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  • Writer's pictureDevon Kmet

Step by step guide to replacing a toilet

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Do you have an old toilet? Did you know that by replacing an old, inefficient toilet with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60%! —that's a savings of $140 per year in water costs. Follow our DIY step by step guide to replacing a toilet.

Picking out a new toilet

Before buying your new toilet, you will want to measure to ensure it will fit in the space. Starting from your back wall measure to the closet bolts that secure the toilet to the floor. Be sure to measure from the wall and not from the baseboard. Also measure from the wall to the water supply line. Some toilets have a wider base that might not fit next to a supply line on the floor. It’s also a good idea to measure from the bowl to a sidewall to be sure that the toilet will fit in your space.

Also make sure when picking out your new toilet you look at the shape of your toilet bowl. Usually, toilet bowls are elongated for comfort, but if you have a smaller space you might need a round bowl.

Step by step guide to remove the old toilet

Step 1 - Turn off the water supply line and flush the water from the tank. Remove the rest of the water in the tank with a sponge or using a wet vacuum.

Step 2 - After disconnecting the water supply lines from the tank, position a bucket to catch any water remaining in the bowl or lines. Unscrew the nuts on the bottom of the tank and lift it off the bowl. Be careful as it may have water still in it, you can remove that with a wet vacuum if needed or a sponge. Loosen and remove the nuts that hold the toilet bowl to the floor. Lift the bowl and set it out of the way.

Step 3 - Remove the old wax ring using a putty knife or shim. Remove any excess wax on the flange (the top of the drainpipe). Inspect the flange to ensure it doesn't need to be replaced. Replacement flanges are available that fit inside the pipe and give it a proper seal if needed. The flange should be 1/8" higher than your finished floor.

Step by step guide to install the new toilet

Once you've ensured the flange is in good shape, you are ready to put in your new toilet. Here's how to install a toilet:

Step 1 - Install new closet bolts by sliding them into the slots on the flange. Some have washers or nuts to hold them in place on the flange. Tighten down these washers so it’s easier to align your toilet when setting it in place.

Step 2 - Set the new toilet bowl upside down on a towel. Align the wax ring with wax side up around the flange. Carefully lower the toilet bowl over the new closet bolts. Try to lower it straight down over the flange rather than tilting and rocking it into place. This will help prevent damage to the wax ring. Firmly press down on the bowl and make sure it’s square with the wall.

Step 3 - Add the cap bases, washers and nuts to the closet bolts. Make sure the cap bases have the correct side facing up. Alternate tightening the nuts to keep the pressure even. Closet bolts may come with extra length to be removed if needed. Snip off the excess length using bolt cutters, taking care not to damage the bolt. Snap on the caps.

Step 4 - Typically, the valve assembly is already installed in the tank. Flip over the tank to install the bolts that'll hold it to the bowl. They should slip into slots on the tank. Then install the rubber gasket to the base. Set the tank in place on the bowl. Tighten the nuts into the bolts. Be careful not to overtighten the nuts to avoid cracking the toilet. Make sure the tank is level.

Step 5 - Hook up the water supply lines using plumbers tape on the threads to avoid possible leaks and slowly turn on the water. Check for leaks around the supply line and the gasket base. If you have leaks you will need to check the supply lines are on correctly and everything is tightened down. Flush the toilet a few times and check around the base. If there's a leak around the base and the nuts are tight on the closet bolts, the wax ring isn’t creating a tight seal. You’ll need to remove the toilet and install a new wax ring. Be sure to evenly set the toilet in place without tilting it to avoid damaging the ring.

Step 6 - Install the toilet seat with a screwdriver and set the top on the tank. You now have a new toilet!

Step 7 - place clear silicone caulk around the sides and front of the toilet leaving the back exposed. This will help determine if you have leaks around the bowl.

Tips from a handyman

If your old toilet was rocking in place, you can help stabilize it with toilet shims. To install them, set the toilet in place without the wax ring. Use the shims to stabilize the toilet and tape in place. Remove the bowl and continue the installation with the wax ring. After the toilet is installed, cut the excess shims with a knife.

Have a handyman install your toilet

Plumbing work isn’t just about fixing leaky pipes and stopping floods. One of our core plumbing services is remodeling bathrooms. At Multi Lakes Handyman Service, you can feel confident knowing we’re not just going to do a good job – we’re going to bring your vision for your bathroom renovation to life. We work hard to install toilets, sinks, faucets, bathtubs, and more. We’ll do our best to help you tie your remodel together with the right fixtures. Call us to schedule your free consultation.

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