Landlord seeks good quality, affordably priced HET toilets for Tucson duplex

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by cynward, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Hi, I own a duplex in Tucson, Arizona, which has an increasingly expensive old toilet I'm getting tired of repairing, especially since that usually involves hiring a handyman because I live in another state.

    Since the water company currently offers a rebate (75% per toilet for multi-family properties) for toilet replacement with WaterSense certified toilets, I am thinking of replacing all three.

    The considerations I'm aware of are:

    All three bathrooms are on the narrow side.

    Tile floors.

    Bottom flush toilets (drain hole in floor).

    The water is terribly hard, with the 'innards' regularly needing replacement, so it would be good to get alll the replacement parts 'off the shelf' at the nearby Home Depot or Lowe's.

    I'm looking at putting round standard height toilets (apx. 15" high toilet bowls @ rim) in two of the bathrooms and an elongated bowl toilet, either the same height or chair height, in the back unit's master bath.

    I'm also hoping to get 'all in one' toilets, since the rebate doesn't cover installation, toilet seat, extra parts, etc.

    Duplex has one line to sewer / shared by both units.

    Water pressure unknown.

    Even with the rebate, I need affordable toilets, both in price and in the cost of installation. So I would prefer to avoid toilets that are inherently tricky or otherwise time-consuming to install, since my contractor will be charging by the hour, and even at his affordable rate, costs can add up fast. Also, the Tucson Water Company rebate only covers the toilet - not the installation, additional parts needed, or anything else.

    In that vein, I'm also looking for something that performs well, so I won't be yanking it out next year because it doesn't flush (or whatever), and won't be calling in the handyman all the time to make repairs or do maintenance. (I have good renters, but they're not handy.)

    Also, how well do chair height or ADA compliant height toilets work for short people? I'm short, most of my tenants are close to my five feet, and at least one person who'd be using the toilets is my height and has a medical issue that requires both feet flat on the ground. On the other hand, my boyfriend and I might move back into the duplex one day, and he's six feet and wants a taller toilet with an elongated bowl (not to mention I'm cruising into senior citizen territory and he's already there).

    Dual flush would be nice (esp. in the master bath), but not essential.

    I've noticed Lowe's has a very affordable Power Source toilet ($88) and some affordable Aqua Source toilets (including an elongated bowl at $88), but I fear that they may be =too= affordable, so that I'm forever after regretting the purchase - or having to replace them in a few years, or weeks. Are my fears justified?

    The landlord (i.e., me) pays the water bill for the duplex.

    I definitely want dependable, affordable, high efficiency, WaterSense, non-lemon, preferably locally-purchased toilets capable of lasting decades, if such a goal is reasonable.

    (If you have experience purchasing toilets by mail order / internet, how has that worked out for you? Where would be the best place to buy, if I need to have a toilet shipped [affordable or free shipping, affordable or free returns, reasonable return times, good customer service, good prices, good and affordable parts catalog, knowledgeable help line, etc.]?)

    Thank you in advance for helping this landlord find reasonable WaterSense HETs!

    Best,
    cynward
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,413
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    If price is the big objective, then you may want to home center the purchase.

    I don't think online shopping for toilets is a good idea. You can expect about 20% breakage, meaning four out of five seem to make it.
    My experience purchasing locally from the suppliers here is less then 1/2 of one percent with issues.

    I tend to recommend product that you can both get parts for, and work well consistently. They're not in your price range.
    But for me, time is more important. Service calls done for free to tinker with a flaky product doesn't make sense.

    It's hard to recommend some of the "Box" products, mainly because they bring in containers of them, and you may not see the same product next year.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  3. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,973
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Get yourself three original Toto Drake toilets. CST744E for the elongated and CST743E for the round. However, we recommend the elongated unless you have a specific architectural restriction (like a swinging door) that mandates the round.

    Yes you will have to order a seat, but you can easily do that on any of the big online sites; the toilet in a box is no panacea.

    Read the reviews on this site by clicking the green box above. You will be persuaded, and you won't likely need to deal with them again for a long time. If you are paying someone to deal with problems, then it's worth it to buy quality.

