Toilet Tidbits To Start The Week

At Boston Standard Plumbing, we spend a lot of time thinking about toilets. In case you missed it, here are a few current potty tales that caught our attention.

The glow of a golden throne. If you’re planning a trip to New York City soon, stop by the Guggenheim Museum and check out their newest exhibit entitled “America.” It’s a fully functional replica of a Kohler toilet cast in 18-karat gold by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. According to Cattelan, the toilet, which is installed in a private unisex bathroom that also features a sink and mirror, is only art when someone is “answering nature’s call.” Catellan came out of a 5-year retirement to design “America,” which allows the public to interact with a “luxury product” that would appeal to the 1%. The exhibit was supposed to open during the first week of May, but the museum encountered “technical difficulty” that has delayed the grand unveiling. As of this writing, the exhibit is still listed as “upcoming.”

This throne also glows, but for different reasons. Dave Reynolds, the designer of Night Glow Seats hopes that his product appeals to the other 99%. It’s not actually a toilet; it’s just a toilet seat, but as the name suggests, it glows in the dark. Reynolds, who formerly worked for Virgin Records, conceived and designed the green- or blue-glowing seats after he fell off the toilet one night in the dark. Night Glow Seats are made from photoluminescent plastic, fit either round or elongated bowls, and retain their charge for at least 8 hours from any light source, but work best under UV-light. The seats can be cleaned with standard cleaning products, and can last up to 10 years.

Only a no-account varmint would do this. Police in Columbus just arrested a man for dismantling public toilets and stealing the plumbing parts. Gilbert Duwayne Courts was arrested and charged with 12 counts each of burglary and vandalism. According to police, Courts targeted bathrooms in local restaurants, a hospital and a K Mart store, and sold the purloined pipes to support his drug habit. Police distributed surveillance photos of Courts, and tips from the public helped to flush him out.

At Boston Standard Plumbing, we can do a lot of things, but we probably can’t get an Italian artist to create a solid gold toilet for you. However, if you can get your hands on one, you can avoid “technical difficulties” by allowing the pros at Boston Standard Plumbing to install it! We can also save the day if some dirty, rotten scoundrel makes off with your potty parts. Give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Photo Credit: Night Glow Seats

15 facts to help you celebrate National Toilet Paper Day!

Today (August 26) is National Toilet Paper Day! Here are some interesting facts about toilet paper to help you celebrate this quirky event!

Americans use 50% more toilet paper than other Western societies. On average, Americans use about 50 pounds of toilet paper per-person per year, compared to people in other Western countries, who use about 33 pounds per year each. Americans also prefer multi-ply paper, which increases the per-person usage rate.

Some interesting things have been used in place of toilet paper. Water, hay, corncobs, leaves, sticks, stones, sand moss, hemp, wool, husks, fruit peels, ferns, sponges, seashells, and broken pottery have all been used in the bathroom at one time or another.
(Broken pottery!)

Over or under? About two-thirds of Americans prefer their toilet paper to come off the roll over the top.

Toilet paper was introduced in the US in 1857. Joseph Gayetty is credited with bringing toilet paper to the US market in 1857. The paper was dispensed in flat squares embossed with Gayetty’s name. Gayetty’s Medicated Paper exited the market in the 1920’s, a victim of competition from the more compact and more easily dispensed rolled paper commonly used today.

Rolled toilet paper (and toilet paper rollers) hit the US market in 1883. Seth Wheeler patented both rolled toilet paper and toilet paper dispensers.

Colored toilet paper was available in the US for about 40 years. Scott was the last company to remove colored toilet paper from the US market in 2004. Colored toilet paper is still readily available in European countries.

Hold the color! US consumers prefer bright white, multi-ply paper with decorative designs. While the designs give an embossed look, the toilet paper isn’t truly embossed. The designs are created as part of the drying process during production, and according to the manufacturers, they improve the overall strength of the paper.

Toilet paper is specially designed to decompose. Even though they may feel similar, toilet paper and facial tissues aren’t the same. The fibers used to make toilet paper are very short, which allow the paper to begin disintegrating within seconds of becoming wet. This design allows the paper to dissolve in septic systems. Remarkably, after getting wet, toilet paper still retains about 15% of its dry strength.

The first mention of toilet paper in history was from the 6th century AD. Chinese history records the first mention of the use of toilet paper in the 6th century. By the 14th century, toilet paper was mass-produced in China.

Global toilet paper production consumes 10 million trees each year. Each tree produces about 100 pounds of toilet paper. On average, global toilet paper demand consumes nearly 30,000 trees each day.

Standard size? Not always! The industry standard size of a square of toilet paper is 4.5″ x 4.5″. Some manufacturers reduce the size of the square in order to offer a lower retail price.

