Ask a plumber

New toilet for historic house

 <span class="cutline_leadin">MONEY SAVER: </span>New toilet can save thousands.
MONEY SAVER: New toilet can save thousands.
Kohler / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: We can’t find a replacement seat for our very old toilet. We live in a historic house and our toilet is at least 70 years old. I want to replace the toilet, but the center of the toilet flange and bolts appear to be 11 inches from the wall. All current toilets seem to be 10, 12 or 14 inch sizes. Would a 10 inch rough-in toilet be OK to use even if it isn’t against the wall? My wife says no and that it sounds crazy to have a big gap behind the toilet.

Bruce, Pennsylvania

A: First off, I’m happy to hear that you want to replace your 70-year-old toilet. Older toilets can waste a lot of water and if you install a new high-efficiency toilet you can save thousands of gallons of water per year.

Now let’s get everyone up to speed on basic toilet rough-in issues. Normally the center of a toilet drain is installed 12 inches away from the back finished wall. This is why most toilet sizes are referred to as 12-inch toilets.

Because of installation issues, some toilet drains may be installed a little closer or further away from the back wall. If that’s the case, you can usually special order “less popular” 10- or 14-inch toilets. So, if you can’t fit a 12-inch toilet, your plumber should be able to install a 10-inch toilet to fit your space.

To deal with the gap between the toilet and the back wall, I have seen contractors install custom shelving over the toilet tank or even pad out the back wall. So, now you can tell your wife that installing a new toilet won’t be such an “off-the-wall” idea.

Master contractor and plumber Ed Del Grande is the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call” and the host of TV and Internet shows. Visit or write

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