Consumer product reviews of the Briggs Vacuity toilet
Consumer reviews and opinions can be posted below concerning the Briggs Vacuity toilet.
MaP testing for the 4200 is 375 grams.  
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Unplugging a Vacuity toilet

I would like to write the final chapter on the Vacuity. About 5 - 6 years ago our hotel chain needed to choose a new 'standard' toilet for our room replacements. Based on the data at the time, we chose the Briggs Vacuity. It worked really well, despite the occasional plug that was tough to remedy due to the design. However, over time we have come to learn that several manufacturing 'defects' have started to become more pronounced and common, causing this toilet to become unreliable.

 What we have found is that some new units work really well while other do not work at all, or rather, work for a few weeks then need constant attention. We have pulled a few of the 'problem units' and cut them in half (with a diamond saw) - see enquiring minds.,jpg - to see if we could tell what the problem is.

 There are actually three problems that can occur during manufacturing. 

1) There is the trapway slump which has been mentioned here. 

2) There is also an the trapway slump around the inside edge of the outlet of the trapway that can be as much as 1/4" to 1/2" wide - forming a 'shelf' that hangs up material. 

3) The single worst problem though comes from a ceramic 'plug' that is cast into the bottom of the trapway bend (at the back of the trap) during mfg. This plug (in some units) has a tip the sticks up into the trapway 1/2" or MORE where toilet paper hangs up and builds up at the back of your (slumping flat) trapway. (The picture shown has only a small plug, but this unit had a flat trapway and a very bad drian lip so it had to be pulled) 

So, each defect isn't a big deal by itself, but if your model has any two of the issues it will cause you periodic plugs, and if it has all three it will be a constant source of trouble and will need to be replaced. In the Vacuity's defense, it was the only toilet (at the time) that flushed washcloths, shampoo bottles and mini bars of soap. Which are a constant problem for hotels. So we are in the process of switching brands now and testing the Toto Drake as our likely replacement. And I now look forward to 'torturing' the Toto.  

Derik T. Price
Fountainhead Hotels
Fairbanks, Alaska
Thu, 18 Aug 2005

 


We have pulled a few of the 'problem units' 
and cut them in half (with a diamond saw)


1) the trapway slump


2) the trapway slump


I have 2 of the Briggs 4400 (ADA height, elongated bowl) toilets and I feel that they work fairly well for 1.6 gpf toilets, after all, the 4400 ended up with a 500 gram flush in the MaP tests and that's not a shabby flush rating (the Model 4200 was somewhat less with an MaP of 375). The 4400 also has good bowl cleaning action. Since all of the flush water comes out of the bowl's rim, and the smaller rim holes are angled, the 4400 does a nice job of bowl sidewall sweeping. One of the other nice things about the Briggs is that they use standard parts that are available at Home Depot and other do-it-yourself stores. If you're going to purchase a toilet that uses other than standard fill valves, flapper valves, etc., then it would seem wise to have spares of those parts on hand for when they're needed to get your toilet going again quickly (quickly meaning not having to order parts via telephone and then waiting a week or two to get them). It's always better to fix things right away if possible, and if you have but one toilet, it's essential.

Comments by others here about the difficulty in clearing a clog in a Briggs using a closet auger or a plunger are true, but that's because the Briggs is a little different toilet system. A closet auger inserted into the bowl evacuation hole will eventually come out of the white vacuum riser tube. It's supposed to. Pull it back until it's clear of the tube and turn the handle as you withdraw the auger out of the evacuation hole. If the clog was in the front section of the trap, that should clear it. If the clog is in the back section of the trap, then you will have to insert the auger into the white vacuum riser tube and down into the trap's rear section, turning the handle as you go. Withdraw it from the white vacuum riser tube when you're done. It's just the way that the Briggs is and you have to handle it a little differently than other toilets. If there have been some Briggs toilets released that had problems in the trap shape right from the factory, as mentioned in one other posting here, then of course that's something that can't be handled by the homeowner. If you want to try plunging, you will have to hold a rag or some other stopper over the vacuum riser tube, and put enough water into the bowl while you're plunging, to "seal" the system. Again, it's just the way it is, don't fight it. I've found that perhaps the best way to clear a partial clog or "lazy flush" in the Briggs toilet is to put very hot water into the bowl (providing there is room in the bowl for water) taken from the bath tub faucet in a bucket. Once the clog starts moving and water starts flowing, then several buckets of very hot water will probably clear the remainder of the clog. The faster you can put them in, the better the "flushing" action of the hot water.

