Replacing a Toilet

By Robert Robillard on Bathrooms, Home Repairs And Remodeling

How To Replace a Toilet

Replacing a toilet is a straightforward task because the supply and waste pipes are already in position. If you want to relocate a toilet to a new position that will require rerouting pipes, and this is best done by a plumber.

American Standard ActiClean Self-Cleaning Toilet

Below are some basic DIY steps for swapping out a toilet. Fair warning, many things can go wrong from a leaking shut off valve to a broken floor flange. These issues are best handled by a skill person or licensed plumber. This article is geared toward a straightforward install.

Drain Water

Shut off the water supply to the toilet. This is typically located on the wall near the floor, and behind the toilet.

Once off, flush the toilet several times. Flushing removes water from inside the tank and most of the water from the bowl. If there is any water left in the bowl, use a small wet vacuum to suction it all out.

Disconnect the Water Line

Unscrew the water supply line nut at the toilet, as well as, the wall valve. Make sure that the valve is working and completely keeps the water off.

Remove Floor Bolts

Toilets typically have two bolts that secure the tank to the bowl and also two bolts that secure the bowl to the floor.  Remove the tank first by lifting straight up. If it feels stuck wiggle it back and forth a bit to loosen the flush valve gasket.

NOTE – On an older toilet the tank bolts may be frozen or corroded. In this case, unbolt the toilet from the floor and lift the entire toilet assembly up and off.

To remove the bowl from the floor, first remove the nut caps to expose the nuts. If the nuts are frozen on, use a hacksaw to cut them off. If the toilet is caulked to the floor, use a utility knife to cut the caulk seam. Do not caulk in the new toilet.

TIP:  If the old nuts that hold the toilet in place won’t budge, use a “close quarters” hacksaw blade an cut them off..

Loosen the Seal between Floor and Toilet Bowl

Use a utility knife to score the between the bowl and the floor and then free the toilet by rocking it from side to side. Lift the toilet away onto some old towels or newspaper. We typically place the toilet into a plastic bag and uses these bags to carry the toilet out. Remove the wax gasket using a putty knife or similar tool.

Block the drainpipe with a rag to prevent sewer gas escaping and for tools falling into the hole. Be sure to scrape off the old wax ring and inspect the flange.  This is a good time to clean the floor tile under the old toilet.

Attach A New Wax Gasket

Insert a new wax ring into the floor flange and lower the new toilet down. Push the toilet down onto the wax seal. Press firmly. Sit on the toilet to completely “seat” the new toilet down onto the wax ring seal.

The toilet floor flange helps make a tight seal between the toilet and the waste pipe. The flange sits on top of the floor and connects to a collar that fits through the floor.

A rock-solid toilet flange is the key to a leak-free toilet. The flange is the only thing anchoring the toilet to the floor. If the flange is loose or damaged, the toilet will rock.

Level Toilet If Needed

Use plastic toilet shims if the toilet is not level.

TIP: If the caps do not fit your flange bolts, fill the caps with plumber’s putty and place the caps over the putty / bolts.

A toilet that rocks on an uneven floor will eventually break the wax ring seal and leak. So check for wobbles after you’ve set the toilet in place and loosely tightened the nuts. For slight wobbles, slip coins or stainless steel washers into the gaps under the toilet.

Don’t use regular steel washers, which might rust and stain the floor. For larger gaps, use shims. There are plastic shims made especially for toilets, work well.

When you’ve eliminated the wobble, tighten the nuts, cut off the shims and caulk around the toilet base.

Bolt Toilet to Floor

Brass bolts are best, some have built in height adjustment which eliminates having to cut them down later.

Alternate tightening the bolts back and forth, do not over tighten which can crack the porcelain. The goal is to keep the pressure even.

Attach Tank to Bowl

Insert the tank bolts through the base of the tank. Position the tank over the bowl and lower it gently into place.  Secure the tank to the bowl by alternately tightening the bolts.

Connect Toilet to Supply Line

Connect the Toilet to water line and to the supply line shut-off valve. Replace this water line especially if it has not been replaced in a while.

Unless you’re a plumber and bend your own water line, us a flexible stainless steel water supply line. They’re a lot easier to install than stiff metal tubing. Make them hand-tight, then add another quarter turn with pliers. Connections that are too tight can actually cause leaks or spin the fill valve inside the tank. Check for leaks and tighten them a bit more if needed.

Turn water on and test for leaks. Flush the toilet several times.

Cut hold-down bolts

Most toilet bolts and nuts are brass, so they’re easy to cut. If the bolt spins, grab it with locking pliers as you cut.

Cut the bolts last

To make positioning a toilet easier, new toilet bolts are extra-long. If necessary, cut off the protruding ends later with a hacksaw. But first connect the water line, flush the toilet a couple of times and check for leaks. Leaving the bolts uncut until you’ve done these final checks lets you easily remove and reset the toilet if you find any problems.

After cutting, double-check the bolts for tightness. Cutting often loosens the nuts a bit.

Tools Needed

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Caulk gun
  • Cordless drill
  • Hacksaw
  • Level
  • Locking pliers
  • Pliers
  • Rags
  • Shop vacuum
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Wet / Dry vacuum

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid having to go to the hardware store in the middle of your project,  have all your materials ready before you start:

  • Brass toilet bolts
  • Caulk
  • Flexible water supply
  • Plastic shims
  • Toilet flange
  • Wax ring

How much does it cost to replace a toilet?

The average cost to install or replace a toilet is approximately $350 and up, depending on the toilet your installing.

The American Standard ActiClean Toilet, shown in this installation, is a self-cleaning toilet with a safe but effective cleaning solution that cleans and removes stains with a simple press of a button. It features two cleaning cycles; Deep Clean and Quick Clean, and costs approximately $600 at Lowe’s.

Replacing A Toilet Video How-To

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter and operates a remodeling company located in Concord, MA. He is the editor of ConcordCarpenter.com and ToolBoxBuzz, and a has a weekly column in the Sunday Boston Globe. Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals, he hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show, offering advice on home repairs and maintenance. On his website, Rob uses his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. His motto: “Well done is better than well said!”. Contact Rob at: info@aconcordcarpenter.com

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