Is it the toilet or the drain/vent causing the constant clogging?

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by Fun2Learn, Sep 11, 2016.

  1. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2016
    Location:
    Maryland
    If only one toilet out of three in the house clogs constantly, and always has been the "problem child" for the 20 years we have lived here, should I assume it has a poorly designed drain and or vent system? Would a newer toilet with a powerful flushing system help overcome bad plumbing design? If so, what would you recommend for someone on a budget? I much prefer standard height (I am short and kids will be using it), but could go chair height if necessary to be clog-free. We are on a very tight budget, and are going to be selling the home this spring. I wasn't even going to replace this toilet, as I thought it looked fine, and had taken it for granted that this toilet clogged, but after researching toilets to replace an upstairs toilet, I started thinking, "Heh, maybe a better toilet is the answer!" I am so ready to get rid of the plunger as bathroom décor!

    This problem toilet is in the frequently used first floor powder room. Here is a description of the plumbing situation, as seen in the basement below (the house was built in 1987, by the way) :
    The PVC drain pipe (appears to be 3 1/2" O.D.--best I can measure a round object with a straight tape measure!-) comes down vertically, turns into a 90 degree elbow, runs horizontally, with a very slight slope, about 36", then turns horizontally with a 90 degree elbow, runs about 20"and then goes into the 4 1/2" O.D. drain stack. The drain pipe from the upstairs toilets comes down about 5' away from the powder room toilet's , turns with a 90 degree elbow and runs about 24" before turning into the opposite side of same drain stack. I did not see what looked like any kind of separate plumbing vent for the powder room. In fact there is only one plumbing vent for the bathrooms on our roof. Is this a bad plumbing design? Is the clogging likely caused because of the distance between the powder room toilet and the vent?

    We even had problems with the original, non-low flo 1987 American Standard toilet. That is why we replaced it in 2000 (I think) with a Kohler Wellworth 1.6 gpf and it did seem to help a bit, especially at first. (We didn't even think to research toilets--we just got what ever was in stock, and cheap, in the almond color we needed to match the sink at the time, LOL! From reading these forums I now realize that those older 1.6 gpf Kohler toilets were not designed very well for the lower water usage. ) One of the upstairs toilets is also a 2000 Kohler Wentworth, but it doesn't clog much (maybe once or twice a year.)

    I like the price of the Cadet 3' 1.6 gpf , and I can get it in regular height (on sale right now fpr $132), but wondering if I need something with more "power" and/or larger trap size?

    Thanks in advance for any insight.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2018
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    It's the toilet. The 2000 Wellworth wasn't very good.
    The newer ones have been redesigned.
    The new Kohler will work, the new Cadet 3 will work, the new TOTO will work.
     
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  4. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2012
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Have a look at the Toto Entrada. Should be able to get it from a plumbing supply place near you (call around) for less than $200. A best buy in terms of performance and quality.

    I have also had good experience with this simple, straightforward, nothing-fancy, Glacier Bay, which is available for about $100. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Glacier-...sh-Elongated-Toilet-in-White-N2428E/204074796 Acceptable quality. The free included seat is kind of flimsy-seeming (but has turned out to stand up to a lot of abuse in the bar in which I helped install it), and you can reuse the seat from your Kohler if you like it better (assuming the Kohler is an elongated bowl). The critical thing is that this Glacier Bay flushes very well, although it does so without a lot of drama or showing off its "power". You pull the handle and it just kind of goes slurp, gurgle, and the waste is gone. I haven't typically advocated these because the quality is known to be uneven, and they change models all the time, so the next model may be not as good as this one, but the reality is for $99, it's a decent deal, and I am impressed that it stood up to a very-rough commercial environment for which it was not designed, and is still doing great about 2 years later.

    Do not get the dual-flush one. Just get the straighforward, good working one I recommend above, if you want a real rock-bottom price on a toilet that is going to work better than your clog-o-matic Wellworth. If you want to step up to the Entrada, that's an excellent choice that you will probably want to take with you when you move. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2016
  5. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

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    Jul 15, 2016
    Location:
    Maryland
    Thanks, Terry--so you don't think that a 5 foot horizontal run with a 90 degree horizontal bend in it is going to be "too much" for a typical newer Kohler or Cadet 3 (or Toto, of course)? That is good news--I really didn't want to spend $200 for another toilet right now, but would if it is the only solution to avoid having to plunge every day! We have so many other fix-ups and upgrades we need to do to get our home ready to sell in this tough market that every little bit of savings helps!

    Wise one--Thanks, so much for your feedback. I did think long and hard about the Entrada when I was deciding on the upstairs bath toilet (discussed in other posts of mine!), but really wanted standard height and decided that I really don't like the looks of the tank top. At least in the photos, it looks as if it isn't fitting on quite right. I wouldn't care that much myself, (performance is more important), but when selling a house, it may look odd to buyers who may not have even heard of Toto!

    I also considered the Glacier Bay since it was rated highly and I did read your posts about how well it is holding up in your friend's bar, LOL! It doesn't seem to come in standard height, though, and Consumer Reports mentioned that it had a very small water spot that could lead to more odors getting into the air-so that made me not want to consider it, since it is our most used toilet and located in the main area of the house!!

    By the way, I have been noticing toilets lately, LOL, and noticed that the school district put in a Toto in a new faculty restroom! It did flush well!

    Thanks!
     