I've also found that pre flushing the Briggs, then using it and flushing again, then cleaning up and flushing again is often the better approach. Pre flushing wets the trap and the drain pipes, while flushing during use moves out the solids better than waiting until the very end. Yes, it uses more water, but that's life. The 1.6 gpf system still saves water over the old 7 gpf toilets overall, even if several flushes are required at times. They're not needed most of the time and that's where the savings comes in. I would like to see a toilet with two actions (two handles), one giving a 1.6 gallon flush, the other providing a 5 gallon flush when needed. I think most people can be trusted to use the appropriate flush volume for the situation, but it would still take an Act of Congress to make it legal. We'll probably never be able to give it a try because the lawmakers seem intent on forcing the industry to make a workable 1.6 gallon flush toilet even if that isn't really practical for all people and all situations. I think that the lawmakers may have gone a little too far on the 1.6 gallon mandate. I see people wasting many, many gallons water on their lawns when they should just let them go dormant during low (or no) periods of rain. Yet there are few restrictions on watering. I think a good flushing toilet is a lot more important than a little greener lawn. We need to reconsider our priorities.

06/29/2005 Dave M.


It certainly appears that there are a mixed group of experiences with the Vacuity. I feel like I should add my own comments after about 5 years of use of two of these in my own house. I've never had a clog, no matter how much paper was used. They are both very quiet and they work every time except for cat hair. After brushing the cats, my wife puts the hair ball in the toilet bowl. It floats high and takes two flushes to be accepted by the toilet.
I had such good experience with them, that I specify in all my design work and I've never had a complaint from a client. I have at least 25 of them in use at the current time in homes and remodels that I've done.
Sincerely,
David Edrington, Architect
Eugene, Oregon
Tue, 17 May 2005


I have some comments about the Vacuity since I feel as if I am an expert, albeit a reluctant one, on this subject.

Having worked very closely with the technical service department at Briggs (Mr. Don) I have been able to fix the problem - but only after having to replace 3 bowls (I only have two bathrooms!). Briggs is aware of a "slumped" trapway quality control issue. With the vacuum design if the trapway is slumped, it won't work right. You'll have to flush twice every time to get a complete flush.

A second issue is the fill level mark within the tank. The line is not set at 1.6 gallons - it's set to about 1.35 to 1.4 gallons. The Vacuity needs every bit of water up to 1.6 gallons - otherwise it simply will not complete the flush. You need to bring the water level up to within a half-inch of the top of the fill tube.

A third issue is with the flapper and fill tower.

The flapper chain needs to have little-to-no slack and the chain needs to be on the middle hole on the lever arm. Also, the flapper 'float' needs to be as close to the bottom of the chain as you can get it. Note: No aftermarket flapper will work on the Vacuity - don't waste your time, go to a specialty plumbing store).

Due to the tight space within the tank, the supplied Fluidmaster fill tower can - and will - rub up against the side of the plastic WhisperVac tank. I switched to the Korky's Quiet Fill - no exterior moving parts) It not only doesn't rub, but it fills up much quicker.

Now that I have completed my training as a Briggs tech (ha!), I am satisfied with the Vacuity product. It flushes every time, washes the bowl out well, and has never plugged.

However, after going through what several of you have been through I can understand why Lowe's has stopped carrying the Vacuity. My conclusion is that Briggs simply has too complicated of a product for the general public and couldn't keep up the quality control with the higher demand after Consumer Reports gave it the best buy rating.

Regards, John B.  4/18/2005


Based on the October 2002 Consumer Reports issue rating this toilet not only their top choice, but a CR Best Buy, we recently got the latest variant of the 4200 model, the 4204. It is basically the same as the 4200, but has some extra bowl cleaning jets. I am in total agreement with other reviewers here that Consumer Reports sold us down the river based on price vs. solid waste removal, one of the most important selection criteria. This toilet is rated at 480 grams of solid waste removal according to the MaP study. MaP report criteria reveals this should be more than adequate since only 5% of male subjects can produce anything over 305 grams. The problem is, however, with the trapway. It is too narrow to handle the solid waste on a consistent basis. Consequently, plunging is often required. We have too common types of plungers, but neither is able to get a good seal on the trap. Additionally, the tank bowl lid must be removed along with the vacuum assist chamber. Flushing is only effective while sealing the vacuum tube. The solid waste gets stuck in the trapway, and without a good seal, water just moves around the bowl. My wife and I agree, it has got to go. Please remove this toilet from your recommended list. Thanks. M. Brewer 10/7/2004


