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  • Writer's pictureElla S

Ultimate Toilet Buying Guide

A priority item in any bathroom, toilets are not just a necessity they are also another way of portraying the style of the bathroom. Functions and capabilities tend to stay the same between toilet models, it is the various styles and fits that tend to confuse buyers as to which toilet is best for their bathroom. This guide will outline the basics of toilet design and give some tips on how to pick a toilet for your bathroom.


Toilet Basics

Toilets are made up of three main parts: the pan, the cistern and the seat. Cisterns are the top part and control the flushing mechanism, either by a lever or push button, they release water into the pan. This release of water creates an unbalanced overflow level which causes waste to be sucked out of the pan and into the waste pipe. Seats either with or without covers are used for both hygiene and style purposes to finish the toilet pan off.

The design of these parts can vary greatly, however for the toilet to work seamlessly these parts must be of the same type/functionality. This is why understanding the types of toilets available is key.

Considerations When Choosing a Toilet

If replacing an existing toilet like for like, you are best skipping to the types of toilets section to work out which toilet you need to look for. However, if you are redesigning your bathroom you will need to try and narrow down your search. Firstly, for this, you will want to consider the overall style of bathroom you are wanting, whether you want it more traditional or ultra-contemporary.

Next is the positioning within the bathroom, this will dictate the size of toilet you are going to be able to buy. One positioning consideration is that you want there to be enough space around your toilet so that you can sit and manoeuvre comfortably. Other than that, the soil pipe positioning within your bathroom will be worth making a note of as it is advisable you do not move the toilet far from this. Most toilet pans have a horizontal outlet, with only a few having vertical outlets.

If you choose a wall-mounted toilet you will require space behind the toilet for the concealed cistern and framework or if your bathroom is large enough you could consider building a stud wall to conceal the framework of your toilet. This will ensure a flawless installation look on the outside.


Types of Toilets

Deciding on the type of toilet you require is next. We have narrowed this down to the toilet categories in their broadest forms. This means that certain elements of the categories can overlap, such as concealed cisterns being used with both back-to-wall and wall-hung toilets.

Close-Coupled Toilets

Close-coupled toilets are the most often used/seen type of toilet. With this design the cistern sits directly onto the toilet pan, giving the name of close coupled due to the proximity. The pan of close-coupled toilets is mounted directly onto the floor, making them easy to install.

The look of close-coupled toilets varies drastically by the manufacturer with both traditional and modern iterations available. The traditional styling of close-coupled toilets is for them to have an open back where all the pipe work is visible. This allows for a bend in the pipework in order for it to meet the soil pipe. For those wanting a more contemporary look, closed-back versions are fully enclosed to hide the pipe work. Close-coupled toilets are possibly the most versatile in style with options for corner installation, comfort height (slightly higher for a more comfortable lowering onto the seat) and compact (for those tight bathrooms, the depth is decreased) available in a range of designs to suit every bathroom décor.

The options for flushing mechanisms of the cistern also vary. Many people today opt for a dual flush push button cistern, where they can alternate whether they use a full capacity or smaller flush depending on the waste. More traditional lever versions are still available on the market and are usually found on more ornate cisterns from brands such as Imperial.

Back to Wall Toilets

Seen as the modern alternative to close-coupled toilets, back-to-wall toilets are perfect for those who want a more uniform minimalistic look to their bathroom. With a back-to-wall toilet, only the pan is visible, the cistern is concealed either in the wall or a piece of furniture. This leads to the name of the toilet due to it being sat flat against the wall. The overall sleek look of back-to-wall toilets makes them comparable to wall-hung toilets while still being fitted to the floor.

Similarly, to close coupled toilets, back-to-wall toilets are adaptable with their design. This comes from the fact they are still floor-mounted. This means comfort height versions are available, which are slightly higher than standard toilets, making using the toilet comfortable for those who struggle with sitting or rising. Compact versions can also be bought for those who want to save floor space within their bathroom. These short projection toilets have a smaller overall depth meaning they don’t protrude out as far from the wall as standard toilets.

