Replacing A Toilet Seat? Here’s How To Choose A Size: Round Or Oblong… And A Style: Wood Or Plastic

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Who knew I could spend nearly an hour in the Home Depot just examining toilet seats?!

Better yet, who knew I could write a 1,000-word article detailing the intricacies of toilet seats???

Hold onto your fuzzy toilet seat cover, people… here we go!

This broken toilet seat needs replaced.

 

Ode To A Commode

In preparation for our move (which is still many months away), we decided to replace our old toilet seats and lids with new ones. Three in all.

We’re hoping that they’ll last long enough to still look good when it comes time to sell this house in a year or so. Besides, we think that our guests deserve a nicer palette upon which to rest their tushies when they visit.

So the search was on for the best toilet seat!

 

First, Some Basic Information About Toilet Seats

How long does a typical toilet seat last, anyway?

I couldn’t find any facts or figures online about this (see below). In our case, 5-1/2 years seems to be the going rate. The toilet in the powder room bathroom doesn’t even get used much, and that one is just as bad as the other 2 that get frequent use.

We finally got tired of looking at these old eyesores which were lopsided, faded, and stained from various cleaning products. (Why do they make toilet cleansers blue anyway?! More on that later…)

For the record, our current toilet seats are made by Church. They’re supposed to be good ones — I think. But I’m willing to try a different brand at this point.

 

What’s A Girl Gotta Do?…

What’s a girl gotta do to get some good, honest feedback about toilet seats these days?

You know me… I’ll research with the best of ’em online. Only problem is, there’s really nothing online — as far as tips for choosing the best toilet seat.

Oh, there are a million and one articles about why to replace a toilet seat and how to replace a toilet seat. But that’s the least of my worries at this point. It looks pretty easy to me… so long as you can handle a screwdriver alright.

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I know… most would say that choosing a seat for your toilet is just a matter of personal taste and opinion. But still, I’d like to read about others’ opinions some before I go out and “try on” toilet seats! I mean, who wants to be known as the person who kept returning toilet seats? (We live in a small town.)

 

All About Toilet Seats

So, here’s what I’ve learned firsthand about toilet seats…

 

Toilet Seat Sizes: Round vs. Oblong

There are really only 2 sizes you need to concern yourself with: “round” or “oblong” (or “elongated”).

Generally, it is easy to tell just by looking whether you have a round or oblong shaped toilet. If you prefer to measure (just to be sure), then measure from the front of the bowl to the middle of the screws at the back of the bowl/lid area.

Here are the standard toilet bowl sizes:

  • Round Toilet Bowl: 16.5 inches
  • Oblong Toilet Bowl: 18.5 inches

(We definitely prefer an elongated toilet seat!)

What does vary is the width of the bowl from side to side. But it’s usually not enough to worry about, as most standard size toilet seats and lids will cover most toilet bowls — even if they’re slightly narrower or wider than the next one.

Wondering how to measure a toilet seat?…

PlumbingSupply.com has a good slideshow that walks you through each of the areas that should be measured.

How to measure a toilet seat.

Here’s what you need to know about wide toilet seats.

 

Wood Toilet Seats vs. Plastic Toilet Seats

We’ve always had wood ones in the homes we’ve rented, bought, or built. Not for any reason in particular, other than that’s what the home already had or the builder recommended.

But I’ve become so frustrated with all of the stains from using various cleaning products on our 3 wood toilet seats that I was open to trying a plastic toilet seat this time.

I figured there might be an all-new modern and high-quality plastic seat that would be “all the rage” these days.

But if there is, I couldn’t find it — online or in stores.

 

Which Toilet Seat Did We Choose?

So after a fair amount of research on toilet seats, we ended up with this one: the Bemis easy clean toilet seat. (Personally, most of the toilet seats on the market appear to have similar features, so I’m not sure this one is so special after all. But it works fine for us.)

When it came time to replace toilet seats in our house, we chose the Bemis Easy Clean elongated toilet seat.

A few thoughts on wood vs. plastic toilet seats:

  • As a rule, wood toilet seats are slightly more expensive than plastic toilet seats.
  • Generally speaking, wood seats are also thicker, warmer to sit on, sturdier, and more durable than plastic ones.
  • Plastic seats may have some “additional features” built in (like an automatic slow-closing lid) — but lots of wood seats have this feature nowadays, as well.
  • Plastic lids are likely to show minor scratches — even from soft sponges used when cleaning.
  • Plastic toilet seats and lids are more likely to crack.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything else that affected our choice of toilet seats.