Toilet paper is a bona fide bestseller! Not surprisingly, toilet paper is ranked third in overall sales of non-food items, and accounts for more than $4 billion in US sales annually.

The US Army used toilet paper as camouflage. During Desert Storm, the US Army used toilet paper to camouflage its tanks.

It doesn’t pay to be British. At least when it comes to buying toilet paper. Britons spend on average about twice as much as other European consumers do on toilet paper, and about three times more than US consumers do for the same product.

Here’s the real reason Canada likes us. The US is the largest exporter of toilet paper in the world. On the other side of the coin, Canada imports more toilet paper from the US than any other country.

Happy National Toilet Paper Day, and don’t forget to visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

Best Toilet Brand? We Recommend -

Unless you’re doing some bathroom remodeling, or adding a new bathroom to your home, you generally don’t spend much time thinking about the toilet or toilet repairs. Boston homeowners may be tempted to visit the local home improvement store and pick out whatever they have on the shelves. You could be doing yourself a little disservice, though, by taking this approach. What are the best toilet brands in Boston, and what makes them so special?

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we recommend the Toto brand toilets above other manufacturers, in part because Toto is the largest manufacturer of toilet fixtures in world today. Toto offers operational innovations that distinguish their fixtures from standard toilets and use less water per flush. Toto also offers a wide range of artistic fixture designs and colors that will enhance the visual appeal of a bathroom.

Toto offers a series of toilet fixtures that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An ADA-compliant fixture can allow older persons to stay in their homes more comfortably and safely for a longer period of time. The design of the fixture can assist people with sitting down and standing back up, two activities that can be notoriously difficult for the elderly and disabled.

One excellent reason consumers should be considering Toto brand is the issue of replacement parts. Toto fixtures in the GMax series use common replacement parts, while fixtures from other manufacturers like Kohler and American Standard use parts that are unique to each model of toilet. The use of common parts ensures that replacement parts are easily acquired and will be available for a long time, even if the particular model a consumer has installed is no longer manufactured.

Toto fixtures are priced comparably to toilets from other manufacturers, so you won’t spend a lot of extra cash to get a high-performance fixture that meets your needs, works well in your bathroom and is easily maintainable over time. Toto toilets also score well on Maximum Performance (MaP) testing. MaP performance testing was developed in 2003 to gauge the actual water efficiency of toilet fixtures using realistic testing media. MaP testing information is available for nearly 2,000 models of toilets and provides standard performance comparison measures. The results demonstrate how well a particular toilet design clears the bowl using a given amount of water and test flush material – an important consideration when toilet shopping!

If you’d like more information about Toto toilets, toilet selection or toilet installation, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We recommend Toto fixtures and can help you select the toilet that will work best for you.

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Toilet Troubles: Curing Common Toilet Problems

Toilets give years of dependable and often maintenance-free service, so when problems arise, some homeowners don’t know what to do. Mechanically speaking, toilets are pretty simple devices, which is why they don’t often develop serious problems. Here are a few common toilet problems Boston homeowners may encounter, and what you can do to solve them.

Clogs. Most residential toilets use a traditional gravity fed design. The water pressure from the tank on the back of the toilet fills the bowl and pushes the waste material down a trapway and into the soil pipe. If the toilet is clogged, the bowl may not clear properly, or at all. In this case, use a toilet plunger to clear the obstruction. The plunger will put additional pressure on the material in the trapway and force it into the soil pipe. You shouldn’t have to plunge more than once or twice to clear a simple clog.

If the trapway is clogged because an object has become lodged in it, you have a couple of viable options. If you don’t care about the lodged object, you may be tempted to try to push it through to the soil pipe, using a plunger or a toilet snake. Keep in mind that you may be setting yourself up for a clog in your soil pipe or worse, your main drain.

If the object is something you want back, (like your car keys) or something that simply won’t budge (like a toothbrush or a razor), you’ll need some tools and a new wax ring because you’re going to take the toilet off to remove the obstruction.

To remove the toilet, turn off the water supply and flush to clear the water from the bowl. Using hand tools, detach the fresh water tank and set it in the bathtub. Any excess fresh water in the tank will drain in the tub, and will reduce the cleanup.

To remove the stool, loosen the bolts near the floor that hold the toilet fixture onto the flange. Again, you’ll only need common hand tools. Be careful not to turn the bolt the wrong way. If you do, you may overtighten the bolt and damage the toilet, the bolt or the flange.

Carefully remove the toilet from the flange. Remove the old wax ring. (Don’t attempt to re-use this.) Locate the stuck object and remove it. Position the new wax ring on the bottom opening of the toilet’s trapway. The wax side goes against the toilet, and the neoprene seal will go into the soil pipe. Reposition the toilet over the soil pipe and line up the screw holes with the flange. You may want a helper at this point to reposition the toilet properly. Also, toilets weigh about 50 pounds. If you can’t dead lift and control that much weight, you’ll definitely want help!

