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What’s the Age of Your House? Start by Looking in the Toilet

Yes, that’s right, I did say look in your toilet.  Look inside the tank of the toilet in your home, there is a date stamped in the tank somewhere either on the inside of the tank near the top over the water line (thank god) or on the underside of  the tank’s top.  This is the date your toilet was manufactured. 

Of course, this won’t work if the toilet has been replaced in your house.  If you have more than one toilet in the house, check them all for the oldest date.
Old Retro Colored Toilets 50's-60'sI’ll bet the powder room or basement mud room toilets that weren’t used as much may still have the original toilets installed.

When I was a new real estate agent, a home inspector told me that’s the first place he always looked when trying to date an old house.  Since most of the houses in Silver Spring and Takoma Park are of  older vintage, I was looking in the tanks of all the houses I previewed or showed,  just to see if the date was there and what that date was.   I remember doing this for awhile without regard for how icky or unsanitary it was to be looking inside a bunch of toilets. 

Now that we have ready online access to tax records, I can find out when a house was built without looking in the toilet.  Once in a while I will still look inside a tank or two just for fun.

Someone has started a blog about this called Toilet Birthdays.  This guy has gone far and wide including looking in a lot of  public bar, restaurant and hotel room toilets all over the US and beyond.  This is where I would draw the line, toilet tank checking in public restrooms?   I don’t think I would do that, that is, unless I had a pair of latex gloves and some hand sanitizer with me! 

You can get tips for toilet owners here ( they are serious good tips) and you can/add submit your toilet’s birthday here.

My toilet tank stamp says:  JUN 17 1933.    

What does yours say?

  1. Robert Oshel

    Some of the tax records are far from accurate for houses from the 1930s and earlier. For example, in researching home dates for Woodside Park, I found newspaper ads showing pictures of individual houses several years before the tax records indicated the houses were built in some cases. In other cases tax records indicated the houses were there years before the lots were platted and sold, the streets were built, etc. My conclusion was that for older homes, other sources in addition to tax records need to be consulted to definitively date a house. Checking dates on toilets is one such source. Newspaper ads are another, but even with the Washington Post available on line, that is not easy since street address numbers and even some street names have changed over the years.

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