Well, maybe metal hinges vs. plastic hinges

But if a toilet seat is only going to last 5 years, I think the plastic (less expensive) hinges do the job just as well. Others might prefer the “look” of the metal toilet seat hinges though.

I’d be interested in hearing from others if there are features that I should have looked for. Or, if there are any new & improved models that might be worth considering!

 

How Long Will It Last?…

I did find that toilets themselves will typically last a lifetime, while the faucets and fixtures on toilets last around 10 years. Not sure whether that includes the seat or not (I doubt it). But as stated above, our toilet seats typically last around 5-1/2 years on average.

Okay, so who knew there were so many different colors available? Check out this Cross Reference Chart for Toilet Seat Colors!

Like this post? Save it to read again later… or share with others on Pinterest!

How to measure a toilet set + How to choose a toilet seat

41 thoughts on “Replacing A Toilet Seat? Here’s How To Choose A Size: Round Or Oblong… And A Style: Wood Or Plastic”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the interesting and informative info on your experience with toilet seats.
    I currently live with a roommate who weighs about 450lbs. He broke his current toilet seat that came with the apartment (wood). They replaced it, but he broke it again. I looked into getting him a special-needs seat (www.bigjohntoiletseat.com) but those seats are almost $200 bucks. Someone told me a stainless steel seat would be a good option, but I haven’t been able to find one anywhere, not even on the web. Do you know where I might be able to find one?
    Many thanks,
    Curious Roommate

    Reply
  2. Nice writeup on toilet seats. I personally chose wood over plastic. In addition to what you mentioned (weight, feel, etc) the wooded seats have a deep glossy lacquered (clear-coated) finish that better matches the porcelean of the toilet. The plastic seats look dull in comparison. I’m pretty happy with the Kohler wooden seat I got at Home Depot for less than $20.

    Reply
  3. It seems that most “wood” toilet seats that are white are actually the equivalent of particle board, which is not very sturdy (ever try to move a particle board desk?). For a heavy person, an alternative to stainless steel (yow cold) would be an oak seat which would still have the strength integrity of the wood grain. Also make sure the bolts stay tight because as the person’s weight shifts in doing what needs to be done, the seat can shift towards the hole and not be properly supported and – snap goes the seat.

    Reply
  4. I agree with Nelson. I have two boys and they have some problems with keeping the urine in the bowl. I am replacing a wooden toilet seat with a plastic one to see if this will help the problem.

    I also replaced a different toilet seat with one of the “removable” seats, and I try to give it a thorough cleaning in the bathtub (with the water running over the hinges) about once a month. It really helps with the odor, but I should probably do this once a week (or everyday). I think the “removable” seat is wooden.

    Reply
  5. i have 3 toilets which have 9″ centres for fitting toilets seats but cant find any seats anywhere, can anyone help please

    Reply
    • Did you ever find toilet seats with 9″ centers? Mine are functional but would like to replace them with ones that have a cover. I search the internet occasionally and never have any luck.

      Reply
  6. I am looking for a seat with metal hinges due to the fact our daughter uses an assistance bars on the toilet and the plastic hinges loosen up too easily and the lid moves from side to side. If you have and elderly parent you may consider this when replacing a toilet seat.

    Reply
  7. It is not true that all round toilet seats are the same size, nor are all elongated toilet seats the same size. If you pick too small a size, you will find that the toilet seat does not cover all of the porcelain and you will be cold when you least expect it.

    An example of this are two, ordinary, round toilet seats sold by Kohler, one being 15″ from back to front and the other being almost 16″ in that dimension.

    Reply
  8. Good article but you did not mention weight capacity.
    I an a 200 lb male. I had a composite wood seat crack after 12 years of service. It was the first seat ever to crack in my home.
    I replaced it with a standard wood seat 5 months ago. This seat showed small cracks in 2 months and was unusable in 3.
    Checking up on it I found the weight capacity was 250 lbs.

    When sitting down on the seat, the instantaneous weight can approach 50% more that one’s actual weight.
    Then shifting on the seat can change the weight distribution causing overloads on areas of the seat. The weight capacity is distributive weight capacity, not point or zonal.
    With the average US male weighting in at at 190 and and the average female at 164 lbs, the seat’s 250 lb capacity now seems barely adequate.

    Shopping for a new seat, I find none telling the weight capacity. Online I find references indicating about 250 lbs to be the norm for both plastic and wood seats.
    Note: I found most of the inexpensive seats are composite wood and are painted or coated white.

