Henry Ford famously said anyone could have a Model T in any color as long as it was black. For today's toilet shopper, the same might be said for the color white — but after the basic white, there are so many factors to choose from for modern toilets. Among them is the question of what height you want the seat to be, and perhaps, whether you want a chair-height toilet, but what does that mean?
Chair-height toilets are designed to make it easier to sit down or stand up, as they're slightly taller than the standard porcelain throne. They're 17 to 19 inches high at the seat.
Biology vs. Design: Toilet Height
For most of human history, squatting has been an important part of relieving oneself, and the body is designed to work the best at evacuating the bowels or urinating when the doer is squatting. But just because the bowels and bladder may work best that way doesn't mean your back or knees will appreciate the arduous effort required to squat.
Most people look at toilet height as just being a matter of comfort — sitting too low can still mimic the strain yet effectiveness of squatting, but getting up can be even tougher on those muscles and joints. Those who have mobility challenges — whether it's from an injury, surgery recovery, disabilities or just plain old age — can tell you that getting off the throne can be a tough task.
ADA-Compliant Toilet Heights
From the floor to the rim, toilets meeting the ADA standards for those with disabilities and/or seniors must be 17 to 19 inches. In theory, this makes getting up when completed a less challenging ordeal.
But here's the caveat: All this depends on the person in question. Your tiny Italian nonna won't define "chair height" the same as anyone from the country with the world's tallest people, the Netherlands. So if you're buying a toilet for a specific person to use, chair height depends entirely on what works for them. Ideally, their knees will be at about a 90-degree angle and their feet will sit flat on the floor.
When feet dangle, it causes circulation issues and even constipation. But if a toilet is too high, that squatting position that human biology favors can be easily achieved by having a footstool for resting feet on during their toilet experience.
Don’t Forget the Seat!
Once you've got your toilet selected, don't forget that seats are often sold separately and will add an inch or more to the overall height. This is why there's a perceived discrepancy between recommended heights for ADA compliance.
According to Home Depot, a chair- or comfort-height toilet ought to be 15 to 17 inches to the top of the rim. But, the good folks at Great Senior Living will tell you the comfort-height toilet is 17 to 19 inches — including the seat. The seat makes all the difference, and that's why both of these sites are correct in their recommendations.
Other Solutions for Height
Replacing a toilet is a lot of work, and it may be worth it if you're saving on the price of water per flush or you're refitting a bathroom anyhow. But if you're just trying to make life easier for Uncle Martin after a broken hip, a more cost-effective solution would be elevated toilet seats — and even those with built-in handles — that can be bought for well under $100.
Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.