Are you Comfort-Able on your toilet?

March 7, 2013 at 8:42 am 5 comments

I have a strange habit of always going into the ADA stall in community bathrooms to do a quick visual check of the space, as I have yet to find one that does not have something ‘wrong’ 🙂

On this last occasion I was checking out a bathroom and noticing the typical errors—flush control not mounted on the wide side of the toilet area, door hook installed too high—and I noticed a woman near the sink area with an inquisitive look.  We engaged in conversation about the ADA stall and she proceeded to tell me that her husband was a remodeler and ‘everyone wants a comfort height toilet’ so he recommends them to all of his clients.  Hoping that I did not have a look of horror on my face, I politely let her know about my passion for space planning  and that not all people benefit from comfort height toilets. She quickly interrupted me and said, “now I am talking about comfort height toilets, not ADA height”.  I assured her that I knew the difference, and gave credit where credit was due regarding having the knowledge that there are different height toilets on the market, but continued our conversation with regard to feature-matching fixtures to meet the needs of the client.

A standard toilet measures 14 ½” above the finished floor to the top of the porcelain bowl.  This does not include the toilet seat, which can be different thicknesses and change the overall total height.  Federal law dictates that an ADA height toilet is to fall between 17”-19” above the finished floor.  This leaves the comfort height toilet.  A comfort height toilet is approximately 2” taller than a standard height toilet, measuring ~16.5” above the finished floor to the rim (not including toilet seat).  At 16.5” above the finished floor, this toilet height is not ADA-compliant as it is ½” lower (however, there are toilets on the market that are called ‘comfort height’ and do fall within the 17”-19” ADA height range).

I discussed that not all persons benefit from a comfort height toilet, as this is due to each person having different ergonomic needs based on their own body measurements.  It is also about the physiological position that one’s body must be in to maximize the ability to evacuate the bowels (yes, I am an Occupational Therapist by background, so I went there).  Look at the toilet systems of some other cultures; you will frequently find a bathroom stall with nothing else but a hole in the floor that requires one to squat to get the job done.  Obviously this scenario does not work for someone who has difficulty with sit-to-stand from a surface that puts their hips at a level below their knees, but these are the variables that need to be considered when choosing a toilet; especially since this is something that we as humans need to use multiple times a day.

I am 5’3” and have a longer torso and shorter legs; a comfort height toilet is currently too high for me.  At this time, a comfort height toilet is also too high for my husband, who happens to have a spinal C5-C6 incomplete spinal cord injury.  Most people would have a knee-jerk reaction and say, he should have an ADA height toilet, or at least a comfort height toilet, when in fact, that is too high……for him.  Will we benefit from a higher toilet in the future?  Perhaps, but it is not the right choice for us right now.

There are many variables when choosing a toilet, height being one of them.  Determining height also has many factors to consider including anthropometrics, transfer status (how one gets on/off the toilet), as well as how many different users will have access to this toilet.  A comfort height toilet is a great option; operative word here being ‘option’.  We have choices because we all have different needs.  Feature-matching fixtures to meet a person’s (or household’s) needs is key.

Entry filed under: ADA, Aging-In-Place design, Bathroom products, Bathrooms, occupational therapy, Universal Design. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracy  |  March 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Great info!

  • 2. Teresa  |  September 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I agree. I am 5’3 and avoid ADA height toilets. I need a bit of a squat position to evacuate. My husband (6’4) just had installed an ADA toilet in my bathroom, assuming that everyone likes those. What do I do now? Where can I get a shaped step or something to fit around the toilet so I don’t have to be tippy-toed to do my business??

  • 3. sam  |  January 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for posting. I’m an Architect. I’m 6′-1″ and I prefer a lower height toilet for more effective evacuation. Studies show the natural squat position improves our ability to eliminate. Armed with better education – I’m looking to purchase a step for in front of the ADA height toilet I now have. I’d like someone like Toto to make a 8″ to 10″ bowl height toilet.


  • 4. EmpowerAbility  |  January 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Hi all, thank you for the posts and Sam, thank you for the follow up with link. Yes, the squatty potty is one option to allow one to get into a good ergonomic position while still having a higher toilet to assist with getting on/off the toilet itself.

    Sam, as you may already know they do make ‘children’s height’ toilets that are ~10″ above the finished floor, however, those toilets typically have smaller dimensions overall than standard ‘adult’ size toilets. Cheers,


  • 5. sam  |  March 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    @ Teresa – My new step arrived: I purchased one of these – the bamboo matches my oak print vinyl. I’m quite pleased with it. The more ergonomic position seems to help, it tucks under the toilet bowl and looks nice.


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