Last updated on November 27th, 2023 at 07:30 am
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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)
It may surprise you to hear 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! 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 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 you can easily dump its contents when the time comes.
Composting toilets don’t tend to smell as solid and liquid waste is separated, and they also require little to no water, making them the perfect companion for boondockers. Having the ability to disconnect from shore power is one thing- being able to use only a small amount of stored water is another!
One of the huge benefits of composting toilets is that they 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 ideal for your family of five!), it’s 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 it’s worth considering for ease of use in the future.
Similar to composting toilets, portable RV toilets are designed with simplicity in mind. These toilets may be equated to a simple seat and bucket setup, but they 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 as they don’t require any plumbing or water connections. They can be totally removed from your camper, placed anywhere, and packed up on 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 and better than replacing an RV toilet with a regular toilet!
Gravity Flush Toilet (Industry Standard)
If you’re replacing your existing RV toilet, the chances are high that you’re replacing a gravity-flush toilet. This style of RV toilet is 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. Gravity flush toilets tend to be lightweight and have larger holding tanks than portable or composting toilets. I also love that the amount of water used for flushing can be controlled so that less ends up going to waste down the tank.
It’s worth keeping an eye on how full your black tank is getting as nothing is worse on vacation than realizing there’s a clog or blockage! The video below is a great watch, especially for those new to RVing as it breaks down RV holding tanks, explaining pretty much everything you need to know about them!
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 of bolts and a bit of sealant, but that’s it!
Similar to portable toilets, cassette RV toilets tend to be relatively small, with a humble waste tank section that will be removed when it’s time to empty the toilet. Cassette toilets can be fixed in a permanent spot, and since they are generally pretty small, they are a great consideration for those in small RVs or travel trailers.
The main downside with cassette toilets is the unpleasant dumping experience, as you’ll need to get up close and personal with the waste which isn’t the nicest experience! However, cassette toilets use little water which is good news for those with a small amount of water on board. As the waste isn’t separated, cassette toilets can get stinky and fill up fast, so they may not be the wisest option for families or large groups of travelers.
Why Won’t A Regular Toilet Work In An RV?
Now 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 some of these reasons in a bit more depth.
Reason 1: 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 in 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 residential toilets are made from are simply far heavier than plastic-based RV toilets. In an RV, heavy doesn’t 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.
Reason 2: RV Toilets Help Prevent Unpleasant Smells
RV toilets are designed to assist with the nasty smell emitting from a sewer system, given 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 bathrooms are key in RVs and can be located in difficult areas of a camper. 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 isn’t a useful 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.
Reason 3: 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 the toilets in our homes may use up to 7 gallons of water per flush, depending on how old they are? 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 complete 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 in 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, and greatly improves water efficiency.
Regular toilets use far more water than is useful in an RV setting. Not only will you use up your freshwater quickly, but your black tank will also fill up much faster than necessary.
Reason 4: Regular Toilet Installation 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 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, however, wouldn’t be the case for attempting to replace an RV toilet with a regular toilet, and would be far more of a task! Regular toilets have a much more complicated setup, not just including access to your RVs water supply. Regular toilets have a considerably 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.
Reason 5: 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 from more flexible materials than residential toilets. It’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid replacing an RV toilet with a regular toilet!
Reason 6: Regular Toilets Are More Expensive To Install
Even if you plan on replacing your RV toilet with the old regular 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 too.
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. Regular toilets may fit through the door, look good in your RV bathroom, and may seem simple enough to hook up.
However, the valves, flushing mechanisms, and just about everything else are totally different once you try to set things up inside your RV. My advice would be to 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 Replace An RV Toilet With A Regular Toilet?
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 putting a regular toilet in your RV!