    The online thing is discouraged on this site for the reasons Terry mentions. That said, shopping around locally by phone can yield some prices that approximate the online ones.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2012
  4. stephenk

    stephenk New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Plains
    I would second the vote for a Toto Drake, if you want to go with Toto. From my research, many people seem to believe it's a good mix of performance and price. I recently went with a Drake II, but the regular Drake was one of my other top options.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,313
    Location:
    New England
    The Drake II is a little bit more, but at 75% off, may tip the scales for you. That model comes standard at a 1.28g flush AND includes their special glaze that is smoother than normal finishes...while it can scale up, it sheds things better longer and stays looking decent longer.

    A budget special that needs to be flushed multiple times to either clear or clean the bowl will end up not saving you much...you need one that is both reliable and handles the bowl clearing well - the dual cyclone flush does that, plus, there are only two holes at the rim to clean rather than lots spread around and they're bigger, so it just works better. There are YouTube videos of the flush if you look.

    FWIW, you can install non-Toto seats on them - the hole spacing is pretty much industry standard except for a few exotics - just round or elongated along with color are the basic differences.
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,973
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Just to add to what has been said above, you did a great job of laying out your requirements. The original Drake CST744E (1.28 gpf version) does a great job of meeting those requirements, especially the industry-standard parts that you can get at Lowe's requirement (replace the fill valve with the Korky 528MPK for $10.28 at Lowe's, and the flapper with the Korky 3060PK flapper, available for $11.88 at Lowe's). Those are the two major replaceable parts. That's true of both the Drake and the Drake II (CST454CEFG). However, the Drake II is going to be a bit more expensive.

    You are correct that the $99 specials are going to cost you more in the long run. We regularly see questions on here from folks dealing with the flush mechanisms on the cheapo dual-flush toilets, and the only remedy is to call the 800 number and wait a week or more for the new parts to arrive, and then to put them in. If you pay a handyman to do that just once, you've made up the price difference between the cheapo special and the reliable Drake. And that's without the 75% off discount.

    As to seats, a standard Bemis or Mayfair seat will fit right on there, although the Toto seat is probably the nicest. We have the slow-close Mayfair 148e2 with the easy-clean hinges on our Drakes, and we think it's a very nice seat that just snaps off to clean, and it's available for around $30. There are plenty of seats that are even less-expensive.

    Bottom line: if you're a landlord dealing with this stuff remotely, it makes no sense to buy garbage, because it will cost you more in the long run, particularly if you have to have a professional or even a handy-hack come in to deal with the problems when they arise.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  7. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,395
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Enough has been said about the Toto Drake, so I'll just make this comment. You mentioned you don't know what the water pressure is. It would be wise to check the pressure. It does not have to be very high for the toilets to function well, 1.28 or even 1.6 gallons does not require much pressure. However, if the pressure exceed 80 psi, that could damage the flush valve in the toilet as well as washing machines, and dishwashers. If that happens to be the case, a pressure regulator and thermal expansion tank would be wise. You really don't need more that 60 psi anyway.
  8. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thank you very much, everyone, for your extremely helpful and informative advice!

    I had been talking to my contractor about a Toto Eco Drake CST-744E-01 or 743E (which are on the water company's rebate list), but he recommended that I go with a standard toilet like a Home Depot Glacier Bay model that he puts in often. He says that if I go with an "exotic" I will probably end up paying a lot more for installation, because in his experience, that is what happens with "exotic" non-standard brands like one he just installed a week or so ago. (He did not remember that toilet's brand name and didn't seem to recognize the name Toto. He generally works for landlords and property managers, who I suspect are not in the habit of requesting Totos, or hatbox toilets, or the like. My impression when shopping for a Tucson property years ago was that many of the landlords were not interesting in making their duplex/triplex/fourplex properties look much above the level of fixer.)

    I found a few elongated Totos on sale at a Tucson plumbing & bath shop, at what I assume is a good price ($179 each).

    So, I would indeed prefer to buy a more expensive toilet for more savings (on water, repairs, & hassles) later.

    So, is the Toto Eco Drake (or other of the more affordable Totos for a small space) easy to install and does it take standard parts that you can get anywhere,, or is it going to be a pain involving buying a bunch of adaptive parts, probably involving lots of trips to HD, Lowes, or a specialty plumbing shop on the other side of town? If it is easy to install, is there evidence you can link to, which I can send my contractor? (Reviews / descriptions / instructions / videos of the installation process, that sort of thing?)

    I would prefer to use this contractor, because he is good and has always done right by me.