In terms of style, the majority of back-to-wall toilets have a modern look. In both geometric and curved shapes, the different variations can lend themselves to mirroring other elements of the bathroom such as basins and baths. Both Roca and Laufen have back-to-wall pans that match the lines of the rest of the collection and the cohesive look of the toilet, bidet and sink looks phenomenally designer. If a traditional look is required, Heritage’s back-to-wall pan pairs perfectly with their range of furniture and the matching seat combinations can create a truly stand-out look within the bathroom.

Wall-Hung Toilets

The floating appearance of wall-hung toilets has made them a firm favourite with interior designers. Wall-mounted so they sit above floor level helps add a spacious feeling around the toilet which can then be translated across to airiness around the rest of the bathroom’s design. Requiring a mounting frame and concealed cistern, the sturdiness of the frames means that wall-mounted toilets can be securely and safely fitted in the bathroom.

The design of wall-hung toilets varies greatly. Ultra-modern versions have fully enclosed bodies that hide any mounting bolts and add to the overall flowing feel the pan gives. Quirky shapes can be found within the collections of Laufen, while traditional styling meeting contemporary preference is shown in the wall-hung pans produced by Imperial.

Wall-hung toilets have many hidden benefits apart from just looking great. The design makes the floor space of the bathroom easier to clean and removes the chance of dust building up on visible pipework.

High/Low-Level Toilets

When planning traditional bathrooms, adding elements of grandeur and classical design is key in creating a finishing look in keeping with the theme. One way of doing this is with the use of a high/low-level toilet. With these toilets, the cistern is fitted away from the toilet at a height and is then connected via a visible flush pipe. The overall look of these toilets is outstanding and can be a real attention grabber, especially in homes where original features have been kept (i.e., picture rails).

High-level toilets are probably the most traditional and striking of the two. The design dates back to when the cistern was required to be placed higher than the pan in order to create the water pressure needed to effectively flush waste out of the toilet. Low-level toilet cisterns don’t sit as high on the wall but are still connected by an exposed flush pipe for that overall look of grandeur. Operated by lever handles, for low-level toilets the cistern is usually within reach, so a standard lever is used, for high-level toilets a longer chain pull cistern is required.

The authentic look of these toilets is mirrored in the lines of the pan and cistern. Normally traditionally shaped, the pans will usually have visible waste pipes and ceramic pan connectors can be used to finish the look. The design of the pan and cistern lid can easily be seen across the collection’s range, especially from brands such as Imperial. Additional colour finishes are available for the flush packs and cistern brackets which can help in personalising the overall look and feel of the toilet and keeping it in line with other elements within the bathroom.


Toilet Seats

To complete the look of your new toilet, you will want to make sure you have the correct toilet seat. Toilet seats are designed specifically for fitting with certain sizes and shapes of the toilet pan to ensure the buffers rest in the correct position and the seat does not move. This means selecting the correct seat could make or break the overall finishing look and feel of the toilet. In terms of choice, at James Hargreaves Bathrooms we offer a wide range of toilet seats to suit the toilets we sell. For more information on the different variations of toilet seats, please take a look at our toilet seat buying guide.

Additional Extras To Consider With Your Toilet

Once you’ve got the three main parts of your toilet, it’s time to think of the extras. For certain toilets, these extras are essential but with others, you may just want to change up the colour finish of the push button being used.

With any toilet that is using a concealed cistern, you will need to think about the external flushing mechanism. For those being used within bathroom furniture, the cistern will include the flush button. However, for cisterns being placed in a cavity you will need to choose a flush plate, Geberit offers one of the widest ranges on the market in all sorts of styles and colour finishes. If your toilet is wall hung, you will require a framework on which to hang the pan which has an in-built cistern.

For those wanting to add an extra dimension to their toilet, showering toilets must be considered. Helping you feel and be the cleanest possible, they are a modern-day alternative to a bidet. Sitting on top of a compatible toilet pan, they have in-built jets that clean you without the need for toilet paper. If you want to find out more about shower toilets have a look at our toilet technologies guide.


As you can see the options for the toilet within your bathroom is somewhat endless. We hope that this guide has helped you narrow down your options and that you can now go on and choose your perfect toilet. If you do however have any queries, feel free to contact the James Hargreaves Bathrooms team where we will happily help you.

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