How to Replace a Toilet
Measure before buying
If you’re buying a new toilet, you need to know the “rough-in” measurement of the old one. For the vast majority of toilets, the waste pipe is centered about 12 in. from the wall. But with a few models, that measurement is 10 in. or 14 in. To check the rough-in, just measure from the wall to the toilet’s hold-down bolts. If that measurement (plus the thickness of the baseboard) isn’t approximately 12 in., toilet shopping will be a bit harder. Most home centers carry only one or two 10-in. models and no 14-in. models. If you have to special-order a toilet, be prepared to spend much more. If there’s a door near the toilet, also measure how far the bowl protrudes from the wall. If you are replacing a toilet with a standard bowl with an “elongated” model, the door may not close. Read on to learn how to install a toilet.
Brass bolts are best
Solid brass resists corrosion
Some metal toilet bolts have a yellowish zinc coating that makes them look like brass. So check the label and make sure you’re getting brass bolts and nuts. They won’t rust away and they’re easier to cut off later. If you need to reanchor the toilet flange, buy stainless steel screws. They won’t corrode like steel or break off like brass while you’re driving them.
Frozen bolt fix
Don’t be surprised if the old nuts that hold the toilet in place won’t budge. Years of corrosion can weld them to their bolts. In that case, a hacksaw blade is the solution. You can buy a “close quarters” blade holder at home centers and hardware stores, or just wrap a bare blade with a rag or duct tape. 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.
Setting a toilet onto the new bolts can be the most frustrating part of the whole installing a toilet job. The bolts slip and tip as you’re straining to align them with the holes in the toilet. And each time you miss, you risk crushing or shifting the wax ring. The plastic slip-on washers sometimes included with bolts help, but they still allow the bolts to move. The best approach for how to install toilet is to buy a second set of nuts and washers so you can lock the bolts in place before you set the toilet. To make sure they’re in the correct position, set the toilet and check its height and position. Then lift it off and add the wax ring. To make the bolts easier to find, mark their locations with masking tape.
Loose flanges are usually the result of wood rot. The flange screws simply won’t hold in the soft, decayed subfloor. The best solution depends on the extent of the rot. If the rot is only under the flange, use an ear-type repair ring. The ears let you drive screws into firm wood farther away from the flange. Before you install this kind of ring, hold it up to the drain horn on the underside of the toilet. You may have to cut off a couple of ears to make it work with your toilet. If the rot extends well beyond the flange, you’ll have to replace a section of the subfloor.
How to Install a Toilet
Measure the distance from the wall to the floor bolts before removing. Standard toilets have a measurement of 12″ from the wall to the floor bolts. If your toilet measures 12″, you can expect to buy any standard toilet and install it comfortably in the existing location without much hassle.
Turn off the water off at the supply valve. This is so that no new water rushes into the toilet basin while you’re busy trying to remove it.
Flush the toilet to empty the basin and bowl.
Put on heavy duty, protective, rubber gloves to guard against any harmful bacteria that call the toilet or its surroundings home.
Remove any leftover water in the toilet bowl and toilet basin. You can use a small cup at first, and then switch over to a heavy-duty sponge. Dump the excess water into a bucket and dispose of it somewhere safe.
Toilet Installation – Learn to DIY or Hire a Pro
Tools & Materials You’ll Need
The tools needed to replace an old toilet and install a new one are pretty basic. However, it’s important to note that these tools and the following instructions relate only to the process used when removing an old unit and putting a new one in its place. Installing a new toilet where there wasn’t one before is a much more complex process that involves advanced plumbing knowledge. In other words, it’s not a recommended DIY project, and it’s often something that requires permitting and inspection. Here’s a list of the basic tools for the replacement task at hand:
- Adjustable wrench
- Tape measure
- Set of screwdrivers
- Putty knife
- Sponge and old rags (use a large car-washing sponge; these hold the most water)
- Work gloves
You will also need several materials to complete the work. These include:
- New toilet — either one-piece or separate tank and bowl
- Wax ring
- New bolts
- New toilet seat and lid (if they’re not included with the toilet you purchased)
Measuring & Planning
Before you pick up any other tool, take out your tape measure and make sure that the dimensions of your new toilet are such that they will fit in the space of the old one. This is particularly important in older homes with smaller bathrooms and in bathrooms with other renovation features, such as a new vanity. The last thing you want to have is a heavy toilet bowl that won’t fit in a tight area. Here’s what to do:
- Start measuring from the rear wall behind the toilet. FInd the distance from the wall to the center of one of the closet bolts. If your toilet has four bolts, measure to one of the back bolts.
