While the inner workings of your toilet and plumbing system may seem complex, most of it relies on the forces of gravity to operate. As long as your toilet is above your sewer pipe and you have adequate water pressure to get things moving, you should be good to go. So, what if gravity can’t work in your favor?
I experienced this exact issue when I was finishing out my basement. I wanted to install a new toilet to create a living space down there. Unfortunately, using a traditional toilet was simply not possible thanks to the drainpipe being above the basement floor. After some research, I discovered macerating toilets.
The best macerating toilet is capable of turning solid waste into movable sludge. These toilets are a bit more intensive than your average fixture. However, the extra components make it possible to install commodes in places that were never possible before.
How Macerating Toilets Work
The thing that sets these fixtures apart from what you’d normally find in homes is the macerating unit. This small tank can be installed behind the wall, next to the toilet, or directly underneath the water tank to save space. Whatever the case may be, it’s this unit component that’s responsible for treating and moving waste.
When you flush, the waste is moved into the unit where powerful blades or grinders turn solid waste into a slurry. This is important for the next steps in the process. Because these toilets are installed in locations that can’t accommodate normal plumbing systems, waste has to move to a distant drainpipe.
By turning the solid waste into a slurry, it’s able to move freely through pipes without having to worry about clogs.
Once the waste has liquified, the pump that’s powering the maceration unit pushed it to your sewage line, septic tank, or another storage reservoir. The great thing about maceration toilets is that you can place them virtually anywhere. As long as the pump is powerful enough to move the waste to the distance you need it to go, you don’t have to do too much extensive plumbing work. Plus, you can easily connect that final waste pipe to other gray water sources, such as a sink or shower.
When Do You Need a Macerating Toilet?
Thanks to the versatile nature of macerating toilets, they’re a great choice for several situations. The most common is in the basement. Basement bathrooms are often located below the home’s sewage line. Thus, toilets, sinks, and other fixtures need an extra push to deliver the waste vertically. Macerating toilets do just that. For this reason, these fixtures are also sometimes referred to as upflush toilets.
Beyond the basement, macerating toilets do well in locations where the drain is simply not accessible without extensive plumbing overall. You’ll often find them in standalone cabins with no access to a traditional sewage line. Many off-grid homesteaders use them as well with an additional storage tank. You can also find modified versions in RVs.
Typically, macerating units are not to be used as your primary toilet. While these toilets have come a long way in the last couple of decades, they are not immune to damage. Macerating toilets are complex and have several moving parts that could fail. They require a bit more maintenance than standard toilets. To maximize the life of your macerating toilet, they should only be used occasionally for convenience.
How to Choose the Best Macerating Toilet
Macerating toilets are unique fixtures. Because they serve a very specific purpose, it’s crucial that you take some time in choosing the right model for your needs. Here are some things to consider as you shop.
One of the most important things to look into is how powerful the pump is. As we mentioned earlier, the pump is the heart of the system. Without an efficient pump, you will not be able to send waste to your sewage system. The last thing you want to deal with after installation is realizing that the pump can’t move waste the distance you need.
When you’re choosing a macerating toilet, check to see the vertical distance the pump can handle. Most manufacturers will provide this information on the specs sheet. It may be referred to as the “head.” You’ll also find the horizontal distance.
To play things safe, stick to pumps that can handle long distances with ease. It’s better to get a pump that’s more powerful than you need it to be than deal with one that’s underpowered.
Sometimes, manufacturers will also provide pump specifications in the form of horsepower. A higher horsepower rating equates to a more powerful pump.
Ease of Installation
Next up, you should think about the installation process. Does the toilet you’re eyeing require you to install the pump behind a wall? What about the power requirements? Those small details can make all the difference during your install.
Almost all macerating toilets will require you to install the plumbing behind the wall. However, the location of the maceration unit varies. Some require it to be close to the toilet while others offer a bit more flexibility in placement.
As for power, you will need direct access to an outlet. It’s important to ensure that the pump’s cord can reach a GFCIoutlet without any issues.
It’s always good to save water when you can. The good news is that macerating toilets can help you cut back up to 70 percent of your water usage compared to a standard toilet. Thanks to the maceration process, these fixtures don’t need a ton of water to operate efficiently.
You won’t have any problem finding units that use less than the EPA standard. Dual-flush models are also available to give you more control over how much water you use.
Size and Design
Next up, we have size and design. It’s a good idea to plan out your new bathroom space prior to looking for a unit. Macerating toilets can take up a bit more space than normal due to the tank. With that said, you can find models that are strategically designed to cut back on wasted space. These options may have the macerating unit under the tank. Or, they might come with a lengthier connection tube to give you more placement options.
As for design, macerating toilets look like normal fixtures. So, you can find a bevy of designs to choose from. If you’re looking for something that’s easier to clean, stick to a unit with sleek lines and a full skirt.
Just because your toilet is going to be placed out of the way doesn’t mean that you should be comfortable. Some extra comfort features can make your bathroom experience more enjoyable. Things like an elongated bowl and soft-close lid are great features to have.
5 of the Best Macerating Toilets
The macerating toilet from Intelflo has a very simple design. It’s more compact than most toilets, macerating or otherwise. In total, it’s approximately 19.3 inches long and 15.35 inches wide. Thanks to its compact nature, the toilet will fit right into tight basement bathrooms.
