacement will take 1.5-2 hours, two-piece – 2-2.5. If you need a bowl replacement for a wall-mounted toilet the plumber will spend 2-3 hours. The problems with your water tank inside the wall however is a different story and will take 8-12 hours.

If you are thinking of doing it yourself and don’t have much DIY experience add 1 to 2 hours to the times listed above.

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