How To Replace a Toilet

Basics of replacing a toilet

You see a chip or crack in the porcelain on your toilet, or water may be leaking around the base of it, and/or maybe the toilet is old and the various stains inside the bowl will not come off. These are some of the reasons you may want to replace your toilet. There are others, but regardless, we are showing how to replace a toilet.

Step 1

Locate the toilet water supply shut off valve. This is normally located on either the right or left hand side of the unit down below the level of the toilet bowl. Turn the valve clockwise to shut off.

If you cannot locate the shut off valve, the plumber may have installed the water pipe without a shut off valve. This is often the case in mobile homes, as shut valves are an option on singlewide and doublewide mobile homes. If this is the case, you will have to turn the water off at the main valve, which feeds the whole house.

Step 2

Get water out of the toilet tank. With the water off, flush the toilet to remove as much water from the tank (that sits on top of the toilet bowl). Remove the lid on the water tank and set aside. There will be some water left in the tank near the bottom. You can use a cook's basting tool (has a rubber bulb on the end of a plastic, tapered rod) and squeeze the bulb to suck the remaining water out. This minimizes water leaking as you perform the next step.

Step 3

With a crescent wrench or open end wrench, disconnect the water line from the bottom of the tank. Once this is loose, then look in at the bottom of the mostly empty tank. There you will find two (sometimes three) bolts with rubber washers, which bolt the tank to the toilet bowl. Take a crescent wrench in one hand and a larger flat blade screwdriver and unscrew the bolts (counterclockwise) to remove them and the washers. Lift off the tank and set aside.

Step 4

Next, you will find two flange bolts (these hold the toilet bowl to the floor), one on each side at the bottom of the bowl. They may have plastic caps over the ends of the bolts. If so, pry off the caps with a flat blade screwdriver.

Now take your crescent wrench and unscrew the nuts on the flange bolt. Then lift the bowl straight up (keep your back straight and bend your knees for safety while lifting the unit).

Step 5

Replace the wax ring. Unpack the new toilet bowl and tank and set aside. You will need a new wax ring available at most Home stores. Check the size of your sewer pipe opening. (It should be either 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Use a ruler to verify the size.) Also make sure your new toilet has new flange bolts with it or you will also have to buy these at the Home center store.

Take a painter's putty knife and scrape off the old wax ring from the sewer flange on the floor. Install the new flange bolts (one end is rectangular and flat, the other end is threaded) by inserting the rectangular end into the slotted holes in the sewer flange, twisting the bolts so the rectangular end is perpendicular to the sewer pipe slot.

Turn the new toilet bowl on its side and install the new wax ring, with the rounded side up, on the hole in the bottom of the bowl. Lift the unit (use safe lifting techniques) and place over the sewer flange and guide the unit downward, making sure the flange bolts you just installed go through the holes in the bottom of the unit. Push down with your body and press the new bowl onto the new wax ring until the unit is flat on the floor. Make sure the new bowl doesn't wobble.

Step 6

Install new tank on toilet bowl, making sure the holes line up between the bottom of the tank and holes in the toilet bowl. Install bolts -- either new or the ones you removed in step three, above. Be sure you put new rubber washer on bolts before inserting into the toilet bowl.

Using a crescent wrench and flat blade screw driver, tighten the bolts until you see the rubber washer under pressure, then an extra turn. (Hand-tighten the bolts and then put the crescent wrench on the nut to hold it while you use the screwdriver inside the tank to tighten.) Don't over-tighten, as you can crack the porcelain of your new bowl or tank.

Ron has been a licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Licensed electrician, Director of Finance for a local non-profit, Systems consultant for Ameritech and Digital Equipment Corporation. View more detail at:

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