How long do toilets last? It’s a common question we receive, and we’re sure most people wonder about it at some point. Some things we buy in our homes have fairly predictable lifespans. We usually replace smartphones every few years, while we expect things like ovens and washers to last a decade or so. Toilets are a lot harder to pin down.
Here, we’ll answer all your questions about toilet longevity. We’ll talk about the average lifespan of a throne, plus the reasons you should either repair or replace your older fixture.
So, first things first, how long does a toilet actually last? Theoretically, forever! Unless the porcelain cracks, which doesn’t usually happen once it’s set in place, it should last as long as you need it to. That’s in theory, at least! Porcelain can eventually crack, but it’s rare.
The caveat is that you’ll have to replace all the fittings and moving parts inside the toilet. While a throne can be structurally sound for decades, things like the flush valve or seat can be a lot less impervious to wear and tear. You’ll usually have to make some minor repairs or adjustments every few years to keep older fixtures running. Modern fixtures can typically go a decade without needing any upgrades or fixes.
At a certain point, it can be worth your while to replace a toilet even though you don’t have to. For instance, you could certainly still use a cast iron wood stove from the 1800s for baking, but you’d be wasting an awful lot of time, energy, and money compared to just buying a modern oven, right? The same is true of a toilet. The amount of water waste, clogs, and repair costs you can save by switching to a better fixture often justifies the cost of a replacement unit.
The key thing is to know whether you ought to repair or replace your toilet. In many cases, repairs are a cheap way to keep a relatively decent throne going for years longer. However, in some other cases, they’re just a waste of effort.
You can solve leaks, constant running, and filling issues by making repairs. These things are all pretty simple to address by replacing or cleaning seals, flapper valves, and other internal components. You can usually address any minor concern yourself, without having to get a plumber involved.
On the other hand, there are certain things that no amount of repairs or tweaks will address. You can’t get a more powerful flush, for one thing. You’re stuck using the same type of valve that came with your toilet, and you won’t be able to adjust the shape or hydrodynamics of the bowl itself. You can’t make it use less water, except by doing things like adding bricks to the tank. Even doing that isn’t really a good idea, since the bowl and trapway weren’t designed to use the lower amount of water in the first place.
Your toilet will also never look as good as it did when you bought it. If the glazing is worn out on the inside, or there are ugly pockmarks and scratches on the outside, you should think about getting a new one. No amount of cleaning or polishing can change the fact that finishes fade and stain over time.
Our general rule of thumb: if your toilet looks good, meets modern flow restrictions (1.6 GPF) and works decently, you’re probably better off repairing it. If you have chronic clogs, an old fixture that wastes lots of money, or something that just doesn’t seem to work well period, get a new model. Even a budget-priced model made today will be a big upgrade over something from 10 or 20 years ago!
If you think you’re ready to replace your toilet, head to our homepage to find links to all our buying guides, as well as our overall recommendations. Or, if you’re thinking you want to fix up your current fixture, check out our guide to the best toilet repair kits!