- Next, measure the distance between the center of the mounting hole on your new toilet to the back of that toilet.
- Compare these two numbers. If the second is smaller than the first, you’re good to go.
It’s also important for those in tight-fitting situations to measure the width of the space available from the side of the old toilet’s flange bolts to the wall or vanity next to it. You should compare that measurement to the width of the new toilet to ensure that the new one properly fits into the space.
How to Install a Toilet
Installing a Toilet Overview
Prep the Floor and Soil Pipe
Stuff a rag into the soil pipe to block sewer gas and prevent hardware from falling in.
Check that the hole in the floor is large enough to accommodate the closet flange up to its collar. If the hole needs to be enlarged, trace around the flange’s base with a pencil, then cut away the excess flooring with a jigsaw. Don’t cut any joists.
Dry-fit the soil pipe into the closet bend. Place the flange over the soil pipe, then measure the gap between the bottom of the flange’s collar and the finish floor.
Remove the soil pipe and use a handsaw to trim it to the measurement in the previous step. Remove burrs by scraping the cut edge with a utility knife.
Dry-fit the flange to the soil pipe, and the soil pipe to the closet bend to ensure the flange’s collar rests on the floor.
Install the Soil Pipe and Closet Flange
The next step to replace a toilet is to wipe PVC primer on the inside of the closet bend and on the outside of one end of the soil pipe. Apply PVC cement to those same surfaces and immediately twist the soil pipe into the closet bend.
Prime and apply cement to the free end of the soil pipe and the inside of the closet flange. Twist and press the flange onto the soil pipe until the collar is seated on the floor.
Rotate the collar until its slots are positioned to the right and left of the hole. (The closet bolts, which will be inserted into the slots, must line up parallel to the wall behind the tank.)
Secure the collar to the floor with stainless steel screws long enough to bite into the subfloor.
How to Replace a Toilet
How to Choose a New Toilet
This dimension is typically 12 inches but double check and save yourself a Homer Simpson ‘Dolt’ moment.
Next, I know this sounds weird but I’m gonna say it anyway: sit on the toilet at the store before you buy it. This ensures the toilet feels comfortable before you install it. The VorMax in today’s tutorial is 30 13/16 inches high.
The last thing you want is for the toilet to be uncomfortable when using it.
Inspect Your Toilet’s Closet Flange
Twelve years ago my wife and I bought our first rental property. It’s a cozy house that we picked up for $17,000. Hey what can I say, Pittsburgh has affordable homes.
The folks we hired to remodel the bathroom weren’t exactly great contractors. And as a result we ended up having several issues.
Setting the New Toilet Bowl on a Wax Ring
This next tip has nothing, well almost nothing, to do with your toilet bowl.
If you’re replacing the toilet you should inspect the shut off valve. I recommend swapping out your old one with a quarter-turn ball valve like this one.
Heres the reason: quarter-turn ball valves are either on or off.
When your toilet is overflowing you want a functioning shut off valve. So just replace it. I’ve been working on the bathroom in this rental for several weeks and stuffed a rag into the toilet waste stack. This prevents sewer gas from entering the house. BUT don’t forget to remove it…that would be one bad clog!!
How to Level the Toilet Bowl
Place your torpedo level on the back of the bowl and check it’s levelness left to right and front to back.
I like using plastic Fluidmaster shims to adjust the toilet bowl.
You’ll see in the video that I had to shim the front of the VorMax to get it level.
Not a big deal. Just check the toilet bowl with the torpedo level after you shim it. This kinda goes without saying, but don’t use wood shims for a toilet bowl project. Wood is food for bacteria and will definitely rot from the moisture in a bathroom. What I like about American Standard toilets is how easy they are to install. You don’t need any extra tools for the toilet installation. Grab the nuts for the closet flange bolts and hand tighten them.