What Are Short Toilets? – A Good-to-Know Clarification

Short As in Vertically or Horizontally?

It is frustrating when you google for ‘short toilets’ and expect to see… wait a minute. Do you mean the height of the toilet or the length, as in front to back? Or both?

You will be a happy person if you are looking for a toilet small enough to fit into a tight space in the bathroom with ‘short toilets.’ Otherwise, ‘low profile toilets’ is a better search term if you want the overall toilet height to be lower than the average floor-to-tank-top dimension.

The toilet height is not an issue for most people designing or planning their bathroom layout. But the depth (front to back) is a critical dimension in the minimum space requirement of the local building code.

So, if space is a factor to consider, ‘short’ is a context related to the space surrounding the toilet. This means the short toilet you are looking for must be able to meet the minimum space rule given the existing or allocated bathroom space.

Small or compact toilets are semantically related to short toilets, implying how much floor space and clearance space are needed. Whereas the height correlates to the wall space and ceiling height which is not an issue most of the time. Unless you want the toilet under the window sill or wall cabinet.

However, if the height is your intended search, then there are two dimensions here, where one is frequently looked at, and the other is hardly a thing. → More info on Toilet Height

Let’s address the front-to-back measurement first.

NOTE: Unless specifically stated, all toilets referred to in this post are the floor-mounted tank and bowl, gravity-flush siphonic toilets.

What Makes a Short Depth Toilet?


There isn’t an official guideline to determine what a small toilet’s dimension should or will be. But generally, according to some popular brands’ descriptions of some toilet models, almost all with a length shorter than 28 inches are deemed compact toilets.

So, depending on how small the bathroom is, buyers will look for the best-sized toilet that fits and comply with local code. The smaller the space, the shorter the length will be preferred. But like all things physical, there is a limit to size and dimension.

The shortest length has to be the wall-mounted toilets that are about 20 inches projected from the wall. For the typical floor-mounted tank and bowl toilets, the shortest is about 23 inches. Also, if you consider the bowl shape, a round bowl is usually about 2 inches shorter than an elongated bowl.

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And if you are looking for a short floor toilet no longer than 25 inches, it is usually of a one-piece design. The shortest so far for a two-piece toilet is slightly over 26-inch. However, it is probably a 10″ rough-in toilet if you manage to find one.

Therefore, a short freestanding toilet in this case (refer to “A” in IMAGE-1 above) is anything between 23 inches (shortest currently) and 28 inches.

Whether you are planning a new build or remodel, you can’t go wrong by measuring from the wall to get the total length that meets the minimum space clearance. Most toilet specifications only show the toilet’s overall length, excluding the little spacing between the wall and the toilet tank.

American Standard is probably the only one that shows its overall toilet length from the front tip of the bowl to the wall and not the back of the tank.

Toilet Length Measurement
Measuring a Toilet’s Overall Length

The gap between the wall and back of the tank serves as an adjustment allowance for fitting the toilet to the floor flange if the rough-in is a little short of the standard 10-, 12-, or 14-inch. A proper fit should see the tank, at most, barely touching and NOT pressing against the wall when the trapway is aligned perfectly with the flange.

So remember, if you need a short toilet to have more clearance space at the front, a better term is ‘compact toilets,’ or ‘short depth toilets.’ Then you will get more relevant search results to your query instead of just ‘short toilets,’ which could also mean the toilet or bowl height. Or, you can narrow down your search to a specific length like ’24-inch short depth toilets.’

Toilet Height or Bowl Height

You probably have heard about the 20 or 21-inch toilet. Imagine the disappointment when you discover the number is irrelevant to your idea of a short toilet that you want for your super small bathroom. That is the dimension from the floor to the bowl rim and not the length discussed above. And 20-inch for a bowl height is by no means short. They are tall toilets, if not tallest.

There is no such thing as a floor-standing toilet with an external tank having a 20 or 21-inch overall length.

Unlike the unofficial determination of a short or compact toilet, the toilet height, or more specifically, the bowl height, has an ADA range. Commonly referred to as ADA-Compliant Toilets, the seat height must be at least 17-inch and up to a maximum of 19-inch from the floor to the top of the toilet seat.

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Coincidentally, a comfort height toilet has the same height range as the ADA Compliant toilets. In contrast, a standard height toilet will have a bowl of around 14 or 15 inches tall.

So for clarity, you can sum up the ‘short’ differences as follows:

  • 23 inches and above refers to the toilet length
  • 21 inches and below refers to the bowl or seat height

The confusion is due to the name’s lack of a proper epithet. And it is not realistic to expect a layperson to understand the technicality between a 21-inch and 24-inch toilet. Anyone looking to solve a tight space issue will have no interest in the toilet’s height. Likewise, ‘short’ to a small person is never about the length usually.

And if you have to ask, the shortest toilet (height-wise) probably belongs to this American Standard Baby Devoro, which is only 10-1/4″ with a toilet length of 25 inches (including the gap between the wall and tank, of course).

American Standard Baby Devoro versus Standard Height Toilet
American Standard Baby Devoro versus Standard Height Toilet

BUT, did you notice there isn’t a 22-inch toilet mentioned above?

That’s because 22-inch doesn’t exist vertically or horizontally (yet). The closest is this Winzo toilet with a length of 22-3/4 inches. Height-wise, there may be some technical challenges to achieving a 22-inch high bowl with porcelain. But the probability of it becoming a reality definitely looks more promising than a 24-inch bowl height toilet.

Ending Thoughts

“A 21-inch toilet is not a short toilet, but the 23-inch is the shortest”.

If you jump straight to this summary, the sentence makes absolutely no sense at all. But once you understand the technicality behind those toilet dimensions, you too may begin to use the vague short-cuts in all communication forms out of convenience. Nobody’s fault.

And you may think this is trivial, but sometimes being overly simplistic may lead to miscommunication that can cost dearly if not realized and rectified immediately.

Especially when you are trying to buy your toilet online, some websites do not provide adequate descriptions or specifications. Will you not ask for a refund or return if you find that the toilet is either too big or too small?

On the other hand, if you are an online toilet vendor and wonder how to reduce the number of returns and refunds, perhaps a more detailed product description or specification may help.

A toilet’s dimensions are as important as its best feature. Potential buyers may turn away if they find that the dimensions shown doesn’t match their requirements. That is not a loss of business. In fact, you are saving the trouble and cost of a return.

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