Optimize Toilet Shape & Height to Change Your Life

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Which toilet shape & height are the best? By optimizing these features, you may change your life in unexpected ways.

Small bathroom with a chair height toilet, shower and vanity.

Toilets are one of the most hard-working features of our homes, but they don’t get the attention and respect they deserve. They’ve come a long way since they were in outhouses in the backyard!  

The right toilet specs can dramatically improve your daily life in ways you never knew. Finding the proper toilet is vital to making the most comfortable and best Aging in Place bathroom for you. Often the different options have similar costs, so they aren’t expensive upgrades. You need to know what customization would benefit you the most and how to make the selection.

Basic toilet features, height and bowl shape, can significantly impact your ability to use the toilet comfortably everyday.

Types of toilets

  • One piece – available in various shapes & heights
  • Two piece – available in various shapes & heights
  • Wall mounted – available in various shapes; hung at any height where plumbing is located

Toilet height

  • Standard height – 15 to 17 inches high
  • Chair height – 17 to 19 inches high
  • Tall height – 19+ inches high

Benefits of optimizing toilet height at any age

The correct toilet height not only makes it easier to get on and off the toilet, but it also assists in being able to move your bowels more easily, something that gets more difficult as we age.  

Standard height toilets

The standard one or two-piece toilet is usually 15 to 17 inches high measured from the floor to the top of the seat. This height is relatively low when you consider that the average chair height is 17 to 19 inches. There is some good scientific rationale for a lower toilet height because it can aid in moving your bowels.  

If you have had a leg injury or back pain, you know how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to get off of a low toilet. As we get older, our joints become stiffer, muscles get weaker, and injuries and illnesses change our bodies. Getting up from low chairs, toilets, or other seats often becomes harder and harder.  

Higher toilets

Thankfully, higher toilets of about 17 to 19 inches, which were once considered commercial-type products, are now readily available on the residential market. This is the height of a handicapped-accessible type toilet that fits the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, which make it easier to transfer on and off for someone who uses a wheelchair. But because of the increased height, it is also more comfortable for almost any adult to use.

The increased height toilet goes by several different names depending on the manufacturer. The various names make shopping for them confusing. It’s best to look at the actual height specified for each toilet.

Common names of 17-19 inch high toilets:
  • Universal height
  • Comfort height
  • Chair height
  • ADA compliant
  • Right height  

I recently shopped for a toilet and had to spend extra time to verify the height because of the name dilemma. It didn’t help that some of the height information on the big-box retailer’s website was incorrect. 

Pro Tip:  Double-check the toilet height in more than one place (manufacturer’s website, information on the box, packaging instructions/spec sheet, and/or calling the manufacturer) and make sure you know the correct height before you purchase and especially before the toilet is installed. Save yourself a headache!

Extra tall toilets

Some manufacturers are now making an even taller height toilet of 19 to 21 inches. A toilet this tall is going to be much more difficult for children and shorter height adults to use. But this height may be beneficial if you are quite tall and are customizing your bathroom specifically for you to use daily and to Age in Place.

Put significant thought into the height of your toilet because it isn’t something you use only on occasion. According to Women’s Health Magazine, the average person urinates or pees 6 to 7 times per day. Women are probably going to appreciate the perfect height toilet a bit more than men, but as they age, men are more likely to begin sitting to use the toilet more often.

There are also several ways to modify your current toilet. Not all methods will work for all toilet configurations and arrangements. The best way to know if any of the products below will work on your toilet is to read the manufacturer’s information and take thorough measurements.

How to pick the perfect height toilet

  1. Measure the height of your current toilet
  2. Measure the height of chairs around your house that you like to sit in and are easy to sit down and stand up from
  3. Determine common heights of the chairs that you like & measured in #2
  4. Consider if persons of significantly different heights will need to use the same toilet frequently
  5. Comfort/ADA/universal/chair height toilets have a range from 17-19 inches tall depending on the manufacturer and model. A 2 inch difference can be significant.
  6. If you are still unsure, take a test drive by using one of the temporary toilet modification ideas below. Try different heights until you find the one that works best for you.
  7. Decide on the specific height you want and then see which manufacturers make that particular toilet by shopping on the internet and/or home improvement store

How to achieve best sitting position with a higher toilet

A higher toilet is easier to transfer on and off, but it doesn’t provide the optimal position for going to the bathroom. Assuming a more squatted position assists with bowel elimination. To get the best of both worlds, a Squatty Potty, a stool that fits in front of the commode, can help achieve a natural squatting position to aid bowel movements.

Toilet bowl shape

Historically, many toilets were manufactured with round toilet bowls. This was mostly out of necessity because many bathrooms were small-sized rooms and needed more compact fixtures. A round toilet bowl is about 2 inches shorter in length than an elongated (oval) bowl.  

As bathroom spaces became bigger, larger elongated (oval) bowls became more popular. They are now available with many options, and designs often look more modern than round bowl toilets.

Functional benefits of an elongated (oval) toilet bowl

  • More comfortable to sit on
  • Easier to get up from because there is a larger seat with more surface area to push off
  • Easier for men and children who sit on the toilet because there is more room at the front of the bowl
  • Cleaner, especially when men and children are sitting to use the toilet

Other permanent toilet modifications

If you aren’t ready to replace your toilet, but want to have the benefits of a raised height toilet, here are some other options to try.

Raised toilet base – A platform that fits underneath the existing toilet to raise it by several inches. This allows you to continue sitting on the actual toilet seat but enjoy the increased overall height. 

Grab bars – Installation of grab bars into the walls around the toilet can also help with getting on and off the toilet.  

Pro Tip: If you currently don’t have any specific transfer needs that would benefit from a grab bar, consider installing a combination toilet paper holder/grab bar. These are attractive, and most people wouldn’t know that it’s anything more than a fancy toilet paper holder.

Then when you need a little assistance, you can use this disguised grab bar until there is a need for the installation of more grab bars around the toilet.

Temporary toilet modifications

If you need a fast solution or aren’t ready to commit to a new toilet, try these options. If you aren’t sure what toilet height would work best for you, use one of these temporary solutions and see if you like it before finalizing your decision.

Bedside commode frame – an adjustable height metal frame with or without armrests that sits over the existing toilet. Armrests can sometimes be flipped down and out of the way on some models. It can be easily moved and used elsewhere in the house by adding the collection bucket underneath. This is a quick fix usually for a crisis situation.

Toilet riser – A plastic platform that attaches at the top of the toilet bowl to elevate the seat height by several inches. Some models also have attached armrests which may be stationary or can flip up and down. There are different heights to choose from.

Which toilet shape & height will optimize your life?

The perfect toilet shape and height that is just right for you will make your everyday life more comfortable. It will also assist you to successfully Age in Place. For most toilets, round vs. oval shape and increased height are zero cost or inexpensive upgrades.

Although these may seem like a small details, the enormous benefits compared to a standard toilet will amaze you and improve your daily life. Spend a little extra time deciding what toilet will work best for you and your bathroom. I guarantee it will be time well spent!

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?