Also called high-tank or Victorian-style toilets, pull-chain toilets are a blast from the past but they’re making a comeback in contemporary bathroom remodels and new bath constructions. Let’s take a closer look at how this vintage toilet works and why it’s seeing a revival.

A Brief History of Pull-Chain Toilets

These toilets were the norm in private Victorian homes and even featured ornate ceramic handles on the pull chain. Pull-chain toilets initially had to have their tanks mounted up high because they worked by using gravity to flush wastewater. The hardware and intricate carvings on these toilets made them look impressive. While their cousin, the clawfoot tub, made a comeback, people didn’t seem too interested in the pull-chain toilet — that is, until now.

Old Meets New

Designers and homeowners are playing around with a combination of the vintage high-tank toilet that incorporates more modern efficiencies such as water-preserving flush capabilities. Just the look of a pull-chain toilet can bring that vintage feel to a home. It’s something that you don’t see every day and it can possibly add property value to a home.

Also, pull-chain toilets don’t have to have their tanks mounted way up high. Some models have the tank mounted only slightly higher than a typical two-piece toilet. Some people use outrageous pipe shapes while others have square or circular tanks. The look isn’t for everyone as some people love it and others hate it. It can certainly take some getting used to!

Installing a Pull-Chain Toilet

It’s also possible to convert a two-piece toilet into a high-tank toilet. This is typically done with a Z pipe conversion kit, which allows you to keep your toilet bowl where it is while the professionals install a new tank.

That being said, others may choose to go for a completely new toilet in the pull-chain model. In that case, they get the choice of a Z pipe or an L pipe. The decision will depend on your rough-in or the point at which the basic structure is installed but the piping hasn’t been added yet. To put it into context, an L pipe drops down from the tank and goes into the back of the toilet bowl. It requires a rough-in between 12 and 15 inches from a finished wall. In contrast, a Z pipe comes down from the tank but attaches to the top of the toilet rather than the back. This lends itself to a rough-in of 12 inches from the finished wall.

Part of the fun of getting a pull-chain toilet is choosing from all of the colors and styles available. This can make toilet shopping much more exciting than it would typically be! For instance, tanks can be made of ceramic or wood and can span a wide range of colors and wood finishes. Tank wall mounts are most common, although a corner mount is another option. In terms of hardware, consumers usually choose between a brass or chrome finish. Pull-chain toilets support both round and elongated bowls so that’s another aesthetic choice that you get to make.

To ensure that you are getting a top-quality pull-chain toilet, make sure that it includes stainless steel pipes to prevent rot. Before committing to a pull-chain toilet, be sure to check the state requirements for plumbing fixtures in your municipality.

Disadvantages of a Pull-Chain Toilet

The disadvantage of a high-tank toilet is that it will lack more modern amenities that you might find in more contemporary models. This includes heated seats, automatic flushing, and built-in lighting. Homeowners should be sure to find a high-tank model that is water-saving as not all of these models will have that environmentally conscious characteristic. Also, these toilets aren’t going to break any high-performing records. They are average toilets and while they are reliable, they won’t give you a super-powered flush as more modern units do.

Pull-chain toilets are a niche topic and not something that you will see in the average American bathroom. That being said, they sure are an interesting take on the boring old toilet. Perhaps you now have ideas for your next bathroom remodel.