Are you fed up with that noisy, leaky, water-hog of a toilet that was installed in your home sometime just after the invention of indoor plumbing? Replace your toilet today. Any homeowner with basic mechanical skills and tools can easily upgrade to a new water-saving design. Installing a new toilet only takes a couple of hours, but the rewards last for years. It's like updating the entire bathroom for $200 or less. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.
Tools & Materials
- Putty knife
- Adjustable wrench
- Replacement toilet
- Wax ring
- Closet bolts
- Silicone caulk
Measuring For A Sure Fit
Make sure that your new toilet will fit in place of the old one. Measure from the wall behind the toilet to the center of one of the closet bolts (the bolts that hold the toilet down). Do this before you remove the old toilet so you can buy your new one and have it on hand before you start. If the toilet has four closet bolts, measure to the center of one of the rear ones. Also, measure from the center of the mounting holes to the back of the new toilet you are considering. Compare these two measurements. If the base of the new toilet is shorter than the distance between the rear bolt holes and the wall, it should fit. In small bathrooms where space is tight, also measure from the sides of the flange bolts to side walls or other objects to assure side to side clearance. You don't want to find after you start that you can't wedge your new toilet into place because it is trying to occupy some of the same space as your vanity.
What You Will Need
Unless you buy one of the sleek new one-piece models, you will have to buy both a bowl and a tank. They will come in two separate boxes. Have the salesperson help you check to make sure the two components match. Almost any tank you purchase will come with the flush-valve assembly already installed, but it never hurts to check this as well. In addition, you will need new closet bolts, a wax gasket and a toilet seat if it isn't included. If you plan to replace the supply line, the flexible ones encased in stainless steel mesh are strong, attractive and very convenient. Less expensive plastic supply lines are also available if cost is a concern and your local codes allow their use.
Removing An Old Toilet
Toilets are heavy, cumbersome and fragile. If you are removing a toilet for replacement, it will be easier on your back, your floor and your walls if you take it out in pieces. Even though you are removing the toilet, take care not to break it—you may be able to sell it at a yard sale or donate it to a local charity. Although it may seem unlikely, there is always a home for which even an old, used toilet would be an improvement.
- Turn off the water supply for the toilet. There should be a supply valve located below the left side of the tank and extending from the base of the wall or floor.
- Flush the toilet and remove any remaining water from the tank and bowl using a small cup and a sponge.
- If you plan on reusing the supply line, disconnect it from the tank. If you plan on replacing the supply line, go ahead and remove it from the supply valve and simply leave it attached to the tank.
- Remove the tank top and set it flat on the floor well out of the way, preferably outside or in another room. You may be tempted to prop this fragile top against a wall close to where you're working. Don't. If it falls, or if you bump into it while trying to maneuver the heavy toilet pieces, it will probably break. And if it causes you to trip, you could seriously hurt yourself. Remove the tank from the bowl. It will be attached by a pair of bolts near the center of the bowl where it meets the tank. These bolts pass from inside the tank through the mounting flange at the back of the bowl. Simply remove the nuts and lift the bowl off the gasket. If the bolts are rusty and the nuts are difficult to remove, soak the bolt assemblies for a few minutes with penetrating oil. Put the tank well out of the way—outside if possible.
- Remove the bolt caps from the base of the toilet and take out the closet bolts. Some toilets will have four closet bolts mounting them to the floor. Most will have only two.
- Rock the bowl to free it from its wax gasket. Unless you plan to carry the bowl straight outside, have a piece of paper or plastic close at hand on which to put it. The gasket will be a sticky, dirty mess, and the wax from common bowl gaskets is difficult stuff to clean off any surface.
- Plug the drain hole to keep the gases from escaping into the room. Be careful to do this in such a way that your plug (rag or whatever) cannot fall down into the drain line and stop it up.
- Use a putty knife to scrape the wax or putty from the base of the bowl and the mounting flange on the floor.
- The mounting surface must be clean and level before installing the new toilet.
Oh No! The Floor Is Rotten!
It can happen. Some handy homeowners pull out their toilet to discover that the floor underneath has rotted as a result of a leak. If you feel up to the challenge, you can fix it yourself. If you feel a bit squeamish about the situation, and suspect that your minor fixture replacement may lead you into something over your head, consult a professional. If you do find a rotten floor, don't get depressed. Consider yourself lucky that you found it before it became much worse.
If your bathroom floor is covered with sheet vinyl or vinyl tile (as is often the case) the repair should not be too difficult. In fact, if it is covered with vinyl tile, you may be able to find matching tile for a spot repair after the bad piece of floor is replaced. If your floor covering is sheet vinyl, consider this an opportunity to update it to match your new toilet. If your floor is ceramic tile or you are trying to make up your mind about whether you should do the work yourself, consult How To Install Vinyl Flooring or How to Install Ceramic Tile. Before diving in, be realistic about your abilities and the amount of time you have to devote to the project.
