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DIY weekend – New 1.28 gpf American Standard VorMax Toilet


I must confess – I have a tendency to procrastinate. If something is minimally working, I am very reluctant to replace it. Our HVAC system died a few years ago and I still haven’t gotten a new one. Luckily, we live in a moderate part of the country and we can make do with our kotatsu table and portable heaters in winter, and going to the pool in summer. I will try to get it fixed before next winter, but it’s not urgent.

DIY project - American Standard VorMax 1.28 gpf toiletRecently, I found out about the $50 Toilet rebate program from the city of Portland. This gave me the little push I needed to replace some toilets. Our rental duplex has two ancient toilets which probably use 6 gallons per flush. The tank is huge on those toilets! Another strange thing is the uncomfortable rectangular seats. I have never seen that before so it must be really old or really special. Anyway, the real incentive is to save water and reduce our water bill. The water bill is higher than I’d like so replacing the 6 gpf toilets with the new high-efficiency 1.28 gpf models would help quite a bit.

Let’s calculate the cost of water here just for fun. Our water cost about 1 penny for 2 gallons. We’ll call it 3 cents per flush. At 8 flushes per day (2 toilets), the water would cost about $88 per year. That’s not a lot of money, but the toilet should last many years. Before I inconvenient our tenants, I thought I’d try one at home first.

Would a 1.28 gpf Toilets work?

We have 1.6 gpf toilets at home and they are crap. (Sorry, couldn’t resist…) I’m sure the ones we have are the cheapest 1.6 gpf toilets the contractors could find. They often need to be double flushed and our OXO plunger gets frequent workouts. The OXO plunger is really awesome and I highly recommend it, but I’d rather not use it if at all possible. Also, one of the 1.6 gpf has been emitting a high pitched whine whenever the water is filling the tank. I probably need to at least replace the hardware in the tank, so we might as well put in a better toilet.

OXO Toilet plunger - the best plunger money can buy.Could a 1.28 gpf toilet work better than what we already have? After all, there is no replacement for displacement, right? I spent a couple of weeks researching 1.28 gpf toilets and found that people generally dislike them. It sounds like the same story as the 1.6 gpf we already have – frequent double flushes and plugged toilets. However, there are some new toilet technologies that improve the flush.

  1. Pressure assisted flush – The tank has a bladder which forces the water down the bowl. This gives it more flushing power. These toilets are more expensive and probably require more maintenance than the regular gravity powered toilets. Also, your water pressure must be over 25 psi for the bladder to work properly.
  2. Better gravity flush – The flushing mechanism is improved in various ways. The flush valve has been getting larger to enable better flushing. The new swirling flush is also better than the old water holes.

Eventually, I settled on the recently released American Standard VorMax toilet. The tank has two flush valves and the promotional video looks good. One valve goes to the bottom of the bowl to push the stuff out and the other valve creates a powerful swirling action to clean the bowl. This is one of the most expensive toilets at Home Depot, but we really want to retire our beloved OXO plunger. I decided to install the toilet myself because we potentially have 5 toilets to replace. We’d save a bundle at $140 per installation.

5 hours later

I did some research on YouTube and it looks like a 5 minute job. You just need to put the wax ring on the bottom of the toilet, flip it over, and install the tank. Looks easy enough.

It took us 5 hours from start to finish… This included the lunch break and 3 trips to the hardware stores (yes, plural). We picked up the toilet and water supply line on the first trip. We unpacked everything and laid them out. As I started to remove the old toilet, I found that cutting the old caulk was rather difficult. I drove to the hardware store to pick up a bottle of caulk remover and that helped soften up the old caulk. Then I was able to cut the caulk with a utility knife and pry the old toilet loose. Getting the old caulk out was the hardest part of the whole project. It took a lot of time and elbow grease to get the caulk out.

The actual toilet installation probably took about 15 minutes. We assembled the toilet and got it bolted down with no problem. I had to run to the hardware store again because I got the wrong water supply line. So that’s 5 hours of work. I’m sure the next one will be much quicker, hopefully 2 hours at the most.

Nice touches from American Standard

  • No tools required – This package includes the wax ring and various nuts and bolts. You can hand tighten the bolts with the included plastic tool so you don’t even need a wrench. Well, you need tools to remove the old toilets. Water supply line not included.
  • Comfort height – 16.5” height. A bit higher than the old standard 15” seats. Most new toilets are 16.5” now. This is a bit too high for our little guy so we’ll keep the other less problematic 1.6 gpf toilet for now.
  • Slow lid closure – No more slamming the lids.
  • Clean curve rim design – The toilet doesn’t have those small water holes and hidden curve. It looks good and should be easier to clean.
  • Comfortable seat – Don’t have to buy a new seat.
  • 10 years warranty

So did the toilet work as advertised? The answer is YES! It’s only been two days, but we loved it. The flush is much better than our old toilet and I don’t foresee a lot of action for the OXO plunger in the future. American Standard has a winner here.