The cool thing about this particular toilet is that it doesn’t have a separate maceration unit. The grinder is built into the toilet itself. Thus, it’s entirely self-contained. You don’t have to worry about finding a spot for the separate unit or having to manage complicated plumbing. Just connect everything to the back of the toilet and plug it in.
The toilet features a dual-flush system. It’s electrically powered and controlled with two low-profile buttons on the side. The full flush uses only a single gallon of water. For the half flush, only 0.75 gallons are used. That’s more efficient than most toilets on the market today.
- Dual-flush toilet
- Only uses 1 gallon per flush
- Pumps up to 20 feet vertically and 160 feet horizontally
- Only 19.3 inches long
- Pump produces approximately 5 horsepower
- Pump is located inside the toilet
- Can’t adjust water level in bowl
- Installation guide can be confusing
- Prone to damage from thick wipes
Saniflow is one of the biggest names in the macerating toilet game. The Sanicompact model is great for bathrooms with limited space. Despite having an elongated bowl, the toilet is only about 18 inches long and 14 inches wide.
A big contributor to the toilet’s small footprint is the lack of a large water tank. There’s a direct water supply line connection on the back. Another thing you won’t find is a separate macerating unit. Like the previous toilet, this unit has the maceration components built in. This helps to cut back on space significantly.
From a design standpoint, this toilet offers a sleek and modern look. The clean white glaze is complemented with a simple push-button flush mechanism. It’s covered in mirror chrome. The seat hinges are also covered in chrome to create a cohesive look.
- Tankless toilet design
- Uses a single gallon of water for flush
- Pumps up to 9 feet vertically and 100 feet horizontally
- Small footprint
- Simple push-button flushing mechanism
- Elongated bowl
- Self-contained unit
- Prone to clogging
- Weaker flush than other options
- Produces a lot of noise
The SaniAccess is another model from Saniflow. While the Sanicompact is designed to save space, this model looks more like an average toilet. It has a traditional design and a standard round toilet to fit in with any residential bathroom.
This unit does have a separate water tank. While this does help with installation, the tank does take up a considerable amount of space in the rear. Luckily, the depth of the tank does make room for the macerating unit. It’s located directly below the tank and sits against the wall. The placement of the unit keeps it out of the way.
Saniflow does offer some flexibility with placement. You can easily extend the supply line from the tank. This makes it possible to put the macerating unit behind a wall for discretion.
- Traditional toilet design
- Pump up 15 feet vertically and 150 feet horizontally
- Stainless steel macerating blade
- Flexible placement
- Macerating unit is located below water tank
- Very low water level in bowl
- May require multiple flushes to get rid of waste
- Produces a lot of noise
- Can be difficult to keep clean
The Liberty Pumps macerating toilet is powered by a pump that produces 1/2 horsepower. It’s not the most powerful pump on the market, so you may be a bit limited in where you can place the toilet. With that said, the toilet does a relatively good job of taking care of waste efficiently.
Within the maceration unit is some robust blades. They quickly turn solid waste into a slurry that’s easy to move. One thing that we appreciate about the toilet’s design is that the unit has a convenient access panel. Removing the panel gives you access to the macerating blades and control unit. You don’t have to jump through any hoops to perform maintenance.
This toilet uses a traditional water tank to flush the waste down into the maceration unit. With each flush, only 1.28 gallons are used.
- Uses only 1.28 gallons water per flush
- Built-in safety alarm
- Powerful RazorCut maceration blades
- Easy to access maceration unit for maintenance
- Traditional toilet design
- Convenient maceration unit placement
- Alarm is sensitive
- Waste can sometimes affect electronics
- Low water level in bowl
- Very noisy
- Weaker pump
From Liberty is this simple macerating toilet. It takes on a traditional design. There’s a large water tank up top and a standard round bowl. Apart from the maceration unit located below the water tank, this unit looks like your average residential toilet.
Of course, it is hiding some extra features. Behind the bowl, you can find the powerful maceration unit. It is made out of durable materials and features a removable lid for easy maintenance. The modest pump does a decent job of removing waste. The maceration unit can be powered by any GFCI outlet. The toilet comes with an 8-foot cord for easy placement.
- Round toilet bowl
- 1/2 horsepower pump
- Easy access to maceration unit
- Traditional design
- Lengthy 8-foot cord
- Uses more water than other units
- Backflow valve can be finnicky
- Weaker flush
- Produces a lot of noise
And The Best Macerating Toilet Is
Any of our recommended toilets can do a lot to help you complete your renovation job. Whether you’re installing a new bathroom in the basement or want to put a toilet in an off-grid home, macerating toilets are the way to go.
Out of all of the toilets we went over, we believe that the unit from Intelflo is the clear winner of this roundup. It’s a beautifully designed toilet that challenges the basic idea of what people think macerating units are. It’s not some clunky fixture like the unit from Liberty or the Saniflow SaniAccess.
Instead, it’s a sleek unit that’s built to be compact and efficient. The toilet takes up very little space, allowing you to plan your bathroom how you want. Plus, it’s the most powerful unit on this list. The pump can drive waste up to 20 feet vertically. None of the other toilets can achieve that feat. Also, this toilet is very efficient with water. It only uses a single gallon of water for a full flush and 0.75 gallons for a half flush.
The Intelflo toilet is a great addition to any bathroom. Thanks to its compact size and powerful performance, you can get the convenience of a bathroom anywhere without having to complete an extensive plumbing overhaul.