We’ve been landlords for approximately 5 minutes, so we’re in no way experts, BUT we’ve already spent quite a few weekends working on our first apartment building.
The Richmont house was built in 1900-ish, so it’s got all the quirks of an older building. After we closed one of our tenants told us she’d been having issues with her toilet on and off for the last 5 years. Yikes! My immediate reaction was to come up with every worst case scenario and just pray that this wasn’t some sort of major drainage issue that would convince us to never buy another investment property again.
So on a Saturday morning two first-time landlords showed up to inspect said toilet to see if we could diagnose the issue. Our hope was that we’d show up and find an old toilet that was just at the end of its toilet life, swap it out and be done with the project. Much to my dismay we walked in and saw a fairly modern toilet. Shit.
I’m no plumber, but I’ve installed a few toilets in our own houses, and something wasn’t right about this one. “Why is that tank so big?” I asked myself. The toilet was some generic brand and marked as 1.68 gallons per flush, but the tank was GIANT. We took the lid off and watched the tank empty as the toilet flushed and less than half of the water left the tank. Huh. That’s not right.
Toilet newsflash: you can’t put whatever sized tank you want on a low-flow toilet. That’s not how toilets work.
I think some people might think this would give a toilet more flushing power, but it actually just ruins everything and keeps your toilet from flushing properly. Your tank starts to fill up with rust and water deposits because it never, ever, under any circumstance drains completely. Don’t do it.
Ok, problem diagnosed. Now just go out and buy a toilet that’s the right size. Easy! Right? Enter old house quirk: this toilet has a 14″ rough in rather than 10″ or 12″. Because of where the toilet is positioned, we had pretty strict requirements for how far off the wall it could extend, otherwise it’d block the walkway. Ugh!
Lowes and Home Depot were out because they have approximately zero 14″ toilets. I did some searching online, and there weren’t a ton of options that fit the size, footprints and height requirements for this toilet.
Through my Googling I found Toto’s Vespin toilet. The cool thing about these toilets (can toilets be cool?) is that they have a modular trap (the part that attaches the bowl to the drain) that allows you to use the same toilet for 10″, 12″, and 14″ setups.
These are not cheap toilets. I shopped around online, and with a pro discount, Supply.com had the best price by far. I’m not super thrilled about having to buy a fairly expensive toilet for a rental, but I’m also not willing to install the wrong sized toilet somewhere just because I don’t personally live there.
I’ve ordered toilets online before and not once, not twice, but three times the toilets were delivered in various states of destruction. Thankfully Supply.com went above and beyond to package the toilet with foam and padding, so it arrived in perfect shape.
I chose not to document the process of installing a toilet since it’s not that exciting/glamorous, but the Vespin toilet was pretty easy to install despite the fact that it was totally different than the standard toilets I’d installed in the past.
You install the trap that’s the right size for your setup first. You use the same wax ring that you’d use for a traditional toilet, attach one end of the trap to the drain, and screw the back of the trap into the floor. Once the trap is installed you just set the toilet on top of it, screw in the bolts and voila! Toilet!
Thankfully our tenant was as excited about the process as I was, so she was equally enthusiastic when I celebrated as the toilet flushed for the first time. Just like that there was no more draining issue! All we needed was a toilet that matched the tank.