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What kind of toilet works best with my old, pre-war plumbing?

By Virginia K. Smith | April 6, 2015 - 12:59PM

Q:  I just moved into a pre-war apartment, and the old toilet left by the seller was a Kohler and didn't flush well. I did some research and bought a low-flow, high-efficiency TOTO toilet to replace the old Kohler, but it’s been even worse. What kind of toilet might work best in a pre-war building and with pre-war piping? 

A. The problem likely has more to do with your building than the type of toilet you buy, say our experts. "It has nothing to do with name brands," says Gus Retsinas, a bath designer with the Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath. "When you're in New York City it's just tough," he explains. "You've got old buildings and new technology." 
Still, that doesn't mean you're sentenced to life with a barely-functional bathroom situation. Before you toss out your TOTO and drop money on a new toilet, you should consult your building's management. There are likely a number of factors at play here, says property manager Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management, including your location in the building. (As we've written previously, higher-up apartments often have lower water pressure.) "There is also a difference between pressure and volume that is the result of aged pipe or incorrectly sized pipe replacements," he says, "all creating quite a mix of issues to work through." 

 It's also possible that your building's old pipes simply need to be cleaned or replaced, notes Jessica Warmbrand, a sales consultant with Blackman Plumbing's Manhattan showroom. If the problem persists, your building may need to consider getting a water pump, or you can even look into getting one just for your apartment.

The bottom line is that you need to have a conversation with your building manager, a plumber, and maybe even the board in order to get things working smoothly. "An experienced building resident manager’s intimate knowledge of your building systems should be able to match up a best, even if not perfect, fit for your apartment," says Usztoke.


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