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If you are performing a home bathroom renovation, you may be wondering what you can do with your old, standard toilet. Perhaps your RV could be its new home- but is this a good idea?
Can you replace an RV toilet with a regular toilet?
You cannot replace an RV toilet with a regular toilet, for a variety of reasons. The main reasons include wasted water, the weight of a traditional toilet, complicated installation, and durability factors. However, many RV-appropriate toilets can mimic the feel and look of a traditional or regular toilet.
But what are some of the different types of RV toilets, and how are they different from standard residential home toilets? And what can you expect when it comes time to replace your RV toilet?
Let’s dive in!
Types of RV Toilets (And How They Differ From Regular Toilets)
Just like it matters that you know the difference between a wet bath and a dry bath in your RV, it is necessary to know the difference between different types of RV toilets.
It may surprise you to hear that there are roughly three different types of RV toilets to consider when it comes time to replace your existing plumbing. Let’s learn about these types now, and determine how they differ from residential toilets.
Found in many newer RVs, especially those perfectly outfitted for boondocking, composting toilets are all the rage these days. The reason these toilets are so popular? They are self-contained!
But what does a self-contained toilet mean in terms of your RV bathroom? Composting toilets are designed with compartments underneath the seat, and these compartments are capable of splitting up your liquid and solid waste.
You no longer have to worry about the black tank of your RV. No need to install any RV tank heaters if your composting toilet takes care of all of your black tank waste!
These toilets are capable of breaking down and otherwise composting your solid waste with the addition of sawdust or peat moss, so that you can easily dump its contents when the time comes. This style of RV toilet is also less likely to smell.
Composting toilets also require little to no water, which makes them the perfect companion to boondockers. Having the ability to disconnect from shore power is one thing- being able to use very little of your stored water is another!
That is the primary difference between standard toilets and composting toilets: composting toilets are completely disconnected from any sewer or plumbing system, RV or otherwise.
While a composting toilet only has enough tank capacity for the average couple (not right for your family of five!), it is a smart solution for RVers looking to totally disconnect. You simply empty your separate compartments whenever they get full.
The other main difference between composting toilets and regular toilets is the price. Composting toilets are very expensive for many RVers, often ten times the cost of a gravity flush model. It may not be your first choice in an RV renovation, but should still be considered.
Similar to composting toilets, portable RV toilets are designed with simplicity in mind. These toilets may be equated to a simple seat and bucket set up, but these toilets may work for you in a pinch!
You won’t need a tank monitor for this style of toilet- though the attached tank will need emptying much more frequently than your standard RV black tank. Plus, the tank also doesn’t do the best job of breaking down your waste, especially when compared to a composting toilet.
However, portable toilets are different from regular toilets in that they don’t require any plumbing or water connections. They can be totally removed from your camper, placed anywhere, and packed up in the same day.
Such simplicity may suit many RVers, especially weekend warriors or those of you not looking to camp for an extended period of time. These toilets are also much more affordable than other styles.
Gravity Flush Toilet (Industry Standard)
If you are replacing your existing RV toilet, the chances are high that you are replacing a gravity flush toilet. This style of RV toilet is also the most similar to regular or residential toilets- let’s see why.
Gravity flush toilets require a water or plumbing connection as well as flushing access to your black water tank. These toilets can fill their bowls with water and flush everything down below them, directly into the black tank.
Even some of the smallest RVs with a shower and toilet have a gravity flush toilet installed. These have been perfected for RV living after decades of practice, trial, and error.
The reasons this style of toilet works better than a regular toilet is that it is far more lightweight, you control the amount of water needed to flush, and the holding tank is much larger than the tanks on portable or composting toilets.
These gravity flush style toilets are also the most affordable for RVers looking to renovate their bathrooms. When it comes time to install, these toilets are also pretty simple- you’ll need a couple bolts and a bit of sealant, but that’s it!
Reasons Why a Regular Toilet Won’t Work in an RV
Now that you’ve learned more about standard RV toilets and how they work, you may have guessed some of the reasons why a regular toilet isn’t a good fit for your RV. However, let’s take a look at why more in depth.
Standard Toilets Weigh A Lot More
Believe it or not, your residential toilet weighs far more than an RV toilet- and this is even before we add water to it!
The average regular home toilet can weigh anywhere from 70 pounds to almost 200 pounds, depending on the size, style, and materials. RV toilets can weigh as little as 5 pounds and up to 20 pounds- a huge difference!
The weight of your RV matters, especially if you are towing. Putting a standard toilet into your RV bathroom can affect more than your overall weight limit. Placing so much weight in only one section of your RV can lead to a warped frame at worst, and uneven driving conditions at best!
Plus, those weight ranges are for the toilet on its own, without water in the tank or bowl. The materials that residential toilets are made out of are simply far heavier than plastic-based RV toilets.
In an RV, heavy does not necessarily mean quality. You should err on the side of lightweight installations in your RV, especially if you have a small and lightweight toy hauler.