Aside from replacing or patching the floor covering, removing the rotten piece of plywood floor (or underlayment) is fairly straightforward.
- Remove the floor covering to beyond the edges of the rotted area.
- Cut the damaged area of the floor out with a circular saw. Set the height of the blade so that it cuts only through the plywood underlayment. Be careful not to cut into the subfloor underneath the damaged area. Cut out a square that will be easy to fit with replacement plywood. If you tear the asphalt building paper between the subfloor and the piece of plywood you remove, replace it.
- Cut a piece of plywood to fit into the square from which you removed the rotten flooring. Choose plywood that is the same thickness as that you are replacing.
- You will need to make a circular cutout in the replacement plywood for the flange to pass through. This can most easily be done by cutting the plywood into two pieces with the cut line running through the center of the area through which the flange will pass. This allows you to fit and trim as necessary to provide clearance for the flange.
- Fit the plywood into place and nail it down with coated or ring-groove nails every four inches around the edges and across the panels. Insert screws through the flange into the new floor.
- Fill any cracks around the patch with floor leveling compound to prevent depressions from appearing later in your floor covering
- Patch or replace floor covering as required.
Repairing Damaged Flanges
Toilets can be mounted in one of two ways. Closet bolts may have flat heads which slide into slots on the flange. In this case, the bowl is secured to the flange itself — the flange serves as the toilet mount. Closet bolts of the second kind have screw-type threads on one end and bolt threads on the other. These closet bolts mount the toilet directly to the floor. The flange in this type of installation serves only to seat the wax gasket and does not bear the pressure of securing the bowl.
Once you have removed the old toilet, you may discover that the flange to which it mounted is damaged. Flanges can be made of several materials, including cast iron, copper, brass and plastic. If your flange is badly damaged, you may wish to have a plumber replace it. If it isn't severely cracked or badly broken, you may be able to make a simple and permanent repair by using a special tab that fits under the lip of the flange. This tab has a hole through which the closet bolt is attached. After the bolt is inserted through the hole, the tab is placed under the lip of the flange in the broken area. As the closet bolts are tightened, the tab pulls against the bottom of the flange lip, securing the bowl in place. Of course, if your toilet mounts directly to the wooden floor and not to the flange itself, the seat of the flange (the inner circle against which the wax will seal) is the important thing. If the flange is cracked or broken inside this area you will need to have it replaced.
Installing Your New Toilet
These instructions provide general information on toilet installation. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the model you purchase.
Setting The Bowl
You can install the new toilet just as you took the old one out—in pieces—to save your back from unnecessary wear and tear.
- Insert closet bolts if they are the kind that slide into the flange, and place them in a line parallel to the wall behind the toilet. If they are the type that screw into the floor, install the new bolts in place of the old ones.
- Turn the bowl over on the floor. Put something under it (a rug or blanket) to prevent damage. Install the wax ring on the waste horn with the tapered end facing the toilet. The waste horn is the protrusion on the base of the toilet that extends into the flange. A warm wax ring is softer and easier to work with. If you've brought yours in from the cold, allow it to warm up before performing this step.
- Unplug the waste drain hole and position the toilet on the flange. Loosely install the retainer washers and nut. Make sure the tapered washers are installed with the appropriate side up. These washers will be labeled in the manufacturer's instructions.
- Position the toilet and gently press down against the wax ring and flange with a rocking motion. With the bowl in place, tighten the nuts on the closet bolts by alternating from side to side so you will more evenly distribute the pressure.
- Install the bolt caps on the closet bolts. After the installation is complete and you have checked to be sure there are no leaks, you can seal the base of the toilet with sealant. Tub and bath silicon sealant is appropriate. It can be applied from a tube and smoothed with a wet finger.
Installing the Tank
- Install the large rubber gasket over the outlet on the bottom of the tank per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Insert the tank mounting bolts and rubber washers from inside the tank, through the mounting area of the bowl.
- Place the tank in position and alternately tighten the nuts until the tank is securely fastened to the bowl. Again, do not over-tighten.
- Install a toilet seat according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Install the water supply line. If you use the new flexible supply line, this step is easy. If you use a rigid supply line, you will need to do some bending to make it fit. Be careful not to crimp the line—this will obstruct the flow of water and weaken the line, possibly causing it to leak or break.
Flushing Out The Loose Ends
There it is, sitting pretty, all hooked up ready to go. Flush it. You know you want to. Besides, you've got an excuse; you need to make sure everything is working properly. It may be necessary to make some minor adjustments to the flushing mechanism. Just follow the manufacturer's instructions.