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Joined:
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    Location:
    New York, NY
    FWIW, I notice things like water spot size and, at least in the one I put in, the water spot doesn't strike me at all as unusually small for a modern low-flow toilet. And the reality is that most people give themselves a "courtesy flush" after depositing a large volume of solid waste -- large enough to escape the contours of the water spot. Consumer Reports really should change the folks/methods relating to toilet reviews.
     
  7. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

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    Maryland
    I just now called Glacier Bay for the heck of it, (my motto is "leave no stone unturned") and asked about the water surface area (since it wasn't on any of the spec sheets on the HD website) and they said it was 8" x 6", which does sound pretty small. (American Standard Cadet and Champion say they have a "generous 8" x 9" water surface area", which I thought sounded pretty small, LOL!) I also asked if adjusting it to a 1.6 gpf gives it a better flush or bowl clean and she said only very slightly. I didn't ask for a comparison, but she said that Kohler and American Standard have more powerful flushes but said that she had three Glacier Bays at home and they worked well. I thought that was interesting, as Consumer Reports rates the Glacier Bay so highly. There are lots of negative, as well as positive reviews on HD's website, so perhaps their quality control is quite uneven!

    Thanks again for the help.
     
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    My daughters new home came with Glacier Bay Dual Flush toilets. She and her husband used them a few months and that's all they could take.
    I removed all of them and tossed them. She has a combination of TOTO and Kohler now. Much better than Glacier Bay.

    Here is the deal on reviews. Consumer Reports doesn't know much about plumbing. That doesn't stop them from writing their articles though. It's like the blind leading the blind. I would love to have the two neatniks work with me and get their hands dirty for a change. I could teach them a lot about plumbing.

    Reviews on big box stores. If the toilet flushes anything after the homeowner has installed it, it's a Five!
    I expect a lot more than, Oh my gosh! Water went down! I expect water and waste to always go down, the bowl is clean, parts are gettable, sound levels are good, defect free, 99% of the time. Not 80%.
    I'm rating Porches, not Volkswagon Bugs.
     
  9. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2012
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Right, but this nice person had very limited funds and I was just giving her the options. Particularly since she will be selling the house within the year. I also don't consider the Cadet 3 to be a Porsche, but it's certainly not a '68 VW Bug.

    I have no experience with the GB dual-flush, and pointedly did NOT recommend it. I consider the one I recommended to be a decent-performing disposable toilet, maybe perfect for a house you are leaving shortly. If she were planning to live there a while, I would say that one should bite the bullet, find the extra $50, and maybe then get a Cadet 3 or preferably an Entrada for a few dollars more than that.

    The reviews on the HD web site are beyond-worthless, also because they pay people to post, among other things, and many of the things said there, at least as regards plumbing products, are just plain completely and totally factually-wrong.
     
  10. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    If she is selling the home, then she could also do like the home builders do. Pick up something for $80 and be done with it.
    The Glacier Bay toilets worked to sell the home my daughter bought. They looked nice in a 3,200 square foot home with a view.
     
  11. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

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    Jul 15, 2016
    Location:
    Maryland
    Thank you so much for the advice and explanations. I am still wondering if a 5' horizontal run, including a 90 degree horizontal turn, under the toilet to the drain stack is poor plumbing design or not. Is it pretty typical? Will this kind of long horizontal run create clogs with a poorly designed low-flo toilet, or does it have nothing to do with it? Just wondering. (I used to be in architecture, over 25 years ago, so I am interested in these kinds of things!)

    I don't want to be one of those sellers that puts in the absolute cheapest items just to sell, covers up problems, and creates problems for the future owners! I do understand, though, that Wise One had some good experience with Glacier Bay, as obviously many others have, and was trying to save me some money, which I really appreciate. But since the Cadet 3 is only a little bit more now that it is on sale, I guess we will go with that. However, if you would have said that the plumbing under this toilet needed an extra powerful flush and a more expensive toilet to avoid frequent clogs, I would be willing to spend a little more, because it would be silly to replace a working, though frequently clogging, toilet with another one that was going to just do the same thing, or break down, no matter how cheap it was!

    I agree about Consumer Reports-- they often seem to "get it wrong". For instance, I thought it was interesting that Consumer Reports latest toilet reviews rates the Champion 4 max with 1.28 gpf, as second best toilet overall, and the Champion 4, 1.6 gpf , which American Standard told me was exactly the same as the Champion 4 max but with a little bit more water usage, which she said would make the flush and bowl clean slightly better, was down about 23rd! How can that possibly be, then that Consumer Reports ratings for them come out so differently?

    Thanks, Terry , for this valuable forum with REAL LIFE advice from real-live plumbers!!
     
  12. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Occupation:
    Plumber
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    Toilet arms can be as long as six feet. That's not your problem. Just yesterday I removed three problem Briggs toilets that were plugging. That's pretty normal. Once we remove the "Builder Grade" toilets for people and put in "Performance Toilets", the problems go away.
    The trapway on some toilets is as small as 1.5" with tight bends. Your building drain is 3".
     
  13. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

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    Maryland
    Wow! 1 1/2" diameter?! Yikes! Good to know that our drain system is to code and isn't the issue. I appreciate your time in responding. I can't wait to put away that plunger!
    Thanks again!
     
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Whatever you add or move around with your piping...regardless of the length, it still needs to be sloped properly. An extra 5', means at least a 1.25" drop over the length, so take that into consideration, especially if it must go through a joist (not a good idea).
     
  15. Fun2Learn

    Fun2Learn New Member

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    I didn't mean we were doing anything to the plumbing-- I was just wondering if our long plumbing run was to blame for our perpetual toilet clogging problem!
     
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