When the toilet is in position, gently sit on the toilet to press the wax seal against the flange. You may want to rock the fixture slightly while you’re sitting on it to improve the seal. Stand up carefully and avoid moving the fixture. Replace the flange bolts. Replace the tank and reconnect the water. Flush the toilet to check for leaks around the soil pipe. If it leaks out the bottom when you flush, you may need to start over with a new wax ring.

Next week, I’ll talk about other common flushing problems and how to resolve those.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating: Toilet Flush Technologies, Part 1

Power outages remind us of how difficult life can be without modern conveniences, but going without one relatively recent addition to modern households can be downright torture! I’m talking about the modern flush toilet. In Boston, there are a variety of toilet technologies in use, from the very old to the most modern. As Boston plumbers, we see it all.

Toilets have been around for a long time. Archaeological evidence from Britain as far back as the 31st century BC shows us that some households at that time had hydraulic toilets. Virtually all homes in the Indus Valley had flush toilets connected to underground sewer systems in the 26th century BC. Flush toilets were also used throughout the Roman Empire until the 5th century AD, when the Roman Empire fell, and flush toilet technology was for the most part, lost in the Western Hemisphere.

In about 1200, an Arabic inventor developed a combined sink basin and flush toilet. The user would use the toilet, wash his hands and then drain the waste water to flush the toilet. (These water-saving toilets are making a comeback in Asia and Europe today.)

But where did the modern toilet come from and how exactly does it work? Today’s toilet is the product of a lot of small innovations on the user’s end, and the creation of modern sewer (or septic) systems. Most of the important inventions involved valves that started and stopped the flow of water; waste containment systems or sewers; and traps that both hold the water in the bowl and prevent noxious sewer gases from escaping into the living space.

In the 1880’s in Britain, Albert Giblin and Thomas Twyford designed different toilet systems, which Thomas Crapper built. Unbelievably, there is no relationship between Thomas Crapper’s name and the word “crap.” “Crap” (whose meaning hasn’t changed a bit) entered the English language long before Thomas Crapper entered the world!

Crapper popularized (but did not invent) the siphon flush system, which we still use heavily today. Additional innovations have allowed the use of pressurized water to empty the bowl more reliably, provide shorter recharge times between flushes and supply a self-cleaning mechanism to keep the bowl in good shape. These pressurized systems are most often used in commercial appliations.

Most residential toilets are of the gravity-fed variety. Basically, these toilets have a tank of water suspended above the bowl. The amount of water in the tank varies, based on the age of the toilet. The newest toilets use anywhere between 1.28 and 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Older toilets may use more than 5 gallons per flush.

Each gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. The toilet tank has a strong flapper valve at the bottom, which prevents water from leaking into the bowl. When the flush handle is depressed, the wide flapper valve at the bottom of the tank opens and the tank water rushes like mad down into the bowl. With older toilets, the more water you have in the tank, the more sustained pressure you can create in the bowl. The newer toilets operate differently, and as you’ll see in my next post, they’re just as effective at clearing the bowl as the older water-hogs are.

A trapway, which is built into the porcelain of the pedestal, is set at a very sharp angle and makes an upside-down U-shaped bend. You can see the trapway built right into the porcelain if you look near the base of the toilet almost directly under the tank. When the water in the bowl reaches the height of the inside curve of the U bend, a siphon is created and the wastewater is sucked out of the toilet and down the soil pipe.

On the topside of the toilet, the water rushes out of the tank and lowers a float valve. When the float valve reaches a certain angle, it opens a fresh water valve to refill the tank with clean water. Meanwhile, the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank closes to hold the fresh water in. As the water level in the tank rises, the float valve rises, too. When the float valve reaches a certain, pre-set level, the fresh water valve closes and the toilet is ready for the next flush.

If the float valve is not adjusted properly, some fresh water may leak into the tank. To prevent overfilling, there’s a relief tube that has a separate drain path around the flapper valve and into the bowl. If your float valve isn’t working properly, you’ll hear regular drainage into the bowl and the water level will rise. Once it fills the trapway, the water will drain out of the bowl.

On the other hand, if your flapper valve is leaking, you’ll still hear draining water, but periodically, your tank will fill for a short period, then shut off. The excess water will also fill the bowl. When it fills the trapway, the bowl will drain.

If you’re having trouble with a leaking toilet, and you don’t have the tools or the time to make a repair, contact the professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. We’ll be happy to fix your leak. We can even recommend water-saving toilets that we know you’ll be pleased with. Contact us at (617) – 288-2911 anytime!

In my next post, I’ll talk about new flush technologies and how they can save water without sacrificing performance.