    Thank you very much. Have a good weekend, everyone.
    Best,
    cynward
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,313
    Location:
    New England
    While some Toto models require a little extra to install them, the Drake is about as standard as they come - it goes together and attaches exactly like 99% of the rest of the toilets out there. And, while your plumber may not have heard of them, Toto is the largest toilet manufacturer in the WORLD, and has a factory in Georgia, USA.
  10. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,413
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Good luck getting parts for a Glacier Bay toilet. It's easier getting parts for TOTO.
    One flapper, one fill valve, and you can fix them all.

    Glacier Bay? It depends on the model and if they even carry that model anymore. They switch them out all the time depending on where they are getting them.
    I pulled a nasty Glacier Bay out of Sue's home and installed a Drake II last year. A world of difference. and the TOTO installs quickly.

    Glacier Bay is just a HD name that gets stuck on generic product. It can be "anything".

    Like McDonalds French Fries can come from three different types of potato's depending on the time of year. They're variable.

    TOTO instructions written by my son
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  11. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,395
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Except for wall mounted and rear outlet toilets, almost all toilets regardless of brand install exactly the same. There is a flange on the floor that attaches to the drain. Toto does make several models that use a special adapter that allows the toilet to be installed on a 10", 12", or 14" rough-in, but these are exceptions. The Toto Drakes install in the standard way that requires no special tools or training. Problems with the discount store cheap toilets are they tend to clog frequently and parts are often not available. Toto uses standard parts that are available in almost any plumbing or hardware store.
  12. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,973
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Here are a couple of thoughts:

    (1) There's nothing "standard" about Glacier Bay. It's a brand that gets applied to whatever is in the shipping container from china that arrived this week. However, if your guy means that it uses a fill valve and standard flapper, and mounts on the flange the way most toilets have for 50 years, then, yes, the Toto Drake mounts the same way.

    A good thing to do would be to look at the installation outline provided in that link in Terry's post. Terry and his staff of plumbers install hundreds of toilets annually. A large percentage are Toto. He recommends Toto. He wants to put the toilet in, and not have to make a service call for a decade. What does that tell you? Moreover, Terry installs the original Drake not only in homes, but also in offices, restaurants and, recently, in a local church! That tells you how confident he is that the toilet will stand up to a lot of use. (I'm guessing that he doesn't want the church to be calling him to complain about whatever toilet he installed.)

    (2) The price you were quoted was very good for a Toto Drake CST744E or CST743E, assuming that that is pre-rebate. Post-rebate, you normally would be looking at about $50 in out-of-pocket. You can often get them retail between $200-ish and $250, depending upon whether there is a sale going on, using Terry's prices as a guide.

    (3) It's a little odd that your guy hasn't heard of Toto. In my neck of the woods, a lot of plumbers will recommend a Kohler or an AS because they think we've heard of it. If you ask about Toto, a lot of guys here will say something like, "Well, they're the best, but most people don't know about them." But that's changing. If you go to the airport in Atlanta, and go in the bathroom, guess what brand every fixture in every renovated area is? You got it -- Toto. First time I saw a Toto toilet was in a newly-renovated hotel in New Orleans. My Japanese g/f was amused, and asked the concierge about it. We were told that they got a lot of questions about the toilets because they worked so well and so quietly (this was a Toto Ultimate, about 6 years ago). Their engineer had recommended them as being quiet, reliable, and low-maintenance, and they told us that they were very happy with them. (Compare to the thread on here by the poor hotel chief engineer that got stuck with Zurn toilets with the WDI Eco-Flush -- 400 of them -- and spends an inordinate amount of time fixing and replacing the flush unit, which breaks constantly.)

    Bottom line is that we're not talking about something exotic like a Duravit Happy D. We're talking about a well-designed, well-manufactured basic toilet, that usually uses American parts made in Wisconsin by Korky. As Terry said, regardless of what fill valve and flapper the Toto comes with, it is replaceable with a single fill valve (either the Korky 528MPK at Lowes, or the Toto TSU99A.X, Universal Replacement Fill Valve which is made by Korky for Toto and is basically a 528MP with a couple of additional gizmos to help set it to the Toto factory specs). It also comes with a Korky flapper and uses a replacement Korky flapper. I read a post by an engineer who, out of curiosity, compared the flapper that came in his Toto toilet with the Korky replacement flapper that he bought in the hardware store. He said that the tool marks showed both were not just the same design, but was made on exactly the same machine (in Wisconsin).