If you’re thinking about replacing the old throne with a new HE model, check out the American Standard VorMax. The next project will be to replace the old 6 gpf toilets at our rental duplex. It should pay for itself in a few years. Water efficiency is a good thing.

Do you have any upcoming DIY projects?

Video from American Standard below.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way May 18, 2015, 2:00 am

    Sometimes, when you saw some DIY videos, you think that it’s very easy to do, BUT when it’s your turn to do it then you will realize that it’s not that easy after all. 🙂 I just DIY painted my closet, from color white to mint green paint.

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 11:20 am

      The little detail always take up the most time. Great job with the closet, sounds like a nice color.

  • Maria May 18, 2015, 3:03 am

    Nice job RB40. I have three projects pending. Backsplash for my kitchen once tile goes on sale. We have you tube it and may do it ourselves this year. No hurry!! A wooden boarder frame for my huge bathroom mirror which has darken edges due to water and humidity which need to be covered. Must do! We already bought materials for about $85 and plan to work on this on Memorial Day! Third one is to make a large burlap wreath for my front door with interchangeable bows for each holiday starting with 4th of July- $32. I am sure I will have other projects once I retire this December!

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 11:21 am

      Have a great time. 🙂

  • Pennypincher May 18, 2015, 6:23 am

    Can I buy your old plunger? I’ll pay for shipping!

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 11:21 am

      We still have one old cheap toilet so we’ll still need it occasionally. 🙂

  • nicoleandmaggie May 18, 2015, 7:03 am

    We recently replaced all our toilets, but we went with Toto. So far we are very happy!

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 11:27 am

      Nice job! I was looking at Toto too, but the video (last on the page) won me over.

  • Money Unbinding May 18, 2015, 10:31 am

    Nice work, RB40. It’s a good way to save more by being handy and doing more DIY.

    All the best,
    Money Unbinding

  • Justin @ Root of Good May 18, 2015, 2:01 pm

    Looks like a job well done, Joe! Discounted toilet, save money on water every month, and save hundreds of dollars versus a plumber doing the installation.

    I laughed when I read about your HVAC being broken. No way we could handle that here. Our AC died yesterday and I did a bit of DIY troubleshooting via youtube and some DIY forums. And hour later I had the culprit identified – a large capacitor that runs about $10-12 on amazon.

    No parts stores were open on Sunday though, and amazon couldn’t get the part here for a week, so we sweated it out Sunday night and then we walked up to the industrial supply store a couple miles away first thing this morning. The part was $26 instead of $12 on amazon, but completely worth it because it’s in the 90’s this week. Now it’s 76 inside our house. 🙂 And we now have a very very happy family.

    So glad I didn’t have to call an HVAC company, because it would have been at least $200-250 for the service call and the inflated cost of the part.

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 9:07 pm

      Wow, great job with the HVAC. Our HVAC is probably from the 70s and they don’t even make parts for it anymore. We’d have to put in a whole new system. It’ll probably cost $3,000 or so. Hence, my procrastinating…

  • Vawt May 18, 2015, 5:43 pm

    I have been thinking about upgrading our 3 builder grade toilets. The house is less than 10 years old, but the toilets are nothing special and clog a lot. I think I will watch for a sale or some closeout models for a while.

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 9:09 pm

      Good luck. Maybe there will be a good Memorial Day sales.

  • steve May 18, 2015, 8:49 pm

    As coincidence would have it, I was planning to put in a toto toilet this week. After watching your video I went with the vormax instead, and am quite happy so far. A couple of broken bolts, but no old cauly to remove, so the whole job only took a couple of hours. hardest part was carrying the old toilet out to the trash.

    • retirebyforty May 18, 2015, 9:08 pm

      Check with your city to see if there is a rebate for low flow toilet. The VorMax is pretty impressive for 1.28 gpf. 🙂

  • Revanche May 19, 2015, 5:53 pm

    We barely survived PiC’s last DIY. He decided to properly secure the shower rod in the bathroom the week before LB was born. It went sideways, taking three trips to 2 different hardware stores, a despairing Skype call to the DIY experts in the family, 5 more trips to hardware stores and probably a grand total of 20 hours trying to fix the mess he’d made. He prevailed in the end but that’s the end of projects until one of us gets a bug about something. I’ll probably be finding another investment to consider. Far less messy 😉

    • retirebyforty May 20, 2015, 9:42 am

      Wow, that’s rough. 🙂 Tell him to keep trying and he will get better. I’m still not great at DIY, but I’m learning. Congratulation with the baby by the way.

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