What is the difference between a round front and elongated toilet bowl?
The toilet is one of those fixtures in your home that you take for granted. You don't always think about the specifics until you need to do some maintenance. One of the most basic things to understand about your toilet is if it features a 'round front' or 'elongated' bowl. This refers to the measurement from the seat bolt holes to the tip of the bowl.
A round front bowl generally has a dimension of approximately 16.5" from the seat bolt holes to the tip of the bowl. An elongated bowl is approximately 2" longer, or about 18.5". (Note: these dimensions can change from manufacturer to manufacturer, but there is almost always about a 2" difference between the 2 sizes).
The easiest way to figure out what you have is to measure. Here is a comparison of two typical Caroma toilet seats; remember, if it is approximately 16.5", you have a round front seat. If it is approximately 18.5", you have an elongated seat.
Ok, that's "what" the difference is, now for the "why". (This is particularly important if you are looking to replace the toilet. You should know what best suits your needs, and that isn't necessarily what you already have).
When indoor toilets were first introduced, they were all designed with 'round front' bowls - one size fits all. As more research was done, elongated bowls were added to the mix. There used to be a significant cost difference between the two choices, but that really isn't the case any more. So, choices are largely decided by preference and space.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Elongated bowls are generally considered to be more attractive and comfortable than round front bowls, but as with most things, this is a matter of taste and can be affected by an individual's height and weight. Elongated bowls are also considered more 'hygienic' in that the larger surface area of the bowl makes is easier for men and children to use with less mess. The longer bowl size is also a requirement for ADA use, and the longer/wider bowl is generally easier to use for those with mobility issues.
Cons: The primary reason some don't choose an elongated bowl is space. In very small bathrooms, an elongated bowl simply might not fit or, might feel too crowded. Also, if a bathroom is primarily being used by small children, the larger opening size can be more difficult for them to negotiate.
Pro's: Space! Some bathrooms are very small and only a round front bowl will fit. Round front is also a better fit for small children.
Cons: Most people prefer the appearance of an elongated bowl. Also, the smaller surface area of a round front bowl tends to be more difficult for children and men to use without accidental mess, so it's a bit less hygienic.
The bowl size is only one of the choices you should consider when selecting a new toilet. You should also consider toilet height, (standard height or Easy Height), flush volume, type of flush, (in-wall, dual-flush, single-flush, wash-down etc), and of course, design. Fortunately, these are easy to research, and you will be glad you took the time when you have your new toilet installed, perfectly suited to your needs.