Replacing a Toilet: A Step-by-Step Guide
Materials: Purchase a new toilet. Make sure to buy a wax ring (some toilets come with one) and new mounting bolts if they’re not included. This is a good time to look into low flow toilets for water savings as well as the shape of the toilet. Typically these days an “elongated” toilet is more popular; while they take up slightly more space they’re much more comfortable to use.
Tools: Gather necessary tools like a wrench, plunger, putty knife, towels/rags, and a bucket. The bucket should be used to catch any water from the tank while removing the lines. Also, be careful! Your toilet will hold water inside it so while moving it to the trash be sure not to spill. We recommend a helper to make sure you keep it level.
Safety: Wear gloves for sanitary purposes and consider wearing safety goggles. This is a yucky job, but really…once you dig in it’s not too bad.
2. Turn Off the Water:
Locate the shutoff valve (typically a silver oval knob) behind the toilet. Turn it clockwise to shut off the water supply. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU CANNOT DO THIS. If the water is not turned off you will flood the bathroom and potentially the entire area. It’s hard to imagine that there is not a valve to shut off water near the toilet but if you cannot find it, consider shutting off water to the property.
3. Empty the Tank:
Flush the toilet to drain the water from the tank and bowl. There might be some residual water, so use a plunger to force it down or soak it up with towels/rags.
Disconnect the water supply line from the base of the tank using a wrench. Use the bucket during this step!
4. Remove the Old Toilet:
Remove the caps covering the bolts at the base of the toilet, then use a wrench to loosen and remove the nuts.
If this is a two-piece toilet you might want to remove the tank from the bowl portion of the toilet. This will certainly leak more water if there is any in the tank. But it will make it lighter during moving to the trash. This is up to you, it may make sense to move the toile in one unit.
Gently rock the toilet back and forth to break the seal. Once it’s free, lift the toilet straight up. It’s easier if you separate the tank from the bowl first, but many toilets come as a single piece. (see above)
Place the old toilet on some old rags or newspaper to prevent any residual water from spilling.
Dispose of the toilet. Use a helper if possible. Check with local ordinances to see if you can place this in your regular trash bin or if you need to dispose of it seperately.
Tip: Toilets can be heavy, so you might need assistance or consider separating the tank from the bowl for easier lifting.
5. Prepare the Flange:
Use a putty knife to scrape off the old wax ring from the flange (the circular piece on the floor surrounding the sewer hole). TIP: place rags in the sewer line to prevent gunk and debris from falling into the pipe.
Check the flange for any damage. If it’s cracked or broken, you’ll need to replace it. What would this look like? It would be pretty obvious if there’s a broken part of the flange but what you are ultimately looking for is that all the waste from the toilet is funneled into your sewer line. If it looks like any water or material could seep out from the flange then you should replace it. The flange may be plastic or cast iron or another material. If you need to replace the flange then it might be a good idea to call a plumber!
Insert new closet bolts (the bolts that secure the toilet to the floor) into the flange. Typically these will be quite simple. They have a wide side and a narrow side. The narrow side slips into the flange and then you rotate it 90 degrees so that now the wide side is perpendicular to the bolt entry cut out. Now you want to maneuver the bolts on each side to be parallel to each other across the sewer flange hole. You should place them where the toilet base holes line up.
6. Inspect and Clear the Sewer Line (Optional but Recommended):
With the toilet removed, it’s a good opportunity to inspect the sewer line. Look for any obvious obstructions.
If you’ve had any issues with slow draining or clogs, consider using a small toilet auger or snake to clear out potential blockages.
Ensure you wear gloves and safety goggles, and clean the area thoroughly afterward.
7. Install the New Toilet:
Place the new wax ring on the flange. Make sure it’s centered over the sewer hole. If it’s not clear, here’s a tip…place the wax ring with the wax facing UP.
Carefully lower the new toilet bowl over the closet bolts, ensuring they come through the mounting holes. The difficulty here is keeping the bolts upright while you lower the toilet base down so that the bolts go through the bolt base openings. A helper here is super useful. They can push the bolts a bit to the left or right to get them into the hole. Once you have them lined up then lower the toilet down.
Press down on the toilet to compress the wax ring and create a watertight seal. Try to do this by leaning on the toilet first directly down with your body weight. Push hard! Then, it might be a good idea to sit on the toilet and pretend you’re using it. Wiggle around, get comfy, and take your time. This will ensure the wax ring is fully compressed around the toilet.
Attach washers and nuts to the closet bolts and tighten them. Be careful not to over-tighten, as this can crack the toilet or flange. Often times these will be too tall for the caps to fit. Consider using pliers or a saws-all to cut the bolts short enough to allow the caps to cover the bolts.
If the new toilet comes in two pieces, you’ll now attach the tank to the bowl. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. All you’re looking for here is to ensure that you are fully tightenting the bolts around the washers/gaskets to prevent any water leakage.
Reconnect the water supply line. You can use your old line (if it’s still in good condition). Sometimes the new toilet has a different dimension which will require a new line to reach or bend, etc.
8. Test the New Toilet:
Turn the water supply back on and let the tank fill. Take a moment to look at the instruction manual to determine what settings to set your tank at.
Flush the toilet a couple of times and check for any leaks around the base or the water supply connection.
Once you’re confident there are no leaks, place the caps back over the closet bolts.
Use the toilet normally for a few days. If you’re confident it’s not leaking, then use some clear or white toilet silicone and fill in the gap between the porcelain base of the toilet and your floor. This will ensure a clean and inspection ready toilet install.
9. Cleanup and Disposal:
Clean up your work area. Old wax rings and the old toilet can be disposed of, but check with your local waste management about the proper way to discard an old toilet.
Consider recycling or donating the old toilet if it’s still in working condition.
Wash your hands and clean the bathroom.
Tip: Always check local building codes or regulations. Some areas may require specific types of toilets or have regulations about disposal.
Installing a new toilet is actually pretty simple as you can see. It’s not rocket science …. (USUALLY). NOTE: if you’re replacing the toilet due to a clog or another problem… this is not the fix usually unless there is a direct obstruction within the toilet. Otherwise, you may need a rooter or more involved plumbing service.
Since changing out your toilet is quite simple it’s an easy upgrade you can do on your own. It can be fun, believer it or not, and is something you can easily do in a day. We can help if you have a more difficult installation or if there is other underlying reasons you need to upgrade your toilet and we hope you will consider us in this case. Good luck!