In regards to the Briggs toilet, I have had it for about 3 years. I have had to snake my drain out twice, because of the limited water flow. It does not allow enough water to flush the waste down to the sewer properly. So, you are left to flush it two or three times.....where is the water savings? Also, have you ever had to replace the flush valve? A regular valve such as one from Fluidmaster does not have a long enough stem to get through the plastic tank and out through the bowl. The original valve in my toilet has a stem that is longer and will go through the outside of the tank. This enables you to hook up the supply line. I have never been able to find a valve with a longer stem on it. This toilet isn't worth a crap! J. Mooney 10/5/2004


I fixed mine!! The flush float had too little room for adjustment.. I used a Dremel too - cut a trough 1/2 " down the dividing wall , allowing more water to flow from the smaller side - this allows the float to drop down enough to start the refill.  Bill Mc D. Jan 6 '05


I put in a Briggs Vacuity about 6 years ago. At the time there were not nearly as many choices as there are now, so this was one of just a few that looked like it was really well-designed to work with 1.6 gpf. Since then I've had no problems with it. I think it's clogged only 2-3 times and I've been able to unclog it quite easily. When I read comments by people who haven't liked it, they are so different from my experience it almost sounds like Briggs has put out two different models. One thing I did notice however, were several comments by people talking about how the flapper valve closes too soon and you need to hold the handle down for a complete flush. I had the same experience. When I called Briggs they sent me a small flotation piece to put on that holds the valve open longer and totally solved the problem. Bottom line, I really like this toilet and would buy another without hesitation.  D.  Larsen  Mon, 17 Jan 2005


I just bought one of these last month. About 3 weeks in it clogged - not the end of the world, except as mentioned by others, the bowl shape prevents any plunger I've found from making a seal. Holding over the vacuum tube isn't a huge de3al, but with no seal form the plunger it just wasn�t happening. I ended up having to spend $15 on a canned air solution that will only get a few uses. I sent a request to Briggs asking if they were aware of any plunger that fit this bowl� no reply. While I think this is a good toilet concept, and overall works well, I would never recommend it to others until they fix their bowl shape.    D. Jaehn  Tue, 25 Jan 2005


 When we moved to our new old house six years ago, I replaced a 1960's vintage Sears toilet with a Briggs Vacuity. We are on septic and at the time had a 500 gallon tank with a poorly maintained seepage pit. I remember being ready for a product that was less capable than a full-flush toilet. But I was wrong. The Briggs, over the past six years, has performed better than any other toilet that I have had any experience with. No repairs to date. Fully recommended.
D. Johnson  Fri, 18 Feb 2005


I bought a Briggs Vacuity one piece toilet a few months after reading the Consumer Reports article. I wanted to test out the toilet in anticipation of buying several more to put into a new home that we were planning to build. After the plumbers installed it, they said that the Briggs seemed like the worst toilet they had ever seen. Having used the toilet for about one or two years, I have to agree it�s the worst.

Despite having no issues with water pressure or volume, the toilet struggles to completely flush a single Kleenex. The water that comes down the sides of the bowl is unevenly distributed and won�t even begin to clean the sides of the bowl. The seat lid has a couple of knobs molded into the top of the lid like the bolts that come out of the side of Frankenstein�s neck that will dig into your back if you�re sitting on the toilet. I cannot imagine a worse toilet being available in the U.S. I have considered making a video of how poorly it operates and then filming dropping the toilet off of a twenty story building and smashing it a million pieces a la David Letterman and sending it to Briggs. There are imperfections in the porcelain with small dropouts that make you wonder if they even have a quality control department in their factory.

If anybody has any plans to buy Briggs toilets, I would highly recommend seeing one in use beforehand to satisfy yourself that Is what you want. The one I got was a piece of crap!
J Phillips Mon, 28 Feb 2005


I haven't had any plugging problems with the Briggs Vacuity toilet I installed. However, the plastic tank slowly leaks into the outer tank. Water then comes down the tank bolt and drips onto the floor. I had a second one I was going to install so I opened the tank and installed that one but it was far worse. My first one is installed and I'll have to find time to maybe use caulk or something around the holes in the plastic tank. But the one I haven't installed yet is going back.
Dave  Wed, 16 Mar 2005