Innovative Bathroom Fixtures: Take It to the Next Level

Top-Rated Bathtubs, Whirlpool & Accessible Tubs, Sinks, Toilets, Faucets, Showerheads, Vanities & Medicine Cabinets

Prices are rising across the board for bathroom fixtures. Although you’ll find useful innovations, such as easier-to-clean toilets and spot-resistant faucet finishes, bathtubs are awash in high-tech luxury features that might drain your pocketbook.

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When it comes to bathroom fixtures, we’d like to tell you that manufacturers have been developing practical innovations. Instead, they’ve been focusing on luxury, particularly when it comes to bathtubs.

To be sure, practical innovations emerged. More toilets than ever before have configurations that are easier to clean, and more faucets have spot-resistant finishes. However, you also will find innovations that go beyond the practical, including sound-system-equipped bathtubs. Those innovations also come with an increase in price.
Manufacturers tell us that they increased prices for most bathroom fixtures to cover the rise in the cost of raw materials and transportation and a general increase in the cost of doing business. None would cite how much prices have risen. However, our research indicates that prices rose by an average of 5 percent across all categories compared with 3 years ago.

BOWL GAMES. Most of the innovations in bathroom fixtures are among toilets. Now, three manufacturers, Duravit, Mansfield and Toto, make toilets that eliminate the dirtiest part of the bowl: the rim. No more rim means fewer places for grime to hide, thus making cleaning the bowl an easier chore, manufacturers and bathroom designers say.

Toto made rimless models for years, but Mansfield launched its first rimless model in January 2012, followed by Duravit in May 2013. Duravit and Mansfield each has single rimless model; Toto says its newest models, which were introduced in 2012 and 2013, bring that company’s total to a whopping 28.

Instead of the water being released under the rim, as in a standard model, the water that’s used to flush the bowl of a rimless toilet comes from holes that are positioned on the inside of the bowl.

Mansfield’s and Toto’s rimless toilets use holes that are positioned along the top of the bowl to create a cyclonic pattern, so water spirals down the bowl surface. Duravit’s system has holes at the top of the bowl that stream water in opposite directions. These streams collide at the front of the bowl and turn downward. At the same time, holes that are along the back of the bowl join in by flushing water downward. Our evaluations confirm that models from all three manufacturers are able to flush the bowl’s entire interior surface.

Rimless toilets come in traditional floor-mounted and wall-hung models. If you’d like to go rimless, your least expensive option is $144. Other toilet manufacturers tell us that they plan to leave their rims intact.

Wall-hung toilets have been around for years as a niche product. These models take up less space than do traditional toilets, because their water tanks are recessed into wall cavities. They also are easier to clean around, because they don’t touch the floor, and you can vary the height at which the bowl is installed. Most models require a minimum seat height of 15 inches and typically go as high as 19 inches; a few have no maximum height.

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Wall-hung toilets still are a niche product, but the niche broadened, bathroom designers say, as a result of interest in maximizing a small space and streamlined bathrooms. Three manufacturers—two of which are new to the category—introduced seven wall-hung models in the past 2 years. Duravit in particular went on a wall-hung kick in 2013 by adding five such models to its lineup. The least expensive wall-hung toilet now costs $325, which is $55 more expensive than its counterpart of a few years ago.

However, just as the parts of a wall-hung toilet are hidden, the overall cost of these models isn’t plain to see. Because some of its components are hidden inside of the wall, a wall-hung toilet has higher installation costs than does a standard floor-mounted toilet.

According to four plumbers with whom we spoke, replacing a standard floor-mounted toilet with a new wall-hung toilet will cost you, on average, $573 in labor. That’s $437 more than the labor cost for swapping out a standard toilet with another standard toilet. Swapping out a wall-hung toilet with another wall-hung toilet will set you back about $235, but plumbers with whom we spoke say further costs might be involved when you switch from one brand or model to another.

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