    Reply
  9. I had this same problem a few years ago. There just didn’t seem to be any info out there. I actually found my solution accidentally while searching for a grip for a handgun I used to have. Apparently Hogue, who makes some of the best rubber grips, also makes one of the best rubber toilet seats we have ever used. It even has a quick release for cleaning. Check it out…

    Reply
  10. Great article and info! We just moved into a new house that needs new toilet seats, but I’ve never had to replace one. I had a suspicion there was something to know about round vs oblong seats. This article told me what I needed to know. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Well I must agree. After just getting a brand new Toto toilet, yesterday when turning on my new bathroom recessed lights, I noticed a million scratches all over the lid. I began to research for hours and wrote to the company to see if this is normal. Then I found your article. Glad to see I am not nuts. And that plastic scratches. But brand new? The only other factor could have been after it was installed the contractor did some sanding in the bathroom.perhaps the particles did that. Oh well

    Reply
  12. we just had to replace our plastic toilet seat because the bottom part broke off at the hinge. It was the plastic seat that came with the toilet. We have had the toilet for less than two years. We bought a wood seat to replace it with and it seems so much more comfortable and solid, but we’ll see if it lasts. 

    Reply
  13. Hello, I just put on 3 new plastic toilet seats in 5 days! After getting sick of the wooden ones peeling with any cleaner other than antibacterial wipes I opted for plastic. I had a hard time finding one in our local Walmart but happened to find one in the Family Dollar. When I put this one on it was cheaply made and sat right on the toilet and it was smaller so the bottom of the toilet bowl popped out around the seat. That was a negative for me!! Soooo, I went to Lowes and was surprised to find tons of seats!! In my glory I choose a nice plastic one from Aqua Source. It was also too small for the toilet!….but it looked great!! Shiny and modern. It was very uncomfortable though! The seat dipped so far in it felt like you were going to fall into the toilet!! It also was too small for my toilet and once again, the bottom of the toilet bowl popped out! My husband insisted our toilet was round!!! I kept saying then why don’t these toilet seats fit?? I returned to Lowes to get a different brand and this time a wood one again. I thought a different brand would fit better. I opted for the wood one again as the plastic ones were limited and the one I found was very comfortable. I have a plastic toilet seat in my other bathroom I LOVE!!! It is comfortable and cleans easily with any kind of cleaner with out marks or worrying about wood chipping but I got that seat 12 years ago!! The ones I found today are not like that. Anyhow, back to the wood seat #3. It is so much more comfortable and made by Church. It also is to small!! So now despite my husbands insistance of it being a round toilet I am going to go measure it. I have and it is a 17.5 in toilet. Inbetween elongated and round so I will live with the wooden seat I just got for now. Who knew a whole week of this year would be dedicated to searching for something so silly but yet so important. I guess it is the little things that really make life happy:)

    Reply
    • I know… it seems silly to be talking so much about toilet seats. But until you find yourself in search of a replacement toilet seat… you don’t realize how important one little decision can be 😀

      Reply
      • I feel the same but having recently purchased a replacement toilet seat (which does not fit!) I need advice on re-purchase. The one I purchased was 18″ but obviously far too long but thought I would put up with that but now it has slipped off just about completely. I cannot return it to the store and now I have looked at loads and afraid to make another purchase! Emmab

        Reply
  14. In my experience, Bemis toilet seats are sub-standard. I have had a 100% failure rate in the last three Bemis seats that I purchased, and I will never buy another. All attempts to contact the company for customer support have been ignored.

    I have since switched to Kohler seats and have had good luck so far.

    Reply
    • That’s three thumbs-down for Bemis, without a single good word about them. Saying they’re “sub-standard” is being charitable. I’d call them junk. You never get more than what you pay for. Bemis are cheap—enough said.

      Reply
  15. I was wondering if anyone has had the problem I did with rusting out hinges. I was thinking brass would be good. How about nickel? I don’t know why a manufacturer would be so dumb as to use steel for a hinge, but they did.

    Reply
  16. Technically you’re not supposed to use any cleaning products on wooden toilet seats, that includes bleach, vinegar or ammonia products, or any other bathroom cleaners. These harsh cleaners are the reason the finish on the seats fade, crack, and scratch. You’re only supposed to clean them with “a mild soap & water,” which is disgusting.

