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Round vs Elongated Toilet

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Last updated on

Round vs. Elongated Toilets – whats better?

It’s an age-old debate that most people don’t even acknowledge.

Should you get a round toilet or an elongated (or oval) one? But, more importantly – does it even matter?

The short answer is yes, it does matter but it might not make a huge difference to you. What more important is getting a great toilet.

To put the debate to rest, we’ll break down the pros and cons of owning both in this article. By the end, you’ll have at least some idea of which camp you belong to.

The Criteria

The first flush toilet was invented way back in 1596 by Sir John Harington [1]. In the centuries since, there have been enough models and types of toilet invented to fill a museum.

Today, they basically boil down to two major models used around the world – round and elongated.

The biggest point of contention between the two is the issue of space, i.e. which takes up more in a cramped bathroom.

But there are other considerations as well. Some people like the aesthetics of one over the other. Some point to the price difference or claim that they flush differently. Here’s our guide to the best toilets for 2020.

It’s worth addressing these points one at a time.

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Aesthetics

Most manufacturers make their popular styles of toilets in both round and elongated varieties. Rarely will the availability of one over the other be an issue.

The difference in appearance mainly lies in overall perception. Many people associate elongated toilets with a more opulent and luxurious bathroom. So, if that’s your goal, an elongated toilet will get you that much closer to it.

If you’re going for a more modern look, elongated toilets are the way to go. Round toilets are perfect for bathrooms that evoke a classic appearance.

Elongated bowls have become more popular in recent years. That’s another advantage because it makes them feel more contemporary.

Round bowls were standard for decades and therefore are associated with more traditional decor and style. Most promotional material going back to the Victorian era depicts round toilets [2].

Comfort

For the average person, both toilets are relatively equal in terms of comfort.

However, there are many people that fall outside of the average.

Typically, elongated toilets are more accommodating to men as they have a wider open area. Other than that, there’s really not much of a difference.

In terms of comfort and ease of use, it’s highly subjective but ultimately a draw.

Space

This is a much more cut-and-dry area where hard numbers can be discussed.

Elongated toilets use up more space than their round counterparts. It’s a simple fact.

Typically, elongated toilets are between 1.5 to 2 inches longer than round toilets.

That may mean very little for your bathroom but for many bathrooms, it’s a game-changer. Even if it doesn’t make that big of a difference in real space saved, it often makes a big difference in how crowded a bathroom appears.

You may not need an extra inch or two in your bathroom, but the appearance of space is just as important.

It also could be a practical matter, as building codes for ADA-compliant bathrooms require a minimum of 48 inches of clearance from the front to any obstruction [3].

Other municipal or regional building codes may apply as well.

So in the space-saving regard, round toilets have a clear advantage.

Price

Again, this is an area that has an obvious winner.

With few exceptions, round toilets are less expensive than elongated models. They’re equally priced from a handful of manufacturers, but those are edge cases.

Contractors will almost always install round toilets unless otherwise instructed. After all, it’s a cost-cutting measure for them.

Only reason to go regular (round) [is to] save a buck, or save 1.5″ in length. Builders always save a buck.

Terry Love, from Love Plumbing and Remodel

All else being equal, an elongated toilet will cost about 20% more than a round one.

Installation costs shouldn’t be disparate, or if they are it should be a negligible amount.

Flushing Power and Water Use

Surprisingly, this is an area that remains disputed.

Despite research into the gallons per flush of both shapes of toilets, there’s no conclusive answer as to which one is more efficient.

The power of the flush is rated for most toilet models, but none of those ratings take into account the rinsing power. That is to say, even a toilet with a strong flush might do a poor job of rinsing the inner surface, so it really depends on the model.

In terms of water efficiency, less water usage is better, but most standard toilets are around the one-to-two gallon per flush ratio. If you really want to make a difference in that regard, your best bet is a low-flush toilet [4].

The Throne for You

As you can see, the difference between round and elongated toilet bowls is nuanced.

The appearance is a matter of choice most of the time, as is the comfort they provide. The areas where you could make a definitive case one way or the other are space and price.

If your bathroom is small, a round toilet could work better. If you want to spend less, also go for a round model. In just about all other cases, there’s no good reason not to choose an elongated toilet.

References:

  1. Barksdale, N. (2015, May 19). Who invented the flush toilet? Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/who-invented-the-flush-toilet
  2. Sullivan, B. (2013, July 29). The History of the Lavatory. Retrieved from https://www.oldhouseonline.com/kitchens-and-baths-articles/the-history-of-the-toilet
  3. The ADA-Compliant Restroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.buildings.com/article-details/articleid/9242/title/the-ada-compliant-restroom
  4. Stauffer, B. (2019, May 13). Low-flush Toilets: SSWM – Find tools for sustainable sanitation and water management! Retrieved from https://sswm.info/water-nutrient-cycle/water-use/hardwares/toilet-systems/low-flush-toilets
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