RV Toilets Help with Unpleasant Smells
RV toilets are designed to assist you with the average smell emitting from a sewer system, given that your black tanks are directly attached to your rig. Our residential homes don’t have the same issue, and are not designed to combat it.
Composting toilets especially are designed to smell better- RV toilet manufacturers know that bathrooms are key in RVs and can be located in difficult areas of the rig. Small living can be amazing, but not with a stinky toilet!
Regular toilets are designed to flush the smell away, and have no way of helping RVers with these scents. Their flushing sites are open to black tanks, which means there is no helpful valve or compartment to hold back any unpleasant sewer smells.
While purchasing a portable waste tank can help eliminate some of the waste found in your black tank, regular toilets simply aren’t designed to combat plumbing smells.
RV Toilets are Designed to Use Less Water
The stark difference between regular toilets and RV toilets is their usage of water. Did you know that the toilets in our homes use an average of 3 gallons of water, each and every time you flush?!
This isn’t a feasible amount of water usage for RV living. The average fresh water tank is around 40 gallons, and your black tank likely matches this amount. Could you imagine traveling with a large group and running out of water within a day, especially if your RV has two bathrooms?
RV toilets are designed to allow you control over the amount of water you use per flush. This is because RV manufacturers know that water will always be a finite resource if you are dry camping or otherwise disconnected from a water supply.
Fresh water tanks are necessary for an RV plumbing system, but most RVers want to use their fresh water for cooking or showering. There is no sense wasting so much good water on a flushing toilet!
This is why portable and composting toilets are more popular than ever. Having the option to use a toilet without the need for water at all is a blessing for many RVers.
Regular toilets use far more water than is useful in an RV setting. Not only will you use up your freshwater quickly, your black tank will also fill up much faster than necessary.
Installation of a Regular Toilet is Far More Complicated
One of the first repairs I had to make on my 19 foot vintage travel trailer was replacing the old toilet. It was from the seventies, and ended up with the smallest leak in its valve system.
Given that I was brand new to RVing, I was very nervous about installing such an important piece of equipment. However, my new gravity flush toilet was nearly identical to the one that was installed in the 70s, and I had no issue installing it in an hour or two!
This would absolutely not be the case if you were trying to replace your RV toilet with a regular toilet. Regular toilets have a much more complicated set up, not just including access to your RVs water supply.
Regular toilets have a much more complicated tank structure, and the options for securing your regular toilet in an RV are even more limited. If you thought replacing your RV AC was difficult, you have no idea how complicated installing a regular toilet in an RV would be!
Plus, regular toilets are often oversized for an RV setting. This is especially true if your travel trailer is small, or you only have a wet bath, which means you will essentially be showering in the same location as your toilet.
Regular toilets are often too tall, too wide, and otherwise unyielding when it comes time to install. You may not even be able to fit it through your RV door! Chances are, a regular toilet won’t fit with your existing RV countertops and shower set-up in the first place.
Regular Toilets Can’t Handle Road Conditions
Just like installing a regular toilet in your RV bathroom will be complicated and ill-fitted, regular toilets are not designed to be used in a mobile setting. Sure, regular toilets are very heavy- but this is not going to be enough to keep them from tipping over should you brake hard enough.
Could you imagine having a regular toilet in your RV and braking suddenly, hard enough to remove it from its fastenings or otherwise tipping it over? These porcelain necessities may work in a household that isn’t on wheels but they are made for only stable homes.
Just like you should make sure your RV is level for optimal propane fridge usage, a regular toilet would most likely not work well if your RV was uneven. Plus, the two simple bolts needed to secure your standard RV toilet will not be strong enough to hold back a heavy regular toilet.
Road vibrations alone could be enough to crack the tank of a regular toilet. RV toilets are built to handle road conditions, and are made of more flexible materials than residential toilets. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Regular Toilets Will Ultimately Be More Expensive to Install
Even if you plan on replacing your RV toilet with the old toilet from your residential home, the chances of it being more expensive overall are high. Not only will you need additional supplies to properly secure your residential toilet, but you may need assistance from a plumber.
This is because RV sewer systems and tank designs are inherently different from residential toilet setups. RV bathrooms are designed to be easy to maintain and otherwise renovate. Standard homes are not made this way.
Your regular toilets may fit through the door, look good in your RV bathroom, and may seem simple enough to hook up, but the valves, flushing mechanisms, and just about everything else are totally different once you try to set things up inside of your RV.
Do yourself a favor and simply purchase a new RV toilet. Many of these are available for $100 to $300, a fairly affordable investment for such a vital piece of equipment in your RV. You don’t want to head out on a camping trip and find that your regular toilet doesn’t work in your RV!
So, Can You Put a Regular Toilet in an RV?
Unfortunately, RV toilets are designed differently from regular toilets. Not having access to running water and a sewer system are just some of the main reasons why you should never put a standard toilet into a mobile setting.
When in doubt, ask an RV expert or a professional. Many RV toilets are very affordable and easy to install- far easier than installing a regular toilet in your RV!