Vintage recycling project

I'm having a bit of a low tech problem.

My toilet is one of those tacky, early landlord special, low-flush models which ought to be called a "no-flush" toilet, because it often takes several flushes to get its job done, and many times a plunger is needed in addition to that. (Yechh!)

As Radley Balko pointed out, these notorious, bureaucratically-mandated toilets created a black market in the United States for Canadian toilets:

In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, a big, honking piece of legislation that sought to codify into federal law the thousands of administrative laws put forth by the Department of Energy. It set crucial, national-security-affecting policies such as how cold refrigerators were permitted to be. Also included in that massive bill was a tiny, barely-noticed-at-the-time provision mandating that every toilet sold in the United States after the year 1994 use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That provision quickly became known in toilet industry circles (yes, there are toilet industry circles) as the flush twice rule, as patriotic, beef-eating Americans who bought domestic toilets after 1994 had no choice but to flush twice to be sure all their business washed away before houseguests arrived. It also created Im not kidding a black market for Canadian toilets toilets with big, glorious, gluttonous bowls, capable of holding 3, 3 , even four gallons of water.

I've long favored keeping the government out of our bedrooms. So how the hell did they get into the bathrooms? It doesn't stop with low flow toilets, either. "Potty parity" laws (see my angry post on the subject) are already a reality in many cities and in most new construction. The most visible result is fewer urinals -- which means men are wasting a bowl full of water to take a leak! (Fighting sexism, I guess, trumps water conservation....)

Anyway, after five years of living here, my piece of crap crapper has become loose at the base, not in the usual manner which can be solved by pulling and reseating the toilet with a new wax ring, but the whole mounting ring is loose in the floor (which means the flooring has rotted in the area around the toilet flange and will have to be replaced).

I don't feel like spending my time and money removing a toilet I hate and repairing the floor, only to reinstall the same God-awful Toilet from Hell. This house was built in 1911, and I'd like a toilet of a style similar to the one which was obviously once here originally. The problem is, they're not easy to find, as there are a whole host of laws prohibiting vintage toilets, nor are used toilets available for sale in this area. I'm thinking that I should try to find a wrecking contractor or wrecking yard, tell them I need an old toilet for a planter or an art project, and take my chances.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to the insightful comments below, my research led me to the startling discovery that used toilets which once belonged to Jerry Garcia have recently been offered for sale!

posted by Eric on 01.21.06 at 08:24 PM


See if you've got any place in your area that resells things from homes that get renovated (or condemned).

Kathy K   ·  January 22, 2006 6:18 AM

I don't know of any law where I am forbidding sale of used toilets - you can find them all over the place. That may be a state law?

Kathy K   ·  January 22, 2006 6:21 AM

It's a gruesome thought, but you could look through the debris left after natural disasters such as hurricanes, landslides, and tornadoes. Even though whole communities are leveled, chances are that sturdy plumbing items will remain functional.

Mike   ·  January 22, 2006 7:52 AM

Make friends with local plumbers/remodeling contractors. Frequently homeowners "upgrade" and pitch the old equipment. On the job I'm working on now, the customer is more experienced than most and wants to retain the original toilets. The plumber is installing new toilets to pass inspection, then will return to put the old ones in. Pico

Pico   ·  January 22, 2006 8:16 AM

Once a month, the city comes by and hauls away our Big Junk, as they call it; the limit per household per month is about two refrigerators' worth. A couple of days before the pickup, things start to appear at the curb, and one Monday morning I noticed a brace of toilets at someone's house, surrounded by tons of other stuff, presumably for pickup that Wednesday.

That afternoon, the other stuff was still there, but the toilets were gone.

CGHill   ·  January 22, 2006 10:24 AM

Thanks for all the advice!

Kathy, According to this site, there's a fine for installing used toilets:

Unless a used toilet met the plumbing code, few plumbing suppliers would sell one even if they had it, and fewer still would install it.

In Philadelphia, used mattresses may not be sold, and I read somewhere that neither may used toilets.

Pico, thanks! I think my best bet is to just keep my eyes peeled, and hope my toilet doesn't physically break off the floor in the meantime.

Charles, I wish you'd told me before they were taken. (I'd enjoy the drive to pick them up!)

But if I really wanna be cool, I should put in a bid for one of Jerry Garcia's used toilets!

Eric Scheie   ·  January 22, 2006 2:57 PM

Actually, new 1.6 gal/flush toilets are way better than the ones that came out at the beginning of the law. Take a look at midrange toilets from the big manufacturers (if you get a cheap one, it'll probably suck like the one you've got now). I know that Kohler makes a vintage looking toilet with a pull flush on top that does a decent job to expell the demons within its bowl.

You can also get a device that fixes the attachment point on the pipe so that your toilet bolts correctly.

jim   ·  January 23, 2006 2:03 PM

There are technicians out there who test low-flow toilets by flushing all sorts of stuff. Golf balls are one favorite, as is miso pasteó which apprently has about the right texture and density.

They've got some pretty high-tech low-flow toilets out there. Just make sure you don't get a cheapieó those are undoubtedly the same crud you've been using.

B. Durbin   ·  January 24, 2006 10:35 PM

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