    (4) If you need reassurance that the original Drake is a time-tested, superb toilet, look at the reviews collected by Terry over the past 6-7 years in this thread: http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?5241-Toto-Drake-toilet-product-review/page21&highlight=drake+review There are presently 305 reviews on this toilet alone, from people all over the US and Canada.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  13. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thank you very much, everyone, it sounds like the Toto Eco Drake SCT-743E or -744E is definitely the way to go!

    (The only place I remember seeing any Totos is in a friend's high-end home, where I assume he has high-end Totos - one is also a bidet, the second has a bidet seat attached, and the third is quite small in a small space. The closest place to our home that sells Totos is an hour away, but I will start watching for them in my visits and travels, because we need to replace the really awful Elgers in our residence, as well as the rental toilets from the 1960s, and the more I know and experience, the better for our home choice.)

    Thank you again for all your time and assistance, you are all very kind and generous with your time and help!
    Best,
    Cindy
  14. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thank you again, everyone. The Toto Eco Drake SCT-744E went into my rental property bathroom and so far is performing like a champ. The renters call it a "fancy" toilet. We took the plunge and put this model into one of our two bathrooms at home, and so far this one is also performing well.

    Next month we're going to replace the other two water-wasting toilets in the rental property. I've been wondering whether I should spring for a Toto Drake (the II?) with SanaGloss, or perhaps instead install an American Standard Cadet-3 or Champion-4 with EverClean, which I gather is equivalent to SanaGloss? Is this true, or is EverClean different from SanaGloss, or not as effective? These AS models seem to be noticeably less expensive than the Toto Drake toilets with SanaGloss, or at least they are in the places I've looked.

    Also, are the American Standard Cadet-3 and/or Champion-4 more or less equivalent in quality to the Toto Eco Drake and/or Drake II?

    Also, is there anything I need to know?

    For example, is it just plain stupid of me to consider putting SanaGloss or EverClean toilets in a rental property because the finish is really easy to damage? :)

    Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate your help!
    Best,
    Cindy
  15. gusherb94

    gusherb94 Member

    Messages:
    124
    Location:
    chicago/nw IN
    I'd stick with the Eco Drakes for your rentals, and reserve the Drake II's for your own home! They don't flush much different, the Drake II has the two jets that swirl around the bowl that gives a more thorough bowl wash then the Eco Drake.

    As for the Champion 4/Cadet 3. I'd stay far away from the Champion 4, Cadet 3 is an ok toilet but has a sloppy rinse and lacking bowl wash on some parts of the bowl. If you were to consider A-S I'd look at the Cadet Pro which has a nicer rinse and isn't sloppy. Honestly I'd just stick with the Toto's.
  16. stephenk

    stephenk New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Plains
    I wouldn't spend extra for a Drake II in a rental property.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  17. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thanks, everyone. Sounds like I should steer clear of the AS Cadet-3 & Champion-4 for any use and the Toto Drake II for my rental.

    Is it worth spending more for the Eco Drake (I) with SanaGloss for a rental (or am I misinformed, and there are no Eco Drake toilets with SanaGloss)?

    Thank you again.
    Best,
    cynward
  18. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,973
    Location:
    New York, NY
    The elongated Drake CST744E [original Eco Drake] does indeed also come in a version with Sanagloss. Its model number is CST744EG. Its price is about 20% more than the basic version (so if the basic version is, say, $205 street price, then the one with Sanagloss would be about $250).

    I think the Sanagloss coating is pretty robust, but I'm not sure that it's necessary or worth it for a rental.
  19. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,395
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I would hesitate to get the Sanagloss for the rentals. The Sanagloss finish can be destroyed by harsh cleansers which renters may use not realizing the damage potential. Your are wise in getting the Toto toilets for the units however because Toto toilets rarely, if ever, clog. The last thing a landlord wants is a call in the middle of the night to come and deal with a clogged toilet. The basic Toto Drakes are awesome performers at a modest price, and while there are more expensive models, all Toto toilets do the basic functions a toilet needs to do.
  20. cynward

    cynward New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thanks for the information, wjcandee and Gary. The Toto Eco Drake (I) without Sanagloss will be going into the rental bathrooms.

    Thanks again, and have a great weekend.
    Best,
    cynward
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