Does a home inspector check toilets?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Standards of Practice of both the national home inspector associations and the State of Florida require inspection of toilets. The InterNACHI standards specifically state that the inspector should inspect “all toilets for proper operation by flushing,” while the others generically refer to inspection of the “plumbing fixtures." 

    The tank and bowl of the toilet must be filled with water before a toilet can be tested. When the lever on the tank is pressed, it flips up a rubber stopper called a flapper, which releases the water in the tank to flow into the bowl. The water flushing action is accomplished by water shooting from small holes around the inner ring of the top of the bowl, in coordination with a siphoned jet hole at the bottom of the bowl. The bowl should be rinsed clean at the end of the flush, as the flapper resets itself over the opening at the bottom of the tank and the tank refills.

   Here’s what is checked:

  • The tank and bowl should have a smooth, cleanable surface without any cracks.

  • The minimum clearances around the toilet are checked if it looks too tight.
  • The inspector straddles the toilet bowl between his/her legs with a gentle rocking action to see if the connection to the floor is loose. A secure, bolted connection to floor is important: a loose bowl will eventually open the wax seal connection to the drain pipe in the floor, and allow slow leakage to spread across the floor. When the toilet is sitting on a wood floor structure, wood rot will weaken the floor over time. Also, the inspector will confirm with a nudge that the connection between the tank and the bowl is not loose.

  • When flushed, the bowl should drain promptly and completely, and the tank should refill in a reasonable amount of time. We note if the toilet fill valve opens intermittently due to a small leak or runs continuously. Some inspectors put a small dye tablet in the tank and wait a couple of minutes. Any color that shows up in the bowl indicates a problem. An infrared camera or moisture meter may also be used if there’s any suspicion of moisture around the base of the toilet.

    The standard residential toilet is a called a gravity type. More sophisticated designs include the vacuum-assist and pressure-assist toilets, both of which have an enhanced—but noisier—flush. 

   A federal mandate in 1994 requires new toilets to have a maximum 1.6 gallon flush volume, but one variation on the standard toilet is a dual-flush, with a choice of two buttons for either a low-volume (1.0 gallons, for liquid only) or regular (1.6 gallons, for solid waste) flush. 

    While the Standards of Practice set minimum standards, a home inspector may choose to exceed them, or the inspection may be limited to less than what is outlined in the standards when agreed to by the homebuyer and specified in an inspection agreement. A four-point insurance inspection would be example of a limited inspection.

  Everyone in the building trades has a favorite toilet story. Ours is about an old-time builder we know who would push the merits of buying one of his brand-new homes versus an older one by saying: “You know, you shouldn’t have to sit on another man’s toilet!”

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Here’s links to some of our other blog posts about “TOILETS”: 

Honey, who shrunk the toilet? 

Why is there sand in the bottom of my toilet tank?  

Are drop-in toilet bowl cleaner tablets safe?

Why is there mold inside my toilet tank?    

What are the pros and cons of a wall-mounted toilet?

What are the minimum clearances around a toilet?  

What is that big thing in the toilet tank? 

What is the white plastic tank inside my toilet tank?

• Can I install a commercial (wall-mounted flushometer) toilet in my home? 

   Visit our PLUMBING and "DOES A HOME INSPECTOR…” pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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