    After reading that on the Bemis website (Kohler states the same), I am now shopping for plastic toilet seats, I’d like to be able to clean my toilet seats with bleach and not have them chip and look horrendous in a few months like they have been.
    https://www.toiletseats.com/customer-service/frequently-asked-questions/

    Reply
    • This is nonsense for any quality seat. Short of using anything abrasive, common cleaning agents should not harm the seats. I prefer to use bacterial wipes only on toilet seats. They just sanitize and wipe residue from the underside. My feeling is you should treat a toilet seat as you would anything made of wood. Spray-on cleaners shouldn’t cause harm if wiped off quickly. I always follow-up with a little furniture polish to maintain the shine.

      Plastic seats are 100% junk IMO. Wouldn’t even consider buying such a thing. My best experience has been with bamboo seats. Bamboo is very strong, and doesn’t tend to absorb moisture like actual wood. (Bamboo is not really a true wood.) But it also depends on how well the pieces of bamboo were glued together to make the seat. The same goes for real wood. If the pieces are tongue-and-groove, there should be no issues with cracking.

      Toilet seats were once coated with tough enamel, like ovens or bbq grills. You could use almost anything to clean them. Of course those days are now gone, and what we get to choose from tends to be mediocre at best.

      Reply
  17. Just as a reference, we have had bad luck with Bemis replacement toilet seat covers. Discoloration and breakage are our primary complaints. On the other hand, the seats that came with our Kohler toilets have lasted 10 years.

    Reply
  18. We are partial to Kohler plastic seats. The Bemis wood seats we originally had discolored and cracked fairly quickly. We also find the Kohler seats are more comfortable.

    Reply
    • Completely agree about Bemis brand toilet seats. Whether real wood or composition, I found them to be junk. Always cracking or discoloring quickly.

      If you’re selling your house and want to save a few bucks while making your bathroom look better, Bemis is for you. Of course the new owner will curse the seats in short order. And if you’re that cheap, they’ll probably curse all the other corners you cut to take advantage of them so you could put a few extra bucks in your own pocket at their expense.

      Reply
  19. My house came with a wooden seat that, although looks nice, seems too small, and my toilet is definitely round, not elongated. The front of the toilet sticks out past the seat.

    I’m looking to upgrading to a seat with a built-in bidet. I have an add-on bidet from Home Depot and because it elevates the back of the seat, after enough times the hinges broke because the rear ‘bumper pads’ didn’t make contact with the toilet bowl, so all the weight was on the hinges.

    Anyway, from what I’ve read I can use an elongated seat on my round toilet, and everyone says they are much more comfortable. Btw, Bidets are GREAT. Once you start using it you won’t want go back to wiping.

    Reply
  20. I would like to add, slightly off- topic. It mentions above that a toilet will last a lifetime. So if you ever have occasion to shop for a brand new toilet don’t buy the cheapest one in the store. It’s a good time to indulge yourself with a quality product. Check the diameter of the “trapway”, grossly put, the toilets “throat”. Of course you’ll want a larger one so you aren’t plunging twice a week. Don’t buy cheap toilets.

    Reply
    • You can pay quite a lot for a toilet if you so choose. In our first house, the bathrooms were very small. I think they were almost as small as you could imagine. Choosing a toilet with a low tank gave us more room for a towel rack and a cabinet, while generally looking classier to us. The lower tank also made the room feel not quite so cramped. Also, low tank toilets tend to be much quieter than normal; another plus.

      We paid about double what most toilets cost, but we felt it was worthwhile. After redecorating the bathrooms with new floors, sliding doors on the tub/shower, new drop-in sinks plus wallpaper, the rooms looked far better. The only drawback was we hated leaving those expensive toilets when we moved. They were soooo nice!

      One last comment about low toilet tanks: It can be necessary to lower the wall plumbing to fit the lower bowl. Not really a big deal, just be aware of it should you choose this option.

      Reply
      • Not sure what you mean by ‘lowering the wall plumbing’… if you are referring to the water supply pipe, those are fairly low to the ground and the supply line comes in different lengths and can be easily replaced

        Reply
    • Nothing gross…toilets perform an important function. The part of the toilet you are describing is called ‘horn’..

      I have not had any issues with the ‘cheap’ $99 for oblong and $89 for the round aquasource from Lowe’s. Since our reno 7 years ago, they have performed great, are ADA compliant (chair height), and have dual flush.

      Something doesn’t have to cost a bazillion bucks to be good, and just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean you won’t have issues. Do your research, read the specs and reviews.

      Reply
  21. Regardless of wood or plastic seat, add some more bumpers on the bottom of the seat. This will help spread the weight and should help the seat last longer.

    You can also add some bumpers under the lid. This will eliminate the noise when closing it…same principle with cabinet doors.

    Reply

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